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Being in two minds: The neural basis of experiencing action crises in personal long-term goals

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2014
Author Herrmann M. Baur V. Brandstätter V. Hänggi J. & Jäncke L. ,
Project Should I stop or Should I Go? Determinants and Consequences of an Action Crisis as a Critical Phase in Goal Striving
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Social Neuroscience
Volume (Issue) 9(6)
Page(s) 548 - 561
Title of proceedings Social Neuroscience


Although the successful pursuit of long-term goals constitutes an essential prerequisite to personal development, health and well-being, little research has been devoted to the understanding of its underlying neural processes. A critical phase in the pursuit of long-term goals is defined as an action crisis, conceptualized as the intra-psychic conflict between further goal pursuit and disengagement from the goal. In the present research, we applied an interdisciplinary (cognitive and neural) approach to the analysis of processes underlying the experience of an action crisis. In Study 1, a longitudinal field study, action crises in personal goals gave rise to an increased and unbiased (re)evaluation of the costs and benefits (i.e., rewards) of the goal. Study 2 was a magnetic resonance imaging study examining resting-state functional connectivity. The extent of experienced action crises was associated with enhanced fronto-accumbal connectivity signifying increased reward-related impact on prefrontal action control. Action crises, furthermore, mediated the relationship between a dispositional measure of effective goal pursuit (action orientation) and fronto-accumbal connectivity. The converging and complementary results from two methodologically different approaches advance the understanding of the neurobiology of personal long-term goals, especially with respect to the role of rewards in the context of goal-related conflicts.