Psychological Research

, Volume 79, Issue 2, pp 206–220 | Cite as

The benefit of no choice: goal-directed plans enhance perceptual processing

  • Markus JanczykEmail author
  • Michael Dambacher
  • Maik Bieleke
  • Peter M. Gollwitzer
Original Article


Choosing among different options is costly. Typically, response times are slower if participants can choose between several alternatives (free-choice) compared to when a stimulus determines a single correct response (forced-choice). This performance difference is commonly attributed to additional cognitive processing in free-choice tasks, which require time-consuming decisions between response options. Alternatively, the forced-choice advantage might result from facilitated perceptual processing, a prediction derived from the framework of implementation intentions. This hypothesis was tested in three experiments. Experiments 1 and 2 were PRP experiments and showed the expected underadditive interaction of the SOA manipulation and task type, pointing to a pre-central perceptual origin of the performance difference. Using the additive-factors logic, Experiment 3 further supported this view. We discuss the findings in the light of alternative accounts and offer potential mechanisms underlying performance differences in forced- and free-choice tasks.


Stimulus Onset Asynchrony Implementation Intention Task Type Psychological Refractory Period Short Stimulus Onset Asynchrony 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; German Research Foundation), grant JA 2307/1-1 awarded to Markus Janczyk. The co-authors were supported by the DFG research unit FOR 1882 Psychoeconomics. We thank Arvid Herwig for many helpful comments on a previous version of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Markus Janczyk
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael Dambacher
    • 2
  • Maik Bieleke
    • 2
  • Peter M. Gollwitzer
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychology IIIUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of KonstanzConstanceGermany
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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