Self‐regulatory consequences of observing others making goal progress: A longitudinal field study in weight loss groups

James P. Reynolds, Thomas L. Webb, Kathleen C. Mcculloch, Gráinne M. Fitzsimons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What happens when people see others making progress toward a goal that they also hold? Is it motivating or could it undermine goal pursuit because people feel that they have made progress themselves (i.e., they experience vicarious goal satiation)?

We investigated these questions in a longitudinal field context – a group weight loss programme. N = 132 participants who were overweight or obese and attended weekly weight loss classes completed questionnaires over 11 weeks to investigate the consequences of observing other people making progress toward their goal of losing weight

Observing others making good progress was associated with participants holding stronger intentions to lose weight themselves (B = 0.04, p = .012), positive goal-related affect (B = 0.27, p = .017), and feeling that they were also making progress themselves (B = 0.22, p < .001). However, observing others making good progress was also associated with losing a smaller amount of weight over the following week (B = .13, p = .005). Mediation analyses showed a significant indirect effect of observing others making good progress, via feelings about their own progress, on changes in weight, B = .02, 95% CI [.00, .04].

People who view others making progress tend to be less successful at losing weight themselves over the following week. The findings suggest that this is, in part, explained by the person feeling as if they have made progress themselves; thereby providing the first demonstration of vicarious goal satiation in a field context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)970-981
JournalBritish Journal of Health Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


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