“Reconceptualizing Goal Pursuit as a Transactive Process”
Most models of goal pursuit conceptualize people as isolated self-regulators. Whether they are pre-school children resisting the temptation to eat a marshmallow or university students performing reaction-time tasks in an fMRI scanner, they perform their feats of self-regulation alone. The thesis of this presentation is that most goal pursuit in everyday life is, in contrast, deeply embedded in social relationships, which means that the social group—not the individual—is the optimal unit of analysis for understanding how people set, pursue, and achieve goals. After presenting a set of studies demonstrating the importance of relational dynamics in understanding “self-regulation,” we consider transactive goal dynamics theory, a deeply social new theory of goal pursuit. According to the theory, relationship partners’ goals, pursuits, and outcomes affect one another in a densely interdependent network, ultimately becoming so tightly linked that the partners are best conceptualized as components of a single self-regulating system.