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Can Knowledge Impede Action?

Planning before taking action is usually thought to be wise, but it can have disadvantages. Although having plans generally makes people more likely to act on a goal than they would without them, an experiment reported by Masicampo and Baumeister (2012) showed that subjects who had devised plans to achieve a goal failed at that task, particularly when it was essential to recognize and seize an alternative opportunity in order to succeed. The authors concluded that with sufficient (unlimited) time a previously learned specific plan increased attainment of the goal, replicating the usual benefit of planning. With insufficient time, however, the specific plan impaired performance because participants failed to capitalize on an alternative opportunity for accomplishing the goal. The final conclusion by Masicampo and Baumeister was that plans can drastically decrease overall rates of attainment when openness to alternatives is crucial to success.

The Relation Between Knowledge and Action

What are the standard views on the relation between knowledge and action? I concentrate on three approaches that posit assumptions about this relationship: (a) the theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1991), (b) the theory of unconscious thought (Dijksterhuis & Nordgren, 2006), and (c) the option-generation framework (Kalis, Mojzisch, Schweizer, & Kaiser, 2008).

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