Social Psychology of Education

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 215–235 | Cite as

The social utility of performance-approach goals in a selective educational environment

  • Mickaël Jury
  • Céline Darnon
  • Benoit Dompnier
  • Fabrizio Butera


According to the recent research, the educational system fulfills both an educational function (i.e., teaching and training students) and a selection function (i.e., determining students’ future position in the social hierarchy), particularly in higher education. It has been argued that in the university system the selection function provides a social utility value to performance-approach goals (i.e., the goal to demonstrate one’s own competences relative to others), which in turn increases the extent to which students endorse these goals. Two experiments investigated the influence of the salience of the selection function on performance-approach goals’ social value and endorsement. The results showed that the salience of the selection function increased both performance-approach goal endorsement (experiment 1 and 2) and performance-approach goals’ social utility (experiment 2). These goals’ social utility contributes to explaining the effect of the salience of the selection function on performance-approach goal endorsement. Limitations of the present experiments and practical implications are discussed.


Motivation Achievement goals Selection Higher education Social value 



This research was supported by the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR 11 INEG 002 02), the Swiss National Science Foundation (SINERGIA), and the Région Auvergne.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire de Psychologie Sociale et CognitiveUniversité Clermont AuvergneClermont-Ferrand, CedexFrance
  2. 2.University of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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