Date of Graduation

Spring 2009


Master of Science in Psychology



Committee Chair

Thomas Kane


goals, goal orientations, self-efficacy, self-regulation, goal commitment

Subject Categories



Numerous studies have found that assigning specific and difficult goals consistently leads to higher performance than urging people to do their best (Locke & Latham, 2002). However, little research has studied the effects of goal difficulty on performance over repeated trials. In this study, performers were assigned a specific outcome goal attained by 10% of performers (norm-referenced goal, NR), a specific improvement goal attained by only 10% of performers (self-referenced goal, SR), or a do one's best goal. Arguments for specific hypotheses were based in achievement goal, goal commitment, and self-regulation theories (e.g. Grant & Dweck, 2003; Locke & Latham, 1990; Wood & Bandura, 1989). It was hypothesized that these different goal assignments would influence motivational and affective consequences. More specifically, benefits from setting SR goals, compared to NR goals, were expected for performance, persistence, satisfaction, and personal goals. The benefits of possessing SR goals were expected to be strongest for low self-efficacy performers. Results neither supported significant main effects between goal type and performance nor the expected interaction of goal type and self-efficacy. However, participants assigned a NR goal set higher personal goals after all performance trials concluded than those told to do their best, and individuals with high self-efficacy set higher personal goals than those with low self-efficacy. Also, participants told to their best were more satisfied with past performances than those given a SR goal, and participants with high performance levels were more satisfied with past performances.


© Megan Therese Arens

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