# The Dilution Model: How Additional Goals Undermine the Perceived Instrumentality of a Shared Path

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9 THE DILUTION MODEL 397 We analyzed the response times to the goal as a function of goal number (one vs. two) and domain. Consistent with our hypothesis, an ANOVA yielded the predicted main effect for goal number, F(1, 73) 6.93, p.01. Participants were faster in responding to the goal following means prime in the one-goal condition (M 554 ms) than in the two-goals condition (M 598 ms), t(73) 2.63, p.01, suggesting a stronger means goal association when the means was associated with only a single goal than when it was also associated with an alternative goal. Furthermore, there was a main effect for domain, F(2, 73) 3.13, p.05, indicating that participants were slower in responding to the word fiber for the essay on oranges (M 590 ms), compared with responding to immune for the essay on tea (M 564 ms) and to oxygen for the essay on jogging (M 566 ms), F(1, 74) 6.18, p.05. Consistent with our hypothesis, the Goal Number Domain interaction was nonsignificant (Fs 1), indicating that the effect on response times was independent of the means content. Next, the ratings of means effectiveness were analyzed as a function of Goal Number Domain. Consistent with our previous studies, an ANOVA performed on this variable yielded a main effect of goal number, F(1, 73) 4.37, p.05, indicating that additional goals attached to a single means decreased the perceived instrumentality of the means in satisfying the original goal (Ms 7.46 and 6.83, for one-goal and two-goals conditions, respectively). Furthermore, there was no main effect for domain, and the Goal Number Means interaction was nonsignificant (Fs 1), indicating that the effect of goal number was independent of the content of the means. To test whether the strength of the means goal association mediated the effect of goal number on effectiveness ratings, we first averaged the perceived instrumentality ratings and the associative-strength response times across all three domains. By using a series of regression analyses, we then tested whether the strength of the means goal association mediated the effect of number of goals on perceived instrumentality of the means in serving the original goal. The results of the mediation are displayed in Figure 5. We found that consistent with the ANOVA, goal number (one vs. two) negatively predicted the perceived instrumentality of the means in serving the original goal (.24), F(1, 73) 4.37, p.05. In addition, increase in goal number lowered the associative strength between the means and the original goal, as measured by the reaction time to the goal following the presentation of the means (thus greater number corresponds to slower reaction and weaker association), (.30), F(1, 73) 6.93, p.01, which, Goal Number (One vs. Two).30* -.16 (-.24*) Means-goal Associative Strength (RT) (-.30**) -.25* Perceived Instrumentality Figure 5. Path model of the influence of goal number on perceived instrumentality. RT response time. * p.05. ** p.01. in turn, decreased the perceived instrumentality of the means in serving the goal (.30), F(1, 73) 7.13, p.01. Controlling for the means goal associative strength, the effect of goal number on perceived instrumentality diminished and became nonsignificant (.16, ns). A Baron and Kenny s version of Sobel s test (Baron & Kenny, 1986) indicates that the mediation was significant (Z 1.97, p.05). That is, controlling for means goal association strength, associating the means with two (vs. one) goals did not directly impair the perceived instrumentality of the means for the attainment of the common goal. It did, however, indirectly impair perceived instrumentality through means goal associative strength. Similar patterns of meditation were obtained for each goal if analyzed separately. These results shed light on the cognitive process by which adding an alternative goal to a means that already serves one goal dilutes the perceived instrumentality of the means for that original goal. In what follows, we address the implications of the dilution in means instrumentality. We hypothesize that the dilution of perceived functionality negatively impacts actual means preference. In our final study, we therefore investigate means choice when a means is associated with the attainment of either one or two goals. Study 6: Dilution Effects on Means Choice In Study 6, we highlighted either one goal that a means (an office pen) could satisfy (i.e., writing) or two goals that this means could satisfy (i.e., writing and serving as a laser pointer). We then measured participants tendency to choose this means (the pen) in a subsequent task in which the original goal of writing was activated. We predicted that participants who associated the pen with two goals would be less likely to choose this pen for writing notes as compared with participants who associated the pen with the sole goal of writing. Participants Method Sixty-one University of Chicago undergraduate students (33 women and 28 men) participated in this study in exchange for \$3. Procedure Materials. The object used in this study was a pen that could also serve as a laser pointer. The laser pointer pen seemed identical to a typical ballpoint pen, except for a small button located near its top, designed to turn the laser pointer function on and off. Means elaboration. A one-goal versus two-goals between-subject design was used for this study. Upon arriving in the lab for a survey on study habits, each participant received a filler survey purportedly assessing such habits and a laser pointer pen to complete the survey. Half the participants, assigned to the one-goal condition, completed only the filler survey using the pen. The other half, assigned to the two-goals condition, completed the same survey and, at the end of the survey, were asked to quickly evaluate the pen s laser pointer function. Participants were informed that they could use the laser pointer function by pressing the small button and were asked to evaluate this function by writing down a short sentence. Thus, participants in this condition practiced the two functions of the pen, both as a pen and as a laser pointer. Means choice. Once participants completed the survey, the experimenter collected both the questionnaire and the pen. All participants were

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