Steers, R. M., & Porter, L. W. (1974). The role of task-goal attributes in employee performance. Psychological Bulletin, 81, 434-452.

The factors that determine how and why goals affect performance were described. The two strongest variables were:

  1. An increase in goal-specificity (detail) increases performance. Vague, distant, or "general" goals have little effect on the quality and level of performance.
  2. The degree of acceptance of set goals affects performance. Who sets the goals is important. The higher the athlete's self-efficacy for achieving the goals, the greater will be the improvement in performance. This is not to be confused with "forcing" athletes to accept goals. The acceptance has to be natural and uncoerced.

A second tier of "weaker" variables was determined.

  1. Goal-difficulty. The more difficult the goals, the higher is the performance standard.
  2. Participation in goal-setting. When athletes are able to contribute to the determination of the goals, the higher is the performance standard.
  3. Feedback on goal effort. Upon completing a performance, feedback and analysis have a moderate effect upon succeeding goals. When the follow-up procedure is a standard part of the goal-setting process it will have some effect on how and what goals are established.

One further variable, peer competition, was considered and found to have no effect upon performance. The common practice of coaches challenging athletes on the same team to compete against each other is not likely to have any lasting beneficial effect on performance.

Return to Table of Contents for this issue.