Goals are a form of self-regulation adopted by humans to achieve specific aims. By focusing people's attention, goals facilitate responses that are compatible with people's objectives. Although the behavior of lower animals is controlled by biological mechanisms, human functioning is more flexible. Humans have the ability to regulate their responses beyond biologically [Page 379]based propensities. Goals represent one form of selfRegulation common in people's daily lives.
While the specific content of people's goals vary considerably, a number of features have been identified by psychologists as common to all goals.
Goals are mental ideas, or cognitive representations, meaning that they are based in the mind. Consequently, goals can only be inferred, rather than observed. Furthermore, goals are restricted to animals that use their mind in the process ...