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Action Crisis and Cost-Benefit Thinking: A Cognitive Analysis of a Goal-Disengagement Phase

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2013
Author Brandstätter V. & Schüler J.,
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 Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume (Issue) 49
Page(s) 543 - 553
Title of proceedings Journal of Experimental Social Psychology


The present research is based on the notion that disengagement from goals is not a discrete event but a process (Klinger, 1975). A critical phase in this process is when difficulties and setbacks in striving for a goal accumulate. This critical phase is termed here as an action crisis. Given the profound effects that people’s thoughts have on their self-regulatory efficiency, it is essential to understand the cognitive correlates of an action crisis. In two experimental lab and two correlational field studies, the hypothesis that goal-related costs and benefits become cognitively highly accessible during an action crisis was tested and supported. Participants who were experiencing an action crisis in such diverse goal areas as intimate relationships, sports, and university studies, thought about goal-related costs and benefits more intensively and frequently in comparison to participants who were not in an action crisis. In an incidental learning task they recognized more of cost-benefit-items and less of neutral items than the control group. Results are interpreted in terms of action phase specific mindsets (Gollwitzer, 1990, 2012).