For my work recently I’ve been reading a lot of psychology handbook chapters because psychologists are often decades ahead of my field in terms of behavioral theories and experiments and I’m trying to figure out what their baseline is before reinventing the wheel. In this reading, I came across a tangential (to my work) section on goal setting. With all the PF and academic bloggers setting their goals/resolutions etc. or refusing to do so, I thought it would make an interesting post to discuss what people who actually study this stuff say. (Disclaimer: I am not one of those people and my knowledge on this subject comes entirely from Diefendorff and Chandler, “Motivating Employees” in the APA Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Volume 3, 2010.)
One method of looking at “action goals and effort during goal striving” (p.89) is by breaking them down into valence, instrumentality, and expectancy. Valence is the “desirability, attractiveness, importance or anticipated satisfaction with outcomes associated with goal pursuit,” both positive and negative. Instrumentality is the expected probability that the goal will lead to the expected outcomes. Expectancy is a perceived link between effort and performance.
The interesting part about these typologies is the way the authors break down and combine these concepts to make predictions about motivation.
All three items must exist and be positive or there will be no motivation to work on a goal (they cite Vroom 1964 and Donovan 2001).
Without high valence, the goal is just not one worth pursuing. I could have a goal to be a garbage collector or an actuary, and I might be a darned good one, but really my heart is just not in it.
Without high instrumentality, you don’t think there’s a link between achieving your goal and reaching the outcome you want to reach. You may give up on paying down debt because it will take too long to get out of debt and thus see any real improvement.
If there’s high valence and high instrumentality but low expectancy, then there’s no point in working on the goal. You may really want the goal, and think that achieving the goal will lead to the right outcomes… but you don’t see how any effort in your part will lead to you reaching the goal. For instance, if any time you get ahead monetarily, one of your relatives “borrows” money from you never to return, then there is no point in saving.
Have you had any goals or resolutions break down because of low valence (turns out you didn’t really want to achieve that goal), low instrumentality (can’t make link between goal and desired outcome), or low expectancy (don’t see how your effort is going to lead to accomplishing the goal)?
What do you think of this typology? Is it missing anything big?
Also, if we didn’t link to your list of goals, feel free to drop yours in the comments section.