Date of Award

Summer 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Psychology and Behavioral Sciences

First Advisor

Mitzi Desselles


Performance feedback meetings are often dreaded, perceived to be worthless, and de-motivating for employees (Culbertson, Henning, & Payne, 2013; Rock, 2008). Although they are intended to enhance motivation and performance (Erez, 1977; Kim & Hamner, 1976), over a third of feedback interventions backfire, resulting in lower rather than higher performance (Kluger & DeNisi, 1996). Motivational theories (i.e., behavioral motivation theory, organizational justice theory, reversal theory, goal setting theory, and theory of planned behavior) provide complementary explanations for the impact of feedback on performance. However, these explanations have not been subjected to comprehensive empirical scrutiny. The purpose of this dissertation was to examine how feedback characteristics (i.e., valence, accuracy, and information type) influence perceptions of justice, affect, motivation, and performance. Specifically, this research tested a process model suggesting that positive (rather than negative), accurate (rather than inaccurate), and nominal (rather than relative) feedback positively affects recipients’ perceptions of justice, affect, and motivation, resulting in higher goal setting and, subsequently, higher performance. Additionally, this model suggests that the effects of feedback characteristics are stronger for participants in a telic meta-motivational state (rather than paratelic, or playful state). A 2x2x2 factorial experiment was conducted to test this process model. The participants, who were told they would be performing an information-gathering task for a university website, were recruited via Amazon’s

Mechanical Turk. Participants were asked to set a goal for performing this task and also told that they will receive feedback regarding their performance. After their first performance episode, participants were randomly assigned to receive one of six feedback messages (positive or negative; accurate or inaccurate; nominal or relative) and asked to set a new performance goal. Afterward completing a second performance episode, participants were asked to complete a short survey. All hypothesized relationships were tested using structural equation modeling. It was found that feedback valence influences recipients’ positive and negative affect. Recipients’ positive affect was associated with a stronger desire to respond to the feedback; however, there was no effect of recipients’ negative affect on their desire to respond. Feedback valence also positively affected recipients’ perceptions of feedback accuracy, such that positive feedback indicating success was more likely to be perceived as accurate by the participants than negative feedback indicating failure. Feedback accuracy was positively related to recipients’ perceptions of feedback accuracy; however the relationship weakened when feedback was relative. Recipients’ perceptions of feedback accuracy was positively related to their perceptions of distributive justice, and their perceptions of distributive justice were positively related to their desire to respond to the feedback as well as their levels of positive and negative affect. Participants’ desire to respond was positively related to the goal level set for Task 2, which was positively related to their performance on Task 2. Motivational state was not found to have an effect on reactions to feedback. The results of this experiment advance research on goal setting and performance feedback by examining the complementary aspects of differing motivational theories. Additionally, the results provide guidance to practitioners delivering feedback.