Harnessing Optimism: How Eliciting Goals Improves Performance
24 Pages Posted: 1 Jan 2015
Date Written: December 4, 2014
We describe a field experiment in which merely asking people about their goals prior to performance improved performance among experienced but not novice individuals. Whereas most previously-studied goal interventions involve externally-induced goals, our intervention targeted self-set goals. 1,758 marathoners were either asked or not asked to provide a time goal prior to their race. Although our manipulation did not influence the proportion of marathoners who established time goals, experienced marathoners who were asked about their goal in a pre- marathon survey ran 6.75 minutes faster than those who were not asked about their goal. The effect of our goal-asking manipulation on performance was mediated by the ambitiousness of marathoners’ time goals. We suggest that our manipulation increases goal ambitiousness by interrupting the typical decline in optimism as performance approaches.
Keywords: goals, optimism, performance, field study, intervention
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