Date of Graduation

Spring 2014


Master of Science in Psychology



Committee Chair

D. Wayne Mitchell


heart rate, acceleration, deceleration, match-to-sample, cognitive processing, goal setting, self-efficacy, achievement motivation, avoidance motivation, response latency

Subject Categories



According to goal-setting theory, the application of a specific and difficult, but attainable, goal will improve performance. According to the bidirectional model of heart rate (HR) change, HR will accelerate or decelerate according to specific cognitive activity. It was hypothesized that participants who were given a specific and difficult goal on a cognitive task would experience HR acceleration at a greater magnitude than participants who were not assigned a specific goal. A delayed-match-to-sample task (DMTS) was used to monitor the effect of goal vs. no goal conditions on HR change and response latency (RL) among college students. Participants in the goal condition were asked to correctly answer a specific number of trials in the DMTS, assigned to each participant based upon his/her performance during the practice trials. Participants in the no goal condition were asked to ‘do your best.' In general, results supported the bidirectional model of HR change, but did not indicate improved performance among participants in the goal condition, compared to participants in the no goal condition. In addition, motivational disposition (being either approach-driven or avoidance-driven motivation) was shown to correlate with both HR and RL, between groups. These correlational results indicate that increased motivation (of either disposition) was associated with a greater magnitude of HR acceleration and shorter RL.


© Matthew R. Underwood

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