Almost ninety-six percent of adults talk to themselves engaging in what is called internal dialogue, inner speech, self-statement, inner conversation, subvocal speech, self-verbalizations, or self-talk (Winsler, 2009). These concepts of internalization vary from theory to theory (Guerrero, 2005; Larrain & Haye, 2012) playing a key role in human processes and self-regulation (Meichenbaum, 1977; Berk, 1992). Meichenbaum viewed self-statements as indices of individuals’ beliefs that may play a mediational role in behavioral performance and very recently Hatzigeorgiadis, Zourbanos, Galanis, & Theodorakis (2011) with the use of a meta-analytic approach revealed a positive moderate effect size (ES = .48) supporting the facilitative effects of self-talk on sport task performance. In sport and physical activity literature the term that has prevailed for the description of self-statements is self-talk. Despite the recent growth of self-talk research in sport, the lack of theoretical background in the self-talk literature is evident (for review see, Theodorakis, Hatzigeorgiadis, & Zourbanos, 2012). Hardy, Oliver, and Tod (2009) proposed a conceptual model for the advancement of the field. Their model postulates that personal and situational factors influence athletes’ self-talk, which in turn has an impact on cognitive, motivational, behavioral and affective mechanisms, and subsequently on their sport performance. According to the model, among others (e.g., cognitive processing preferences, personality, anxiety) one of the personal antecedents that influences individual’s self-talk are achievement goal orientations (e.g., Harwood, Cumming, & Fletcher, 2004; Hatzigeorgiadis & Biddle, 2002). Hardy et al. (2009) noticed that “While both self-concept and forms of anxiety may be antecedents of self-talk, preliminary evidence suggests that a motivation-based personality disposition, achievement goal orientation, might be another” (p. 41), stressing the importance of examining goal orientations as personal antecedents of self-talk. The main objective of the present research was to bridge the gap between positive and negative self-talk and achievement goals using two theoretical models of achievement goals which are presented below.
Achievement Goal Theory (AGT)
AGT is a central theoretical framework in the literature often used by researchers and sport psychologists to investigate and to understand why some individuals seem to be more motivated than others in sport and physical activity (e.g., Roberts, Treasure, & Conroy, 2007). Achievement goals were primarily examined using a dichotomous model that distinguished between two types of goals namely task and ego (Nicholls, 1984) or learning and performance goals (Dweck & Leggett, 1988). Task-oriented individuals adopt self-referenced criteria to define success, focus on mastery, use effective cognitive strategies to master a task, are intrinsically motivated, give high value to effort and seek for personal improvement (e.g., Roberts et al., 2007). On the other hand, ego-oriented individuals evaluate success through comparison with others’ ability, focus on outperforming others, value high normative ability and pursue the exhibition of high normative ability. Biddle, Wang, Kavussanu, and Spray (2003) in their review of studies in physical activity concluded that task orientation was a significant predictor of enjoyment, satisfaction, intrinsic motivation, positive affect, and perceived competence and that ego orientation significantly predicted cognitive anxiety, stress and cognitive interference.
Later, Elliot and his colleagues modified the dichotomous model by proposing a trichotomous model that included mastery, performance approach, and performance avoidance goals (e.g., Elliot & Church, 1997) and then a 2×2 model that included mastery approach, mastery avoidance, performance approach and performance avoidance goals (e.g., Elliot & McGregor, 2001). Based on the 2×2 framework, Papaioannou, Zourbanos, Krommydas, and Ampatzoglou (2012) revealed in their review that mastery approach goals were connected with the most desirable motivational outcomes in sport and physical education while performance approach goals were associated with fewer but still positive motivational outcomes. Correspondingly, avoidance goals presented the less adaptive patterns of motivation and behavior.
