Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Got a goal? A helpful partner isn't always helpful

Date:
February 16, 2011
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
You might think that a loving partner helps keep you on track -- say, when you want to stick to your jogging or concentrate on your studies. But a new study reports the opposite: Thinking about the support a significant other offers in pursuing goals can undermine the motivation to work toward those goals -- and can increase procrastination before getting down to work.

You might think that a loving partner helps keep you on track -- say, when you want to stick to your jogging or concentrate on your studies. But a new study in Psychological Science, a publication of the Association of Psychological Science, reports the opposite: Thinking about the support a significant other offers in pursuing goals can undermine the motivation to work toward those goals -- and can increase procrastination before getting down to work.

The study's authors, psychological scientists Grαinne M. Fitzsimons of Duke University and Eli J. Finkel of Northwestern University, call this phenomenon "self-regulatory outsourcing" -- the unconscious reliance on someone else to move your goals forward, coupled by a relaxation of your own effort. It happens with friends and family, too.

Does this mean love doesn't bring out the best in us? Yes and no, says Fitzsimons. "If you look just at one goal" in isolation -- as the study does -- "there can be a negative effect. But relying on another person also lets you spread your energy across many goals, which can be effective if your partner is helpful."

The authors conducted three online experiments with participants recruited from a data-collection service. In the first, of 52 women, some were asked to focus on a way their partners helped them reach health and fitness goals; the control group instead entertained thoughts of their partners helping them with career goals. When asked how diligently they intended to work toward getting fitter and healthier in the coming week, the first group planned to put in less effort than the second.

Facing an academic goal, people also unconsciously outsourced their exertion to helpful partners. In the second experiment, 74 male and female students were given a means of procrastination -- an engaging puzzle -- before completing an academic achievement task that would help them improve their performance at university. Those who had mused about how their partner helps them with academic achievement procrastinated longer, leaving themselves less time to work productively on the academic task, than did control group participants.

"The first experiment was about intention. The second captures behavior," says Fitzsimons.

But recognizing dependency also inspired devotion -- and commitment. "In our study, women reported that their partners were very useful for their ongoing goals, giving examples like 'I'd never get to the gym if my husband didn't watch the children,' or 'I couldn't stick to my diet without his support.'" Among 90 female participants, those who outsourced more to their significant other were also more likely to say they were committed to making sure their relationship would persist over time, suggesting that outsourcing can lead to positive relationship outcomes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. G. M. Fitzsimons, E. J. Finkel. Outsourcing Self-Regulation. Psychological Science, 2011; DOI: 10.1177/0956797610397955

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Got a goal? A helpful partner isn't always helpful." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110215111851.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2011, February 16). Got a goal? A helpful partner isn't always helpful. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 3, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110215111851.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Got a goal? A helpful partner isn't always helpful." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110215111851.htm (accessed September 3, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) — New research says if you condition yourself to eat healthy foods, eventually you'll crave them instead of junk food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — Researchers say having a cup of coffee then taking a nap is more effective than a nap or coffee alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) — Twenty college-age students are getting 100,000 dollars from a Silicon Valley leader and a chance to live in San Francisco in order to work on the start-up project of their dreams, but they have to quit school first. Duration: 02:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) — A new study suggests babies develop language skills more quickly if their parents imitate the babies' sounds and expressions and talk to them often. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins