Effective Instrument for Assessing Individual Differences of If-Then Planning

Cropped shot of an unrecognizable businesswoman filling in a questionnaire
Goal attainment can be facilitated by using an if-then planning self-regulation strategy. The study authors investigated whether there are individual differences in if-then planning.

Researchers from the University of Vienna and University of Konstanz observed that the If Then Planning Scale (ITPS) effectively measured individual differences in 3 independent studies and was published in Personality and Individual Differences.

The ITPS tool was a 16-item questionnaire which asked participants to agree or disagree (using the Likert scale) with 16 statements about critical situations and goal-directed behaviors when seizing opportunities or overcoming obstacles.

Study 1 recruited 2 independent samples of participants (n=606; n=599) to establish the ITPS psychometric qualities. Study 2 assessed the convergent and discriminant validity of the ITPS tool among 629 participants. Study 3 assessed achievement among high school students (n=576) and correlated performance and differences of if-then planning with demographic characteristics and educational achievement.

The ITPS was found to have a satisfactory goodness of fit (c2[62], 126.11; P <.001) and the assessment items were positively correlated with if-then planning (0.30 £ r £ 0.70).

The recruited high school students were living in southern Germany, 79.2% were girls, aged mean 17.2 (standard deviation, 2.9) years, and the average ITPS score was 4.97 (SD, 0.74). Most participants (96.7%) indicated they were motivated to respond honestly to the questionnaire.

Academic achievement was based on recent grades in German, English, and mathematics (worst: 0 to best: 15 points) which were averaged to form a single achievement score.

ITPS scores did not correlate with age (r[567], 0.05; P =.255) but did with gender (r[552], 0.10; P =.015), automatic goal striving (r[567], 0.25; P <.001), goal-directed behavior (r[566], 0.21; P <.001), and academic achievement (r[546], 0.14; P <.001).

Higher overall ITPS scores were associated with better academic achievement (b, 0.42; 95% CI, 0.17-0.67; b, 0.14). The correlation between the ITPS and academic achievement association was driven by the joint indirect effect (b, 0.25; 95% CI, 0.13-0.38; b, 0.09) but not the direct effect (b, 0.17; 95% CI, -0.09 to 0.42; b, 0.06).

To assess this indirect effect, the investigators observed a significant effect of goal-directed behaviors (b, 0.25; 95% CI, 0.12-0.38; b, 0.16) which was itself associated with academic achievement (b, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.51-0.86; b, 0.37) causing an indirect effect via performance of goal-directed behavior (b, 0.17; 95% CI, 0.07-0.27; b, 0.06).

Higher overall ITPS was correlated with more goal striving (b, 0.31; 95% CI, 0.20-0.43; b, 0.06) and goal-directed behavior (b, 0.30; 95% CI, 0.18-0.41; b, 0.23) which caused the indirect effect (b, 0.06; 95% CI, 0.03-0.10; b, 0.02).

The utility of the ITPS may have been limited by not including an intelligence component, as self-control has been associated with overall intelligence, and may be a significant cofactor.

The study authors concluded that their assessment tool of if-then planning was able to efficiently and reliably measure this behavior among various groups of individuals.


Bieleke M and Keller L. Individual differences in if-then planning: Insights from the development and application of the If-Then Planning Scale (ITPS). Pers Individ Differ. Published online November 19, 2020. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2020.110500