Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 229, Issue 3, pp 475–484 | Cite as

Motivation from control

  • Baruch EitamEmail author
  • Patrick M. Kennedy
  • E. Tory Higgins


Human motivation is sensitive to value—to the outcomes of actions. People invest mental and physical resources for obtaining desired results or for stopping and reversing undesired ones. Accordingly, people’s motivation is sensitive to information about their standing in relation to outcome attainment (‘outcome feedback’). In this paper, we argue and present the first evidence for the existence of another motivational sensitivity in humans—a sensitivity to our degree of control on the environment and hence to information about that control (‘control feedback’). We show that when actions have even trivial and constant perceptual effects, participants’ motivation to perform is enhanced. We then show that increased motivation is not because more information about task performance is available and that motivation is increased only in conditions in which control over the effects can be firmly established by the mind. We speculate on the implications for understanding motivation, and potentially, physical and mental health.


Motivation Agency Reward 



This research was supported by a David C. McClelland Postdoctoral Fellowship and Grant 277/12 from the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) to Baruch Eitam and by Grant 39429 from the National Institute of Mental Health to E. Tory Higgins.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Baruch Eitam
    • 1
    Email author
  • Patrick M. Kennedy
    • 2
  • E. Tory Higgins
    • 2
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of HaifaMount Carmel, HaifaIsrael
  2. 2.Psychology DepartmentColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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