Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 185–205 | Cite as

Ego-involved persistence: When free-choice behavior is not intrinsically motivated

  • Richard M. Ryan
  • Richard Koestner
  • Edward L. Deci


Experiments on factors affecting intrinsic motivation have generally inferred intrinsic motivation from subjects' engagement in a target activity during a “free-choice period” when external contingencies are no longer operative. However, internally controlling regulation is a form of internal motivation that is very different from intrinsic motivation and can underlie free-choice-period activity. This paper presents three experiments concerned with differentiating internally controlling from intrinsically motivated persistence in situations where ego-involved vs. task-involved subjects had received positive vs. nonconfirming (or no) performance feedback. The first experiment showed that ego-involved (relative to task-involved) subjects displayed less free-choice persistence when they received positive feedback, whereas the second experiment showed that ego-involved (relative to task-involved) subjects displayed more free-choice persistence when they received nonconfirming feedback. In both experiments, however, it was shown that ego-involved subjects did not report the expected affective correlates of intrinsic motivation—namely, interest/enjoyment and perceived choice—whereas task-involved subjects did. In the third experiment, as predicted, ego-involved subjects tended to show less free-choice persistence than task-involved subjects when they received positive performance feedback but greater free-choice persistence when they received no performance feedback. The problem of distinguishing intrinsically motivated activity from internally controlled behavior is discussed.


Social Psychology Motivate Activity Positive Feedback Intrinsic Motivation Positive Performance 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard M. Ryan
    • 1
  • Richard Koestner
    • 2
  • Edward L. Deci
    • 3
  1. 1.Human Motivation Program, Department of PsychologyUniversity of RochesterRochester
  2. 2.McGill UniversityCanada
  3. 3.University of RochesterUSA

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