Stern, C., Cole, S., Gollwitzer, P. M., Oettingen, G., & Balcetis, E. (2013). Effects of implementation intentions on anxiety, perceived proximity, and motor performance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 623-635.
Anxiety leads to exaggerated perceptions of distance, which may impair performance on a physical task. In two studies, we tested one strategy to reduce anxiety and induce perceived proximity to increase performance. We predicted implementation intentions that reduce anxiety would increase perceived visual proximity to goal-relevant targets, which would indirectly improve performance. In two studies, we induced performance anxiety on a physical task. Participants who formed implementation intentions to reduce anxiety perceived goal-relevant targets (e.g., golf hole, dartboard) as physically closer and performed better than both participants without a strategy (Study 1) and participants with only a goal to regulate anxiety (Study 2). Furthermore, perceived proximity improved performance indirectly by increasing subjective task ease (Study 2). Results suggest that implementation intentions can reduce anxiety and lead to perceived proximity of goal-relevant targets, which helps perceivers make progress on goals.