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By Rubenstein

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Information about how well others do on the same task is an important influence when workers set their goals, since it allows goals set by social comparison to affect problem-solving behaviors (Martin and Manning 1995; Meyer and Gellatly 1988). There are even some hints that social comparison directly affects the risk taking of decision makers. 5 The strategy of changing one decision at a time was followed by subjects just below their social aspiration level, and the strategy of making no changes at all appeared to be more common among subjects just above their social aspiration level, which is also consistent with a link from social comparison to risk taking.

Once the aspiration level is set, comparisons with performance guide organizational change processes. Here I develop the theory in the same order, starting with how aspiration levels are made and continuing with how they affect the organization. The origins of aspiration levels include learning from the performance of oneself, learning from the performance of others, or direct learning of the aspirations of others (Lewin et al. 1944). Aspiration levels have both direct behavioral consequences such as risk-taking or innovations and outcome consequences such as the performance or survival that results from making appropriate changes.

When sub-goals interact to form the total goal, goal fulfillment requires complex tasks of coordination (Simon 1957). This complicates the goal-fulfillment process and increases the time required before the goals affect the total group performance (Wood and Bandura 1989). Many field studies of goal-seeking behavior have recognized this limitation, as it is mainly tasks with modest interdependence among workers that have been targeted for improvement through goal setting. Still, complex interdependence of tasks does not preclude group goals from improving performance (Locke and Latham 1990).

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A Course in Game Theory by Rubenstein


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