Roberts et al. (2007) and Papaioannou et al. (2012) argued that differences between Nicholls’ and Elliot’s conceptualization have led to inconsistent findings due to measurement issues (Elliot & Murayama, 2008), with many questions still remaining unanswered in competitive sport and physical education settings (e.g., Harwood, Spray, & Keegan, 2008). For example, the concept of different definitions of success is inherent in the conceptualization and measurement of achievement goals in Nicholls’ theory but is not considered at all in Elliot’s. However, Papaioannou et al. (2012) noticed that high levels of motivation occur when task accomplishment conveys a meaning that is tied to an individual’s long-term major outcome in life, which is defined as success. Another example concerns the notice of Papaioannou et al. (2002) and Roberts and Kristiansen (2012) that the standards to evaluate mastery are not specific in the wording of mastery approach items which are similar to the “do-your-best goals” that have been criticized by goal-setting researchers (Lock & Latham, 1990) (e.g., “My goal is to learn as much as possible” in Elliot & Murayama, 2008; “to answer a lot of questions correctly on the exams of this class” in Elliot, Murayama & Pekrun, 2011). These differences in conceptualization and item construction suggest that adaptive motivational outcomes might have stronger association with task goals than with mastery approach goals. A critical difference between the original dichotomous and the subsequent 2X2 models concern the role of perceived competence when individuals encounter performance difficulties (Elliot & Dweck, 1988). According to Nicholls (1984) individuals espousing high ego goals exhibit adaptive and maladaptive motivational patterns when they have high and low perceived competence respectively. It has to be noticed that the negative effects of ego orientation were originally predicted to occur when the individual encountered performance difficulties which led them to question their ability (Nicholls, 1984). In the 2X2 model perceived competence has additive effects irrespective of individuals’ goals (e.g., Elliot & Church, 1997).
Achievement goals and thoughts
In general two different research approaches are evident in the self-talk literature in sport. The first refers to self-talk as a cognitive strategy focusing on the beneficial effects of self-talk on performance enhancement (e.g., Mallett & Hanrahan, 1997). The second approach examines self-talk in the form of automatic thoughts exploring the factors that shape and influence athletes’ self-talk content (e.g., Zourbanos, Hatzigeorgiadis, Tsiakaras, Chroni, & Theodorakis, 2010; Zourbanos et al., 2011). As stated above one of the personal antecedents that influences individual’s self-talk are achievement goal orientations. Regarding research between achievement goals and thoughts in sport, Hatzigeorgiadis and Biddle (1999) revealed that task orientation was negatively related to disengagement thoughts irrespective of perceptions of competence. Furthermore, it was reported that for athletes with lower perceived competence ego orientation was positively related to experiencing disengagement thoughts, whereas for athletes with higher perceived competence no relationship between ego orientations and disengagement thoughts was shown. In another study, Hatzigeorgiadis and Biddle (2002) found that athletes with high ego and low task orientation goal were more vulnerable to disengagement thoughts than athletes with different goal profiles, whereas no consistent differences emerged concerning worrying thoughts. Finally regarding the relationships between perceived competence and cognitive interference (negative thoughts), Hatzigeorgiadis and Biddle (2000) revealed low but significant relationships. Overall, the results of the above studies seem to suggest that task orientation has more positive outcomes on the individual’s thought patterns, whereas ego orientation doesn’t and depends more on other personal factors such as perceived competence or situational factors, which can be failure (Nicholls, 1984). Nevertheless, all of the above studies have examined negative thoughts measuring them with the Thought Occurrence Questionnaire for Sport-TOQS (Hatzigeorgiadis & Biddle, 2000). Recently, Zourbanos, Hatzigeorgiadis, Chroni, Theodorakis and Papaioannou (2009) developed the Automatic Self-Talk Questionnaire for Sports- ASTQS for the evaluation of athletes’ automatic thoughts. This questionnaire is more comprehensive and different to the TOQS in two ways: a) it measures four underlying factors of negative thoughts (adding somatic fatigue) instead of three (worry, disengagement, and irrelevant thoughts) and b) additionally to the athletes’ negative thoughts, it also measures four positive ones (psych up, confidence, anxiety control and instruction). So far, only one study has examined the relationship between goal orientations and positive self-talk, but seeing it as a mental strategy and not as a content of thought (Harwood et al., 2004). They revealed that athletes with higher task and moderate ego orientations reported more positive thinking than athletes with lower task and moderate ego orientations and than athletes with moderate task and lower ego goal orientations. Furthermore, all the above mentioned studies examined athletes’ self-talk and little research has been conducted in other fields such as physical education settings. Finally, the majority of the studies have used the dichotomous model investigating the relationships between task and ego goals and thoughts. Therefore, it would be interesting to examine the relationships of thoughts with mastery and performance approach and avoidance goals (Elliot & Murayama, 2008).
