The important role of the context in which achievement goals are adopted: an experimental test

Abstract

Two experimental studies using Elliot, Murayama, and Pekrun’s (Journal of Educational Psychology 103(3):632–648, 2011) differentiation between self-goals and task-goals, were conducted to examine the relative influence of achievement goals and motivational contexts on behavioral and emotional engagement. In Study 1, 133 college students were prompted to adopt self-goals (intrapersonal standards) or other-goals (performance standards) in one of two motivational contexts (autonomy-supportive or autonomy-suppressive) while playing a computer game. In Study 2, 129 college students performed the same assignment, this time adopting either other-goals or task-goals (absolute standards). Study 1 indicated that autonomy-support facilitated behavioral and emotional engagement in autonomy suppressive contexts, but self-goals merely promoted emotional engagement relative to other-goals. Study 2 replicated Study 1’s findings by showing that autonomy support promoted self-reported behavioral engagement and task-goals promoted emotional engagement but further revealed that only when task-goals were adopted in an autonomy-supportive context did they promote better behavioral engagement than other-goals. Thus, Study 2 highlighted the importance of the context in which the achievement goals were adopted (i.e., autonomy-supportive versus suppressive) as an important determinant of the outcome.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Both experiments contained two neutral contexts (one for each goal), serving as control conditions. However, for the sake of brevity, these conditions have been removed from the manuscript. Interested readers may contact the authors and receive data that includes the neutral conditions.

  2. 2.

    The ANOVA with goal condition and context as the independent variables and with level of perceived competence as the dependent variable yielded null results, F (1, 189) = 0.08, p < .78, F (2, 189) = 0.87, p = .423, F (2, 189) = 1.04, p = .357, for goal condition, context and the interaction effect, respectively, indicating that the context manipulation did not affect participants’ sense of competence.

  3. 3.

    Testing differences among conditions on the level of perceived competence yielded null results, F (2, 184) = 0.93, p = .393, F (1, 184) = 0.81, p = .370, F (2, 184) = 0.59, p = .553, for goal conditions, context and interaction effect, respectively, indicating that the context manipulation did not affect participants’ sense of competence.

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Correspondence to Moti Benita.

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Benita, M., Shane, N., Elgali, O. et al. The important role of the context in which achievement goals are adopted: an experimental test. Motiv Emot 41, 180–195 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-016-9600-8

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Keywords

  • Achievement goal theory
  • Autonomy support
  • Goal complex
  • Behavioral engagement
  • Emotional engagement