Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Wayne Harrison


The present study was designed to test the anecdotal supposition that excellent performance appraisal ratings do not motivate employees to improve or maintain performance as much as good performance appraisal ratings. Self-regulatory focus theory (Higgins, 1997, 1998) predicts that high levels of motivation are induced either by failure under prevention focus or by success under promotion focus. Using a 2 x 2 completely randomized design, this study examined the effects of regulatory focus and performance appraisal ratings on motivation to improve or maintain performance. Research participation credit was used to manipulate regulatory focus, and bogus performance feedback was used to manipulate appraisal ratings. It was hypothesized that regulatory focus and performance appraisal ratings would interact, such that individuals under a promotion focus would be more motivated by excellent appraisal ratings, while individuals under a prevention focus would be more motivated by good appraisal ratings. Undergraduate psychology students participated in the computer-based study. Each participant read a set of instructions for an analytical word problem task that primed either promotion or prevention focus. Participants then solved a set of analytical word problems and received either a good or excellent rating on their performance. Motivation to improve or maintain performance was assessed using a three-item Likert-type measure. Participants then solved a second set of word problems. Task performance, a behavioral outcome of motivation to improve or maintain performance, was also assessed. Results did not provide support for the study hypothesis. Participants assigned to the prevention focus manipulation reported higher levels of motivation than did participants in the promotion focus manipulation. In addition, participants in the excellent rating condition reported levels of motivation similar to participants in the good rating condition. Task performance was not influenced by the study manipulations. Implications for management and organizations are discussed.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Psychology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 2004, Allen C. Gorman.