Increasing and Decreasing Motor and Cognitive Output: A Model of General Action and Inaction Goals

Dolores Albarracín, Ian M. Handley, Kenji Noguchi, Kathleen C. McCulloch, Hong Li, Joshua Leeper, Rick D. Brown, Allison Earl, William P. Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


General action and inaction goals can influence the amount of motor or cognitive output irrespective of the type of behavior in question, with the same stimuli producing trivial and important motor and cognitive manifestations normally viewed as parts of different systems. A series of experiments examined the effects of instilling general action and inaction goals using word primes, such as "action" and "rest." The first 5 experiments showed that the same stimuli influenced motor output, such as doodling on a piece of paper and eating, as well as cognitive output, such as recall and problem solving. The last 2 experiments supported the prediction that these diverse effects can result from the instigation of general action and inaction goals. Specifically, these last 2 studies confirmed that participants were motivated to achieve active or inactive states and that attaining them decreased the effects of the primes on behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)510-523
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • action goals
  • behavior
  • self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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