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Comparing mental contrasting with implementation intentions against solution-focused and autonomous planning.

Abdulla, Adam; Woods, Ruth


Adam Abdulla

Ruth Woods


Research suggests that mental contrasting with implementation intentions (MCII) enhances commitment and goal attainment. However, most studies have used limited comparison conditions. The present study compared MCII against two other potentially effective approaches: autonomous planning (AP), and solution-focused planning (SFP). It was thought that condition would have an indirect effect on goal progress by affecting commitment. However, goal attainment expectancy was hypothesised to be a moderator such that MCII has positive effects when expectancy is high but negative effects when expectancy is low. Ninety-eight female students were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: 1) MCII, 2) AP, or 3) SFP. All students initially set themselves a goal for the coming week regarding personal projects. Mean commitment and goal progress were marginally higher in the MCII condition than in the AP and SFP conditions but the differences were not statistically significant and (as predicted) much smaller than in previous research. Expectancy did not appear to have a moderating effect. The apparent benefits of MCII were larger relative to AP than to SFP. Results suggest that MCII may be no more effective than other approaches to goal-setting and planning, particularly if they are evidence-based and carefully-designed. Implications for schools are addressed.


ABDULLA, A. and WOODS, R. 2021. Comparing mental contrasting with implementation intentions against solution-focused and autonomous planning. School psychology international [online], 42(4), pages 398-421. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 15, 2021
Online Publication Date Mar 9, 2021
Publication Date Aug 1, 2021
Deposit Date Feb 16, 2021
Publicly Available Date Mar 9, 2021
Journal School psychology international
Print ISSN 0143-0343
Electronic ISSN 1461-7374
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 42
Issue 4
Pages 398-421
Keywords Mental contrasting; MCII; Autonomous planning (AP); Goal progress; Commitment; Goal-setting and planning; Mental contrasting with implementation intentions; Solution-focused; Autonomy; School interventions
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