Campus Units


Document Type


Publication Version

Accepted Manuscript

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Journal of Applied Psychology




Even though considerable work has demonstrated a robust positive relationship between general mental ability (GMA) and task performance, recent work indicates that the expected relationship may not hold in the context of adaptive performance. By integrating the concept of choking, or performing worse than expected, with goal theory, the present work advances a theoretical framework aimed at furthering our understanding of how and when GMA is most likely to meaningfully impact performance. Drawing on this perspective, we propose that the relationship between GMA and adaptive performance is uniquely dependent on the type of goal individuals are striving to achieve. Additionally, we note that the nature of this relationship may evolve as people gain experience dealing with unexpected changes. Results of a discontinuous growth model fit to data obtained from a stock market exercise generally indicate that compared to performance goals, do-your-best and learning goals strengthen the relationship between GMA and adaptive performance. Further, we find that performance goals seem to effectively neutralize the GMA-adaptive performance relationship by benefiting those lower on GMA while simultaneously hindering those with higher levels. In contrast, the relationship is largely positive when either a do-your-best or a learning goal is being pursued, particularly after individuals are exposed to a second change.


This accepted article is published as Howe, M. (2019). General mental ability and goal type as antecedents of recurrent adaptive task performance. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication. Doi: 10.1037/apl0000379. Posted with permission.

Copyright Owner

American Psychological Association



File Format


Published Version