The quest for multifinality in goal pursuit
Kopetz, Catalina Elena
Kruglanski, Arie W
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The present work investigated the generation of behavioral plans when multiple goals are activated. The simultaneous presence of several goals may introduce goal-conflict, implying the need to exercise goal choice. Such conflict may be avoided via "multifinal" means affording the joint pursuit of the conflicting goals. Multifinal means are likely to constitute a subset of the total set of means to the focal goal. Concentrating attention on those means should reduce the number of means to the focal goal. This should introduce instability in one's means preferences as function of the alternative goals that happened to be activated. These notions were empirically tested in three studies. Study 1 indicated that a subtle reminder of goal-alternatives narrowed the means' set to the current goal of "having lunch" to means that afforded successful attainment of this goal while saving time for other goals. Study 2 and 3 explored two boundary conditions of such multifinality-based narrowing of the focal-means set size namely, (1) feasibility of identifying multifinal means given the nature of the co-active goals and (2) degree of commitment to the focal goal. Specifically, Study 2 found that the relation between perceived feasibility of finding multifinal means and the reduction in the means' set-size selected for the focal goal is curvilinear. In other words, substantial reduction may occur at an intermediate range of feasibility, while no reduction may occur where finding alternative means is either highly feasible or relatively unfeasible. Finally, Study 3 found that high commitment to the focal goal results in the inhibition of the alternative goal relaxing its multifinality constraints and allowing the set of focal means to assume the size it would have in the absence of the alternative goal.