Walking the Line between Goals and Temptations: Asymmetric Effects of Counteractive Control
Research on counteractive control explores the processes that individuals employ to increase the motivational strength of their high-order goals and decrease the motivational strength of their low-order temptations. In this chapter, we first describe the basic assumption of counteractive control theory: that self-control is an instrumental response to motivational conflicts. People only exercise self-control when a significant conflict is expected between high- and low-order motives. We then describe how self-control operations bolster the motivational strength of goal pursuit via one path and asymmetrically undermine the motivational strength of temptation pursuit via a second path. Next, we discuss the specific self-control strategies, including those that modify the choice situation, shift attainment expectations, and change the psychological representation of choice alternatives. We further distinguish between explicit self-control operations that rely on conscious processing, and implicit operations that do not require explicit consideration. We end with a broader discussion of the conditions under which goals and temptations appear to be in conflict or not.
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