Skip to main content

Ego-involved persistence: When free-choice behavior is not intrinsically motivated

Abstract

Experiments on factors affecting intrinsic motivation have generally inferred intrinsic motivation from subjects' engagement in a target activity during a “free-choice period” when external contingencies are no longer operative. However, internally controlling regulation is a form of internal motivation that is very different from intrinsic motivation and can underlie free-choice-period activity. This paper presents three experiments concerned with differentiating internally controlling from intrinsically motivated persistence in situations where ego-involved vs. task-involved subjects had received positive vs. nonconfirming (or no) performance feedback. The first experiment showed that ego-involved (relative to task-involved) subjects displayed less free-choice persistence when they received positive feedback, whereas the second experiment showed that ego-involved (relative to task-involved) subjects displayed more free-choice persistence when they received nonconfirming feedback. In both experiments, however, it was shown that ego-involved subjects did not report the expected affective correlates of intrinsic motivation—namely, interest/enjoyment and perceived choice—whereas task-involved subjects did. In the third experiment, as predicted, ego-involved subjects tended to show less free-choice persistence than task-involved subjects when they received positive performance feedback but greater free-choice persistence when they received no performance feedback. The problem of distinguishing intrinsically motivated activity from internally controlled behavior is discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Anderson, S., & Rodin, J. (1989). Is bad news always bad?: Cue and feedback effects on intrinsic motivation.Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 19 449–467.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Baumeister, R. F., & Tice, D. M. (1985). Self-esteem and responses to success and failure: Subsequent performance and intrinsic motivation.Journal of Personality, 53 450–467.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Butler, R. (1987). Task-involving and ego-involving properties of evaluation: Effects of different feedback conditions on motivational perceptions, interest, and performance.Journal of Educational Psychology, 79 474–482.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (1981).Attention and self-regulation: A control theory approach to human behavior. New York: Springer-Verlag.

    Google Scholar 

  5. deCharms, R. (1968).Personal causation: The internal affective determinants of behavior. New York: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Deci, E. L. (1972). Intrinsic motivation, extrinsic reinforcement, and inequity.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 22 113–120.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Deci, E. L. (1975).Intrinsic motivation. New York: Plenum Press.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Deci, E. L., Eghrari, H., Patrick, B. C., & Leone, D. R. (1991).Facilitating internalization: The self-determination theory perspective. Unpublished manuscript, University of Rochester.

  9. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1980). The empirical exploration of intrinsic motivational process. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.),Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 13, pp. 39–80). New York: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985a). The general causality orientations scale: Self-determination in personality.Journal of Research in Personality, 19 109–134.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985b).Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum Press.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1987). The support of autonomy and the control of behavior.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53 1024–1037.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Dweck, C. S. (1986). Motivational processes affecting learning.American Psychologist, 41 1040–1048.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Greenwald, A. G. (1982). Ego task analysis: An integration of research on ego-involvement and self-awareness. In A. H. Hastorf & A. M. Isen (Eds.),Cognitive social psychology (pp. 107–147). New York: Elsevier.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Harackiewicz, J. (1979). The effects of reward contingency and performance feedback on intrinsic motivation.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37 1352–1363.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Harackiewicz, J., Abrahams, S., & Wageman, R. (1987). Performance evaluation and intrinsic motivation: The effects of evaluative focus, rewards, and achievement motivation.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53 1015–1023.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Harackiewicz, J., & Manderlink, G. (1984). A process analysis of the effects of performance-contingent rewards on intrinsic motivation.Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 20 531–551.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Koestner, R., Bernieri, F., & Zuckerman, M. (1992). Self-regulation and consistency between attitudes, traits and behaviors.Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 18 52–59.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Koestner, R., Zuckerman, M., & Koestner, J. (1987). Praise, involvement, and intrinsic motivation.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53 383–390.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Koestner, R., Zuckerman, M., & Olsson, J. (1990). Attributional style, comparison focus of praise and intrinsic motivation.Journal of Research in Personality, 24 87–100.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Lepper, M. R., & Greene, D. (1975). Turning play into work: Effects of adult surveillance and extrinsic rewards on children's intrinsic motivation.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31 479–486.

    Google Scholar 

  22. McCauley, E., Duncan, T., & Tammen, V. V. (1989). Psychometric properties of the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory in a competitive sport setting: A confirmatory factor analysis.Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 60 48–58.

    Google Scholar 

  23. McClelland, D. C., Atkinson, J. W., Clark, R. W., & Lowell, E. L. (1953).The achievement motive. New York: Appleton-Century-Croft.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Nicholls, J. G. (1984). Achievement motivation: Conceptions of ability, subjective experience, task choice, and performance.Psychological Review, 91 328–346.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Pelletier, L. G. (1989).Une analyse des antécédents et des conséquénces de style du superviseur sur la motivation intrinsèque due subordonné. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Quebec at Montreal.

  26. Plant, R., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and the effects of self-consciousness, self-awareness, and ego-involvement: An investigation of internally controlling styles.Journal of Personality, 53 435–449.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Rosenthal, R. (1978). Combining results of independent studies.Psychological Bulletin, 85 185–193.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Ryan, R. M. (1982). Control and information in the intrapersonal sphere: An extension of cognitive evaluation theory.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43 450–461.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Ryan, R. M., Mims, V., & Koestner, R. (1983). Relation of reward contingency and interpersonal context to intrinsic motivation: A review and test using cognitive evaluation theory.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45 736–770.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Sansone, C. (1986). A question of competence: The effects of competence and task feedback on intrinsic interest.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51 918–931.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Sherif, M., & Cantril, H. (1947).The psychology of ego involvements, social attitudes and identifications. New York: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Sternberg, R. J. (1986).Intelligence applied: Understanding and improving your intellectual skills. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

    Google Scholar 

  33. White, R. W. (1959). Motivation recosidered: The concept of competence.Psychological Review, 66 297–333.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Richard M. Ryan.

Additional information

Preparation of this manuscript was facilitated by research grant HD19914 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to the Human Motivation Program in the Department of Psychology at the University of Rochester and by a grant from Fonds pour la Formation de Chercheurs et L'Aide a la Recherche (FCAR-Quebec) to Richard Koestner. We thank Robert E. Driver, Robert W. Plant, Loretta J. Tallon, and Joseph E. Tomassone for help with data collection and analyses.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ryan, R.M., Koestner, R. & Deci, E.L. Ego-involved persistence: When free-choice behavior is not intrinsically motivated. Motiv Emot 15, 185–205 (1991). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00995170

Download citation

Keywords

  • Social Psychology
  • Motivate Activity
  • Positive Feedback
  • Intrinsic Motivation
  • Positive Performance