Two experiments demonstrated that positive affect fosters intrinsic motivation, as reflected by choice of activity in a free-choice situation and by rated amount of enjoyment of a novel and challenging task, but also promotes responsible work behavior in a situation where the work needs to be done. Where there was work that needed to be done, people in the positive-affect condition reduced their time on the enjoyable task, successfully completed the work task, but also spent time on the more enjoyable task. These results indicate that positive affect does foster intrinsic motivation, and enjoyment and performance of enjoyable tasks, but not at the cost of responsible work behavior on an uninteresting task that needs to be done. Implications for the relationship between positive affect and such aspects of self-regulation as forward-looking thinking and self-control are discussed.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Overall, participants rated the colorful hard candies (M = 4.5) and assorted chocolates (M = 4.5) as equally attractive. As to the choice between the two bags, participants split almost evenly (21 of 40, 52% preferred the hard candies). Participants' attractiveness ratings and choice between bags of candies did not differ as a function of the affect manipulation.
We tested for possible order effects to see whether first playing with one activity or the other affected any of our five dependent measures. Participants who puzzle-solved first did not differ significantly from participants who engaged the letter strings first on any measure: Interest in puzzle (t < 1); interest in letter strings (t < 1); free-choice persistence with puzzle (t = 1.61, p > .1); free-choice persistence with letter strings (t = 1.28; p > .1); and performance speed on letter strings (t = 1.37; p > .1).
As in Experiment 1, the experimenter asked the participant to rate each bag of candy on a 1–7 scale. Again the two types of candy were rated and chosen about equally (bag of chocolates, M = 5.1 rating with 35 of 60, 58% choosing it; bag of hard candies, M = 4.6 rating with 25 of 60, 42% choosing it).
We tested for possible order effects to see whether first playing with one activity or the other affected any of our five dependent measures. Participants who puzzle-solved first did not differ significantly from participants who engaged the letter strings task first on any measure: Interest in puzzle (t = 1.04; p > .1); interest in letter strings (t < 1); free-choice persistence with puzzle (t < 1); free-choice persistence with letter strings (t < 1); and performance speed on letter strings (t < 1).
When we used difference scores (persistence on puzzle minus persistence on letter-strings) instead of persistence on the puzzle as the dependent measure, results were virtually the same. Planned comparisons showed that when given a free orientation positive affect participants played relatively more with the puzzle than did neutral affect participants (Ms = 276.4 vs. 21.4, t = 3.14, t < .01); when given a work orientation, positive affect participants played relatively less with the puzzle than when given a free orientation (Ms, 10.5 vs. 276.4, t = 3.53, p < 01).
Ashby, F. G., Isen, A. M. & Turken, A. U. (1999). A neuropsychological theory of positive affect and its influence on cognition. Psychological Review, 106, 529–550.
Aspinwall, L. G. (1998). Rethinking the role of positive affect in self-regulation. Motivation and Emotion, 22, 1–32.
Aspinwall, L.G., & Brunhart, S. M. (1996). Distinguishing optimism from denial: Optimistic beliefs predict attention to health threats. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 993–1003.
Aspinwall, L. G., & Brunhart, S. M. (2000). What I do know won't hurt me: Optimism, attention to negative information, coping, and health. In J. E. Gillham (Eds.), The science of optimism and hope (pp. 163–200). Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation.
Aspinwall, L. G., & MacNamara, A. (2005). Taking positive changes seriously: Toward a positive psychology of cancer survivorship and resilience. Cancer, 104 (11 Suppl), 2549–2556.
Aspinwall, L. G., & Richter, L. (1999). Optimism and self-mastery predict more rapid disengagement from unsolvable tasks in the presence of alternatives. Motivation and Emotion, 23, 221–245.
Aspinwall, L. G., Richter, L., & Hoffman, R. R. (2001). Understanding how optimism “works”: An examination of optimists' adaptive moderation of belief and behavior. In E. C. Chang (Eds.), Optimism and pessimism: Theory, research, and practice (pp. 217–238). Washington: American Psychological Association.
