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An exploratory field experiment of the effect of subconscious and conscious goals on employee performance


  • Shantz, Amanda
  • Latham, Gary P.


The effect of both a primed and a conscious goal on performance in the workplace was investigated. The primed goal was pilot tested. People on their way to work (n = 52) shown a photo of a woman winning a race performed better on a brainstorming task within a 2-min time period than people in the control group. A laboratory experiment (n = 71) revealed that this primed goal significantly increased the participants' subconscious need for achievement, as measured by a projective test, relative to those in the control group. A 2 (primed goal vs. control group) x 2 (conscious goal vs. do best goal) factorial design involving call center employees (n = 81) revealed a main effect for this primed goal, as well as a main effect for a conscious goal for money solicited from donors.

Suggested Citation

  • Shantz, Amanda & Latham, Gary P., 2009. "An exploratory field experiment of the effect of subconscious and conscious goals on employee performance," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 109(1), pages 9-17, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:109:y:2009:i:1:p:9-17

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hoffman Elizabeth & McCabe Kevin & Shachat Keith & Smith Vernon, 1994. "Preferences, Property Rights, and Anonymity in Bargaining Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 346-380, November.
    2. Allred, Keith G. & Mallozzi, John S. & Matsui, Fusako & Raia, Christopher P., 1997. "The Influence of Anger and Compassion on Negotiation Performance," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 70(3), pages 175-187, June.
    3. Pillutla, Madan M. & Murnighan, J. Keith, 1996. "Unfairness, Anger, and Spite: Emotional Rejections of Ultimatum Offers," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 68(3), pages 208-224, December.
    4. Rabin, Matthew, 1993. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1281-1302, December.
    5. Guth, Werner & Schmittberger, Rolf & Schwarze, Bernd, 1982. "An experimental analysis of ultimatum bargaining," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 367-388, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kanfer, Ruth & Chen, Gilad, 2016. "Motivation in organizational behavior: History, advances and prospects," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 136(C), pages 6-19.
    2. Thomas, Tyler F., 2016. "Motivating revisions of management accounting systems: An examination of organizational goals and accounting feedback," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 1-16.
    3. Ford, Robert C., 2014. "Prime time: The strategic use of subconscious priming to enhance customer satisfaction," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 269-277.
    4. Sitzmann, Traci & Bell, Bradford S., 2017. "The dynamic effects of subconscious goal pursuit on resource allocation, task performance, and goal abandonment," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 1-14.
    5. repec:eee:bushor:v:60:y:2017:i:3:p:345-352 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Chen, Xiao & Latham, Gary P., 2014. "The effect of priming learning vs. performance goals on a complex task," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 125(2), pages 88-97.

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