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How Dimensional Comparisons Help to Understand Linkages Between Expectancies, Values, Performance, and Choice

Abstract

The authors connect Möller and Marsh’s dimensional comparison theory with Eccles, Wigfield, and colleagues’ expectancy-value theory of achievement performance and choice, to help explain the observed relations between key constructs in expectancy-value theory and their relations to individuals’ achievement outcomes by specifying processes that underlie those relations. Dimensional comparison processes concern individuals’ comparisons of their ability in one domain with their ability in another domain. The authors posit that these (along with social and temporal comparisons) play a critical role not just in the development of individuals’ self-concepts of ability but also in the development of their subjective task values for different activities, and the connections of these to performance and choice. Dimensional comparison theory and the evidence for the strong impact of dimensional comparisons on individuals’ self-concepts of ability is presented, followed by a brief overview of expectancy-value theory. The authors then discuss how dimensional comparisons can impact subjective task values but why the relations are weaker than for self-concepts of ability. They then describe how dimensional comparisons influence individuals’ interpretations of their achievement outcomes and their affective reactions to those outcomes and conclude with suggestions for future research.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Eccles (Parsons) et al. also included locus of control in the “interpretations of experience” box; because of its overlap with the internal-external dimension in attribution theory, we do not include it here.

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Funding

Much of the research done by Eccles, Wigfield, and their colleagues discussed in this article were supported by Grant HD-17553 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Other research of ours discussed in this chapter was supported by Grant MH-31724 from the National Institute for Mental Health, HD-17296 from NICHD, Grant BNS-8510504, from the National Science Foundation, and grants from the Spencer Foundation.

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Wigfield, A., Eccles, J.S. & Möller, J. How Dimensional Comparisons Help to Understand Linkages Between Expectancies, Values, Performance, and Choice. Educ Psychol Rev 32, 657–680 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-020-09524-2

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Keywords

  • Dimensional-comparison theory
  • Expectancy-value theory
  • Motivation
  • Achievement