Do feedback, communication style and achievement goal affect motivational outcomes? The moderating role of fixed mindset

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The purpose of the present experimental study was to extend our understanding of the factors that influence achievers’ motivational outcomes such as interest, task value and pressure. Taking the goal complex perspective, we first investigated, whether mastery-approach and performance-approach goals promoted in an autonomy-supportive versus controlling manner influence adolescents’ motivational outcomes after an emotion-recognition task controlling for task takers fixed mindset. Second, we investigated, whether positive or negative feedback (adapted to the promoted achievement goal condition) next to the promoted achievement goal and the communication style influence adolescents’ motivational outcomes as well as whether this influence was qualified by fixed mindset. In this vein, we set up an experiment with two stages. In the first stage, we semantically promoted through task instructions either mastery-approach or performance-approach goals in an autonomy-supportive or controlling communication style. The communication style was manipulated both semantically and vocally through task instructions. In the second stage, we added the induction of negative or positive feedback adapted to the promoted achievement goal. In this stage, we also added task takers’ chosen level of task difficulty as a dependent variable.

Based on Spray et al. (2006), where a two-by-two experiment was performed (like the first stage of the present study), for the first and second stage, we hypothesized that autonomy-supportive communication style would have a positive effect on task interest and value (Hypothesis 1). As for perceived pressure, we hypothesized that controlling communication style would have a positive effect on it (Hypothesis 2). For the second stage, we additionally hypothesized that negative feedback would result in a higher level of perceived pressure and lower level of task difficulty (Hypothesis 3). Finally, regarding fixed mindset’s moderation, we hypothesized that fixed mindset would lead to more detrimental effects of negative feedback on all the motivational outcomes (Hypothesis 4). For all the other tested relations, we applied an exploratory approach as there are not previous findings about the independent and interactive effects of all the three contextual factors on motivational outcomes when task takers are characterized by high or low fixed mindset.