ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (8): 1410-1419.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.01410

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Discriminating the concepts of goal and its influence on decision-making

HE Jiamei1,2(), JIN Lei1,2   

  1. 1Department of Psychology, Liaoning Normal University
    2Collaborative Innovation Center of Healthy Personality Assessment and Cultivation of Children and Adolescents in Liaoning Province, Dalian 116029, China
  • Received:2020-07-02 Published:2021-06-25
  • Contact: HE Jiamei


Decision-making is the process that individuals evaluate and make a choice among multiple alternatives, in order to maximize their possible benefits. Individuals usually think about and predict what may happen in the future and set reasonable goal to guide their decisions. The goal is not only the reason why the decision-maker makes their choice, but also the ideal result that the decision-maker anticipates to achieve.
Individual decision making under the guidance of a goal involves two mental processes, such as setting a goal and accomplishing the subsequent decision task. Based on goal's content, motivational function, and other features, previous studies believe that the goal is a future result that individuals anticipate to achieve and it has motivational effects on their cognition and behavior. However, only one future result that individuals intended to achieve was discussed in previous researches. Usually, individuals want to attain multiple goals at the same time, potential conflict of interest among these future results might exist. So, in the first step, individuals have to make a choice among these future results that they wish to achieve at the same time. The one that is chosen would possess motivation power to arouse individuals’ cognitive process and behavior. Therefore, goal is the winner of the competition for motivation. On the basis of the evaluation of their desirability and feasibility, specific future results are selected as the goal and endowed with motivation by the decision-maker.
Behavior habits, personality traits, and life experience affect individuals’ goal setting. For example, high construal level helps decision makers to recognize better their goal and focus their attention on decision scheme that is conducive to the goal’s achievement. Among decision-makers with high trait self-control, a temptation has lower subjective value, compared with the goal. Individuals with high trait self-control would have less intention to approach the temptation and might experience fewer conflicts between the goal and the temptation. The asymmetric effect between temptation and goal caused by the successful experience in executing self-control has changed the value of the future results assigned by the decision-maker. The cues related to the temptation can activate the goal while they inhibit the temptation among individuals with high trait self-control.
The goal can influence decision-making by changing the decision-maker's attitude and selective attention towards decision scheme in accomplishing subsequent decision tasks. In the process of achieving a goal, decision-makers are more likely to overestimate the positive emotions related to the goal. Therefore, positive anticipation would be endowed on the decision scheme that is benefit for the goal. The activated goal can drive selective attention and allocate attention resources to benefit the goal achievement. Moreover, selective attention increases the time duration that the decision-maker pays their attention on its corresponding decision scheme. It further helps the decision maker to improve its subjective value estimation.
In the future, it is necessary to investigate how an unconscious goal weakens the effect that it has on negative consequences and how to measure the two mental processes directly.

Key words: goal, decision-making, construal level, self-control, attitude, selective attention

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