Relative Effects of Forward and Backward Planning on Goal Pursuit

Jooyoung Park, Fang Chi Lu, William M. Hedgcock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Considerable research has shown that planning plays an important role in goal pursuit. But how does the way people plan affect goal pursuit? Research on this question is scarce. In the current research, we examined how planning the steps required for goal attainment in chronological order (i.e., forward planning) and reverse chronological order (i.e., backward planning) influences individuals’ motivation for and perceptions of goal pursuit. Compared with forward planning, backward planning not only led to greater motivation, higher goal expectancy, and less time pressure but also resulted in better goal-relevant performance. We further demonstrated that this motivational effect occurred because backward planning allowed people to think of tasks required to reach their goals more clearly, especially when goals were complex to plan. These findings suggest that the way people plan matters just as much as whether or not they plan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1620-1630
Number of pages11
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • goal expectancy
  • goal pursuit
  • motivation
  • open materials
  • order of planning
  • time pressure


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