Conscious processing and the process goal paradox

Richard Mullen, Lew Hardy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract The three experiments reported here examined the process goal paradox, which has emerged from the literature on goal setting and conscious processing. We predicted that skilled but anxious performers who adopted a global movement focus using holistic process goals would outperform those who used part-oriented process goals. In line with the conscious processing hypothesis, we also predicted that performers using part process goals would experience performance impairment in test compared with baseline conditions. In all three experiments, participants performed motor tasks in baseline and test conditions. Cognitive state anxiety increased in all of the test conditions. The results confirmed our first prediction; however, we failed to find unequivocal evidence to support our second prediction. The consistent pattern of the results lends support to the suggestion that, for skilled athletes who perform under competitive pressure, using a holistic process goal that focuses attention on global aspects of a motor skill is a more effective attentional focus strategy than using a part process goal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275 - 297
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of sport and exercise psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • conscious processing
  • process goal paradox
  • goal setting


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