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Achievement goal antecedents : The influence of social status, competence and academic selection

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The aim of the present research program is to identify the role of social status as an antecedent of the achievement goals that students pursue when facing an academic task (Dweck, 1986; Nicholls, 1984), in the selective context of University (Darnon, Dompnier, Delmas, Pulfrey, & Butera, 2009).The first series of studies (studies 1 to 6) documents that low-status students (students whose parents did not achieve the baccalauréat) endorse more performance-avoidance goals (try not to perform poorly) than high-status students, particularly at a high level of academic achievement (real or perceived). The studies also showed that high- and low-status Psychology students do not differ in their endorsement of performance-approach goals (trying to perform better than others). Nevertheless, a difference was observed in a more selective academic curriculum (Medical school), such that high-status students endorsed more performance-approach goals than low-status students. In the second series of studies (studies 7 and 8), we focus on how the selection context affects the relation between social status and the endorsement of achievement goals. Results show that (1) the selection function of university leads students - regardless to their social status - to endorse performance-approach goals via the social utility associated to these goals and that (2) the interaction between social status and academic achievement on performance-avoidance goal adoption appears mainly in a context of academic selection.The last study (study 9) seeks to test the same hypotheses in a context that makes salient temporal comparison (rather than social comparison). Results show that competition and status predict self-based goals, more relevant in this context, than performance-based goals.Together, these results confirm that, in addition to individual antecedents, students’ social status can influence achievement goal endorsement - especially in a context of selection.

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