It is self-evident that performing poorly on a task makes people dissatisfied relative to performing well. How can this negative affect be overcome? We provide an adaptive strategy for dealing with poor performance. Experiment 1 shows that poor performers tend to recruit the highest potential performance as a comparison standard and hence are dissatisfied. However, if they are reminded that they set their own low goals, and that these goals were met, they are as satisfied as better performers. Experiment 2 shows that incremental theorists who believe that they can improve their performance in the future tend to compare their performance to the initially set goal rather than the highest potential performance, and are hence as satisfied as better performers. These findings shed light on the dynamic comparison process underlying satisfaction judgment. Implications of these findings for perennial low goal setters and for satisfaction in general are discussed.
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