Expanding upon the studies of Hatzigeorgiadis and Biddle and also based on the theoretical postulations of self-talk (Hardy et al., 2009) and on Papaioannou et al.’s (2012) arguments about the differences between Elliot and Nicholls’ conceptualizations on measurement issues, three studies were conducted aimed to examine more elaborately the relationships between achievement goals, perceived competence and student’s thoughts. The first study tested the construct validity of ASTQS in Physical Education (PE) settings and examined the relationships between achievement goals, perceived competence and student’s thoughts by using the dichotomous framework; the second study re-examined the relationships of the first study using this time the 2×2 framework; and finally, taking into consideration Harwood et al.’s (2008) suggestions that research should examine the moderating role of perceived competence on the relationship between achievement goals and psychological outcomes such as self-talk, the aim of the third study was to examine the interaction between perceived competence and achievement goals using both achievement goal frameworks on students’ self-talk using multi-group path analysis.
The ASTQS has demonstrated evidence of construct validity and reliability through experimental (Zourbanos et al., 2010) and cross-sectional research (Zourbanos et al., 2009; 2011) only in sport settings. The adaptation of the ASTQS in physical education would be a useful research tools to identify the nature and frequency of various thoughts students experience in this setting. Here we examined students’ thoughts in PE during play with high and low sport achievers and we developed hypotheses based on theories of intrinsic motivation and anxiety (e.g., Csikszentmihaly, 1975) and previous findings in physical education related to this scenario (Papaioannou, 1995). Specifically we assumed that (a) students’ negative self-talk (e.g., worry) would be more frequent but confidence-related self-statements would be less frequent when playing against the most competent student in a particular sport than during playing with the least competent student. We also expected that students would find more challenging to play against high achievers and therefore would score higher in psych up in comparison to play against low achievers. Based on assumptions of AGT and the preliminary findings of Hatzigeorgiadis and Biddle (1999, 2002) it was hypothesized that (b) task orientation would be positively related to students’ positive self-talk dimensions and negatively to students’ negative self-talk dimensions. Based on reviews of research in sport suggesting a weak positive association of ego goals with various cognitive processes (e.g., Duda & Hall, 2001), (c) a weak relationship between ego goals and positive self-talk was expected. Moreover based on theories of competence and motivation (e.g., Harter, 1978; White, 1959) it was expected that (d) perceived competence would positively correlate with positive self-talk dimensions, but would negatively correlate with negative self-talk dimensions.
Participants and Procedure
Participants were 628 students (325 females and 303 males) with a mean age of 14.49 years (SD = .50) who attended physical education classes located in a city in central Greece. Each student assented to participate and provided written informed consent via a parent/guardian. Confidentiality and anonymity were assured throughout. Finally, instructions aimed at minimizing socially desirable responses were emphasized. The order of the questionnaires was counterbalanced. The questionnaires were completed under the supervision of one of the authors. Permission to conduct the study was obtained by the institution’s research ethics committee.
Self-Talk in PE. An adapted version of the Automatic Self-Talk Questionnaire for Sports – ASTQS (Zourbanos et al., 2009) in PE was administered to assess students’ self-talk. The instrument consists of 40 items assessing four positive (19 items) and four negative (21 items) ST dimensions. Positive self-talk consists of the dimensions of confidence (e.g., I believe in myself), anxiety control (e.g., Keep calm), psych up (e.g., Do your best), instruction (e.g., Concentrate on what you have to do right now). Negative self-talk consists of the dimensions of worry (e.g., I will lose), disengagement (e.g., I want to quit), somatic fatigue (e.g., I feel tired) and irrelevant thoughts (e.g., I am hungry). Participants were instructed to bring in their minds the most usual sport, game or activity that they play in the physical education lesson. Then they were asked to write down the game. After that they were told to imagine that they were playing against the most competent student in their age in this particular sport, game or activity. Furthermore, they were asked to recall their self-talk again but this time to imagine that they were playing against the least competent student in their age in this particular sport, game or activity. Finally, in both situations, they were told to indicate the frequency of thoughts that they usually experience or intentionally use while performing against the best/worst students in this sport, game or activity on a 5-point scale (0 = never, 4 = very often). Zourbanos et al. (2009; 2010; 2011) has supported the psychometric integrity of the ASTQS. In this study, Cronbach’s alpha coefficients for both situations are displayed in Table 1.
