Backup plans may discourage individuals from achieving goals

Making a backup plan while performing a task can reduce the chances of successfully achieving your goal, a new study has revealed


Challenging conventional wisdom that making a back-up plan has been seen as a sensible way to deal with uncertainty, Jihae Shin, Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in the US, conducted a series of experiments which revealed that making a backup plan can lead to people not working hard and be less successful at attaining their primary goal.

According to the study published in the journal Organisational Behavior and Human Decision Process, the researchers set out to test the idea with a series of laboratory experiments where participants were given a sentence-unscrambling task and told that if they showed high performance on the task they would be given a free snack or the chance to leave the study early.

Some groups were then instructed to come up with other ways they could get free food on campus or save time later in the day in case they did not do well enough to earn the snack or the early dismissal in their current study.

Those in the groups making backup plans showed lower performance on the task and a follow-up experiment revealed a key factor driving this effect was a diminished desire for goal success.

The researchers suggested that understanding one’s potentiality is important, especially in those cases where goals can be achieved through effort. However, making a backup plan is not expected to reduce goal performance.

There, however, are important benefits of making a backup plan, such as reducing perceived uncertainty and making people feel more comfortable about the future.

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