What to Do? The Effects of Discrepancies, Incentives, and Time on Dynamic Goal Prioritization

Aaron M. Schmidt, Richard P. DeShon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

162 Scopus citations


This study examined factors that influence the dynamic pursuit of multiple goals over time. As hypothesized, goal-performance discrepancies were significantly related to subsequent time allocation. Greater distance from a given goal resulted in greater time subsequently allocated to that goal. In addition, the incentives offered for goal attainment determined the relative influence of discrepancies for each goal. When the incentives for each goal were equivalent, progress toward each goal exhibited equal influence, with greater time allocated to whichever goal was furthest from completion at the time. However, with an incentive available for only 1 of the 2 goals, time allocation was largely determined by progress toward the rewarded goal. Likewise, when incentives for each task differed in their approach-avoidance framing, progress toward the avoidance-framed goal was a stronger predictor of subsequent allocation than was progress toward the approach-framed goal. Finally, the influence of goal-performance discrepancies differed as a function of the time remaining for goal pursuit. The implications for future work on dynamic goal prioritization and the provision of performance incentives are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)928-941
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • dynamic self-regulation
  • goal framing
  • multiple goals
  • resource allocation
  • temporal factors


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