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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2016 Jun;110(6):818-39. doi: 10.1037/pspa0000053.

"Whether I like it or not, it's important": Implicit importance of means predicts self-regulatory persistence and success.

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Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley.
Department of Psychology, Cornell University.


To effectively self-regulate, people must persevere on tasks that they deem important, regardless of whether those tasks are enjoyable. Building on past work that has noted the fundamental role of implicit cognition in guiding effective self-regulation, the present paper tests whether an implicit association between goal means and importance predicts self-regulatory persistence and success. Implicit importance predicted markers of effective self-regulation-better grades, more studying and exercise, and stronger standardized testing performance-over and above, and often better than, explicit beliefs about the importance of that self-regulation, as well as implicit evaluations of those means. In particular, those for whom tasks were fairly taxing to complete (i.e., those for whom this self-regulation required effortful self-control) were those who most benefitted from the implicit association between means and importance. Moreover, when participants were reminded of recent self-regulatory failure that they believed could be overcome through hard work, implicit importance toward the means increased as if to prepare them to achieve self-regulatory persistence. A final study sought to reconcile the present findings with previous work showing the key role that implicit evaluations play in effective self-regulation. We reasoned that means are important precisely because they are associated with valued end-states. Consistent with this account, implicit evaluations of end-states predicted the implicit importance of means, which in turn predicted effective self-regulation. (PsycINFO Database Record.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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