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Evidence of an automatic tendency to think about and attend to one's unfulfilled goals led us to examine whether unfulfilled goals can distract from other, unrelated pursuits. In three studies, we manipulated goal frustration or goal failure in an initial task and then measured pursuit of an ostensibly unrelated goal during a second task. A goal to achieve, when frustrated, interfered with the unrelated goal to diet (Study 1). Failure to fulfill an honesty goal led to decrements in intellectual performance (Study 2). Furthermore, results from Study 2 suggest that unfulfilled goals remain active through later tasks and that this activation causes decrements in task performance. While goal frustration interfered with other pursuits, fulfilling a goal after an initial period of frustration eliminated this interference effect (Study 3). These studies show that the ability to pursue a goal may be hampered when one's prior goals have been left unfulfilled.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Psychology in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science.
Includes bibliographical references.
Roy F. Baumeister, Professor Directing Thesis; Michael P. Kaschak, Committee Member; Jon K. Maner, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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