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The Zeigarnik effect and intrinsic motivation: Are they the same?


The present study focused on delineating the parameters under which intrinsic motivation leads an individual to reengage an activity from those that result in the Zeigarnik effect. In a posttask free-choice period, participants not completing the experimental task displayed more reengagement behavior than participants completing the task (the Zeigarnik effect). When participants were also provided self-efficacious performance feedback via a prearranged competitive outcome manipulation, there was no evidence of the Zeigarnik effect, while there was support for intrinsic motivation from competent self-efficacious performance feedback. Results were discussed in terms of distinguishing between intrinsic motivation and the Zeigarnik effect as sources of reengagement motivation. It was concluded that, in the presence of self-efficacious performance feedback, the competent-incompetent impression was more salient than task-completion feedback.

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Preparation of this article was supported by Texas Christian University grant TCU/RF 5-23757.

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Reeve, J., Cole, S.G. & Olson, B.C. The Zeigarnik effect and intrinsic motivation: Are they the same?. Motiv Emot 10, 233–245 (1986).

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  • Social Psychology
  • Intrinsic Motivation
  • Experimental Task
  • Performance Feedback
  • Competitive Outcome