Mindfulness as a moderator of the effect of implicit motivational self-concept on day-to-day behavioral motivation

Abstract

Drawing from theories regarding the role of awareness in behavioral self-regulation, this research was designed to examine the role of mindfulness as a moderator between implicit motivation and the motivation for day-to-day behavior. We hypothesized that dispositional mindfulness (Brown and Ryan, J Pers Soc Psychol, 84, 822–848, 2003) would act to modify the expression of implicit autonomy orientation in daily behavioral motivation. Using the Implicit Association Test (Greenwald et al. J Pers Soc Psychol, 74, 1464–1480, 1998), Study 1 provided evidence for the reliability and validity of a new measure of implicit autonomy orientation. Using an experience-sampling strategy, Study 2 showed the hypothesized moderating effect, such that implicit autonomy orientation predicted day-to-day motivation only for those lower in dispositional mindfulness. Those higher in mindfulness showed more autonomously motivated behavior regardless of implicit orientation toward autonomy or heteronomy. It also showed that this moderating effect of awareness was specific to mindfulness and was primarily manifest in spontaneous behavior. Discussion focuses on the implications of these findings for dual process theory and research.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    It is important to distinguish this use of the term “autonomy” from that used in the social cognition literature, in which autonomy is equated with automatic processing without conscious guidance (e.g., Bargh et al. 2001; Wegner and Bargh 1998).

  2. 2.

    One of these IAT tasks was of interest to other, unpublished research.

  3. 3.

    Because the stimulus words me and free were used as category labels in the dispositional autonomy IAT in both Study 1 and 2, we deleted all trials using these words before calculating the IAT effect. Inclusion of these trials did not meaningfully alter the results in either study.

  4. 4.

    Similarly, no gender effects were found on these measures in Study 2.

  5. 5.

    Other, unpublished research from our laboratories has shown no relation between either implicit measure and BIDR-assessed self-presentation biases, suggesting that the correlation found here may be unreliable.

  6. 6.

    Cyclicity is typically tested using either a dummy variable approach or the trigonometric function approach used here (see Bowerman and O’Connell 1993). The fit of a sine function was also examined here, but across analyses, a cosine function consistently provided a better fit. We tested for septurnal, or 7-day weekly cyclicity because this is the most common interval over which cyclical effects have been reported in autonomy (Reis et al. 2000).

  7. 7.

    The day and time that each record form was completed was used to create a continuous time variable which started at day 1, record 1, and ran linearly upward to day 14, record 3 (see Schwartz and Stone 1998). For each sampling record, the number of minutes after the pager signal that the form was completed was subtracted from the actual time of record completion to derive the actual time that each record’s data referred to.

  8. 8.

    In this study, the absence of a significant relation between implicit dispositional autonomy and day-to-day motivation for behavior among more mindful individuals was not due to a restriction of range in the levels of day-to-day autonomy for these individuals. The correlation between mean level of mindfulness and the standard deviation of day-to-day autonomy scores was r = .06, p = .62. We thank an anonymous reviewer for suggesting a test of this alternative interpretation of the results.

  9. 9.

    This study also included the same explicit and implicit attitude measures used in Study 1. Results replicated those of Study 1. Neither set of attitude measures predicted daily nor retrospectively assessed behavioral motivation.

  10. 10.

    Preliminary analyses on the data from Study 2 also tested whether the effects of explicit autonomy on day-to-day and retrospective motivation were moderated by mindfulness. No significant interaction effects were found.

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Acknowledgements

This research was facilitated by a grant from the Positive Psychology Summer Institute and a Missouri State University Summer Faculty Fellowship to Chantal Levesque. We thank La Toya McQuater, Chris Niemiec, and Layla Stanek for research assistance, and Michaela Hynie, Harry Reis, and members of the University of Rochester Motivation Research Group for helpful comments on a draft of this article.

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Correspondence to Chantal Levesque.

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Levesque, C., Brown, K.W. Mindfulness as a moderator of the effect of implicit motivational self-concept on day-to-day behavioral motivation. Motiv Emot 31, 284–299 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-007-9075-8

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Keywords

  • Implicit motivation
  • Autonomy
  • Mindfulness
  • Self-determination theory
  • Implicit Association Test