On the mechanics of goal striving: Experimental evidence of coasting and shifting

J. Lukas Thürmer, Michael F. Scheier, Charles S. Carver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Carver and Scheier's (1990) account of goal striving predicts that unexpectedly fast goal progress leads to reduced effort at that goal (coasting) and to shifting focus toward other goals (shifting). Although these hypotheses are key to this goal-striving account, empirical evidence of coasting and shifting is scarce. Here we demonstrate coasting and shifting in 2 experiments: Participants performed a lexical decision task and were promised a bonus if they delivered a specific number of correct responses (accuracy goal) and a specific number of fast responses (speed goal). After half of the trials, participants received (randomly allocated) feedback on their progress regarding the 2 goals, in which progress toward 1 goal was either above or below the target. In line with hypotheses, better-than-needed progress toward 1 goal led to (a) reduced subsequent progress toward that goal (as reflected in lower goal-related performance; coasting) and (b) a shift of resources toward the alternative goal (as reflected in higher goal-related performance on the alternative goal; shifting). Experiment 1 further demonstrated that positive feedback led to positive affect, and Experiment 2 demonstrated the causal role of affect in coasting and shifting. The implications of the present findings for future research on goal striving are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)266-274
Number of pages9
JournalMotivation Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Affect and emotion
  • Coasting and shifting
  • Cybernetic control
  • Goal striving
  • Self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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