Gollwitzer, P. M., & Sheeran, P. (2008) Implementation intentions. In Health behavior constructs: Theory, measurement and research. Cancer control and population sciences. National Institutes of Health: National Cancer Institute.
Implementation intentions (Gollwitzer, 1993, 1996; summaries by Gollwitzer, 1999; Gollwitzer, Bayer, & McCulloch, 2005; Gollwitzer & Sheeran, 2006; Sheeran, Milne, Webb, & Gollwitzer, 2006) are if-then plans that link situational cues (i.e., good opportunities to act, critical moments) with responses that are effective in attaining goals or desired outcomes(“If situation Y is encountered, then I will initiate behavior Z in order to reach goal X!”). Implementation intentions are formed for the purpose of enhancing the translation of goal intentions into action. The idea is that intention realization can be promoted by forming if-then plans that enable people to deal effectively with self-regulatory problems that might otherwise undermine goal striving. Accumulated evidence indicates that if-then plan formation promotes effective management of various problems in goal striving and increases rates of goal attainment. These effects are observed because component processes of implementation intentions mean that people are in a good position both to see and to seize good opportunities to move toward their goals. Implementation intention effects are stronger when self-regulatory problems beset goal striving, and when if-then planning is supported by strong, activated goal intentions. Below, we develop these points under the headings (1) goal intentions and goal attainment, (2) self-regulatory problems in goal striving, (3) the nature and operation of implementation intention, (4) forming effective implementation intentions: relating if-then plans to self-regulatory problems, and (5) moderators of implementation intention effects.