Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 150–160 | Cite as

Keeping it dull or making it fun: Task variation as a function of promotion versus prevention focus

  • Jessi L. Smith
  • Jill Wagaman
  • Ian M. Handley
Original Paper


The self-regulation of motivation model suggests that under certain circumstances, people will strategically vary a boring task to enhance their motivational experience. In three experiments we tested whether the likelihood of this task variation depends on a person’s orientation to promote success or prevent failure. Across studies, all participants engaged in a boring letter-copying task which was coded for task variation. Results showed that a promotion focus led to greater task variation, whereas a prevention focus led to lesser task variation. Furthermore, for those people who varied the task under a promotion focus, greater intrinsic motivation (defined as intent for future task-related behavior and as self-reported immediate task interest) was observed. Results were evident when the foci were induced below conscious awareness (Experiment 1), subtly (Experiment 2), and overtly (Experiment 3). Implications for academic and work-related tasks are discussed.


Intrinsic motivation Self-regulation Promotion and prevention focus 



We would like to thank Dr. Carol Sansone for her input on Experiment 3. We also thank the Motivation and Diversity Lab Research Assistants for their help with data collection and coding.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessi L. Smith
    • 1
  • Jill Wagaman
    • 1
  • Ian M. Handley
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMontana State UniversityBozemanUSA

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