An Examination of Goal Processes and Goal Cognitions in Relation to Momentary Mood Changes

Weymouth, EK, Dickson, JM, Taylor, PJ and Dodd, A
(2016) An Examination of Goal Processes and Goal Cognitions in Relation to Momentary Mood Changes. Doctor of Clinical Psychology thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Goal dysregulation theories posit that affective disorders are linked to dysregulation of goal pursuit (e.g. Johnson, Carver, & Fulford, 2010) and many psychological therapies for mood disorders focus on increasing wellbeing by working with individuals to generate and pursue personally meaningful goals. The literature pertaining to goals and mood has identified highly idiosyncratic nomothetic properties of goal pursuit such as perceived goal progress, goal importance and goal effort which all contribute to distinct goal pursuit profiles. For example, perceived goal progress has been linked to positive affect and affective reactions may serve to alter the amount of effort made towards that goal (Carver, Avivi, & Laurenceau, (2008). Gollwitzer (1993) contended that the perceived importance of a person’s goal would influence their level of effort towards that goal. Specifically, it is suggested that the centrality of that goal to a person’s self-concept increases the importance of that goal (Boden, 1973). The importance a person places on their goals may be detrimental if that individual is overly invested in a particular goal and they are not achieving their desired level of progress towards this goal and therefore have increased difficulty in disengaging from their goals despite low goal progress (Lam, Green, Power, & Checkley, 1994; Wrosch, Scheier, Carver, & Schulz, 2003). Additionally, more recent research into Conditional Goal Setting (Street, 2001) posits that those vulnerable to depression are suggested to define their self worth on the achievement of their goals. Although personal goals typically represent sustained activity over time and phenomena such as motivation and mood fluctuate, most of the research on goals and mood has been limited to the use of cross-sectional designs which usually treat them as stable, measuring them at a time point and ask the person to recall retrospectively. This method is suggested to make capturing completely the true nature of a person’s goal pursuit and mood experience in the moment unlikely. Additionally, this approach is susceptible to recall and cognitive biases. Experience Sampling Method (ESM) allows researchers to look at mood from a momentary perspective to examine dynamic and transient emotional reactions. Several studies have used ESM to look at momentary mood and personal goals. To the author’s knowledge, to date, there has been no systematic review of the findings of these studies. Chapter 1 of this thesis details a systematic review conducted with the aim of synthesising the current empirical research concerning goal processes, content and/or cognitions and their relationship to momentary mood using ESM. This systematic review focused only on studies using an Experience Sampling Methodology to look at goal processes and mood. Results from the review found that a range of goal processes and goal cognitions were found to be associated with affective experience and in particular, all studies found that goal progress was linked to experiencing positive affect. The studies identified were from a variety of settings, including universities, business and workplace settings and healthcare settings, with varying participant samples. Studies differed in the terms they used to define goals and how they asked people to generate goals. The quality of these studies varied however as ESM is a developing methodology in research, standard quality assessment tools are not available currently. In an effort to further contribute to the research in this domain, Chapter 2 presents an empirical study examining the relationship between the particular goal cognitions of perceived goal progress and perceived levels of goal effort and their impact on momentary mood through the use of ESM. It is hoped that this will allow not only for highly ecological, real-life assessments of mood and goal cognitions but also an evaluation of the potential impact of Conditional Goal Setting. It was hypothesised that lower perceived momentary goal progress and higher momentary goal effort would be associated with greater momentary mood symptoms in those with higher CGS scores. The findings of this study suggest that negative affect (NA) and positive affect (PA) fluctuated considerably from moment-to-moment over time. ESM captures these within-person fluctuations as well as the between-person differences. Examining momentary mood changes from a goal pursuit perspective found that goal progress and amount of goal effort account for some of the variance in these fluctuations. In particular, results showed that not only does advancement in goal progress predict momentary positive mood, it also predicts decreased negative mood. In addition, perceived goal effort was found to be related to momentary PA and NA in that increased effort led to more NA and less effort led to more PA. A combination of increased goal progress and decreased goal effort predicted increased levels of PA and vice versa for NA. Contrary to expectation, CGS did not predict momentary mood. Extensive previous cross-sectional research has identified this link between goal progress and affective experiences and data from ESM studies sheds further light on the conceptual frameworks surrounding motivation, goal pursuit and mood.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Clinical Psychology)
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Tech, Infrastructure and Environmental Directorate
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 04 Jan 2017 09:59
Last Modified: 03 Jun 2022 07:10
DOI: 10.17638/03004405
  • Dickson, JM
  • Taylor, PJ
  • Dodd, A