Achievement goals in PE. Task and Ego Orientation in Physical Education
Questionnaire (TEOPEQ). This instrument (Duda & Nicholls, 1992), which has been used widely in Greece, has been adapted for physical education classes and has been shown to have very good psychometric properties (e.g., Biddle et al., 2003; Duda & Whitehead, 1998; Papaioannou & MacDonald, 1993; Marsh, Papaioannou, Martin & Theodorakis, 2006). Following the stem ”I feel most successful in physical education when. . .”), students respond to the seven task-oriented items (e.g. ”I learn something that is fun to do”) and six ego-oriented items (e.g. ”The others can’t do as well as me”) of the instrument. Students respond to a 5-point Likert scale (1 = Strongly disagree, 5 = Strongly agree). Cronbach’s alpha coefficients are displayed in Table 1.
Perceived competence. This subscale is part of the five-scale physical self-perception profile developed by Fox and Corbin (1989). It consists of six items (e.g. ”Some people feel that they are among the best when it comes to athletic ability”) and has been used several times in Greek physical activity settings and exhibits good psychometric properties (e.g. Papaioannou, Bebetsos, Theodorakis, Christodoulidis, & Kouli, 2006). Students responded to a 5-point scale (1 = Not at all like me, 5 = Very much like me to). Cronbach’s alpha coefficient for the perceived competence subscale is displayed in Table 1.
The 40 items of ASTQS were screened by the investigators and two physical educators, each of whom evaluated the wording and the applicability of the items in PE. Based on their recommendations the ASTQS was used in the current study with minor rewording (only one item was changed from the ASTQS: “What will others think of my poor performance” to “What will the teacher think of my poor performance”) to be more suitable for the specific context of the study. The factor structure of the self-talk dimensions in PE were tested through confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) using the EQS 6.1 (Bentler & Wu, 2004). Three alternative models were tested. One where the original eight-factor structure was tested with the eight factors allowed to correlate, a 2-factor model where all positive self-talk items were set to load on a single positive factor and all negative self-talk items were set to load on a single negative factor (the two factors were allowed to correlate) and a 10-factor model where the four positive self-talk factors were set to form a second-order positive self-talk factor, and the four negative self-talk factors were set to form a second-order negative self-talk factor. To examine whether the chi square values differed significantly between the 3 models, the Satorra and Bentler’s scaled difference qui-square test was conducted (Satorra & Bentler, 2001; Crawford & Henry, 2003). Four fit indices were used to assess the adequacy of the tested model, which have been shown to be more accurate at rejecting misspecified models (for review see, Martens, 2005): the Comparative Fit Index (CFI), the Incremental Fit Index (IFI), the Non-Normed Fit Index (NNFI), and the Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA).
Results and Conclusions
Model parameters were estimated based on the covariance matrix and using the robust method, because examination of the descriptive statistics revealed small deviations from univariate normality for some of the items (kurtosis greater than 2.0). The results provided adequate support for the eight-factor model (Satorra and Bentler’s Ï‡2/ df = 1451.76 / 712, CFI = .90, IFI = .90, NNFI = .89, RMSEA = .04), but not for the two-factor model (Satorra and Bentler’s Ï‡2/ df = 2102.89 / 739, CFI = .82, IFI = .82, NNFI = .81, RMSEA = .05, Satorra-Bentler Scaled Difference between the eight and the two factor model = 545.01, df = 27, p < .001) and the ten-factor model (Satorra and Bentler’s Ï‡2/ df = 1649.32 / 731, CFI = .88, IFI = .88, NNFI = .87, RMSEA = .05, Satorra-Bentler Scaled Difference between the eight and the ten factor model = 200.20, df = 19, p < .001). Factor loadings for the eight-factor model ranged from .46 to .77 and for the two-factor model ranged from .28 to .73. The correlation between the two factors was -.54. The results provided supportive evidence for the construct validity of the ASTQS in PE.
To further assess the construct validity of ASTQS, eight dependent t-tests with Bonferroni adjustment were performed to examine significant differences between the self-talk dimensions in the two situations (playing with the best student versus playing with the worst student). The results were in accordance with hypothesis (a). Significant differences were observed for the negative self-talk dimensions revealing that students experience higher negative self-talk referring to worry, disengagement, somatic fatigue and irrelevant thoughts when they play against the best student than when they play against the worst student. Non-significant differences were observed for positive self-talk referring to instruction and anxiety control, but significant differences were observed for self-talk referring to psych up and confidence showing that students exhibit more psych up and less confidence statements when they play against the best student than when they play against the worst student.
