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Big Picture, Bad Outcomes: When Visual Perspectives Harm Health Goal Pursuit

Journal of Consumer Psychology

Jason Stornelli, Beatriz Pereira, Richard J. Vann


People often fail to achieve health goals, which compromises their well‐being. Prior research suggests that seeing events through an observer's eyes (i.e., adopting a third‐person perspective) should facilitate goal pursuit. However, we find that third‐person perspectives discourage goal‐consistent intentions and behavior for health goals when goal centrality is low (i.e., the goal is peripheral to one's self‐concept). In Experiment 1, people who adopted a third‐person perspective chose more sugary foods if they considered a healthy eating goal to be more peripheral to the self. Experiment 2 examines why a third‐person perspective can hinder goal pursuit; it encourages a breakdown in implemental thinking which, in turn, increases negative self‐conscious emotions. While high goal centrality buffers people from negative effects on goal intentions, low centrality does not. Experiment 3 demonstrates that this effect is robust when goal centrality is manipulated. We recommend that consumers pursuing health goals (and individuals who support them) exercise caution when employing perspective‐based strategies, as they may backfire for people at greatest risk of goal abandonment.

Affect And Emotion, Centrality, Clinical Health Psychology, Goals And Motivation, Transformative Consumer Research, Self-Regulation And Self-Control


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