The Intention-Behavior Gap⁣

Jun 08, 2020

It’s common sense.⁣

If you want to achieve your goals or change your behavior, you need to actually have some desire and intent behind it.⁣

In fact, traditional psychological theories of goal achievement (e.g. control theory, social cognitive theory, and goal-setting theory) all consider “goal intentions” as a crucial component⁣

However it’s no secret that MANY people sayyy they want to do this or intend to do that…⁣

But never do.⁣

👉 Enter: the intention-behavior gap⁣


In correlational studies, the relationship between intention and achievement is very strong (Sheeran, 2002)⁣

But the issue with correlational (X is associated with Y).. is that underlying mechanisms and other variables are easily missed.⁣

This ^ is why experimental research is important.⁣

In a meta analysis of 47 experimental studies (8,802 participants) researchers found:⁣

A LARGE change in goal pursuit intentions = only a SMALL to MEDIUM change in goal achievement (Webb & Sheeran, 2006)⁣

Put simply ✏️ goal intentions are important for achievement, but typically aren’t enough.⁣


You might be thinking: “No shit. Just because I said I want to workout 4x per week, and truly wanted to… doesn’t mean I have been”⁣

Understanding this “gap” opens up opportunity to explore what options are available to “bridge” it.⁣


Psych research on how to bridge the gap between intention and behavior (and achieve goals) focuses on changing the content & structure of the goal setting ⤵️⁣

- Learning-based goals are better than performance-based goals (Dweck, 2000)⁣

- Instead of goals like “be healthier” get more specific, vague intentions = no bueno (Locke & Latham, 1990)⁣

- Focus mostly on smaller & immediate goals, rather than those that will take much longer (Bandura, 1991)⁣

...Much more, but per usual running out of room here lol⁣

I’ll be sharing more on this in coming posts - stay tuned 🤓⁣

& if you’re a coach looking to learn more about behavior change, make sure you’re signed up to receive primer education emails for the Health Mindset Coaching Certification program