Wieber, F., von Suchodoletz, A., Heikamp, T., Trommsdorff, G., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2011). If-then planning helps school-aged children to ignore attractive distractions. Social Psychology, 42, 39-47.
Can children improve shielding an ongoing task from distractions byif-then planning (i.e., by forming implementation intentions)? In an experimental study, the situational and personal limits ofaction control by distraction-inhibiting implementation intentions (“If a distraction comes up, then I will ignore it!”) were tested by comparing them to simple goal intentions (“I will ignore distractions!”). Goal intentions were sufficient to successfully ignore distractions of low attractiveness. In the presence of moderately and highly attractive distractions, as well as a distraction presented out of the children’s sight, however, only implementation intentions improved children’s task shielding, as indicated by faster response times in an ongoingcategorization task and shorter periods of looking at highly attractive distractions presented out of their field of vision. These findings held true regardless of the children’s temperament and language competency. Implications for research on planning and developmental research on self-control are discussed.