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Unformatted text preview: Has Goal Setting Gone Wild, or Have Its Attackers Abandoned Good Scholarship? by Edwin A. Locke and Gary P. Latham Executive Overview We believe that Ordo n ez, Schweitzer, Galinsky, and Bazerman (2009), in their critique of goal setting, have breached the principles of good scholarship. Rather than conducting or integrating research, they chose to draw their central theme from anecdotal evidence. Further, they employ unrepresentative citations from the literature, the misreporting of results, and the use of emotionally laden metaphors rather than dispassionate language. Moreover, almost all the pitfalls of goal setting they cite, rather than being original, have already been published by us. In this rejoinder, we highlight these shortcomings P oor scholarship in the behavioral sciences in- cludes (a) making causal inferences on the basis of anecdotal stories, (b) ignoring con- founding variables, (c) citing unrepresentative studies from a research domain, (d) misreporting results, and (e) using emotionally laden language to garner reader support rather than writing dispassionately and striving to remain objective. Ordo n ez et al. (2009), in their critique of goal setting, demonstrate these aspects of poor scholarship. Goal Setting as Salve and as Dangerous O rdo n ez et al. (2009) assert that goal setting should not be an over-the-counter salve for boosting performance and should come with a warning label (p. 6). A salve is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary (1992 edi- tion) as 1. An analgesic or medical ointment. 2. Something that soothes or heals. 3. Flattery or commendation. Goal setting, to the best of our knowledge, has always been presented as an effective technique to motivate performance, not as a soothing ointment and certainly not as a panacea for every problem, if that is what Ordo n ez et al. (2009) are implying by their metaphor. Later in their paper they describe goal setting as a prescription-strength medica- tion posing such a great danger that it needs close supervision (p. 14). Their language is a flagrant appeal to emotion. But based on what? The answer is largely anecdotes. The Use of Anecdotes A rguably all scholars in the behavioral sci- ences are aware of the flaws in drawing conclusions from a case study. The dangers in doing so were explained cogently nearly half a century ago. Campbell and Stanley (1963, p. 6) stated, Any appearance of absolute knowl- edge or intrinsic [i.e., general] knowledge about singular isolated objects is found to be illusory upon analysis. As pointed out even earlier by Boring (1954), a case study has such a total lack of controls that it has very limited scientific value....
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This note was uploaded on 02/06/2011 for the course PSYC 100 taught by Professor Pilafova during the Spring '09 term at George Mason.
- Spring '09