People often fail to achieve health goals, which compromises their well-being. Prior research suggests that seeing events through an observer's eyes (i.e., adopting a third-person perspective) should facilitate goal pursuit. However, we find that third-person perspectives discourage goal-consistent intentions and behavior for health goals when goal centrality is low (i.e., the goal is peripheral to one's self-concept). In Experiment 1, people who adopted a third-person perspective chose more sugary foods if they considered a healthy eating goal to be more peripheral to the self. Experiment 2 examines why a third-person perspective can hinder goal pursuit; it encourages a breakdown in implemental thinking which, in turn, increases negative self-conscious emotions. While high goal centrality buffers people from negative effects on goal intentions, low centrality does not. Experiment 3 demonstrates that this effect is robust when goal centrality is manipulated. We recommend that consumers pursuing health goals (and individuals who support them) exercise caution when employing perspective-based strategies, as they may backfire for people at greatest risk of goal abandonment.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Applied Psychology