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When Telling the World What You Want to Achieve can be Counterproductive

A/Professor Xiuping Li, Singapore National University Business School,

28th Mar 2013  10:00 am - Room 214/215 Economics & Business Building

While some research has shown that publicizing a goal facilitates goal-consistent behavior, other research has demonstrated that it may impede enactment. This study posits that goal publicity backfires when one focuses on expressing the self. Five experiments test this premise. These experiments provide supportive evidence using behavioral goals such as academic excellence and environmental responsibility, and the goals were publicized in different ways (e.g., simply revealing to others one's goal commitment or signing a petition letter). Moreover, it shows that when self-expression orientation is highlighted, goal publicity entails a sense of progress towards goal attainment and subsequently decreases goal-consistent behavior (Experiment 3). Further, this research demonstrates that the backfiring effect depends on the self-expression orientation at the moment a goal is publicized rather than the overtness of the self-concept (Experiments 4 and 5).