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Effects of subgoals on task performance: the role of prior disclosure (or not) of the overall goal

Grant number: 18/24593-4
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctorate
Effective date (Start): March 01, 2020
Effective date (End): February 28, 2022
Field of knowledge:Applied Social Sciences - Administration - Business Administration
Principal researcher:José Mauro da Costa Hernandez
Grantee:Murilo Carrazedo Marques da Costa Filho
Home Institution: Campus de Liberdade. Centro Universitário da FEI (UNIFEI). Fundação Educacional Inaciana Padre Sabóia de Medeiros (FEI). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


This project is situated in the goal-setting literature within marketing management, and we are particularly interested in ways to improve performance when individuals are assigned goals. More specifically, we wish to examine the effects on performance by adding subgoals, and, in this context, if prior disclosure of the overall goal (or not) affects performance. Goals function as reference points and are "representations of desired states". Subgoals are intermediate steps or progress markers toward achieving an overall, superordinate goal. Based on the psychological mechanisms present at the immediacy of goal achievement, we posit that dividing a task of an overall goal in subgoals will improve performance in contexts where individuals are assigned goals (rather than self-assigned goals), in which behavior is less prone to self-regulation (e.g., salesmen in corporations, dieters following doctors' prescriptions). Past literature has pointed to mixed results in this matter, and we argue that this is due to context-specific issues, which our study proposes to demonstrate. Importantly, we argue that, in this context, performance and goal attainment can be further improved if individuals work toward subgoals achievement unbeknownst to the overall goal. Although goal setting theory has investigated the effect of subgoals on overall goal attainment, extant literature has not yet addressed the effect of prior disclosure (or not) of the overall goal. Thus, our project has potential and relevant implication for corporations, health clinics, project management, public interventions, etc. We will test our hypotheses in six proposed experiments of increasing complexity and external validity. (AU)