Marketing Letters

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 93–107 | Cite as

When impediments make you jump rather than stumble: Regulatory nonfit, implementation intentions, and goal attainment

  • Leona Tam
  • Jelena Spanjol


This paper examines the relative effectiveness of forming implementation intentions (i.e., making specific plans regarding how to go about achieving a goal) for increasing goal attainment under regulatory fit vs. nonfit. We discuss and empirically test the proposition that regulatory nonfit increases the effectiveness of implementation intentions. Extant research contrasts goals of differing difficulty (e.g., buying a textbook vs. finding an apartment) in order to test the relative effectiveness of implementation intentions. In contrast, the present study focuses on identifying the change in implementation intention effectiveness for the same goal (i.e., collecting and turning in receipts for a reward) under conditions of fit vs. nonfit. We empirically demonstrate that when faced with the same goal, people who experience regulatory nonfit perceive the task to be more difficult to complete than people who experience regulatory fit. In turn, when the task is perceived as being more difficult, implementation intentions prove more effective to enhance goal attainment. Our study provides insight into the interaction between regulatory fit and implementation intentions and subsequent effects on goal attainment.


Goal attainment Goal pursuit Self-regulation Regulatory focus theory Regulatory fit theory Regulatory engagement theory Implementation intentions Task difficulty Consumer behavior Regression 



The authors thank Rajan Varadarajan for the generous support of this research and Rick Bagozzi for the helpful comments on prior versions of this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Old Dominion UniversityNorfolkUSA
  2. 2.University of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA

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