Back to overview

The dynamics of doubt: Short-term fluctuations and predictors of doubts in personal goal pursuit

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Ghassemi Mirjam, Wolf Benjamin, Bettschart Martin, Kreibich Antonia, Herrmann Marcel, Brandstätter Veronika,
Project A Closer Look at the Area of Tension Between Motivation and Volition - The Cognitive and Behavioral Consequences of an Action Crisis and Intervention Strategies
Show all

Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Motivation Science
Title of proceedings Motivation Science
DOI 10.1037/mot0000210


An action crisis denotes an intrapsychic conflict, in which a person feels torn between holding on to and letting go of a personal goal. It is characterized by the experience of goal-related doubts. To extend the existing understanding of action crises, we investigated the dynamics of doubts in daily life and addressed two questions: (1) To what extent do doubts with respect to a personal goal fluctuate in daily life? (2) In which situations do individuals primarily have doubts? In an experience sampling study (N = 251), we assessed doubts about a personal goal 5 times a day over 10 days. Our findings indicate that the level of doubt varies between individuals but also fluctuates within persons. Doubts increase in response to negative goal-related events and decrease in response to positive goal-related events. Individuals with higher (vs. lower) levels of action crisis have particularly high levels of doubt during goal-related (vs. -unrelated) activity. We discuss the implications of these findings for research on goal disengagement and point to the relevance of studying motivational parameters from a dynamic perspective.