Interpersonal Protection: How Others May Shield Pursuits from Distraction

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Four studies were conducted to determine the process by which other people, referred to as goal defenders, may protect individual goal pursuit by inhibiting goal alternatives, specifically focusing on the way goal defenders may enhance perceptual narrowing, increase state self-control and decrease the value of alternatives. Studies 1A and 1B were conducted in one session via mTurk and used a word recognition task. Results indicate that, depending on trait level self-control capacity, participants who were primed with a goal defender remembered more goal relevant words than goal irrelevant words, while participants in the control condition exhibited the opposite pattern, demonstrating a heightened effect of perceptual narrowing for treatment participants. Study 2 was conducted in a laboratory in one session, and used a ”taste test” task to see how well participants would inhibit unhealthy foods after being primed with goal defenders. Findings pointed to an increase in state self-control for participants in the treatment group as trait inhibition increased, and a decrease in actual inhibition of temptation for treatment participants high in trait continuation. Finally, study 3 used a two-session, week-long longitudinal design on TurkPrime to gather self-report data about participants’ goal relevant behavior. Participants in the goal defender condition were more likely to see the temptation as less valuable than participants in the goal initiator condition when trait inhibition was high. Implications are discussed.





Roman, Mallory (2018). Interpersonal Protection: How Others May Shield Pursuits from Distraction. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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