This research investigated the interrelations among achievement goals and the underlying reasons for pursuing them. To do so, it utilized the framework of goal complexes, which are regulatory constructs defined at the intersection of aims and reasons. Data from two independent large samples of New Zealand university students showed that across types of reasons, namely development versus demonstration of competence/ability, and approach-avoidance tendencies pertaining to aims and reasons, respectively, participants rated lowest items mapping normative aims. Additionally, for most non-normative achievement goals, which in this study were related to task and own past performance, students endorsed more strongly items pertaining to the development rather than the demonstration of competence/ability. This pattern of results was reversed for approach—but not avoidance—related reasons associated with normative aims. These findings are largely consistent with the tenets of cognitive dissonance theory and have important implications for pedagogical practice, policy development, and the study of self-evaluation and cognitive processes. In addition, they delineate new directions for fruitful future research.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Ames, C., & Archer, J. (1988). Achievement goals in the classroom: Students’ learning strategies and motivation processes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 260–267. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.80.260.
Bentler, P. M. (1990). Comparative fit indexes in structural models. Psychological Bulletin, 107, 238–246. doi:10.1037//0033-2909.107.2.238.
Bong, M., Woo, Y., & Shin, J. (2013). Do students distinguish between different types of performance goals? The Journal of Experimental Education, 81, 464–489. doi:10.1080/00220973.2012.745464.
Brendl, C. M., & Higgins, E. T. (1996). Principles of judging valence: What makes events positive or negative? Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 28, 95–160. doi:10.1016/S0065-2601(08)60237-3.
Brown, T. A. (2006). Confirmatory factor analysis for applied research. New York, NY: Guilford.
Conley, A. M. (2012). Patterns of motivation beliefs: Combining achievement goal and expectancy-value perspectives. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104, 32–47. doi:10.1037/a0026042.
Darnon, C., Dompnier, B., Gilliéron, O., & Butera, F. (2010). The interplay of mastery and performance goals in social comparison: A multiple goal perspective. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102, 212–222. doi:10.1037/a0018161.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self determination of behaviour. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227–268. doi:10.1207/S15327965PLI1104_01.
Dompnier, B., Darnon, C., Meier, E., Brandner, C., Smeding, A., & Butera, F. (2015). Improving low achievers’ academic performance at university by changing the social value of mastery goals. American Educational Research Journal, 52, 720–749. doi:10.3102/0002831215585137.
Dweck, C. S. (2000). Self theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. Philadelphia, PA: Psychology Press.
Eccles, J. S., & Wigfield, A. (2002). Motivational beliefs, values, and goals. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 109–132. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.53.100901.135153.
Elliot, A. J. (1997). Integrating the ‘classic’ and ‘contemporary’ approaches to achievement motivation: A hierarchical model of approach and avoidance achievement motivation. In M. L. Maehr & P. R. Pintrich (Eds.), Advances in motivation and achievement (Vol. 10, pp. 143–179). Greenwich, CT: JAI.
Elliot, A. J. (1999). Approach and avoidance motivation and achievement goals. Educational Psychologist, 34, 169–189. doi:10.1207/s15326985ep3403_3.
Elliot, A. J. (2005). A conceptual history of the achievement goal construct. In A. J. Elliot & C. S. Dweck (Eds.), Handbook of competence and motivation (pp. 52–72). New York, NY: Guilford.
Elliot, A. J. (2006). The hierarchical model of approach-avoidance motivation. Motivation and Emotion, 30, 111–116. doi:10.1007/s11031-006-9028-7.
Elliot, A. J., & Church, M. A. (1997). A hierarchical model of approach and avoidance achievement motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 218–232. doi:10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.168.
