The Effects of Open, Do-Your-Best, and Specific Goals on Commitment and Cognitive Performance

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Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology


This study examined the effects of goal types on performance and commitment in a cognitive task. Sixty-six participants (Mage = 30.42, SD = 12.25) completed six trials of the Letter Number Identification Task. Participants were given a different goal type for each trial: specific-easy, specific-challenging, specific-unrealistic, open, do-your-best, and a baseline condition (no goal). Open goals and specific-challenging goals both led to significantly greater performance than baseline instructions and do-your-best goals, whereas open goals also led to significantly greater performance than specific-easy and specific-unrealistic goals. Specific, unrealistic goals led to significantly higher performance errors, whereas open goals led to the lowest performance errors (i.e., greatest accuracy) of all goal types. Participants were significantly less committed to specific-unrealistic goals compared with all other goal types, and significantly more committed to do-your-best goals and specific-easy goals compared with baseline instructions. This study adds to accumulating evidence of the potential benefits of open goals and suggests that open goals may be as effective as specific-challenging goals in producing cognitive performance outcomes.

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