BORIS Theses

BORIS Theses
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"Both/And" Instead of "Either/Or”: How Focusing on Goals at Different Levels of Abstraction Can Motivate Goal Pursuit

Höchli, Bettina (2019). "Both/And" Instead of "Either/Or”: How Focusing on Goals at Different Levels of Abstraction Can Motivate Goal Pursuit. (Thesis). Universität Bern, Bern

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Concrete, challenging goals are powerful motivators and boost performance more than abstract goals (Locke & Latham, 2002, 2013). To illustrate, the concrete goal of “exercising on Wednesday evening for 60 minutes” should boost performance more than the abstract goal of “be healthy.” So far, research has mostly focused on concrete goals. While achieving concrete goals is seen as something positive, many of today’s social, environmental, and economic challenges require more than achieving a concrete goal. For example, exercising once does not lead to a healthy life; recycling glass bottles does not make you an environmentally friendly person. In these cases, a concrete goal—i.e., a subordinate goal—is only one of many steps that contribute to what people ultimately aspire to: an abstract, superordinate goal. Accordingly, successful goal pursuit requires not only the achievement of single steps, but also effort over the long term and across various situations, overcoming setbacks, resisting the pull of competing goals and temptations (Bonezzi, Brendl, & De Angelis, 2011; Fujita & MacGregor, 2012; Rothman, Baldwin, Hertel, & Fuglestad, 2004). In light of these challenges, focusing solely on a subordinate goal may not be the best solution (Ordóñez, Schweitzer, Galinsky, & Bazerman, 2009). An idea that might help overcome these difficulties is to focus additionally on superordinate goals. The purpose of this dissertation is to investigate possible benefits of superordinate goals (which have received less attention in research than subordinate goals), and to explore the idea that focusing on a combination of goals at different levels of abstraction fosters broad, long-term goal pursuit more than focusing on either a superordinate or subordinate goal alone. The dissertation consists of four papers that all adopt a goal-theoretical perspective to explore how superordinate goals and a combination of goals at different levels of abstraction influence goal pursuit in different contexts. Before presenting the four papers, I first provide a theoretical foundation on how goals differ in their level of abstraction, and how goals at different levels of abstraction are related to each other. Then I outline advantages and disadvantages of goals at different levels of abstraction for goal pursuit, focusing on the less well-known detrimental side effects of subordinate and beneficial effects of superordinate goals. I then argue that goals at different levels of abstraction are by no means mutually exclusive, but on the contrary are possibly most beneficial when combined. Finally, the four papers are briefly sketched and conclusions drawn about the whole dissertation project.

Item Type: Thesis
Dissertation Type: Cumulative
Date of Defense: 31 October 2019
Subjects: 600 Technology > 650 Management & public relations
Institute / Center: 03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Department of Business Management > Institute of Innovation Management > Consumer Behavior
Depositing User: Hammer Igor
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2020 09:27
Last Modified: 07 Jan 2020 09:59

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