Mossholder, K. W. (1980). Effects of externally mediated goal setting on intrinsic motivation: A laboratory experiment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 65, 202-210.

Under interesting task conditions, assigning specific difficult goals reduced subsequent task interest, persistence, and satisfaction with the task. Under boring task conditions, assigning specific difficult goals increased on-task interest.

The negative effects of goal-setting on intrinsic motivation seemed to be especially important for those individuals who failed to achieve the prescribed goal.

The assignment of goals may interfere with performance, stimulate it, and may alter the reasons for performing depending upon the nature of self-set goals that exist prior to the imposition of external goal-setting.


  1. When an individual is very motivated to perform a task, that is, intrinsic motivation is high, the imposition of coach-suggested goals will cause motivation and performance to deteriorate. Before considering imposing goals, such factors as importance of the contest to the athlete, the extent of self-set goals, and the self-efficacy of the individual for the intended performance, need to be considered. If intrinsic motivation is high, the coach should resist suggesting further goals.
  2. On the other hand, when intrinsic motivation is low, coach-imposed goals, particularly if they are agreed upon by the athlete, increase interest in the task or contest.
  3. If a coach does not analyze the status of the athlete with regard to personally-set goals, the imposition of goals could be a destructive procedure when an athlete is already highly motivated.

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