Since the 1970s, researchers on motivation and behavior have taken the stance that important human behaviors are determined by specific attitudes, intentions, and goals. In the present article, we review evidence suggesting that, in addition to specific motivational constructs, general goals of action and inaction are also vital determinants of many important human behaviors. This research examines the effects of these goals on motor behavior, cognitive performance, and political participation. Furthermore, we connect these general action and inaction goals with other important areas in psychology, including affect, approach/avoidance, energization, material resources, mindsets, and power. Finally, we conclude with a discussion of individual and regional/cultural differences in action and inaction. Overall, general goals for action and inaction are shown to influence a vast array of important behaviors, suggesting that in addition to considering specific attitudes, intentions, and goals, researchers may gain important insight into human behavior by considering general motivations.
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