Document Type


Publication Date

January 2001

Journal or Book Title

Current Directions in Psychological Science




Recognizing opportunities to achieve pending goals is an important cognitive ability. But when and how do we recognize that a current situation is especially suited to resuming a past goal? The predictive encoding model suggests pending goals are encoded into memory in association with anticipated environmental features. Optimally, these features are (a) necessary for successful goal satisfaction, (b) distinctive preconditions for expecting a plan to achieve the goal, and (c) described so as to be readily identified in the environment. Later, ordinary perception of features in the environment leads to automatic recognition of opportunities already prepared in memory. Evidence from experimental studies supports this theory, and demonstrates that general preparation can produce apparently novel opportunism. These findings suggest ways to facilitate the recognition of opportunities to satisfy pending goals.