Dr. Steve Ingham

Goal focus

On the back of a conversation with Christian Swann on the podcast around goal setting, I wanted to highlight the recent work he and his group have produced. Oliver Williamson has published the first study from his PhD and what a study to kick off your doctoral studies.

He looked at the goal-setting literature and undertook a meta-analysis of the area, looking to take a global view of the goal focus, comparing;

  • A process goal what an athlete focuses on when performing a specific skill (Weinberg & Butt, 2014)
  • A performance goal how an athlete focuses on what they deliver in their performance, e.g. a time for a performance
  • An outcome goal is a focus on the end result or outcome (Weinberg & Butt, 2014).

“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.”

So that’s how they approached the search. What did they find?

“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).”

Interestingly, process goals were also found to enhance self-efficacy more so that performance and outcome goals too.

Given that goals are set in the future, we can often feel ‘behind the task’. Process goals appear to help build belief as well as improve performance.