Addressing Goal Conflict - The Effects of Conscious and Nonconscious Goal Priming on Performance in Multidimensional Tasks
44 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2018 Last revised: 15 Jan 2019
Date Written: August 18, 2018
Multidimensional tasks are characterized by goal conflict as individuals struggle to simultaneously balance and monitor multiple performance goals. This usually leads to negative performance effects as limited cognitive resources are diverted from task realization. Prior research has suggested that formal controls can be designed to reduce the goal conflict problem by directing employees’ attention and effort allocation. In this study, we propose a different counteracting mechanism that utilizes employees’ nonconscious processing capacity. Based on cognitive psychology research, we posit that conscious goal priming and nonconscious goal priming activate different processing capacities, and they can work simultaneously and independently in directing individuals’ work effort. As a result, priming one goal consciously and another goal nonconsciously (vs. only priming goals consciously) allows individuals to improve their overall performance in a multidimensional task setting. We conduct a laboratory experiment using informal controls to prime participants at the conscious and nonconscious levels and observe their performance in a multidimensional task. The results confirm our predictions. We offer discussions on the implications for research and practice.
Keywords: goal conflict, conscious goal priming, nonconscious goal priming, performance, and multidimensional
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