Advertisement

Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 477–488 | Cite as

Are mastery-avoidance achievement goals always detrimental? An adult development perspective

  • Corwin SenkoEmail author
  • Alexandra M. Freund
Original Paper

Abstract

Achievement goal research consistently reveals that mastery-avoidance goals (i.e., striving to avoid losses) are maladaptive, especially in comparison to mastery-approach goals (i.e., striving for gains). Nearly all of it has been done with children or young adults, however. Lifespan theories of motivation posit that people in late adulthood are more likely than young adults to strive toward maintenance and loss-prevention rather than gains, and also that they sometimes profit from pursuing those goals. Integrating the two approaches, this experiment compared young and older adults’ experience and performance on a laboratory task when pursuing either mastery-approach or mastery-avoidance goals. Results show that young adults perceived the mastery-approach goal to be more attainable and therefore felt less pressure, enjoyed the task more, and performed better with it, whereas older adults showed this pattern with the mastery-avoidance goal. This matching effect replicates recent research on adult development and has broader implications for achievement goal theory and avoidance motivation in general.

Keywords

Achievement goals Mastery-avoidance Gains Losses Adult age-differences 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Monika Bieri and Juerg Graf for assistance in putting together the experimental materials. Financial support for this research was provided by a grant to Corwin Senko, while a Post-Doctoral researcher at the University of Zürich, from the Suzanne and Hans Biäsch Foundation for Applied Psychology.

