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This study examined the facilitatory effect of goal setting in physical performance. Three potential mechanisms that may mediate this effect are described: increases in time spent practicing, promotion of effective training strategies, and increases in commitment resulting from public goal setting. Students (N=51) performed a novel task under one of three conditions: public goal setting, private goal setting, and no goal setting. Goals selected, time spent practicing, strategies used during practice, and actual performance were assessed. Subjects in the two goal-setting groups showed better performance than those in the control-group; those in the public goal-setting group spent the most time in practice, but this was not reflected in better performance. Test performance was predicted by baseline performance and by the goal set; practice time, training strategy, and public goal setting did not account for further variance in performance. Although this study failed to find a mediating effect for these three mechanisms, the results must be interpreted with caution.
C. Lee is with the Department of Psychology at the University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, 2308, Australia. M. Smith was with this department at the time of the research.