Who is depleted by goals? The role of a motivational individual difference

Open Access
Fabinyi, Claude Richard
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Dr. Susan Mohammed, Thesis Supervisor
  • Greg Edward Loviscky, Honors Advisor
  • goal setting
  • self-regulation
  • ego depletion
  • action/state orientation
Applications of goal setting theory yield numerous beneficial performance outcomes (Locke & Latham, 1990). However, recent findings suggest that goal setting is not unconditionally positive (e.g., Schweitzer, Ordóñez, & Douma, 2004). Goal setting may cause self-regulation depletion, or a decreased ability to regulate oneself (Welsh & Ordóñez, 2014), but prior research has not addressed the role of individual differences in the relationship between goals and depletion. The purpose of the current study was to examine whether motivational traits, such as action/state orientation, result in some individuals being more or less depleted by goal setting. Action/state orientation, a trait-level response to goal-striving intentions and behaviors, was found to significantly moderate the relationship between goal structure and self-regulation depletion, such that individuals with a strong action orientation were less depleted than individuals with a state orientation in the high goal condition. These findings suggest that action/state orientation serves as a boundary condition in understanding the “dark” side of goal setting and its relationship to self-regulation depletion.