References

  1. Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  2. Ames, C. (1992). Classrooms: Goals, structures, and student motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84(3), 261–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baltes, P. B., Lindenberger, U., & Staudinger, U. M. (2006). Life-span theory in developmental psychology. In R. M. Lerner (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology. Vol. 1: Theoretical models of human development (6th ed.). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  4. Baranik, L. E., Stanley, L. J., Bynum, B. H., & Lance, C. E. (2010). Examining the construct validity of mastery-avoidance achievement goals: A meta-analysis. Human Performance, 23, 265–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Finenauer, C., & Vohs, K. D. (2001). Bad is stronger than good. Review of General Psychology, 5, 323–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blaga, M., & Van Yperen, N. W. (2006). Easy and difficulty performance-approach goals: Their moderating effect on the link between task interest and performance attainment. Psychologica Belgica, 48, 93–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bong, M. (2009). Age-related differences in achievement goal differentiation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101, 879–896.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (2000). Autonomy and self-regulation. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 284–291.Google Scholar
  9. Ciani, K. D., & Sheldon, K. M. (2010). Evaluating the mastery-avoidance goal construct: A study of elite baseball players. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 11, 127–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Coats, E. J., Janoff-Bulman, R., & Alpert, N. (1996). Approach versus avoidance goals: Differences in self-evaluation and well-being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 1057–1067.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. de Lange, A. H., Van Yperen, N. W., Van der Heijden, B. I. J. M., & Bal, P. M. (2010). Dominant achievement goals of older workers and their relationship with motivation-related outcomes. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 77, 118–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Duda, J. L., & Nicholls, J. G. (1992). Dimensions of achievement motivation in schoolwork and sport. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 290–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dweck, C. S. (1986). Motivational processes affect learning. American Psychologist, 41, 1040–1048.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ebner, N. C., Freund, A. M., & Baltes, P. B. (2006). Developmental changes in personal goal orientation from young to late adulthood: From striving for gains to maintenance and prevention of losses. Psychology and Aging, 21, 664–678.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Elliot, A. J. (1999). Approach and avoidance motivation and achievement goals. Educational Psychologist, 34, 169–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Elliot, A. J., & McGregor, H. A. (2001). A 2 × 2 achievement goal framework. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 501–519.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Elliot, A. J., & Moller, A. C. (2003). Performance-approach goals: Good or bad forms of regulation? International Journal of Educational Research, 39, 339–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Elliot, A. J., Murayama, K., & Pekrun, R. (2011). A 3×2 achievement goal model. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103, 632–648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Elliot, A. J., Sedikides, C., Murayama, K., Tanaka, A., Thrash, T. M., & Mapes, R. M. (2012). Cross-cultural generality and specificity in self-regulation: Avoidance personal goals and multiple aspects of well-being in the United States and Japan. Emotion, 12, 1031–1040.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Elliot, A. J., & Sheldon, K. M. (1997). Avoidance achievement motivation: A personal goals analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 171–185.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Freund, A. M. (2006). Differential motivational consequences of goal focus in younger and older adults. Psychology and Aging, 21, 240–252.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Friedman, R. S., & Förster, J. (2001). The effects of promotion and prevention cues on creativity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 1001–1013.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hamamura, T., & Heine, S. J. (2008). Approach and avoidance motivation across cultures. In A. J. Elliot (Ed.), Handbook of approach and avoidance motivation (pp. 557–570). New York: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  24. Harackiewicz, J. M., Canning, E. A., Tibbetts, Y., Giffen, C. J., Blair, S. S., Rouse, D. I., & Hyde, J. S. (2014). Closing the social class achievement gap for first-generation students in undergraduate biology. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106, 375–389.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Harackiewicz, J. M., Durik, A. M., Barron, K. E., Linnenbrink, E. A., & Tauer, J. M. (2008). The role of achievement goals in the development of interest: Reciprocal relations between achievement goals, interest and performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100, 105–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Harackiewicz, J. M., & Elliot, A. J. (1993). Achievement goals and intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 904–915.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hayes, A. F. (2012). PROCESS: A versatile computational tool for observed variable mediation, moderation, and conditional process modeling [White paper]. Retrieved from http://www.afhayes.com/public/process2012.pdf
  28. Heckhausen, J. (1997). Developmental regulation across adulthood: Primary and secondary control of age-related changes. Developmental Psychology, 33, 176–187.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Higgins, E. T. (1997). Beyond pleasure and pain. American Psychologist, 52, 1280–1300.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Howell, A. J., & Buro, K. (2009). Implicit beliefs, achievement goals, and procrastination: A mediational analysis. Learning and Individual Differences, 19, 151–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Howell, A. J., & Watson, D. C. (2007). Procrastination: Associations with achievement goal orientation and learning strategies. Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 167–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hulleman, C. S., Schrager, S. M., Bodmann, S. M., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2010). A meta-analytic review of achievement goal measures: Different labels for the same constructs or different constructs with similar labels? Psychological Bulletin, 136, 422–449.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hulleman, C. S., & Senko, C. (2010). Up around the bend: Forecasts for achievement goal theory and research in 2020. In T. C. Urdan & S. A. Karabenick (Eds.), Advances in motivation and achievement (Vol. 16). UK: Emerald Group Publishing.Google Scholar
  34. Jarvis, B. (2004). MediaLab (Version 2004). New York: Empirisoft Corp.Google Scholar
  35. Kline, R. B. (2005). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  36. Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35-year odyssey. American Psychologist, 57, 705–717.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lockwood, P., Chasteen, A. L., & Wong, C. (2005). Age and regulatory focus determine preferences for health-related role models. Psychology and Aging, 20, 376–389.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Madjar, N., Kaplan, A., & Weinstock, M. (2011). Clarifying mastery-avoidance goals in high school: Distinguishing between intrapersonal and task-based standards of competence. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 36, 268–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Midgley, C., Maehr, M. L., Hruda, L. Z., Anderman, E., Anderman, L., Freeman, K. E., et al. (2000). Manual for the Patterns of Adaptive Learning Scales (PALS). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan.Google Scholar
  40. Mustafic, M., & Freund, A. M. (2012). Multidimensionality in developmental conceptions across adulthood. GeroPsych: The Journal of Gerontopsychology and Geriatric Psychiatry, 25, 57–72. doi: 10.1024/1662-9647/a000055.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mustafic, M., & Freund, A. M. (2013). Age-related differences in evaluating developmental stability. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 37, 376–386. doi: 10.1177/0165025413490866.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Nicholls, J. G. (1984). Achievement motivation: Conceptions of ability, subjective experience, task choice, and performance. Psychological Review, 91, 328–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Norem, J. K., & Illingworth, K. S. S. (1993). Strategy-dependent effects of reflecting on self and tasks: Some implications of optimism and defensive pessimism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 822–835.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ogilvie, D. M., Rose, K. M., & Heppen, J. B. (2001). A comparison of personal project motives in three age groups. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 23, 207–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Payne, S. C., Youngcourt, S. S., & Beaubien, J. M. (2007). A meta-analytic examination of the goal orientation nomological net. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 128–150.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pennington, S. L., & Scott, W. D. (2012). Age-related differences in goals: Testing predictions from selection, optimization, and compensation theory and socioemotional selectivity theory. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 74, 87–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pintrich, P. R. (2000). Multiple goals, multiple pathways: The role of goal orientation in learning and achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, 544–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Poortvliet, P. M., Janssen, O., Van Yperen, N. W., & Van de Vliert, E. (2007). Achievement goals and interpersonal behavior: How mastery and performance goals shape information exchange. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 1435–1447.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Putwain, D. W., & Daniels, R. A. (2010). Is the relationship between competence beliefs and test anxiety influenced by goal orientation? Learning and Individual Differences, 20, 8–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Roskes, M., De Dreu, C. K. W., & Nijstad, B. A. (2012). Necessity is the mother of invention: Avoidance motivation stimulates creativity through cognitive effort. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103, 242–256.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ryan, R. M., Koestner, R., & Deci, E. L. (1991). Ego-involved persistence: When free-choice behavior is not intrinsically motivated. Motivation and Emotion, 15, 185–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Senko, C., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2005). Achievement goals, task performance, and interest: Why perceived goal difficulty matters. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 1739–1753.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Senko, C., & Hulleman, C. S. (2013). The role of goal attainment expectancies in achievement goal pursuit. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105, 504–521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Senko, C., Hulleman, C. S., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2011). Achievement goal theory at the crossroads: Old controversies, current challenges, and new directions. Educational Psychologist, 46, 26–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sheldon, K. M., & Kasser, T. (2001). Getting older, getting better: Personal strivings and psychological maturity across the lifespan. Developmental Psychology, 37, 491–501.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Stoeber, J., Uphill, M. A., & Hotham, S. (2009). Predicting race performance in triathlon: The role of perfectionism, achievement goals, and personal goal setting. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 31, 211–245.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Tamir, M. (2005). Don’t worry, be happy? Neuroticism, trait-consistent affect regulation, and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 449–461.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Urdan, T., & Mestas, M. (2006). The goals behind performance goals. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98, 354–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Van Yperen, N. W., Elliot, A. J., & Anseel, F. (2009). The influence of mastery-avoidance goals on performance improvement. European Journal of Social Psychology, 39, 932–943.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Vandewalle, D. (1997). Development and validation of a work domain goal orientation instrument. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 57, 995–1015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Vansteenkiste, M., Lens, M., Elliot, A. J., Soenens, B., & Mouratidis, A. (2014). Moving the achievement goal approach one step forward: Towards a systematic examination of the autonomous and controlled reasons underlying achievement goals. Educational Psychologist, 49, 153–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Weiss, D., Sczesny, S., & Freund, A. M. (2014). Wanting to get more or protecting one’s assets: Age-differential effects of gain vs. loss perceptions on the willingness to engage in collective action. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Science. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbu098.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyState University of New York – New PaltzNew PaltzUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology and University Research Priority Program, Dynamics of Healthy AgingUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations