Motivation and emotion/Book/2019/Goal framing theory

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Goal framing theory:
What is goal framing theory and how can it be applied?

Overview[edit | edit source]

This chapter discusses goal framing theory (GFT). We first discover what a goal is and understand that goals are important in influencing an individual's perception in a given situation. Building on this understanding goal frames are introduced, we outline how goal frames can affect what environmental factors an individual pays attention to.

We then dive deeper into GFT and outline each of the three different goal frames. The hedonic-goal frame, which relates to the subjective experiences of an individual[grammar?]. The gain-goal frame, which is concerned with important personal resources[grammar?]. Lastly, the normative-goal frame, whereby the individuals behave according to socially or culturally acceptable ways[grammar?].

We touch on the theoretical underpinnings of GFT in a discussion further in this chapter. GFT is theoretically informed by utilising and combining three individual theories. We first introduce the theory of planned behaviour, looking at perceived control and subjective norms. Next, we explore the norm activation model and the importance of perceived responsibility. While lastly, exploring the value-belief-norm theory.

Applications of GFT are then discussed. The two main applications discussed in this chapter are influencing pro-environmental behaviour and school achievement.

Focus questions:

  • What is goal framing theory?
  • How can goal framing influence motivation?
  • What is the applied value of goal framing?

What is goal framing theory?[edit | edit source]

Goal framing theory seeks to explain how individual's goals can influence cognitive processes (Chakraborty, Signh & Roy, 2017). However before we delve further into goal framing theory let's take a step back.

What is a goal?[edit | edit source]

A goal can be defined as a desired state in a given situation (Gollwitzer & Bargh, 1996). Goals are a strong predictor of how an individual perceives a given situation (Gollwitzer & Baragh[spelling?], 1996). The processing of environmental information is determined by the goal frame (Chakraborty et al., 2017).

e.g. 1 As the time gets closer to lunch, I start becoming hungry. I reach a point where I choose to find something to eat. My goal in this situation is to find food that will satisfy my hunger. Interestingly, this specific goal will narrow my focus and attention of environmental cues to stimuli that have the best chance of fulfilling my goal for satisfying my hunger.

The cornerstone idea of GFT is that goals dictate what individuals attend to (Lindenberg & Steg, 2007). GFT also states that goals determine relative cognitive accessibility of specific attitudes and knowledge in given situations (Lindenberg & Steg, 2007). While holding that situational evaluations are also governed by specific goals (Lindenberg & Steg, 2007)[grammar?].

Many of these factors including environmental cues, knowledge and potential alternatives are influential in determining the strength of a goal (Chakraborty et al., 2017).

Referring to the example above, the strength of my goal to satisfy my hunger will be influenced by environmental cues (Peterson & Posner, 2012),[grammar?] such as, availability of food, conversations about lunch or perceived smell of someone else's lunch. While also being affected by accessibility of knowledge and potential situational alternatives (Föster, Liberman & Higgins, 2005) meaning, that the attractiveness of the cheaper special of the day versus the knowledge of my current financial situation versus the packed lunch in the fridge will determine the course of action taken to satisfy the goal[grammar?].

What is a goal frame?[edit | edit source]

A goal frame is the way people perceive and cognitively process information in a given situation (Gollwitzer & Bargh, 1996)[for example?]. Extending this idea, the goal frame dictates which aspects of the environment an individual pays attention to (Bösehans & Walker, 2018). Subsequently, based on attended information specific courses of behaviour will be judged before finally determining the appropriate course of action (Bösehans & Walker, 2018).

Importantly, not often do individuals operate guided by one single goal (Lindenberg & Steg, 2007). Individuals are complex beings with multiple goals at a given moment (Lindenberg & Steg, 2007). Again, referring to the example used earlier, I may be hungry, however what if I was at work, with an important deadline to meet? It would seem likely in that situation that I may skip lunch to achieve the requirements of my work goal. Despite individuals having many goals at a specific time, it is widely accepted that a single goal will influence the framing process more than others (Lindenberg & Steg, 2007). This prominent and active goal is called the focal goal (Bösehans & Walker, 2018)

There are three widely accepted goal frames: the hedonic frame, gain frame and the normative frame (Chakraborty et al., 2017).

A hedonic-goal frame[edit | edit source]

The hedonic-goal frame is concerned with emotional and self-enhancement factors of a situation, such as excitement and pleasure seeking (Bösehans & Walker, 2018). Motivation to improve one's current situation and feelings of life satisfaction and achievement are expressed in a hedonic-goal frame (Etienne, 2011). With these factor in mind, it can easily be understood that taking action with a hedonic-goal frame is associated to feelings of joy and happiness (Chakraborty et al., 2017). While similarly associated with negative emotions such as shame, anger and guilt (Chakraborty et al., 2017).

In this way, a hedonic-goal frame can be understood simply as seeking to change the subjective feelings of an individual (Chakraborty et al., 2017). These subjective feelings include but are not limited to pain, loss and changes in mood (Lindenberg, 2008). In addition to this understanding, it is accepted that a hedonic-goal frame is active over the short term (Chakraborty et al., 2017). Support from external factors is not necessary to maintain a hedonic-goal frame (Steg, Perlaviciute, Werff, & Lurvink, 2014). This goal frame is deduced from self-reasoning and presupposed by subjective experience (Steg et al., 2014).

