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23-03-2016 | Original Article | Uitgave 3/2017 Open Access

Psychological Research 3/2017

The implicit power motive predicts action selection

Psychological Research > Uitgave 3/2017
Peter F. Stoeckart, Madelijn Strick, Erik Bijleveld, Henk Aarts
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The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s00426-016-0768-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.


Previous research has indicated that implicit motives can reliably predict which behaviors people select or decide to perform. However, so far, the question of how these motives are able to predict this action selection process has received little attention. Based on ideomotor theory, we argue that implicit motives can predict action selection when an action has become associated with a motive-congruent (dis)incentive through repeated experiences with the action-outcome relationship. This idea was investigated by examining whether the implicit need for power (nPower) would come to predict action selection (i.e., choosing to press either of two buttons) when these actions had repeatedly resulted in motive-congruent (dis)incentives (i.e., submissive or dominant faces). Both Studies 1 and 2 indicated that participants became more likely to select the action predictive of the motive-congruent outcome as their history with the action-outcome relationship increased. Study 2 indicated that this effect stemmed from both an approach towards incentives and an avoidance of disincentives. These results indicate that implicit motives (particularly the power motive) can predict action selection as a result of learning which actions yield motive-congruent (dis)incentives. Our findings therefore offer a model of how implicit motives can come to predict which behaviors people select to perform.

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