Study 1 Replication Plan

The Dark Side of Goal Setting

Replication Plan

Each student team will conduct an exact replication and at least one of the below proposed constructive replications. All teams will jointly analyze and publish overall findings.

Original Study

Schweitzer, M. E., Ordóñez, L., & Douma, B. (2004). Goal setting as a motivator of unethical behavior. Academy of Management Journal, 47(3), 422-432. 

Study Research Question and Findings

This replication study focuses on the ethical implications of goal setting and the influence of personality traits, specifically Machiavellianism, on unethical organizational behavior. 

Schweitzer et al. (2004)


The original data from Schweitzer et al. (2004) will not be available to facilitate independent reproduction. 

Design and Analyses

Schweitzer et al. (2004) argued that goal setting is a powerful motivator that generally increases effort and persistence but might also induce unethical behaviors when individuals fail to meet these goals. They argued that the perceived benefits of unethical behaviors could be magnified by goal setting. 

Schweitzer et al. had undergraduate student subjects perform a word creating task and self-score their performance. Individuals were assigned to either (i) a ‘do your best’, (ii) mere goal, or (iii) specific, high goal with reward condition.

Hypothesis 1

Individuals with specific, unmet goals are more likely to overstate their performance compared to those without specific goals (e.g., those told to "do their best").

Participants in the mere goal and the specific high goal with rewards conditions overstated their performance (i.e., unethical behavior) than participants in the "do your best" condition (0.13 vs. 0.03, t(152) = 2.85, p = .003).

Hypothesis 2

Individuals who fail to reach their goals by a small margin are more likely to falsely claim to have reached their goals than those who fail by a larger margin. 

Results showed that participants overstated their performance more when they were close to meeting their goals compared to when they were further away (7.46 vs. : 5.00 (t(21) = 9.33, p < .001).

Exact / Literal Replication

All data used for replications will be derived from primary data collection executing the same lab experiments with student subjects as Schweitzer et al. (2004). We note that the focus of our replication will be on the difference between ‘do your best’ and ‘specific, high goals with rewards’.

Constructive Methods-Focused Replications

Using a big team science approach, we wish to pose a strong test of goal setting theory's unethical side effects. Each team included in the systematic set of constructive replications must use at minimum two conditions of Schweitzer et al. design: (i) ‘do your best’ and (ii) ‘specific high goal with reward’ condition. Beyond that, other conditions can be planned that account for goal setting theory’s four key moderating variables: (i) ability, (ii) goal commitment, (iii) feedback, and (iv) situational resources/constraints (Latham & Itzchakov, 2024). Latham and Itzchakov (2024) argue that the unethical ‘side effects’ of goal setting arise when one or more of these boundary conditions are ignored, particularly an individual’s ability. We will also test the predictive power of Machiavellianism for predicting unethical behavior.