Investigating the maintenance of unfulfilled goals overtime : do they occupy executive resources?
Garrison, Katie Elizabeth
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Psychological research demonstrates that goals can remain active across time until they are fulfilled, even unconsciously and, presumably, passively. Yet, recent research suggests that unfulfilled goals require effort to maintain, drawing upon the limited pool of executive resources and interfering with executive control. If true, the logic follows that unfulfilled goals should compromise executive control initially following goal activation and after a delay. However, another possibility is that the executive control deficits resulting from an unfulfilled goal are due to the initial mobilization of effort required to activate the goal in the first place, and that executive control is only compromised initially following goal activation and not after a delay. To test these competing predictions, participants in two reported experiments received a goal to form impressions of roommates in an upcoming experimental task, or no goal. Next, participants engaged in an unrelated task that required the inhibition of a prepotent response (i.e., executive control). Performance on this task is dependent on the availability of executive resources, as one needs these resources to successfully inhibit a prepotent response. In addition, participants engaged in this task either immediately after goal (or no goal) activation, or after a few-minute pause. The results of both experiments indicate that the impression formation goal had no effect on executive control immediately or after a pause. The proposition that unfulfilled goals occupy executive resources is likely complicated by moderating variables, as a simple yet effective goal manipulation in the current experiments did not compromise executive resources.