Big picture, bad outcomes: when visual perspectives harm health goal pursuit

Jason Stornelli, Beatriz Pereira, Richard J. Vann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


People often fail to achieve health goals, which compromises their well-being. Prior research suggests that seeing events through an observer's eyes (i.e., adopting a third-person perspective) should facilitate goal pursuit. However, we find that third-person perspectives discourage goal-consistent intentions and behavior for health goals when goal centrality is low (i.e., the goal is peripheral to one's self-concept). In Experiment 1, people who adopted a third-person perspective chose more sugary foods if they considered a healthy eating goal to be more peripheral to the self. Experiment 2 examines why a third-person perspective can hinder goal pursuit; it encourages a breakdown in implemental thinking which, in turn, increases negative self-conscious emotions. While high goal centrality buffers people from negative effects on goal intentions, low centrality does not. Experiment 3 demonstrates that this effect is robust when goal centrality is manipulated. We recommend that consumers pursuing health goals (and individuals who support them) exercise caution when employing perspective-based strategies, as they may backfire for people at greatest risk of goal abandonment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-378
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Consumer Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Affect and emotion
  • Goals and motivation
  • Health psychology
  • Self and identity
  • Self-regulation and self-control
  • Transformative consumer research

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