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Arie W. Kruglanski

University of Maryland

Multifinality Principle in Goal Pursuit


       Anchored in the currently popular “motivation as cognition” paradigm, this talk discusses the topic of “multifinality” in which the same means is used to attain multiple goals (the “two birds with one stone” notion). Finding multifinal means is appealing in part because it avoids goal choice and allows one to “have one’s cake and eat it too” as it were. I will review studies showing that individuals indeed seek multifinal means, and they often do so outside their conscious awareness. In those situations, individuals believe themselves to be pursuing an explicit focal goal, but tend to choose means that serves also an implicit background goal. I will also review evidence that the quest for multifinality is abated when the background goals are attained by other means. Finally, I will review evidence that the quest for multifinality involves a trade off. Specifically, even though the multifinal means offer greater value they are perceived as less instrumental to the focal goal then a unifinal means (a dilution effect) and hence less likely to be chosen than the multifinal means in situations where only the focal goal mattered. The multifinality framework accounts for intriguing motivational phenomena of recent and classic interest including recent work on goal activation, value from fit effects, and the fundamental problem of motivated biases in human judgment.