Aspinwall, L. G., & Taylor, S. E. (1997). A stitch in time: Self-regulation and proactive coping. Psychological Bulletin, 121, 417–436.
Bower, G. H. (1981). Mood and memory. American Psychologist, 36, 129–148.
Cialdini, R. B., Darby, B. L., & Vincent, J. E. (1973). Transgression and altruism: A case for hedonism. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 9, 502–516.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.
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.
Erez, A., & Isen, A. M. (2002). The influence of positive affect on the components of expectancy motivation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89, 1055–1067.
Erber, R., & Erber, M. W. (2000). The Self-Regulation of Moods: Second Thoughts on the Importance of Happiness in Everyday Life. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 142–148.
Estrada, C. A., Isen, A. M., & Young, M. J. (1994). Positive affect improves creative problem solving and influences reported source of practice satisfaction in physicians. Motivation and Emotion, 18, 285–299.
Estrada, C. A., Isen, A. M., & Young, M. J. (1997). Positive affect facilitates integration of information and decreases anchoring in reasoning among physicians. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 72, 117–135.
Forgas, J. P. (1995). Mood and judgment: The affect infusion Model (AIM). Psychological Bulletin, 117, 39–66.
Forgas, J. P. (2002). Feeling and doing: Affective influences on interpersonal behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 13, 1–28.
Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). What good are positive emotions? Review of General Psychology, 2, 300–319.
Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The Broaden-and-Build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218–226.
Frederickson, B. L., & Joiner, T. (2002). Positive emotions trigger upward spirals toward emotional well-being. Psychological Science, 13, 172–175.
Harackewicz, J. (1979). The effects of reward contingency and performance feedback on intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 1352–1363.
Isen, A. M. (1990). The influence of positive and negative affect on cognitive organization: Some implications for development. In N. Stein, B. Leventhal, & T. Trabasso (Eds.). Psychological and Biological Approaches to Emotion (pp. 75–94). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Isen, A. M. (1993). Positive affect and decision making. In M. Lewis & J. Haviland-Jones (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (pp. 261–277). NY: Guilford.
Isen, A. M. (2000). Positive affect and decision making. In M. Lewis & J. Haviland-Jones (Eds.), Handbook of emotions, 2nd Edition (pp. 417–435). NY: Guilford.
Isen, A. M. (2003). Positive affect as a source of human strength. In L. G. Aspinwall & U. M. Staudinger (Eds.). A psychology of human strengths: Fundamental questions and future directions for a positive psychology (pp. 179–195). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Isen, A. M., & Daubman, K. A. (1984). The influence of affect on categorization. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 1206–1217.
Isen, A. M., Daubman, K. A., & Nowicki, G. P. (1987). Positive affect facilitates creative problem solving. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 1122–1131.
Isen, A. M., & Geva, N. (1987). The influence of positive affect on acceptable level of risk: The person with a large canoe has a large worry. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 39, 145–154.
Isen, A. M., Johnson, M. M., Mertz, E., & Robinson, G. F. (1985). The influence of positive affect on the unusualness of word associations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 1413– 1426.
Isen, A. M., Niedenthal, P. & Cantor, N. (1992). An influence of positive affect on social categorization. Motivation and Emotion, 16, 65–78.
Isen, A. M., Nygren, T. E., & Ashby, F. G. (1988). The influence of positive affect on the subjective utility of gains and losses: It is just not worth the risk. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 710–717.
Isen, A. M., & Patrick, R. (1983). The effect of positive feelings on risk-taking: When the chips are down. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 31, 194–202.
Isen, A. M., Rosenzweig, A. S., & Young, M. J. (1991). The influence of positive affect on clinical problem solving. Medical Decision Making, 11, 221–227.
Isen, A. M., & Shalker, T. E. (1982). The effect of feeling state on the evaluation of positive, neutral, and negative stimuli: When you accentutate the positive, do you eliminate the negative?. Social Psychology Quarterly, 45, 58–63.