In sum, the results of the eight-factor model showed good internal consistency except from the irrelevant thoughts factor. Similar result was also found in in Zourbanos et al.’s (2010) study. In general, ASTQS in PE showed factorial and structure validity, as well as discriminant validity, indicating that it can be an effective measure for examining students’ thoughts during the physical education lesson.
Means, standard deviations, Cronbach’s alpha coefficients and correlations between goal orientations, perceived competence and students’ self-talk dimensions are reported in Table 1. In general, in accordance with hypothesis (b) correlation analyses revealed moderate relationships between task goal and students’ positive self-talk dimensions. The results were in accordance with hypothesis (c) showing low positive relationships between ego goal and positive self-talk dimensions and non-significant relationships between ego and negative self-talk dimensions. Finally in accordance with hypothesis (d) the results revealed perceived competence had positive relationship with positive self-talk dimensions and negative relationship with negative self-talk dimensions.
In the last decade Elliot’s achievement goals model (e.g., Elliot & Harackiewitz, 1996; Elliot & Murayama, 2008 attracted the attention of several investigators in sport and exercise psychology (for reviews see Roberts et al., 2007; Papaioannou et al., 2012). The split of task and goals into approach and avoidance seems quite appealing and therefore we decided to re-examine the findings of the first study but this time by using the 2×2 framework and more specifically the Achievement Goal Questionnaire-Revised (AGQ-R; Elliot & Murayama, 2008). The purpose of the second study was twofold. Firstly to examine the reliability and construct validity of the AGQ-R in physical education and in the Greek language and secondly to investigate the relationship of achievement goals and self-talk as they are measured with the AGQ-R and the ASTQS . Following the same reasoning with that in Study 1 and based on meta-analysis of findings concerning the relationship of various cognitions with mastery and performance approach and avoidance goals in sport and physical education (Papaioannou et al., 2012) it was hypothesized that (a) mastery approach goal and (b) performance approach goal would be positively related to students’ positive self-talk dimensions and negatively to students’ negative self-talk dimensions, and (c) mastery avoidance goal and (d) performance avoidance goal would be negatively related to students’ positive self-talk dimensions and positively to students’ negative self-talk dimensions.
Participants and Procedure
Participants were 313 students (151 females and 162 males) aged 12 (SD = .48) years old who attended physical education classes (elementary school) located in a city in central Greece. Similar procedures with study 1 were followed.
Self-Talk in PE. We distributed the ASTQ-PE that was used in Study 1. However, here we examined only self-talk during play with the most competent student. The ASTQ-PE demonstrated acceptable internal consistency (apart from irrelevant thoughts’ factor, see Table 2).
Achievement goals in PE. Following the stem “In the Physical Education classâ€¦” students responded to the items of the Achievement Goal Questionnaire-Revised (AGQ-R; Elliot & Murayama, 2008) was used. Mastery approach items include, “My aim is to completely master the material presented in this class”, Performance approach items include, “My aim is to perform well relative to other students”, Mastery avoidance item include, “My aim is to avoid learning less than I possibly could”, and Performance avoidance items include, “My aim is to avoid doing worse than other students”. Ratings are made on a five-point Likert scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). The alpha coefficients in the present study are reported in Table 2). The questionnaire was translated from the English to the Greek language and back. More specifically, a bilingual translator familiar with the theoretical concepts of achievement goals translated the instrument. A back-translation was carried out by two translators. One of them completed a “blind” back-translation, which means that the blind translator was not familiar with the theoretical concepts of achievement goals, in contrast to the other translator who was. Discrepancies were finally decided by the three translators.
Perceived competence. To assess students’ perceived competence we used the same measure as in study 1. Cronbach’s alpha coefficient for the perceived competence is displayed in Table 2.
The factor structure of the achievement goals were tested through CFA using the EQS 6.1 (Bentler & Wu, 2004). Three alternative models were tested. In Model 1 (M1) the original four-factor structure was tested, with the four factors allowed to correlate. Model 2 (M2) was a trichotomous model, in which the performance-approach and performance-avoidance items loaded on their respective latent factors, and the mastery-approach and mastery-avoidance items loaded together on a third latent factor. Model 3 (M3) was also a trichotomous model in which the mastery approach and performance approach items loaded on their respective latent factors, and the mastery-avoidance and performance-avoidance items loaded together on a third latent factor. Finally, the factor structure of ASTQS in PE was re-tested. Four fit indices as in Study 1 were used to assess the adequacy of the tested model.
