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Past studies have demonstrated the educational impact of achievement goals, but have not yet captured their effects at a critical learning moment—students’ response to negative feedback and their subsequent engagement with error remediation opportunities. We used event-related potentials to investigate how neural substrates of feedback processing were influenced by a within subjects manipulation of mastery and performance goals. Task goal framing did not affect event-related potentials to performance feedback, but did modulate neural activity predicting successful learning. Under a mastery frame, successful learning modulated fronto-temporal activity linked with semantic processing; under a performance frame, it modulated parieto-occipital activity linked with perceptual processing. A match (“fit”) between task and personal goals intensified these neural differences under both goal frames, but mastery goals were additionally sensitive to goal presentation order. Mastery goals may motivate better learning strategies, but are more vulnerable to modulation by students’ own goal dispositions and prior experiences.


This work was originally published in AERA Open, available at DOI: 10.1177/2332858417720875.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License.



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