Using Goals to Motivate College Students: Theory and Evidence from Field Experiments


Here’s a paper saying something we’ve been saying for years:

Namely, you should set task-based goals rather than performance-based goals. Ie, actions over outcomes.

I haven’t figured out why that paper seems to be treating mere goal-setting as a commitment device though.


Reminds me of James Carse’s Finite and Infinite games. The kernel is: A finite game is one you play to win, an infinite game is one you play to keep playing. It’s amazing how many ethical points can be built of that simple distinction.

An important corollary: finite games must never change their rules mid game (how would you know who was the winner?), but the trick to successfully playing an infinite game is knowing how to change the rules well. David Allen (of GTD) would call it renegotiating agreements with ourself.

I wonder where else that pattern crops up.


Thank you for cluing me in to the existence of this book, @josephholsten! On my to-buy list now.