Results and Conclusion
Confirmatory factor analyses
Model parameters were estimated based on the covariance matrix and using the robust method, because examination of the descriptive statistics revealed moderate deviations from univariate normality for some of the items (kurtosis greater than 2.49). To examine whether the chi square values differed significantly between M1 and M2 and between M1 and M3, the Satorra and Bentler’s scaled difference qui-square test was conducted (Satorra & Bentler, 2001; Crawford & Henry, 2003). The results provided adequate support for the four-factor model (M1) (Satorra and Bentler’s Ï‡2/ df = 68.80 / 48, CFI = .97, IFI = .97, NNFI = .96, RMSEA = .04), which was superior to the trichotomous model (M2) (Satorra and Bentler’s Ï‡2/ df = 92.24 / 51, CFI = .93, NNFI = 91, IFI = .93, RMSEA = .05, Satorra-Bentler Scaled Difference = 20.16, df = 3, p < .001) and the trichotomous model (M3) (Satorra and Bentler’s Ï‡2/ df = 232.44 / 53, CFI = .70, NNFI = .62, IFI = .70, RMSEA = .10, Satorra-Bentler Scaled Difference = 112.46, df = 5, p < .001). Factor loadings for the four-factor (M1) ranged from .43 to .73. In conclusion the results provided adequate support for the factor structure of the AGQ-R in the PE settings.
Means, standard deviations, Cronbach’s alpha coefficients and correlations between achievement goals, perceived competence and students’ self-talk dimensions are reported in Table 2. In general, the results were in accordance with hypotheses (a) and (b) revealing low positive relationships of mastery and performance approach goals with students’ positive self-talk dimensions and negative with students’ negative self-talk. In order to compare the relationships between task goal and positive self-talk and mastery goal and positive self-talk, we used the Fisher r-to-z transformation for independent rs. If ra (relationships between task goal and positive self-talk dimensions) is greater than rb (relationships between mastery goal and positive self-talk dimensions), the resulting value of z will have a positive sign. The results showed that the relationships between mastery goal and self-talk were of a lower magnitude in comparison to the relationships between task goal and self-talk (z scores ranged between 3.25 and 3.73, p < .001, for all the positive self-talk dimensions). Furthermore, the results were not in accordance with hypothesis (c) and (d) revealing non-significant relationships between mastery and performance avoidance and negative self-talk dimensions. Finally, the results were in accordance with Study 1 findings revealing that perceived competence had moderate positive correlations with athletes’ positive self-talk dimensions, whereas perceived competence had moderate negative correlations with athletes’ negative self-talk dimensions. Furthermore, mastery approach and performance avoidance had low positive relationships with perceived competence, performance approach had moderate positive relationship with perceived competence and mastery avoidance had non-significant relationship.
In general the results of Study 2 re-confirmed the relationships between achievement goals, self-talk and perceived competence. We suspected that the weaker correlations of mastery approach goals with self-talk were due to different conceptualization and measurement of achievement goals between Elliot’s and Nicholls’ models (Papaioannou et al., 2012). In order to investigate it further we decided to use both dichotomous and 2×2 models and to investigate whether perceived competence moderates the relationship of ego goal with self-talk as it is outlined in the dichotomous model but not in the 2X2 model.
Roberts et al. (2007) consider competence as the “energizing construct of the motivational processes of achievement goal theory” (p. 4). In the dichotomous model (Nicholls, 1984), task goals were assumed to lead to adaptive thoughts and behaviour in achievement situations irrespective of an individual’s perceived competence. In contrast, the effects of ego goals were postulated to depend on perceived competence, that is, ego goals were suggested to lead to adaptive patterns of behavior when perceived competence is high, whereas in cases where perceived competence is low, ego goals were assumed to lead to maladaptive behavior, when performance difficulties are encountered. Nicholls’ (1984, 1989) in his original work, described a process by which ego-involved individuals who encounter performance difficulties gradually lose confidence in their abilities and if they are unable to perform well eventually will abandon the goal of doing better than others and adopt the goal of avoiding a display of incompetence. On the contrary, individuals who do not have doubts about their ability should not experience this decline in perceived ability and consequent abandonment of the goal of performing better than others.
In an experimental study using a complex task, Elliot and Dweck (1988) found that mastery goals displayed adaptive learning patterns regardless of perceived competence. In contrast, performance goals exhibited adaptive patterns