Mastery goals (aims to learn or attain skill) have traditionally been portrayed in achievement-motivation literature as the optimal goal for ensuring objective performance and well-being outcomes (relative to performance goals – aims to outperform others). This portrayal often yielded the recommendation that those in applied settings, such as coaches, managers, and teachers, should encourage those whom they lead to pursue mastery goals. We put this assertion to a test by examining whether the effect of situationally induced goals depends on the goals that individuals personally self-adopt.
We hypothesized that inducing mastery goals would be beneficial for individuals who self-adopt performance goals (Hypothesis 1), while inducing performance goals would be beneficial for individuals who self-adopt mastery goals (Hypothesis 2). We conducted an experiment among amateur field hockey players to test these hypotheses in a scoring exercise.
We found that encouraging a mastery goal (compared with a performance goal) led to higher scoring accuracy among players high in self-adopted performance goals (supporting Hypothesis 1) but also unexpectedly for individuals low in self-adopted mastery goals. We did not find support for Hypothesis 2.
The findings indicate that situationally inducing a mastery goal may be beneficial for individuals who do not already self-adopt mastery goals strongly.