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How values affect motivation

How values affect motivation

In the last part, we discussed motivation and the different types of goals. There are two major factors that influence motivation- values and expectancies. Today, we will talk about values, and we can discuss expectancies in the next episode.

We can describe value as a goal’s importance. It is often referred to as subjective value, one of the key features influencing the motivation to pursue a particular goal. Students are motivated to engage in behaviours to attain goals that have a high relative value. So, when confronted with different types of goals, people tend to pursue the goal which has the highest value for them.

Allan Wigfield, Professor in the Department of Human Development and Distinguished Scholar-Teacher at the University of Maryland, and Jacquelynne Eccles, American Educational Psychologist, suggest that there are three broad determinants of subjective value with respect to achievement-related activities and goals, namely attainment value, intrinsic value, and instrumental value.

Intrinsic value refers to the satisfaction one receives from doing the task rather than focusing on a specific outcome.

Attainment value refers to the satisfaction one gains from accomplishing or mastering a goal or task. For example, a student may get great satisfaction from solving a complex mathematical problem. Similarly, people spend hours playing video games to reach higher levels. Here, they are trying to acquire mastery of that game.

Intrinsic value refers to the satisfaction one receives from doing the task rather than focusing on a specific outcome. For example, a student spends hours studying complex science theory or working tirelessly to design a computer programme only because they love it. This value is tied to the specific content of the goal.

According to Wigfield and Eccles, the final determinant of subjective value is instrumental value. It refers to the degree to which a goal helps one accomplish other important goals. Through this, students gain what we traditionally refer to as extrinsic rewards. A promising career, money, praise, and a high-status job are all longer-term goals that provide instrumental value to shorter-term goals. For example, a student who studies business administration only because of the money they expect in the industry will be motivated to attend the classes and study by this instrumental value provided by the course. Students know that studying the course will help them towards their desired salary and status.

The distinction between the traditional concepts of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is not as dichotomous as stated in theories. For example, a student who studies may derive value from multiple sources, including solving challenging problems (attainment value), engaging her fascination with biological processes (intrinsic value) and working hard to secure the chance to get a good medical school (instrumental value). According to K. Anne Renninger, Research Professor and Chair of the Department of Educational Studies at Swarthmore College, and educational psychologist Suzanne Hidi, a task that holds only instrumental value to a student in the initial stages can come to have intrinsic value as he develops knowledge and competence in the subject area.

In the next part, we will discuss the second factor influencing motivation, and that is expectancies.

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