Elliot, A. J., Conroy, D. E., Barron, K. E., & Murayama, K. (2010). Achievement motives and goals: A developmental analysis. In M. Lamb, A. M. Freund, & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), The handbook of life-span development: Vol. 2. Social and emotional development (pp. 474–510). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Elliot, A. J., & Dweck, C. S. (2005). Competence and motivation: Competence as the core of achievement motivation. In A. J. Elliot & C. S. Dweck (Eds.), Handbook of competence and motivation (pp. 3–12). New York, NY: Guilford.
Elliot, A. J., & Fryer, J. (2008). The goal construct in psychology. In J. Shah & W. Gardner (Eds.), Handbook of motivational science (pp. 235–250). New York, NY: Guilford.
Elliot, A. J., & McGregor, H. A. (2001). A 2 × 2 achievement goal framework. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 501–519. doi:10.1037//0022-3522.214.171.1241.
Elliot, A. J., & Murayama, K. (2008). On the measurement of achievement goals: Critique, illustration, and application model. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100, 613–628. doi:10.1037/0022-06126.96.36.1993.
Elliot, A. J., Murayama, K., & Pekrun, R. (2011). A 3 × 2 achievement goal model. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103, 632–648. doi:10.1037/a0023952.
Elliot, A. J., & Niesta, D. (2009). Goals in the context of the hierarchical model of approach-avoidance motivation. In G. B. Moskowitz & H. Grant (Eds.), The psychology of goals (pp. 56–76). New York, NY: Guilford.
Elliot, A. J., & Thrash, T. M. (2001). Achievement goals and the hierarchical model of achievement motivation. Educational Psychology Review, 13, 139–156. doi:10.1023/A:1009057102306.
Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Friedman, R., Moller, A. C., Fryer, J. W., Zahn, I., Law, W., Acuff, R. D., & Elliot, A. J. (2009). Achievement goals in the context of the hierarchical model of approach-avoidance motivation. In A. Kaplan, S. Karabenick, & E. De Groot (Eds.), Culture, self, and motivation: Essays in honor of Martin L. Maehr (pp. 111–134). Charlotte, NC: Information Age.
Fujita, K., & MacGregor, K. E. (2012). Basic goal distinctions. In H. Aarts & A. J. Elliot (Eds.), Goal-directed behavior (pp. 85–113). New York, NY: Psychology Press.
Gillet, N., Lafrenière, M.-A. K., Huyghebaert, T., & Fouquereau, E. (2015). Autonomous and controlled reasons underlying achievement goals: Implications for the 3 × 2 achievement goal model in educational and work settings. Motivation and Emotion, 39, 858–875. doi:10.1007/s11031-015-9505-y.
Hagtvet, K. A., & Benson, J. (1997). The motive to avoid failure and test anxiety responses: Empirical support for integration of two research traditions. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 10, 35–57. doi:10.1080/10615809708249294.
Higgins, E. T. (1997). Beyond pleasure and pain. American Psychologist, 52, 1280–1300. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.52.12.1280.
Higgins, E. T. (2012). Beyond pleasure and pain: How motivation works. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Hu, L., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 6, 1–55. doi:10.1080/10705519909540118.
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. doi:10.1037/a0018947.
Hulleman, C. S., & Senko, C. (2010). Up and around the bend: Forecasts for achievement goal theory and research in 2020. In T. C. Urdan & S. A. Karabenick (Eds.), The decade ahead: Theoretical perspectives on motivation and achievement (Vol. 16A, pp. 71–104). Howard House, UK: Emerald.
Law, W., Elliot, A. J., & Murayama, K. (2012). Perceive competence moderates the relation between performance-approach and performance-avoidance goals. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104, 806–819. doi:10.1037/a0027179.
Linnenbrink-Garcia, L., Middleton, M. J., Ciani, K. D., Easter, M. E., O’Keefe, P. A., & Zusho, A. (2012). The strength of the relation between performance-approach and performance-avoidance goal orientations: Theoretical, methodological, and instructional implications. Educational Psychologist, 47, 281–301. doi:10.1080/00461520.2012.722515.
