The performance and psychological effects of goal setting in sport: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Publication Name

International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology


Goal setting is widely applied in sport. Whereas existing reviews have addressed the performance effects of goal setting, less is known about the concurrent psychological and psychophysiological effects. Therefore, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis that synthesised the effects of goal setting on task performance and various psychological and psychophysiological outcomes in sport. Searches returned 17,841 articles, with 27 meeting eligibility criteria. A meta-analysis of the performance effects and a narrative synthesis of the psychological and psychophysiological effects were undertaken. Process goals had the largest effect on performance (d = 1.36) compared to performance goals (d = 0.44) and outcome goals (d = 0.09). No significant difference in performance was found between specific (d = 0.37) and non-specific goals (d = 0.72). Process goals also had large effects on self-efficacy (d = 1.11), whereas studies guided by self-regulation theory (k = 5) produced the greatest performance enhancements (d = 1.53). It was rarely possible to draw conclusions regarding the effects of goal setting on psychological/psychophysiological outcomes due to a lack of cross study evidence. Nevertheless, these findings provide important insights to guide research and practice on the use of goal setting to enhance performance and psychological/psychophysiological outcomes in sport.

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