A 2 x 2 Achievement Goal Framework - Happier Human

A 2 x 2 Achievement Goal Framework

Last Updated on

Learn about the 2X2 achievement goal framework and understand a better way to view (and plan) your goals.

What is the 2×2 achievement goal framework?

Until 2001, when this study was published, goals were divided into three types: mastery, performance-approach, and performance-avoidance:

I will score higher than last time.I will score the highest in my class.I will avoid scoring worse than my classmates.
I will exercise three times a week.I will look sexy by losing 5 pounds.I will stop looking ugly by losing 5 pounds.
I will learn how to get my work done better and faster.I will get a good performance review.I will avoid getting negative feedback.


A mastery goal was one where a person tried to accomplish something in absolute or intrapersonal terms, e.g. setting a new personal best or learning a new skill.
A performance-approach goal was one where a person tried to do better than their peers, e.g. scoring higher or getting promoted.
A performance-avoidance goal was one where a person tried to avoid doing worse than their peers, e.g. avoid embarrassment or negative feedback.

Until this study, it was assumed that mastery goals were the best, performance-approach goals were sometimes good and sometimes bad, and performance-avoidance goals were always bad. The implicit assumption was there were no bad mastery goals (in other words, no mastery-avoidance goals.)

This study challenged those assumptions by first proving that master-avoidance goals exist, and second proving that each goal type can be useful, depending on the circumstances.

Goal Experiments 1 & 2

Exploratory factor analysis was used to break down the 12 goal setting questions into 4 factors, as seen below. Confirmatory factor analysis was later used to show that mastery-avoidance and mastery-approach better fit the data than mastery alone.

2x2 goals factor analysis

These questions in turn were derived from a series of pilot studies. The questions for performance-approach, performance-avoidance, and mastery-approach were taken from prior questionnaires, while questions for mastery-avoidance were created. Once combined, the factor analysis above was used to confirm that each set of questions represented and exposed different goal-setting components. The questions used and the factor they correspond to can be seen below:

questions and factor loading for goal setting 2x2 model

Those with a high motive to achieve were found to be more likely to use approach goals, while those with a high motive to avoid failure were found to be more likely to use avoidance goals.

Find out more about approach goals -vs- avoidance goals.

Goal Experiment 3

Those more likely to use performance-approach goals were more likely to have higher exam scores, while those more likely to use performance-avoidance goals were more likely to have lower exam scores.
On the other hand, those more likely to use performance-approach goals were more likely to visit the health center, while those more likely to use mastery-approach goals were less likely.

Full study here.

Elliot, A. J., & McGregor, H. A. (2001). A 2 x 2 achievement goal framework.Journal of personality and social psychology80(3), 501-519.

What is Goal Setting Theory?

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 3 comments