Effects of expectancy-regulation processes in goal setting: influence of self-esteem, social anxiety, self-presentational concerns, and initial goal level on performance

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The current study examined the effects of self-esteem and initial goal level on performance when that performance would affect an individual's future goal level. High and low esteem subjects were randomly assigned either moderately easy or difficult goals for an upcoming interview (quiz session). They were then given an anagram pretest to complete before the interview. Subjects were told either that their performance would or would not affect their goal level for the interview, or were not told anything about the relationship between their performance and the interview goal level. Actual and reported performance on the anagram pretest were measured. Analyses indicated that when given the chance to alter their goal level, low esteem subjects who were assigned difficult goals performed more poorly than did their high-esteem counterparts. Additional analyses were conducted to investigate the effects of subjects' social anxiety on performance. A significant three-way interaction did emerge between social anxiety, goal level, and instructions condition. High social anxiety persons given difficult goals performed worse when given the chance to alter their goal level than when they were not given the chance to alter their goal level or when they were given easy goals. These results are discussed in conjunction with other research on strategic failure and self-presentation within goal setting theory.