An investigation of the hierarchical model of approach and avoidance achievement motivation in a sport

Por: D. Loupos, E. Tabaki, H. Tsorbatzoudis, P. Tsoboli e V. Barkoukis.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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Elliot [1] developed the Hierarchical Model of Apporach and Avoidance Achievement Motivation to overcome the weaknesses of both the classic achievement motive theory and the contemporary achievement goal approaches. Basic tenet of the model is the distinction of performance orientation into performance-approach and performance-avoidance goals. According to the model, three independent achievement goals are posited: a mastery goal focused on the development of competence or the attainment of task mastery, a performance - approach goal focused on the attainment of competence relative to others, and a performance - avoidance goal focused on the avoidance of incompetence relative to others. Elliot [1] argued that achievement goals are influenced by competence-relevant motives such as need for achievement (mastery and performance-approach goals) and fear of failure (the performance-approach and performance-avoidance goals). Additionally, high competencve expectancies are predicted to be associated with mastery and perrormance-approach goals while low expectancies with the performance-avoidance goal. According to the model achievement goals have certain impact on variables such as intrinsic motivation and performance; mastery goal is anticipated to have positive association with intrinsic motivation and performance-apporach goal with performance itself. On the other hand, the performance-avoidance goal is thought to have negative relationship to performance. The hierarchical model has been supported in the education [2, 3] and was extended by examining the mediating role of cognitive [4, 5] and affective variables [6]. Recently, Cury, DaFonseca, Rufo and Sarrazin [7] applied the model to a physical education context and provided support to the hypotheses tested. However, to the best of our knowledge, there are no studies applying the model to competitive sport. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to examine the antecedents and consequences of the trichotomus approach of achievement goals in competitive swimming.


Seventy swimmers with a mean age of 14.75 and SD 1.48 voluntarily participated in the study. The athletes completed in a neutral setting, during their week day off, a questionnaire assessing achievement goals, need for achievement, fear of failure, competence expectancies and intrinsic motivation. Achievement goals were estimated via the Approach and Avoidance Achievement Goal Questionnaire developed by Elliot and Church [3] to estimate three achievement goals, mastery, performance-approach and performance-avoidance, with 6 items for each factor. The Achievement motivation subscale of the Personality Research Form was used for the estimation of need for achievement. Fear of failure and competence expectancies were measured with the respective scales used by Elliot and Church [3] modified for the context of competitive sport. Intrinsic motivation was assessed with the use of the interest-enjoyment subscale of the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory [8]. Athletes’ performance was calculated by subtracting season’s best from personal best performance. This index was used as it describes the performance of the athlete throughout the year in comparison to previous years and not performance in a single competition that is sensible to many imponderable factors.


As far as the antecedents of achievement goals are concerned need for achievement and fear of failure predicted significantly the performance-approach goal (R2=.13, F(1,69) = 9.16, p<.01, b=.37 and R2=.19, F(1,59) = 11.52, p<.001, b=.41 respectively). Additionally, competence expectancies predicted significantly the performance-approach goal (R2=.07, F(1,65) = 5.17, p<.05, b=.27). Regarding the antecedents of the achievement goals the results of the regression analysis indicated that enjoyment was predicted by the mastery goal (R2=.20, F(1,58) = 14.49, p<.001, b=.41). The prediction of enjoyment was improved with the addition of the performance-avoidance goal (R2=.29, F(1,58) = 11.62, p<.001, b=-.30). The performance-avoidance goal was a negative predictor of enjoyment.


The findings of the present study provided support to most of the model’s hypotheses. Contrary to the model, the results did not indicate any association between achievement goals and swimming performance. This may be ascribed to the performance index used in the present study. Performance was thought to be better represented by the annual improvement of the athlete since achievement goals are described as ‘relatively concrete’ variables. However, in the future more sensitive indices of performance should be used in order to further examine the hypotheses of the model.


[1]. Elliot, A. (1997). Advances in motivation and achievement. JAI Press.
[2]. Elliot, A. (1999). Educational Psychologist, 34, 169-189.
[3]. Elliot, A. & Church, M. (1997). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 218-232.
[4]. Elliot, A., McGregor, H. & Gable, S. (1999). Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 549-563.
[5]. McGregor, H. & Elliot, A. (2002). Journal of Educational Psychology, 94, 381-395.
[6]. Elliot, A., & McGregor, H. (1999). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,76, 628-644.
[7]. Cury,F., Da Fonseca, D., Rufo, M. & Sarrazin, P. (2002). Perceptual and Motor Skills, 95, 233-244.
[8]. McAuley, E., Duncan, T., & Tammen, V. (1989). Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 60, 48-58.





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