Goal Structure and Reference Points in Consumer Motivation

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Goals play an essential role in many aspects of consumer behavior, and how best to effectively set and structure goals has long been a question of interest to researchers, marketers, and consumers in general. The same basic goal can be structured in many ways: by setting a specific goal of greater or lesser difficulty, by instead setting a range goal, by defining various subgoals along the way, or simply by aiming to do as well as possible. Although the intentions behind them are similar, these different ways of structuring a goal have important consequences for motivation and behavior. Prior research has explored several of these consequences, largely focusing on the difficulty and perceived value of the goal, on the level of ambiguity in its objectives, or on the level of commitment it produces. This dissertation takes a new perspective on this problem, examining the consequences of goal structure for the motivational and affective dynamics of goal pursuit. To explore this question in a comprehensive way, this research considers the salient reference points that are available during goal pursuit when goals are structured in various ways. This approach offers valuable new insights by connecting the issue of goal structure to the theory of goals as reference points, a prevailing framework in goals research more broadly. In three essays, I explore novel aspects of pursuing specific versus non-specific goals (Essay 1), of pursuing range goals (Essay 2), and of pursuing goals that focus on behavioral restraint rather than achievement (Essay 3). Together, these essays offer valuable insights for effective goal-setting, strategies for effective goal pursuit, and theoretical contributions to research on the psychology of consumer goal pursuit.






Wallace, Scott Gordon (2018). Goal Structure and Reference Points in Consumer Motivation. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/16936.


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