College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-8-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Doug Cellar, PhD

Second Advisor

Goran Kuljanin, PhD


Studies have found that the defensive pessimism cognitive strategy which involves going into situations with unrealistically low expectations despite previous high performance, leads to lower levels of performance when individuals taking on this strategy have expectations placed upon them in the form of encouragement (Norem & Cantor, 1986a, 1986b). Thus far, no one has applied goal setting theory to this phenomenon to try to investigate the possible interactive effects of goal setting and encouragement on performance (Locke & Latham, 2002). This study hypothesized that specific difficult goals would have negative effects on individuals more likely to take on a defensive pessimistic strategy, similar to the negative effects encouragement has on these individuals, while both specific difficult goals and encouragement would have positive effects for individuals more likely to take on an optimistic strategy (i.e., entering situations with high expectations of performance and high levels of previous performance). However, overall results of this study demonstrated that specific difficult goals had a positive impact for all individuals, regardless of where they fell on the optimism-defensive pessimism spectrum, with an exception to this positive effect when individuals who were more likely to take on a defensive pessimistic strategy also received encouragement. This suggests that the cognitive strategy that defensive pessimists use is interfered with when they are encouraged and assigned a specific difficult goal, which is the opposite of the effects that specific difficult goals and encouragement have on optimists.

SLP Collection


Included in

Psychology Commons