Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

Living Edition
| Editors: Marc Gellman

Implementation Intentions

  • Peter M. GollwitzerEmail author
  • Gabriele Oettingen
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6439-6_1710-4


Implementation intentions are if-then plans that spell out in advance how one wants to strive for a set goal. For the if-component, a critical cue is selected (e.g., a good opportunity, an anticipated obstacle) that is linked to a goal-directed response in the then-component. Implementation intentions are known to enhance the rate of goal attainment. They do so by delegating action control to situational cues thus endowing action control with features of automaticity.


Successful goal pursuit requires solving both of two subsequent tasks: first strongly committing to goals and then effectively implementing them. Accordingly, strongly committing to a goal is a necessary but not sufficient step toward goal attainment. Indeed, effective goal pursuit may be hampered by various problems such as failing to get started and to stay on track as well as overextending oneself. Finally, people may fail to disengage from futile means and unattainable goals. Meta-analytic...

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References and Further Reading

  1. Gollwitzer, P. M. (1999). Implementation intentions: Strong effects of simple plans. American Psychologist, 54, 493–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Gollwitzer, P. M. (2014). Weakness of the will: Is a quick fix possible? Motivation and Emotion, 38, 305–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Gollwitzer, P. M., & Oettingen, G. (2016). Planning promotes goal striving. In K. D. Vohs & R. F. Baumeister (Eds.), Self-regulation: Research, theory, and applications (3rd ed., pp. 223–246). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  4. Gollwitzer, P. M., & Sheeran, P. (2006). Implementation intentions and goal achievement: A meta-analysis of effects and processes. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 38, 69–119.Google Scholar
  5. Oettingen, G. (2012). Future thought and behavior change. European Review of Social Psychology, 23, 1–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Oettingen, G. (2014). Rethinking positive thinking. New York: Penguin/Random House.Google Scholar
  7. Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2010). Strategies of setting and implementing goals: Mental contrasting and implementation intentions. In J. E. Maddux & J. P. Tangney (Eds.), Social psychological foundations of clinical psychology (pp. 114–135). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  8. Sheeran, P. (2002). Intention-behavior relations: A conceptual and empirical review. European Review of Social Psychology, 12, 1–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Simon L. Bacon
    • 1
  • Tavis S. Campbell
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Health, Kinesiology, and Applied PhysiologyConcordia University & Montreal Behavioural Medicine Centre, CIUSSS-NIM: Hopital du Sacre-Coeur de MontrealMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, Behavioral Medicine LabUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada