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
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
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.
Elliot, A. J., Chirkov, V. I., Kim, Y., & Sheldon, K. M. (2001). A cross-cultural analysis of avoidance (relative to approach) personal goals. Psychological Science, 12, 505–510.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Elliot, A. J., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (1996). Approach and avoidance achievement goals and intrinsic motivation: A mediational analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 461–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Elliot, A. J., & McGregor, H. A. (2001). A 2×2 achievement goal framework. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 501–519.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
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
Elliot, A. J., & Thrash, T. M. (2002). Approach-avoidance motivation in personality: Approach and avoidance temperaments and goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 804–818.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Higgins, E. T. (1998). Promotion and prevention: Regulatory focus as a motivational principle. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 30, pp. 1–46). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
Higgins, E. T. (2005). Value from regulatory fit. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 209–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lockwood, P., Jordan, C. H., & Kunda, Z. (2002). Motivation by positive or negative role models: Regulatory focus determines who will best inspire us. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 854–864.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lockwood, P., Wong, C., McShane, K., & Dolderman, D. (2005). The impact of positive and negative exemplars on motivation. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 27, 1– 13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Midgley, C., Kaplan, A., & Middleton, M. (2001). Performance-approach goals: Good for what, for whom, under what circumstances, and at what cost? Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, 77–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ryan, R. M., & Brown, K. W. (2005). Legislating competence: High-Stakes testing policies and their relations with psychological theories and research. In A. J. Elliot & C. S. Dweck (Eds.), Handbook of competence and motivation (pp. 354–372). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
Shah, J., Higgins, T., & Friedman, R. S. (1998). Performance incentives and means: How regulatory focus influences goal attainment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 285–293.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Worth, K. A., Sullivan, H. W., Hertel, A. W., Jeffery, R. W., & Rothman, A. J. (2005). Avoidance goals can be beneficial: A look at smoking cessation. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 27, 107– 116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar