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The impact of task difficulty expectations on intrinsic motivation


Two studies investigated expectations of task difficulty induced prior to task involvement and their impact upon an individual's subsequent intrinsic interest. Expectations of task difficulty were manipulated through easy/hard instructions by the experimenters. Interest, but not performance, varied as function of expected task difficulty, with “easy” eliciting greater interest than “hard” instructions. The generality of this finding was supported by its demonstration in studies utilizing different experimenters (male, female), subject populations (children, college), and tasks (perceptual-motor, cognitive).

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Correspondence to Harry L. Hom Jr..

Additional information

The authors thank Susan L. Hom, John C. McCullers, Elaine Wilson, and Richard A. Fabes for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this article. Partial support for this research was provided by a Faculty Research Grant from Southwest Missouri State University. The senior author also wishes to acknowledge the active support of the Family Relations and Child Development Department while he was on sabbatical leave at Oklahoma State University. Portions of this research were presented at the 1982 APA convention.

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Hom, H.L., Maxwell, F.R. The impact of task difficulty expectations on intrinsic motivation. Motiv Emot 7, 19–24 (1983).

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  • Social Psychology
  • Intrinsic Motivation
  • Task Difficulty
  • Subject Population
  • Intrinsic Interest