The consumer behavior literature extensively studied the impact of goal setting on behavior and performance. However, much less is known about the antecedents of goal level setting – consumers’ decision of whether to work out twice or three times per week. Consumers can decide how many goal-consistent activities to undertake (‘goal-consistent decision frame’; such as exercising two days per week) or to forego (‘goal-inconsistent decision frame’; such as not exercising five days per week). While objectively the same decision, we argue that these different frames impact consumers’ ambition. Making a decision to forego goal-consistent activities triggers negative, self-evaluative emotions and to compensate for these unfavorable self-evaluations, consumers set more ambitious goal levels. Across a variety of contexts, consumers are more ambitious when their focal decision is inconsistent with goal achievement. For instance, they decide to work out more often when they decide how many work-out sessions they would skip (versus attend). The impact of goal-inconsistent decision framing is mitigated when the activity is less instrumental towards goal achievement, and when negative self-evaluative emotions are alleviated through self-affirmation.

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Journal of Consumer Research
Department of Marketing Management

Tuk, M., Prokopec, S., & van den Bergh, B. (2020). Do versus Don't: The Impact of Framing on Goal Level Setting. Journal of Consumer Research. doi:10.1093/jcr/ucaa050