Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Alyce M. Dickinson

Second Advisor

Dr. Bradley E. Huitema

Third Advisor

Dr. Douglas A. Johnson

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Julie M. Slowiak


Goal setting, tiered goals, bonus pay, performance, psychology


This study examined the relative effects of tiered goals, difficult goals, and moderate goals on performance when individuals earned bonus pay for goal achievement. The experimental design was a 3 x 2 mixed factorial design. Participants were 44 undergraduate students performing a computerized data entry task that simulated the job of a medical data entry clerk. For each session, participants were paid a $4 base salary plus bonus pay contingent on goal achievement. Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups: a) a multiple, tiered goal level condition, in which participants earned $1 in bonus pay for achieving an easy goal, $2 for achieving a moderate goal, or $3 for achieving a difficult goal, b) a difficult goal condition, in which participants only had the opportunity to earn $3 for achieving the difficult goal, or c) a moderate goal condition, in which participants only had the opportunity to earn $2 for achieving the moderate goal.

Results of a homogeneity of regression slopes test showed that the effects of the goal depended on participants’ performance levels in a “do your best” covariate session before the goals were introduced. After the data for the difficult and tiered goal conditions were pooled, a picked points analysis revealed that for both the lowest and average performers, tiered and difficult goals produced significantly higher performance than moderate goals, X=21, F(1, 40) = 6.57, p = .014 and X=208, F(1, 40) = 9.26, p = .004, respectively, in the first of five experimental sessions. Tiered and difficult goals did not produce significantly higher performance than moderate goals for the highest performers in the first session. No significant differences were found for the last session. These results suggest the importance of within-subjects factors to determine the effects of goals over time.

The goals in this study were much easier to achieve than planned. Future research should compare the effects of moderate and difficult goals to tiered goals with goals that are more indicative of goals defined as such in the literature.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access