Date of Degree
This study examined the effectiveness of motivation techniques for increasing performance in a skill training program. A PC based software program provided structured training to increase subjects' typing skills. Motivation was manipulated by the use of goal setting and the self-fulfilling prophecy (SFP), alone and in combination. The moderating effects of self-efficacy on motivation, defined as a generalized "can do" personality orientation, were also examined. Two levels of goal setting were employed: (1) "do your best"; and, (2) a difficult, specific goal. The SFP was tied to the situation, not the person. It was invoked by informing subjects that the training program had proven highly effective in increasing the typing skills of most users. A total of 5 experimental conditions were examined, each comprised of equal numbers of high and low self-efficacy subjects, identified via the self-efficacy scale (Sherer, et al., 1982). The five conditions were: (1) SFP alone; (2) "do your best" goal setting (which also served as the control condition); (3) SFP plus "do your best"; (4) difficult, specific goal; and, (5) SFP plus a difficult, specific goal.
No significant main effect was found across the experimental conditions. There was a significant main effect for self-efficacy on typing accuracy (F=4.17, p<.05). Three first order effects were found: 1) subjects in condition 2 (do your best) showed significantly greater improvements in typing speed than subjects in condition l (SFP alone) (F-2.88, pc.10); 2) subjects in condition 3 (SFP plus do your best) also showed significantly greater increases in typing speed than subjects in condition 1 (F=3.95, pc.10); and, 3) subjects in condition 5 (SFP plus difficult & specific goal) showed significantly greater increases in typing accuracy than subjects in condition 2 (F*3.48, pc.10). This provides some indication that use of the self-fulfilling prophecy alone results in less effective training outcomes than either simple goal setting, or the combination of the self-fulfilling prophecy with goal setting. However, these differences are only significant at the pc.10 level. Therefore, little weight is ascribed to these findings. They are reported as an indication of trends in the data, and a guide for future research.
Significant simple main-effects were found for typing speed among high self-efficacy subjects between several conditions. Subjects in condition 3 showed greater speed increases than subjects in condition 1 (F=7.44, p<.05), and subjects in condition 2 also showed greater speed increases than subjects in condition 1 (F=8.27, p<.01). It appears that when high self-efficacy subjects are told a task is easy they do not perform as well as when they are given a simple goal ("do your best").
Contrary to the majority of reported studies, neither goal setting nor the SFP were effective in improving the performance of subjects. This led to the conclusion that the goal setting and SFP manipulations used were inappropriate to the subjects and/or situation. But, the current literature provides no guidance on how to tailor these manipulations to the situation and subjects. Self-efficacy, measured via the self-efficacy scale, does provide a partial explanation and measure of the psychological processes underlying behavior in a training situation involving the self-fulfilling prophecy and basic (do your best) goal setting. But it accounts for only a small amount of the difference between conditions.
It is suggested that future research focus on how and why goal setting, and the self-fulfilling prophecy, work most effectively. Specific guidelines on their use need to be developed in order to make them more easily and effectively applicable as motivation techniques in organizations.
Benton, James Michael, "Pygmalion Goes to School: The Effects of Goal Setting, the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and Self-Efficacy on Trainee Performance" (1991). CUNY Academic Works.