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The present research comprised two experiments (Ns = 792 and 1056) focused on linking social comparison information to performance goal adoption via performance expectancy. In Experiment 1, participants were randomly assigned to receive positive or negative information regarding how they had performed on a novel ability task compared to another person. They were then told that this other person would be their opponent during a subsequent performance period. Experiment 1 revealed that positive relative to negative social comparison information led to greater performance-approach goal adoption, and this effect was mediated by participants’ performance expectancy. Social comparison information did not affect performance-avoidance goal adoption, but performance expectancy negatively predicted these goals. Experiment 2 extended Experiment 1 by including a no information control group. The findings represent a much needed integration of the upward-downward social comparison and approach-avoidance achievement goal literatures.


©American Psychological Association, 2021. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. The final article is available, upon publication, at:

Publication Title

Motivation Science

Published Citation

Elliot, A. J., Weissman, D. L., Hangen, E. J., & Thorstenson, C. A. (2021). Social comparison information, performance expectancy, and performance goal adoption. Motivation Science, 7(1), 56-67.



Peer Reviewed