It is argued that that a hedonic-goal frame or hedonic motivation is the most basic of the goal frames. A hedonic-goal frame guides most external behaviours that individuals enact (Etienne, 2011).

A gain-goal frame[edit | edit source]

The gain-goal frame is concerned with important personal resources, such as money (Bösehans & Walker, 2018). More specifically, a gain-goal is concerned with preserving, increasing or gaining new personal resources (Etienne, 2011). When an individual utilises a gain-goal frame opportunities concerned with personal resources are highly salient (Chakraborty et al., 2017). Similarly, individuals with a gain-goal frame are highly sensitive to potential threats to personal resources (Chakraborty et al., 2017).

This highlights the strategic nature of the gain-goal frame. When a gain-goal frame is used an individual calculates the benefits versus potential negatives (Etienne, 2011). Individuals operating with a gain-goal frame will move forward in situations that offer a potential reward or a maximisation of value and personal benefit (Chakraborty et al., 2017).  

A normative-goal frame[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. team work

A normative-goal frame is concerned with socially or individually accepted norms, such as the correct or widely accepted course of behaviour (Bösehans & Walker, 2018). This includes acting appropriately within a given situation or doing the right thing guided by widely accepted culturally or otherwise accepted norms (Etienne, 2011). Interestingly, a normative- goal frame, like a gain-goal is interested in the protecting or preserving resources. However, unlike a gain-goal frame which is only interested in personal resources, a normative-goal frame is sensitive to collective resources (Lindenberg, 2008). These collective resources include social group norms, cultural norms and owning collective passions and interests (Chakraborty et al., 2017).

e.g 2 A great example of a normative-goal frame can be explained in the the behaviour of recycling. Most of us these days are potentially aware of the ever present social norms to partake in appropriate recycling behaviours. At school we learn that it is an important part of looking after the planet. At home on television we learn that everyone recycles. When you come across a piece of rubbish that can be recycled, you may think, which bin it would be acceptable to but it in. In the case of not having access to a recycling bin, you may feel a sense of moral violation if you left it in the garbage.

Referring to the example above you can see that operating with a normative-goal frame you get a sense of what is right or what behaviour is accepted. More specifically this sense is know as ways that individuals think they ought to behave (Etienne, 2011). It is the normative-goal frame that sensitises individual to this type of behaving.

In figure 1, all members are maintaining expected social and cultural norms, working as a team to pull the rope and preserve the collective resources.

Theoretical frameworks[edit | edit source]

GFT has been derived from several different theoretical frameworks, including theory of planned behaviour, norm activation model and value-belief-norm theory.

Theory of planned behaviour[edit | edit source]

Figure 2.theory of planned behaviour diagram

Theory of planned behaviour explains how perceived behavioural control, subjective norms and attitudes are significantly predictive of behavioural intention (Côté, Gagnon, Houme, Abdeljelil, & Gagnon, 2012). The theory of planned behaviour outlines that intent to enact a behaviour is dependant on three psychological constructs mentioned (Ajzen, 1988). These constructs are subjective norms, perceived behavioural control and attitudes an individual takes to a given situation (Ajzen, 1988). As you can see in Figure 2, beliefs guide intentions which guides behaviour.

Interestingly, Ajzen's (1988) theory of planned behaviour is an extension of an extension of his earlier work, the theory of reasoned action. Ajzen's (1988) theory practically applies in the area of behaviour modification. This theory helps understand the determinants of behaviour that are fundamental in implementing behaviour modification plans (Côté et al., 2012).

Norm activation model[edit | edit source]

The Norm activation model provides a working model to explain how socially favourable behaviours, such as altruism and pro-environmental behaviour can be predicted by perceived responsibility (Yuwei, Hong, Norbert, Colleen, & Yinjiao, 2017). The norm activation model outlines that personal responsibility versus personal norms are strong determinants of enacted behavour[spelling?] (Yuwei et al., 2017). In addition, it is widely accepted that two other factors guide the process of norm activation. The first of these factors is the awareness of consequences (Yuwei et al., 2017). This means that an individual must first be aware of the consequences produced by their own behaviour. Once aware of the consequences, ascription of responsibility follows, which is our second factor. To ascribe responsibility the individual must acknowledge their part in the situation and how the individual can then help (Yuwei et al., 2017).

Value-belief-norm theory[edit | edit source]

The Value-belief-norm theory details that as an individual plans a course of action, personal values will determine the performed behaviour (Lopez-Mosquera & Sánchez, 2012). These personal values determine which behaviour is performed by acting as a filtration system for environmental information. In addition to behaviour beliefs and attitudes are also influenced by value orientations (Lopez-Mosquera & Sánchez, 2012).

How can goal framing theory be applied?[edit | edit source]

GFT can be applied in a number of contexts including increasing pro-environmental behaviour and educational performance.

