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” gives us essentially no information about who will do well in terms of grades.College students are hardly unique in not following through on their intentions and goals.We found that those who had a stronger association between importance and exercise were significantly more likely to exercise more often and more intensely.Then we conducted a test to find out how implicit beliefs predicted test-taking abilities.In other words, even when two people scored the same on the SAT, the one with the stronger implicit belief about the importance of the GRE tended to score better on the practice exam.One interesting finding in our studies was that implicit beliefs predicted some people’s success more than others.But our brief computerized test provided new insight into who was likely to succeed – an insight not captured by more traditional measures.
In other words, whereas people “said” they were egalitarian, they in fact possessed strong negative associations in their mind when it came to certain racial groups.
Frustrated parents might do well to look to their own unused gym memberships or perennial weight-loss resolutions to realize that intentions are not always sufficient to ensure steady progress toward one’s goals.
Why is there such a disconnect between our intentions and our actions?
In five of our studies, we used this test to measure students’ cognitive association between “importance” and “schoolwork.” Student participants were asked to indicate, as quickly as they could, using computer keys, whether each of a series of words was related to “schoolwork,” was a synonym of “importance” or was a synonym of “unimportance.” Examples of such words included “exam,” “critical” and “trivial.” The test was set up in such a way so that even a slight difference in the speed of response (at the level of milliseconds) could reveal differences in the strength of the association between schoolwork and importance.
In short, it allowed us to measure the extent to which people implicitly believed that schoolwork was important.