Twelve full-scale column specimens designed for pure flexure failure were tested in this study. Two typical column designs were employed in the tests representing substandard and code-confonning columns, respectively The main variable in the experiments was the imposed displacement history. The deformation-based performance limits proposed for substandard columns by Eurocode 8 and ASCE/SEI 41 were found very conservative in view of the test results, which may lead to misleading results in the seismic risk assessment of existing substandard concrete structures. Eurocode 8 performance limits predicted the experimental performance of code-conforming columns well, whereas ASCE/SEI 41 performance limits appeared conservative in predicting the experimental performance of column plastic hinges designed to fail in flexure under moderate axial load levels. Analytical studies on single degree of freedom (SDOF) structures representing flexural column behavior revealed that the effect of displacement history on the target drift demands of concrete structures is significant under severe earthquake ground motions.