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J Appl Psychol. 2008 Jan;93(1):108-24. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.93.1.108.

The significance of task significance: Job performance effects, relational mechanisms, and boundary conditions.

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  • 1Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3490, USA.


Does task significance increase job performance? Correlational designs and confounded manipulations have prevented researchers from assessing the causal impact of task significance on job performance. To address this gap, 3 field experiments examined the performance effects, relational mechanisms, and boundary conditions of task significance. In Experiment 1, fundraising callers who received a task significance intervention increased their levels of job performance relative to callers in 2 other conditions and to their own prior performance. In Experiment 2, task significance increased the job dedication and helping behavior of lifeguards, and these effects were mediated by increases in perceptions of social impact and social worth. In Experiment 3, conscientiousness and prosocial values moderated the effects of task significance on the performance of new fundraising callers. The results provide fresh insights into the effects, relational mechanisms, and boundary conditions of task significance, offering noteworthy implications for theory, research, and practice on job design, social information processing, and work motivation and performance.

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