Goal orientation in Chinese culture: An inductive approach

Wing Yi Rebecca CHENG, Dennis Michael MCINERNEY, Shui Fong LAM

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


A qualitative interview study was conducted to inductively identify the structure and dimension of goal orientation held by Hong Kong students. We interviewed individually 42 seventh-graders in two Hong Kong secondary schools. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed using content analysis. Results indicated that Hong Kong students had various reasons to achieve academically. They studied hard to master the knowledge for personal enrichment (mastery goals), to get better jobs or higher salaries for demonstration of competence (performance goals) and for social reasons (social goals). The meaning of mastery and performance goals emerged in this study generally coincided with that in the West. However, social goals appeared to carry meanings that were culturally relevant. For example, around 12% of the students (n = 5) mentioned that they studied hard because they would like to repay their parents and around 43% of them (n = 18) would like to get better jobs and higher salaries to take care of their parents. It seems that these constructs, with strong Confucian-collectivistic characteristics in Chinese culture, might not be captured adequately in Western culture. This study provides solid evidence for the importance of investigating the emic level of goal orientation held by Hong Kong students. The culturally specific components of student achievement motivation should not be overlooked.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


Cheng, R. W.-y., McInerney, D., & Lam, S.-f. (2013, August). Goal orientation in Chinese culture: An inductive approach. Paper presented at the 10th Biennial Conference of Asian Association of Social Psychology, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.


  • Goal orientation
  • Culture
  • Social goals
  • Qualitative research


Dive into the research topics of 'Goal orientation in Chinese culture: An inductive approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.