Cognitive Evaluation Theory


Cognitive evaluation theory is a psychological theory that deals with internal or external factors also called intrinsic or extrinsic motivation is related to the level of competence or incompetence that people feel. This theory deals with how probable it is that people will believe that what they do is controlled either internally by themselves or externally by their environment and other people in their surroundings. People view tasks in terms of their level of comfort and how well that task fulfils their needs to feel in control of their actions & competent in performing those actions.


Cognitive evaluation theory proposes that the introduction of extrinsic rewards such as pay, for work effort that was previously intrinsically rewarding due to commitment, pleasure, and satisfaction associated with the content of the work itself tends to lower overall motivation.


Historically, motivation theorists commonly assumed that intrinsic rewards such as interesting work were independent of extrinsic rewards such as high pay. But cognitive evaluation theory proposes the opposite. It emphasises that when extrinsic rewards are used by organisations as pay-offs for superior performance, the intrinsic rewards, which are derived from individuals doing what they like, are reduced. When extrinsic rewards are given to a person for performing an interesting task, it causes intrinsic interest in the task itself to decline. Such an outcome occurs when an individual may experience a loss of control over his/her own behaviour so that the previous intrinsic motivation fades away. The elimination of extrinsic rewards can produce a shift from an external to an internal explanation in a person’s perception of causation of why he works on a task.


If the cognitive evaluation theory is valid, it should have prominent implications for managerial practices. It has been a cliche among compensation specialists for years the fact that they suggested is that if payment or other extrinsic rewards are to be effective motivates, they should be made dependent on an individual’s performance. But cognitive evaluation theorists would argue that this will only tend to lessen the internal satisfaction that the individual receives from doing an interesting job. In fact, if cognitive evolution theory is correct, it would make sense to make an individual pay non-contingent on performance to avoid decreasing intrinsic motivation.



Goal Setting Theory


 In 1960, Edwin Locke presented the goal setting theory of motivation. This theory states that goal-setting is linked to task performance essentially. It states that challenging and specific goals along with appropriate feedback contribute to higher and better task performance. In simple words, goals indicate and provide direction to an employee about what needs to be done and how much effort is needed to be put in. There are the following elements of goal-setting theory:


1) Goal Acceptance/Goal Commitment: Before a goal can be motivating to a person, one must accept the goal. Accepting a goal is the first step in developing motivation. Goal commitment is the degree of determination someone uses to achieve an accepted goal. Two primary factors that help to improve goal commitment are importance and self efficacy. Self-efficacy is the belief that a person can attain their goal. These factors can be as simple as making a public announcement about the commitment, or as complicated as a formal programme of inspirational leadership and mentoring.


2)Goal Specificity: A goal must be measurable and specific. Measurability and Specificity provide an external referent (such as space, time,  increment, etc.) to gauge progress, whereas vague “do better” goals are ambiguous and often have little effect on motivation. Removing ambiguity allows a person to focus on precise actions and behaviours related to goal achievement. The more specific the goal, the more explicitly performance will be impacted. Specific goals lead to higher task performance by employees than abstract or vague goals. A person can set a general goal to sell more bikes per month; however, setting a goal to sell two bikes per day for the next thirty days is more specific and therefore more effective. Goals without an external referent let a wide range of acceptable performance levels. For performance to increase, goals must be specific, challenging,  and concrete.


3) Goal Difficulty: Goals are proven to be an effective motivation strategy if difficulty is taken into consideration. They should be set high enough to encourage high performance but low enough to be obtainable. When this grey area is acquired, goals are proven to be effective. If goals are set too high or too difficult then commitment and motivation suffer as a result. Integrity is another cost that can occur from setting high performance goals.


4) Feedback: This is necessary for goals to remain effective and retain commitment. Without feedback, people are unaware of their regression or progression and it becomes difficult to gauge the level of effort required to pursue the goal effectively. Additionally, feedback allows for people and teams to spot any weaknesses in their current goals, which allows modifications to be made. It is essential for goals, and the people making the goals, to be flexible with them. Feedback is too effective when it is directed at setting more challenging goals. Productivity and effort will increase when performance falls short of goal achievement. For example, if a student receives feedback in the form of a progress report he may adjust his study habits accordingly to achieve the desired goal. However,  the student has nothing to gauge performance without feedback. Feedback can either be outcome-oriented or process-oriented.


Effective Goal Setting Principles 

Effective goal-setting principles are as follows:


1) Clarity: A measurable and clear goal is more achievable than one that is poorly defined. In other words, be specific. The most influential goals have a specific timeline for completion.


2) Challenge: The goal must have a decent level of difficulty to motivate a person to strive toward the goal.


3) Commitment: Put intentionally effort into meeting this goal. Sharing goals with someone else to increase accountability to meet that goal.


4) Feedback: Set up a method to receive information on progress toward a goal. If increasing sales by 30,000 in four months turns out to be too hard, it is better to adjust the difficulty of the goal mid-way through the timeline than to give up entirely.


5) Task Complexity: If a goal is especially complex, make sure one gives its enough time to overcome the learning curve involved in completing the task. In other words, if a goal is really tough, make sure that one gives itself some padding to give the best chance at succeeding.

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