First evidence for "the backup plan paradox"

Christopher M. Napolitano, Alexandra M. Freund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This research is a first test of the backup plan paradox. We hypothesized that investing in a backup plan may facilitate the conditions that it was developed to address: Plan A's insufficiency. Five studies provide initial, primarily correlative support for the undermining effect of investing in a backup plan. Study 1 (n= 160) demonstrated that the more participants perceived they had invested in developing a backup plan (preparing a "crib sheet"), the more likely they were to use it, although greater investments were unrelated to backup plan utility. Studies 2-4 used a simulated negotiation task. Study 2 (n = 247) demonstrated that when goal-relevant resources are limited, investing in developing backup plans and perceiving them as highly instrumental can decrease goal performance through the indirect effect of increased means replacing. Study 3 (n = 248) replicated this effect when goal-relevant resources were plentiful. Study 4 (n = 204) used an experimental variant of the simulated negotiation task and demonstrated that simply having a backup plan is not detrimental, but perceiving backup plans to be highly instrumental decreased goal performance, again through the indirect effect of increased means replacing. Study 5 (n = 160) replicated findings from Studies 1-4 using a lab-based motor task (throwing a ball). Together, these results provide first evidence that backup plans can introduce costs that may jeopardize goal performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1189-1203
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Volume146
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2017

Keywords

  • Achievement
  • Backup plans
  • Goal pursuit
  • Motivation
  • Self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental Neuroscience

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