Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

Impact of Achievement Goals, Normative Feedback and Task Requirements on Performance

Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

Impact of Achievement Goals, Normative Feedback and Task Requirements on Performance

Article excerpt


The impact of mastery versus performance goals on performance outcomes has been largely researched, but few studies in the achievement goal paradigm have analyzed how feedback influences this dynamics. Using an innovative methodology, our research investigated how positive versus negative normative feedback influences the effect of approach achievement goals on response rapidness and accuracy in a competition-framed task. We also analyzed how individuals execute the same task, when given only task specific indications, with no goal framing or normative feedback. Our results indicated that for the accuracy dimension, goal framing and feedback have a significant effect, with the valence of feedback differentially influencing mastery versus performance goals. Another important finding refers to the high accuracy level of participants who were only guided by task-specific demands, leading us to debate the role of achievement goals versus procedural goals on performance outcomes.

KEYWORDS: achievement goals, normative feedback, response accuracy and rapidness.

The impact of feedback upon performance has long been a subject of interest in research regarding determinants and contingencies which influence human motivation and performance (Bandura, 1996; Bandura & Simon, 1977; Locke & Bryan, 1966; Locke, 1967; Miller, 1965; Wright, 1996). As feedback offers valuable input on progress regarding task completion and evaluates the quality of individual actions (Kluger & DeNisi, 1996, 1998), its link with achievement goals represents a relevant matter. The importance of this relation is sustained by a host of studies that did not find a direct effect of feedback alone on performance and pointed out that outcome or process representations of what an individual strives for (his goals) are essential for the manner in which performance feedback is processed (Balcazar, Hopkins, & Suarez, 1986; Latham, Mitchell, & Dossett, 1978; Warner & Mills, 1980).

We believe this mechanism involves a two-way influence between feedback and goals. On the one hand, the feedback individuals receive can validate, modify or invalidate the goals they set for themselves or the goals that are set by other entities (parents, teachers, schools, employers, etc.). For instance, highly negative comparison feedback (e.g., "you were the worst in the class") can annul a newly set mastery goal and transform it into a performance goal. On the other hand, high relevance goals can reduce the impact of negative feedback on performance or increase that of positive feedback, or simply facilitate the selection of relevant information from the feedback message, without attending to the negative valence (the experience of flow, see Csikszentmihalyi, Abuhamdeh, & Nakamura, 2005).

In real-life settings goal contents and processes do influence how feedback is processed, but multiple performance contingencies (previous experience with a task, emotional state, perceived importance of a task, existing social support in approaching the task) also contribute to this impact, amounting to a cumulative effect. Therefore, it is very difficult in such situations to determine the mechanisms through which each variable influences performance.

Feedback always points out one's standing between a present level of performance and a desired/expected level of achievement, usually expressed through criterion standards of performance. Feedback can reflect a negative discrepancy (you did not reach the criterion standards), a positive standing (you surpassed the criterion standards) or informs individuals that they accomplished the requirements according to the criterion standards. A present level of performance can be variously defined through: (a) objective performance indicators - performance relevant process or outcome behaviors for which frequency, duration, or intensity can be recorded, thus indicating task progress; or (b) performance contingencies - perceived self-efficacy, outcome expectations, task interest or perceived difficulty. …

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