Marketing, Business Economics, and Law

Motivation by Anticipation

Motivation by Anticipation: Expecting Rapid Feedback Enhances Performance

Keri Kettle and Gerald Haubl (2010)
Psychological Science, DOI: 10.1177/0956797610363541

Feedback on one?s most important endeavors ? such as writing exams, developing business proposals, and preparing manuscripts for publication ? often arrives with substantial delay. The desire to avoid disappointment is a powerful motivator. It leads people to alter their choices, lower their expectations, and intensify their efforts to perform well. Based on this, the authors hypothesized that the mere anticipation of more proximate feedback causes people to perform better. This hypothesis is tested in a large-scale field experiment involving a highly consequential behavior: individual student presentations in multiple sections of a university course. Students were randomly assigned to receive their grade between 0 (later the same day) and 17 days after their presentation. Prior to their presentation, students were reminded of their presentation date, informed of the date on which they were to learn their grade, and then asked to predict their performance. As hypothesized, expecting more rapid feedback caused students to perform better. Merely altering the date on which individuals expect to receive feedback can result in substantial differences in important outcomes such as university grades. These findings provide a novel perspective on the relationship between feedback and performance, and they have important practical implications for all those who are responsible for (mentoring and) evaluating the performance of others.

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