Sportopedia Glossary

Achievement Goal Orientation

Achievement Goal Orientation

In Achievement Goal Theory (AGT- Duda, 1989; Nicholls, 1989) this term (also known as ‘ego orientation’) refers to individuals’ predispositional tendencies to be competitive or ego-involved during training and

Duda (1989) suggested that goal-orientation is a product of socialization processes within achievement settings, such as organized sport. Goal orientations are dynamic cognitive schemas influenced by information pertaining to one’s performance. These schemas reflect the purposes underlying individuals’ behaviors and interpretations of cognitive and affective responses to achievement experiences. These orientations do have some stability over time, reflecting the inclination of the individual to be task- or ego-involved (Duda, 2005; Roberts, Treasure, & Conroy, 2007).

According to Nicholls (1989), individuals can judge their ability as high or low in relation to their own past performance or in reference to others. High capacity means that one achieves more with equal effort or uses less effort than others for an equal performance. Therefore, competitive or ego-involvement is evident when individuals experience a sense of competence by demonstrating superior performance to others or an equal performance with less effort (Keegan, Harwood, Spray, & Lavallee, 2010).

Competitive goal orientation in sport is measured using self-report inventories, most commonly the Task and Ego Orientation in Sport Questionnaire (TEOSQ; Duda, 1989). These inventories measure orthogonal achievement goals and have demonstrated acceptable reliability and construct validity (Roberts et al., 2007). Research with athletic populations indicated that competitive-oriented individuals with perception of high ability tend to approach tasks and engage in adaptive achievement behaviors. Preferably, they would outperform others while expending little effort. When perception of ability is low, competitive-oriented individuals tend to manifest maladaptive achievement behaviors, such as avoiding the task and reducing effort.

Biddle, Wang, Kavussanu, and Spray (2003) reported positive associations of varying magnitude between competitive goal orientation and (1) beliefs that possessing ability produces success; (2) motives of status/recognition
and competition; (3) beliefs that the purpose of sport engagement is for social status; (4) perceptions of competence; (5) unsportspersonlike attitudes, endorsement, and display of intentionally aggressive sport acts; and (6) parental ego orientation. Competitive orientation also exhibited a small association with negative affect and no association with positive affect.

Biddle, S. J. H., Wang, J., Kavussanu, M., & Spray, C. (2003).
Correlates of achievement goal orientations in physical
activity: A systematic review of research. European Journal
of Sports Science, 3, 1 19.

Duda, J. L. (1989). The relationship between task and ego orientation
and the perceived purpose of sport among male and
female high school athletes. Journal of Sport and Exercise
Psychology, 11, 318 335.

Duda, J. L. (2005). Motivation in sport: The relevance of competence
and achievement goals. In A. J. Elliot, & C. S.

Dweck (Eds.), Handbook of competence and motivation
(pp. 318 335). New York, NY: Guilford Publications.

Keegan, R. J., Harwood, C. G., Spray, C. M., & Lavallee, D. E.
(2010). From motivational climate to motivational atmosphere:
A review of research examining the social and environmental
influences on athlete motivation in sport. In B. D.

Geranto (Ed.), Sport psychology. New York: Nova Science.
Nicholls, J. G. (1989). The competitive ethos and democratic
education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Roberts, G. C., Treasure, D. C., & Conroy, D. E. (2007).
Understanding the dynamics of motivation in sport and
physical activity. An achievement goal interpretation. In G.
Tenenbaum, & R. C. Eklund (Eds.), Handbook of sport psychology
(pp. 3 24). New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.

***Contributed by Roy David Samuel for Hackfort, D., Schinke, R. J., & Strauss, B. (Eds.). (2019). Dictionary of sport psychology: sport, exercise, and performing arts. Academic Press.