Pro-environmental behaviour[edit | edit source]

GFT has practical applications assessing and modifying individual's pro-environmental behaviour. Pro-environmental behaviour can be accurately predicted utilising goal frames (Chakraborty et al., 2017). Of the identified goal frames, the Normative-goal frame is a critical factor in influencing individuals to partake in pro-environmental behaviours (Chakraborty et al., 2017). As per earlier discussion, we know that a normative-goal frame is concerned with what behaviours the individual perceives as being socially appropriate. Highlighting that to strengthen the likelihood of individuals participating in pro-environmental behaviours influencing social and cultural norms is the most effective strategy (Chakraborty et al., 2017).

School achievement[edit | edit source]

Vansteenkiste, Soenens, Timmermans, Lens and Broeck (2008) show that consistently using intrinsic goal framing in educational settings can increase learning and performance of students. In this study school achievement is framed using a an intrinsic gain-goal frame versus an extrinsic gain-goal frame. It was found that achievement in the extrinsic frame group performed worse than those in the intrinsic group. This could be due to the value given to external signs, potentially distracting attention from engagement in the school activity (Vansteenkiste et al., 2008). It is found that the promotion of intrinsic gain-goal framing in educational settings in conducive of higher school performance and achievement (Vansteekiste et al., 2008).

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

In this chapter we have delved into the theory and research pertaining to GFT. We first cemented our basic understanding of goals and goal frames and how they can influence our perception and attention in certain environments. Armed with this knowledge we explored the three goal frames that are the cornerstone of goal framing theory. Which are:

  • Hedonic-goal frame
  • Gain-goal frame
  • Normative-goal frame

We saw the important theoretical ground work on which GFT theory was built. Including, the theory of planned behaviour, the norm activation model and the value-belief-norm theory. Lastly, with a deep theoretical understanding of GFT we investigated two practical applications of the theory. The first being assessing and modifying pro-environmental behaviour and increasing school performance and achievement[grammar?].

Quiz[edit | edit source]

Quiz Time!

1 What is a goal?

Goal setting
Goal Framing
A desired end state

2 Which option best describes a focal goal?

A normative goal frame
Prominent and active goal
A hedonic goal frame
Goal Framing
Goal setting

3 Which goal frame can best predict pro-environmental behaviours?


See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Ajzen I. (1988). Attitudes, Personality, and Behavior. Dorsey Press,Chicago, IL.

Bösehans, G., & Walker, I. (2018). Do supra-modal traveller types exist? A travel behaviour market segmentation using goal framing theory. Transportation, 1-31.

Côté, F., Gagnon, J., Houme, K. P., Abdeljelil, B. A., & Gagnon, Marie-Pierre. (2012). Using the theory of planned behaviour to predict nurses' intention to integrate research evidence into clinical decision-making. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 68, 2289-2298.

Chakraborty, A., Sign, P. M., & Roy, M. (2017). A study of goal frames shaping pro-environmental behaviour in university students. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 18, 1291-1310.

Etienne, J. (2011), “Compliance theory: a goal framing approach”, Law & Policy, Vol. 33, 305-333.

Förster, J., Liberman, N. and Higgins, E.T. (2005), “Accessibility from active and fulfilled goals”, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 41, pp. 220-239.

Gollwitzer, P. M., & Bargh, J. (Eds.) (1996). The psychology of action. Linking cognition and motivation to behavior. New York: Guilford Press.

Klöckner, C. (2013). A comprehensive model of the psychology of environmental behaviour—A meta-analysis. Global Environmental Change, 23(5), 1028-1038. doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2013.05.014

Lindenberg, S. (2008). Social rationality, semi-modularity and goal-framing: what is it all about?. Analyse & Kritik, Vol. 30, 669-687.

Lindenberg, S., & Steg, L. (2007). Normative, gain and Hedonic goal frames guiding environmental behaviour. Journal of Social Issues, 63, 117-137.

López-Mosquera, N., & Sánchez, M. (2012). Theory of planned behaviour and the value-belief-norm theory explaining willingness to pay for a suburban park. Journal of Environmental Management, 113, 251-262.

Petersen, S. E., & Posner, M. I. (2012), “The attention system of the human brain: 20 years after”, Annual Review of Neuroscience, Vol. 35, p. 73.

Steg, L., Perlaviciute, G., Van der Werff, E., & Lurvink, J. (2014). The significance of hedonic values for environmentally relevant attitudes, preferences, and actions. Environment and Behavior, Vol. 46, 163-192.

Vansteenkiste, M., Soenens, B., Timmermans, Tinneke., Lens, W., & Broeck, D. V. A. (2008). Does extrinsic goal framing enhance extrinsic goal-orientated individuals' learning and performance? An experimental test if the match perspective versus self-determination theory. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100, 387-397.

Yuwei, L., Hong, S., Norbert, M., Colleen, R., & Yinjiao, Y. (2017). Integrating norm activation model and theory of planned behaviour to understand sustainable transport behaviour: Evidence from china. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14, 1593-1610.

External links[edit | edit source]

Why the secret success is setting the right goals (TED talk)