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On the use and usefulness of backup plans


Napolitano, C M; Freund, A M (2016). On the use and usefulness of backup plans. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 11(1):56-73.

Abstract

In this article, we introduce the concept of backup plans as a motivational construct, defined as alternative means to an end that are intentionally developed but are not initially (or ever) used. We posit that backup plans change the way that a person pursues a goal, as well as the likelihood of achieving it, even if the backup plans are never used. In some cases, backup plans are a safety net supporting goal pursuit; however, in other cases, they constitute an unnecessary expense that can undermine motivation to persist with a first-choice plan. We propose that variations in the use and usefulness of backup plans are based on a person’s estimation and regulation of complexity value, or the additional costs and benefits that having a backup plan introduces compared with pursuing the same goal with only a single means. Although variations in the estimation and regulation of complexity value are idiosyncratic products of individual, contextual, and goal-related factors, we provide the prototypical example of age-related differences to illustrate our key points. In sum, our conceptualization of backup plans represents a new synthesis of motivation, multiple-goal, and life-span developmental research that addresses a key lacuna in the self-regulation literature.

Abstract

In this article, we introduce the concept of backup plans as a motivational construct, defined as alternative means to an end that are intentionally developed but are not initially (or ever) used. We posit that backup plans change the way that a person pursues a goal, as well as the likelihood of achieving it, even if the backup plans are never used. In some cases, backup plans are a safety net supporting goal pursuit; however, in other cases, they constitute an unnecessary expense that can undermine motivation to persist with a first-choice plan. We propose that variations in the use and usefulness of backup plans are based on a person’s estimation and regulation of complexity value, or the additional costs and benefits that having a backup plan introduces compared with pursuing the same goal with only a single means. Although variations in the estimation and regulation of complexity value are idiosyncratic products of individual, contextual, and goal-related factors, we provide the prototypical example of age-related differences to illustrate our key points. In sum, our conceptualization of backup plans represents a new synthesis of motivation, multiple-goal, and life-span developmental research that addresses a key lacuna in the self-regulation literature.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:2016
Deposited On:16 Feb 2016 13:38
Last Modified:01 Feb 2017 01:01
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:1745-6916
Additional Information:This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Napolitano, C M; Freund, A M (2016). On the Use and Usefulness of Backup Plans. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 11(1):56-73, which has been published in final form at DOI: 10.1177/1745691615596991. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving (http://olabout.wiley.com/WileyCDA/Section/id-820227.html#terms).
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691615596991

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