Multiple goals as reference points: One failure makes everything else feel worse

Evan Weingarten, Sudeep Bhatia, Barbara Mellers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


It is well known that goals serve as reference points, and their influence on pleasure can be understood with prospect theory's value function. We examine how people feel about their progress on two goals (i.e., academics and fitness). What happens when they achieve one goal but fail to reach another? In four studies, we test the assumptions needed to explain hedonic reactions to progress along two goals. Loss aversion and diminishing sensitivity hold on each variable separately. However, we find violations of additivity in the integration of the emotions about outcomes. A success in one goal and a failure in another feel worse than the sum of the pleasure and pain associated with the gain and loss, respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3337-3352
Number of pages16
JournalManagement Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Additivity
  • Goals
  • Loss aversion
  • Prospect theory
  • Reference points

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Multiple goals as reference points: One failure makes everything else feel worse'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this