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Intrinsic motivation and education: Competence in context

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Abstract

Our research program involving both laboratory and everyday activities suggests that there may be multiple goals relevant to interest in a task, and these goals include but are not limited to achieving a particular level of competence. The same information and feedback can thus either aid or obstruct intrinsic motivation, depending on its match with how students define the goals of their involvement. Furthermore, this potential flexibility in activity definitions allows individuals to purposely explore different routes to interest to maintain their motivation to perform relatively uninteresting, but perhaps important, activities. Intrinsic motivation thus appears to be created and maintained through an ongoing temporal process, with individuals potentially having an active as well as passive role in the process. This suggests that the potential to foster interest in education may not depend solely on the ability and efforts of educators or educational materials, but also on the ability and efforts of the individual student.

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The research described in this paper was funded by grants to the first author from the Spencer Foundation, and the Biomedical Research Support Grant Program, Division of Research Resources, National Institutes of Health (BRSG S07 RR07092). Portions of the research and preparation of this article were also facilitated by a grant awarded to Carol Sansone and Cynthia A. Berg from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and National Institute on Aging (HD25728). We would like to thank Mark Lepper for his helpful comments on a previous version of this article.

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Sansone, C., Morgan, C. Intrinsic motivation and education: Competence in context. Motiv Emot 16, 249–270 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00991654

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