Isen, A. M., Shalker, T. E., Clark, M. S., & Karp, L. (1978). Affect, accessibility of material, and behavior: A cognitive loop? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 1–12.
Isen, A. M., & Simmonds, S. F. (1978). The effect of feeling good on a helping task that is incompatible with good mood. Social Psychology Quarterly, 41, 345–349.
Kahn, B. E., & Isen, A. M. (1993). The influence of positive affect on variety seeking among safe, enjoyable products. Journal of Consumer Research, 20, 257–270.
Kraiger, K., Billings, R. S., & Isen, A. M. (1989). The influence of positive affective states on task perceptions and satisfaction. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 44, 12–25.
Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Rodriguez, (1989). Delay of gratification in children. Science, 244, 993–938.
Nygren, T. E., Isen, A. M., Taylor, P. J., & Dulin, J. (1996). The influence of positive affect on the decision rule in risk situations: Focus on outcome (and especially avoidance of loss) rather than probability. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 66, 59–72.
Raghunathan, R., & Trope, Y. (2002). Walking the tightrope between feeling good and being accurate: Mood as a resource in processing persuasive messages. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 510–525.
Reeve, J. (1989). The interest-enjoyment distinction in intrinsic motivation. Motivation and Emotion, 13, 83–103.
Reeve, J. (2002). Self-determination theory applied to educational settings. In E. L. Deci & R. M. Ryan (Eds.) Handbook of self-determination theory (pp. 183–202). Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.
Reeve, J., Nix, G., & Hamm, D. (2003). Testing models of the experience of self-determination in intrinsic motivation and the conundrum of choice. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95, 375–392.
Reeve, J., Olson, B. C., & Cole, S. G. (1985). Motivation and performance: Two consequences of winning and losing in competition. Motivation and Emotion, 9, 291–298.
Ryan, R. M., & Connell, J. P. (1989). Perceived locus of causality and internalization: Examining reasons for acting in two domains. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 749–761.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68–78.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). To be happy or to be self-fulfilled: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. In S. Fiske (Eds.), Annual Review of Psychology (Vol. 52, pp. 141–166). Palo Alto, CA: Annual Reviews, Inc.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2002). An overview of self-determination theory: An organismic-dialectical perspective. In E. L. Deci & R. M. Ryan (Eds.), Handbook of self-determination research (pp. 3–33). Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.
Salovey, P., & Birnbaum, D. (1989). Influence of mood on health-relevant cognitions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 539–551.
Schwarz, N., & Bless, H. (1991). Happy and mindless, but sad and smart? The impact of affective states on analytic reasoning. In J. P. Forgas (Ed.). Emotion and social judgment (pp. 55–72). NY: Guilford.
Staw, B. M. & Barsade, S. Y. (1993). Affect and managerial performance: A test of the sadder-but wiser vs. happier-and-smarter hypotheses. Administrative Science Quarterly, 38, 304–331.
Trope, Y., & Neter, E. (1994). Reconciling competing motives in self-evaluation: The role of self-control in feedback seeking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 646–657.
Trope, Y., & Pomerantz, E. M. (1998). Resolving conflicts among self-evaluative motives: Positive experiences as a resource for overcoming defensiveness. Motivation and Emotion, 22, 53–72.
Wegener, D.T., & Petty, R. E. (1994). Mood management across affective states: The hedonic contingency hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 1034–1048.
Wegener, D. T., Petty, R. E., & Smith, S. M. (1995). Positive mood can increase or decrease message scrutiny: The hedonic contingency view of mood and message processing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 5–15.
The authors thank Lisa Aspinwall for her helpful comments on the manuscript.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Isen, A.M., Reeve, J. The Influence of Positive Affect on Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: Facilitating Enjoyment of Play, Responsible Work Behavior, and Self-Control. Motiv Emot 29, 295–323 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-006-9019-8
- self control
- positive affect
- intrinsic motivation