Advertisement

Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 224–233 | Cite as

Using mental contrasting with implementation intentions to self-regulate insecurity-based behaviors in relationships

  • Sylviane Houssais
  • Gabriele Oettingen
  • Doris Mayer
Original Paper

Abstract

In relationships, behaviors aimed at alleviating insecurity often end up increasing it instead. The present research tested whether a self-regulatory technique, mental contrasting with implementation intentions (MCII), can help people reduce the frequency with which they engage in insecurity-based behaviors. Participants in romantic relationships identified an insecurity-based behavior they wanted to reduce and learned the MCII strategy, a reverse control strategy, or no strategy. One week later, participants in the MCII condition showed a greater reduction in the self-reported frequency of their unwanted behavior compared to participants in the control conditions, as well as a greater increase in relationship commitment from 2 months prior to the intervention.

Keywords

Insecurity Relationships Self-regulation Mental contrasting with implementation intentions (MCII) 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Juliane Albert for research assistance.

References

  1. Adriaanse, M. A., Oettingen, G., Gollwitzer, P. M., Hennes, E. P., De Ridder, D. T. D., & De Wit, J. B. F. (2010). When planning is not enough: Fighting unhealthy snacking habits by mental contrasting with implementation intentions (MCII). European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(7), 1277–1293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Armitage, C. J., & Conner, M. (2001). Efficacy of the theory of planned behavior: A meta-analytic review. British Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 471–499.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84, 191–215.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bargh, J. A., Gollwitzer, P. M., & Oettingen, G. (2010). Motivation. In S. Fiske, D. T. Gilbert, & G. Lindzay (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (5th ed., pp. 268–316). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  5. Buss, D. M. (2007). The evolution of human mating. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 39, 502–512.Google Scholar
  6. Campbell, L., & Ellis, B. J. (2005). Love and commitment. In D. M. Buss (Ed.), The evolutionary psychology handbook (pp. 419–442). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  7. Christiansen, S., Oettingen, G., Dahme, B., & Klinger, R. (2010). A short goal-pursuit intervention to improve physical capacity: A randomized clinical trial in chronic back pain patients. Pain, 149, 444–452.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Collins, N. L. (1996). Working models of attachment: Implications for explanation, emotion, and behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 810–832.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Downey, G., Freitas, A. L., Michaelis, B., & Khouri, H. (1998). The self-fulfilling prophecy in close relationships: Rejection sensitivity and rejection by romantic partners. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 545–560.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Duckworth, A. L., Grant, H., Loew, B., Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2011). Self-regulation strategies improve self-discipline in adolescents: Benefits of mental contrasting and implementation intentions. Educational Psychology, 31, 17–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fraboni, M., & Cooper, D. (1989). Further validation of three short forms of the Marlowe–Crowne Scale of social desirability. Psychological Reports, 65, 595–600.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gagne, F., & Lydon, J. E. (2003). Identification and the commitment shift: Accounting for gender differences in relationship illusions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 907–919.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gollwitzer, P. M. (1999). Implementation intentions: Strong effects of simple plans. American Psychologist, 54, 493–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gollwitzer, P. M., & Oettingen, G. (2011). Planning promotes goal striving. In K. D. Vohs & R. F. Baumeister (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation: Research, theory, and applications (2nd ed., pp. 162–185). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  15. 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.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gottman, J. M. (1994). What predicts divorce. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  17. Joiner, T. E., Jr, Katz, J., & Lew, A. (1999). Harbingers of depressotypic reassurance seeing: Negative life events, increased anxiety, and decreased self-esteem. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 630–637.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kappes, A., & Oettingen, G. (2012). The emergence of goal commitment: Mental contrasting connects future and reality (submitted).Google Scholar
  19. Kappes, H. B., Oettingen, G., Mayer, D., & Maglio, S. (2011). Sad mood promotes self-initiated mental contrasting of future and reality. Emotion, 11, 1206–1222.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kappes, A., Singman, H., & Oettingen, G. (in press). Mental contrasting instigates goal pursuit by linking obstacles of reality with instrumental behavior. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.Google Scholar
  21. Kappes, A., Wendt, M., Reinelt, T., & Oettingen, G. (2012). Mental contrasting effects on the identification of obstacles (submitted).Google Scholar
  22. Kirk, D., Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (in press). Promoting integrative bargaining: Mental contrasting with implementation intentions. International Journal of Conflict Management. Google Scholar
  23. Lemay, E. P., & Clark, M. S. (2008a). “You’re Just Saying That”. Contingencies of self-worth, suspicion, and authenticity in the interpersonal affirmation process. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 1376–1382.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lemay, E., & Clark, M. S. (2008b). “Walking on eggshells”: How expressing relationship insecurities perpetuates them. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 420–441.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lemay, E. P., & Dudley, K. L. (2009). Implications of reflected appraisals of interpersonal insecurity for suspicion and power. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1672–1686.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lemay, E. P., & Dudley, K. L. (2011). Caution: Fragile! Regulating the interpersonal security of chronically insecure partners. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 681–702.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Luchies, L. B., Finkel, E. J., & Fitzsimons, G. M. (in press). The effects of self-regulatory strength, content, and strategies on close relationships. Journal of Personality.Google Scholar
