Goals, Strategies, and Group Performance: Some Limits of Goal Setting in Groups

Heleen van Mierlo, PAM Kleingeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Based on Mitchell and Silver¿s (1990) tower-building paradigm, the authors performed two experiments on multilevel quantity goals, strategies, and performance in task-interdependent groups. The study compared four goal types: IG (individual goal), GG (group goal), IG + GG (individual + group goal), and NSG (nonspecific goal). IG yielded low cooperation and performance, whereas, unexpectedly, NSG yielded high cooperation and performance. To explain this finding, we discerned two goal-setting components: Goal referent (performance-level targeted; individual/group) and goal specificity. Mediation analyses suggest that referent triggers a cooperation/competition mechanism, explaining the lower IG performance, whereas specificity triggers a speed/ accuracy mechanism, explaining the higher NSG performance. We conclude that individual goals can interfere with cooperative processes and group performance, and, for time-constrained interdependent tasks requiring speed and accuracy, specific difficult quantity goals may promote risk taking, thereby obstructing goal attainment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)524-555
Number of pages32
JournalSmall Group Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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