This research investigates whether explicit goals interact with implicit processing goals that are activated simultaneously. Based on the idea that (a) explicit goals are used as comparison standards, and (b) implicit processing goals have motivational consequences by influencing the process of comparison with those standards, these studies elucidate the mechanism by which explicit and implicit goals combine to influence task performance. Study 1 demonstrated that a primed goal to process similarities versus differences interacted with explicit goal standards in influencing subsequent task performance. High explicit goals resulted in better performance when participants had the implicit goal of processing similarities, whereas low explicit goals resulted in better performance when the implicit goal was processing differences. Study 2 provided evidence that perceived similarity to a target person is a critical factor for the pursuit of explicit goals and that this similarity influences task performance in the same way as the primed goal to process similarities. Study 3 indicated that processing similarities results from assimilation to a moderately high goal, whereas processing differences is the result of contrasting away from an extremely high goal. These findings confirm that implicit processing of similarities versus differences has a combined influence with explicit goals on task performance. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.