Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 156–163 | Cite as

The Effect of Approach and Avoidance Referents on Academic Outcomes: A Test of Competing Predictions

  • Helen W. Sullivan
  • Keilah A. Worth
  • Austin S. Baldwin
  • Alexander J. Rothman
Original Paper


In an academic setting, we tested competing predictions derived from two conceptual models about the effects of approach and avoidance referents (e.g., goals and role models) on student performance. One model suggests a main effect such that focusing on approach referents leads to better outcomes than focusing on avoidance referents, regardless of personality (e.g., A. J. Elliot & K. M. Sheldon, 1997). Another model suggests an interaction such that focusing on either approach or avoidance referents can lead to positive outcomes, but only when people are promotion focused or prevention focused, respectively (e.g., P. Lockwood, C. H. Jordan, & Z. Kunda, 2002). Findings supported the main effect model. The more prevention focused participants were, the more avoidance goals they generated, which led to poorer grades.


Approach and avoidance motivation Goals Regulatory focus 



The order of the first three authors was determined randomly. We would like to thank Lara Antonenko for her help with data collection. Portions of this research were presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, January 2005, New Orleans, Louisiana.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen W. Sullivan
    • 1
  • Keilah A. Worth
    • 1
  • Austin S. Baldwin
    • 1
  • Alexander J. Rothman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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