Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The general purpose of this research was to determine whether changes in physiological arousal could be induced in a goal-setting paradigm, and if so, were these changes associated with the cognitive and behavioural effects of assigned performance goals. Two laboratory experiments were conducted to examine the effect of different goal conditions on physiological (skin resistance level and heart rate) and self-report arousal, cognition (performance expectancy/self-efficacy, performance valence, perceived norm, and personal goal), and task performance. In the first experiment subjects performed a simple perceptual-speed task under one of three goal conditions and one of two feedback conditions. In accordance with previous research, the results showed that subjects assigned more difficult goals reported higher performance expectancy (self-efficacy), anticipated satisfaction with higher performance levels, perceived higher norms, set higher personal goals, and outperformed subjects assigned easier goals. Of particular note was the finding that changes in sympathetically-mediated heart rate reflected the level of assigned goal difficulty, and heart rate was positively related to performance expectancy (self-efficacy), perceived norm, and personal goal. This research also showed that providing subjects with quality feedback during task performance increased performance expectancy, the level of personal (self-set) goals, and error-free performance. These findings concur with studies revealing the effects of feedback on goal choice and task performance, and highlight the importance of providing subjects with feedback appropriate for the task and the performance criteria. A second experiment was conducted to clarify the psychological significance of the change in heart rate, and to examine whether changes in heart rate, cognition, and behaviour were associated with need achievement. Results revealed that need achievement was positively related to performance expectancy, perceived norm, and the level of goal choice. The findings of this research have implications for the integration of Goal-Setting Theory with physiologically-based theories of motivation, attention, and effort expenditure, and for job or task design.



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