  28. Marigold, D. C., Holmes, J. G., & Ross, M. (2007). More than words: Reframing compliments from romantic partners fosters security in low self-esteem individuals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(2), 232–248.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Marigold, D. C., Holmes, J. G., & Ross, M. (2010). Fostering relationship resilience: A intervention for low self-esteem individuals. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46(4), 624–630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mischel, W. (1973). Toward a cognitive social learning reconceptualization of personality. Psychological Review, 80, 252–283.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mischel, W., & Patterson, C. J. (1978). Effective plans for self-control in children. In W. A. Collins (Ed.), Minnesota symposium on child psychology (Vol. 11, pp. 199–230). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  32. Murray, S. L., Bellavia, G. M., Rose, P., & Griffin, D. W. (2003). Once hurt, twice hurtful: How perceived regard regulates daily marital interactions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 126–147.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., & Collins, N. L. (2006). Optimizing assurance: The risk regulation system in relationships. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 641–666.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., & Griffin, D. W. (2000). Self-esteem and the quest for felt security: How perceived regard regulates attachment processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 478–498.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., MacDonald, G., & Ellsworth, P. (1998). Through the looking glass darkly? When self-doubts turn into relationship insecurities. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 1459–1480.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Murray, S. L., Rose, P., Bellavia, G., Holmes, J., & Kusche, A. (2002). When rejection stings: How self-esteem constrains relationship- enhancement processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 556–573.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nezlek, J. B., Kowalski, R. M., Leary, M. R., Blevins, T., & Holgate, S. (1997). Personality moderators of reactions to interpersonal rejection: Depression and trait self-esteem. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 1235–1244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Oettingen, G. (2000). Expectancy effects on behavior depend on self-regulatory thought. Social Cognition, 18, 101–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Oettingen, G. (2012). Future thought and behavior change. In W. Stroebe, & M. Hewstone (Eds.), European Review of Social Psychology, 23, 1–63.Google Scholar
  40. 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.Google Scholar
  41. Oettingen, G., Kappes, H. B., Guttenberg, K. B., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2012). Self-regulation of time management: Mental contrasting with implementation intentions (MCII). European Journal of Social Psychology (manuscript under revision).Google Scholar
  42. Oettingen, G., Mayer, D., Sevincer, A. T., Stephens, E. J., Pak, H., & Hagenah, M. (2009). Mental contrasting and goal commitment: The mediating role of energization. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 608–622.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Oettingen, G., Mayer, D., & Thorpe, J. (2010a). Self-regulation of commitment to reduce cigarette consumption: Mental contrasting of future and reality. Psychology and Health, 25, 961–997.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Oettingen, G., Mayer, D., Thorpe, J. S., Janetzke, H., & Lorenz, S. (2005). Turning fantasies about positive and negative futures into self-improvement goals. Motivation and Emotion, 29, 236–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Oettingen, G., Pak, H., & Schnetter, K. (2001). Self-regulation of goal setting: Turning free fantasies about the future into binding goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 736–753.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Oettingen, G., Stephens, M. E. J., Mayer, D., & Brinkmann, B. (2010b). Mental contrasting and the self-regulation of helping relations. Social Cognition, 28, 490–508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Parks-Stamm, E. J., Gollwitzer, P. M., & Oettingen, G. (2007). Action control by implementation intentions: Effective cue detection and efficient response initiation. Social Cognition, 25, 248–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rusbult, C. E., Verette, J., Whitney, G. A., Slovik, L. F., & Lipkus, I. (1991). Accommodation processes in close relationships: Theory and preliminary empirical evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 53–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sheeran, P., Webb, T. L., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2005). The interplay between goal intentions and implementation intentions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 87–98.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Stadler, G., Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2009). Physical activity in women. Effects of a self-regulation intervention. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 36, 29–34.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Stadler, G., Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2010). Intervention effects of information and self-regulation on eating fruits and vegetables over two years. Health Psychology, 29, 274–283.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Stinson, D. A., Logel, C., Shepherd, S., & Zanna, M. P. (2011). Rewriting the self-fulfilling prophecy of social rejection. Psychological Science.Google Scholar
  53. Van Lange, P. A. M., Rusbult, C. E., Drigotas, S. M., Arriaga, X. B., Witcher, B. S., & Cox, C. L. (1997). Willingness to sacrifice in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 1373–1395.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Webb, T. L., & Sheeran, P. (2006). Does changing behavioral intentions engender behavioral change? A meta-analysis of the experimental evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 249–268.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany

Personalised recommendations