When tough gets you going

Action orientation unfolds with difficult intentions and can be fostered by mental contrasting.

by Katja M. Friederichs1,2, Marie-Christine Kees1,3 and Nicola Baumann1

Objective: Action orientation is a volitional mode that supports successful intention enactment under demands. We expected that priming difficulties evokes action-oriented individuals to self-regulate positive affect for effective intention enactment and causes state-oriented individuals to struggle. However, we predicted that practicing to oscillate between affective states increases intention enactment among state-oriented individuals. “Mental contrasting” is an intervention that practices the required affective changes.

Method: In two studies (N1=132, 46.21% male, Mage=16.53; N2=128, 61.72% male, Mage=11.53), intention enactment was assessed non-reactively by Stroop interference. As a crucial test for self-regulatory ability, we used intention-forming primes (“setting high goals”) which call for self-generating positive affect and presumably facilitate intention enactment only among action-oriented individuals. In Study 2, we aimed to improve state-oriented participants’ intention enactment through mental contrasting.

Results: Consistent with expectations, action-oriented individuals showed a complete removal of Stroop interference after intention-forming primes (Studies 1 and 2). Further, a short mental contrasting intervention promoted intention enactment among state-oriented participants (Study 2).


Katja M. Friederichs
University of Trier

1 University of Trier, Germany
2 Liesenfeld Research Institute, Boston, USA
3 Pädagogisches Landesinstitut Rheinland-Pfalz, Trier, Germany

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