Motivational and Volitional Processes in Action Initiation: A Field Study of the Role of Implementation Intentions1


  • 1

    The study was funded by the Medical Research Council, UK (MRC, G106/536). The authors would like to thank Gail Johnston, Lindsay MGregor. Mary-Frances Morris, Mark Elvin. and Jean Orme for their assistance in conducting the study and in preparing the data.

2 Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Sheina Orbell, Department of Psychology, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester CO4 3SQ, United Kingdom. e-mail:


A field study tested Gollwitzer's (1993) proposition that the formation of implementation intentions specifying action opportunities accounts for the speed with which intentions are translated into action. Motivation to resume functional activity was assessed among a general population sample of patients prior to joint replacement surgery. At 3 months following surgery. people who had formed implementation intentions were found to have initiated 18 out of 32 activities sooner than people who had not formed implementation intentions. This difference could not be attributed to differences in motivation between the 2 groups. Evidence also showed that the formation of implementation intentions mediated the effects of behavioral expectation on speed of action initiation.