Gollwitzer, A., Schwoerer, B., Stern, C., Gollwitzer, P. M., & Bargh, J. A. (2017). Down and up regulation of a highly automatic process: Implementation intentions can both decrease and increase social projection. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 70, 19-26.
Two studies examined whether implementation intentions, self-regulatory “if-then” plans, can alter social projection
– people's tendency to automatically assume that other people share their attitudes. In Study 1 (N = 120), participants provided their attitudes on twenty items (e.g.,
“I like mechanics magazines”), and then formed either (1) a goal intention directed at reducing projection:
“I will remember that other people are different!” , (2) the same goal intention followed by an implementation intention:
“ If I'm asked to estimate what percent of other people agree with me, then I will remember that other people are different!”, or (3) did not adopt any strategy
(no-treatment control). Participants who formed an implementation intention were less likely to estimate that
other people share their attitudes than did participants in the goal intention and control conditions. Study 2
(N = 268) replicated these results and additionally demonstrated that if-then plans can also increase projection.
Overall, these findings indicate that if-then plans can be used to both decrease and increase social projection. Im-
portantly, the latter finding is the first demonstration that implementation intentions can be used to intensify an
existing automatic process. Thus, by forming implementation intentions, individuals can exercise dynamic con-
trol over nonconscious processes, that is, they can down-regulate as well as up-regulate such processes.