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The struggle of giving up personal goals: Affective, physiological, and cognitive consequences of an action crisis

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2013
Author Brandstätter V. Herrmann M. & 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 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Volume (Issue) 39(12)
Page(s) 1668 - 1682
Title of proceedings Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin


A critical phase in goal striving occurs when setbacks accumulate and goal disengagement becomes an issue. This critical phase is conceptualized as an action crisis and assumed to be characterized by an intra-psychic conflict in which the individual becomes torn between further goal pursuit and goal disengagement. Our theorizing converges with Klinger’s (1977) conceptualization of goal disengagement as a process, rather than a discrete event. Two longitudinal field studies tested and found support for the hypothesis that an action crisis not only compromises an individual's psychological and physiological well-being, but also dampens the cognitive evaluation of the respective goal. In Study 3, marathon runners experiencing an action crisis in their goal of running marathons showed a stronger cortisol secretion and a lower performance in the race two weeks later. Results are interpreted in terms of action-phase-specific mindsets (Gollwitzer, 1990, 2012) with a focus on self-regulatory processes in goal disengagement.