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Reconceptualizing of the overjustification effect: A template-matching approach

Abstract

The paper reviews traditional attributional explanations for the over-justification effect in task motivation, isolates their weaknesses, and proposes an alternative account based on the notion that individuals process task information schematically. It is proposed that task information relating to motivation is interpreted by cognitive schema or “templates,” which identify tasks as being either instrumental or expressive in nature. When the expressive template is evoked, the task is perceived to be playlike and is experienced as inherently motivating. When the instrumental template is evoked, the task is perceived as a means to an end and task motivation results from the perceived value of the task for attaining intrinsic and/or extrinsic rewards. Structural characteristics of these templates are proposed. According to this account, overjustification effects occur when the perceived characteristics of tasks change such that the expressive template is replaced by the instrumental template and expressive motivation is transformed into instrumental motivation.

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Correspondence to Lloyd E. Sandelands.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments of Jeanne Brett, L. L. Cummings, James Larson, Joseph Moag, Alice Tybout, and an anonymous reviewer in the preparation of this manuscript.

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Sandelands, L.E., Ashford, S.J. & Dutton, J.E. Reconceptualizing of the overjustification effect: A template-matching approach. Motiv Emot 7, 229–255 (1983). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00991675

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Keywords

  • Structural Characteristic
  • Social Psychology
  • Task Motivation
  • Cognitive Schema
  • Alternative Account