Meece, J. L., Anderman, E. M., & Anderman, L. H. (2006). Classroom goal structure, student motivation, and academic achievement. Annual Review of Psychology, 57, 487–503. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.56.091103.070258.
Michou, A., Vansteenkiste, M., Mouratidis, A., & Lens, W. (2014). Enriching the hierarchical model of achievement motivation: Autonomous and controlling reasons underlying achievement goals. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 650–666. doi:10.1111/bjep.12055.
Molden, D. C., & Dweck, C. S. (2006). Finding “meaning” in Psychology: A lay theories approach to self-regulation, social perception, and social development. American Psychologist, 61, 192–203. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.61.3.192.
Muthen, L. K., & Muthen, B. O. (2010). Mplus, user’s guide (6th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Muthen & Muthen.
Régner, I., Escribe, C., & Dupeyrat, C. (2007). Evidence of social comparison in mastery goals, in natural academic settings. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 575–583. doi:10.1037/0022-06188.8.131.525.
Senko, C., Durik, A. M., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2008). Historical perspectives and new directions in achievement goal theory: Understanding the effects of mastery and performance-approach goals. In J. Y. Shah & W. Gardner (Eds.), Handbook of motivational science (pp. 100–113). New York, NY: Guilford.
Senko, C., & Hulleman, C. S. (2013). The role of goal attainment expectancies in achievement goal pursuit. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105, 504–521. doi:10.1037/a0031136.
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. doi:10.1037/a0031136.
Spence, J., & Helmreich, R. L. (1983). Achievement-related motives and behaviors. In J. Spence (Ed.), Achievement and achievement motives: Psychological and sociological approaches (pp. 7–74). New York, NY: Freeman.
Steiger, J. H. (1990). Structural model evaluation and modification: An interval estimation approach. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 25, 173–180. doi:10.1207/s15327906mbr2502_4.
Thrash, T. M., & Elliot, A. J. (2001). Delimiting and integrating the goal and motive constructs in achievement motivation. In A. Efklides, J. Huhl, & R. Sorrentino (Eds.), Trends and prospects in motivation research (pp. 3–21). Amsterdam: Kluwer Academic.
Tucker, L. R., & Lewis, C. (1973). A reliability coefficient for maximum likelihood factor analysis. Psychometrika, 38, 1–10. doi:10.1007/BF02291170.
Van Yperen, N. W., & Leander, N. P. (2014). The overpowering effect of social comparison information: On the misalignment between mastery-based goals and self-evaluation criteria. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40, 676–688. doi:10.1177/0146167214523475.
Vansteenkiste, M., Lens, W., Elliot, A. J., Soenens, B., & Mouratidis, A. (2014). Moving the achievement goal approach forward: Toward a systematic examination of the autonomous and controlled reasons underlying achievement goals. Educational Psychologist, 49, 153–174. doi:10.1080/00461520.2014.928598.
Vansteenkiste, M., Mouratidis, A., & Lens, W. (2010). Detaching reasons from aims: Fair play and well-being in soccer as a function of pursuing performance-approach goals for autonomous or controlling reasons. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 32, 217–242.
Wigfield, A., & Eccles, J. S. (2000). Expectancy-value theory of motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 68–81. doi:10.1006/ceps.1999.1015.
Wigfield, A., Tonks, S., & Klauda, S. L. (2009). Expectancy-value theory. In K. A. Wentzel & A. Wigfield (Eds.), Handbook of motivation at school (pp. 55–75). New York, NY: Routledge.
This research was supported in part by Victoria University of Wellington Faculty Research Grant Number 113976. The first author is grateful for the important help that Kevin Grimm and Keith Widaman provided with clarifying some ideas in earlier stages of the research.
About this article
Cite this article
Hodis, F.A., Tait, C., Hodis, G.M. et al. Analyzing student motivation at the confluence of achievement goals and their underlying reasons: an investigation of goal complexes. Soc Psychol Educ 19, 643–660 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-016-9351-0
- Achievement goals
- Goal complexes