If you want to achieve a goal, you should share it with someone you believe on a higher status than you, study found.
People tend to show greater goal commitment and performance when they tell their goals to someone they believe to have higher status than themselves, while telling someone they think on lower status or not telling anyone doesn’t help.
"Contrary to what you may have heard, in most cases you get more benefit from sharing your goal than if you don't - as long as you share it with someone whose opinion you value," lead author of the new study Howard Klein said.
How the study underwent
Researchers recruited 171 undergraduate students in the study, asking them to finish a task on the computer (moving a slider on the screen to the number 50 as many times as possible within a limited time.)
After one round of task, the participants were told to do the task again, this time two groups of participants setting and writing down a goal in advance, and a third group not sharing their goals.
The experimenter then informed participants that a lab assistant would come around and check on their goals. While the same assistants were responsible for the participants, researchers set two versions of assistants.
In some cases, the lab assistant was dressed in a suit and introduced himself as a doctoral-level student in the business school who was an expert on today’s study topic, performing as a role whose status was higher than the students.
For other participants, the same lab assistants dressed in casual clothing and introduced himself as a student at a local community college who was working part time at the business school, performing as a role whose status was lower than the students.
Results showed that participants who believed the lab assistants as doctoral students reported that they were more committed to achieving the goals they set for themselves, compared with the group who believed the lab assistants as part-time students. The outcome of the task also presented better in the first group.
Participants who shared their goals with the lower-status assistant performed no better than those who told no one about their goal.
Results showed that people were motivated by sharing a goal with someone they thought with higher status because they cared about how that higher-status person would evaluate them.
“You don’t want them to think less of you because you didn’t attain your goal,” Klein said.
Next time when you are trying to achieve a goal, share it with someone who you believe is on a higher status than you. The important thing is that you need to care about the opinion of who you are telling.