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Category Archive: motivation

Mastery goals work well when there is autonomy-support

When are mastery goals more adaptive? It depends on experiences of autonomy support and autonomy

By Benita, Moti; Roth, Guy; Deci, Edward L.
Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 106(1), Feb 2014, 258-267.

Abstract: Mastery goals are generally considered the most adaptive achievement goals. In 2 studies, we tested whether, in line with self-determination theory, participants’ experiences of autonomy support and autonomy would affect the relations between mastery goals and psychological outcomes. In Study 1 (an experiment), 117 college students, randomly assigned to 3 groups (autonomy-supportive, autonomy-suppressive, neutral), adopted an intrapersonal-competence standard to improve graphic quality of handwriting. Results showed that mastery goals led to more positive emotional experiences when given in an autonomy-supportive context relative to the other two. Study 2 extended the research to natural settings and learners’ motives among 7th and 8th graders (n = 839) responding to questionnaires about a specific class. Results revealed stronger relations of mastery goals with interest and enjoyment and with behavioral engagement when students perceived their level of choice (experience of autonomy) as high rather than low. We therefore propose that research on achievement goals should consider both the contexts and the motives accompanying the goals.

Could you ask me what is going well in my job?

MH900422543Recently, Gwenda Schlundt Bodien and I conducted a training progress-focused management in a large organization in the financial sector. One of the participating managers said that wished that his manager would ask him about what goes right in his job and about what progress he has made. He said that getting asked this question would not only help him get a clearer sight on what went right, he felt he would also experience it as a form of recognition. Click here to read more »

The Science of Interest

interestingOn Annie Murphy Paul’s predictably interesting The Brillant Blog, there are two new posts about interest; about what it is, how it develops and what its consequences are (here and here). I’ll try to summarize -and paraphrase, here and there- some of the things she writes but do visit her blog to read more.

Annie writes about the emerging science of interest which shows that, when we are interested, we process information better and deeper, we work harder and persist longer. So, when do we find things interesting? It seems that, in order to be interesting, things must be novel, complex and comprehensible. Once we are interested in something, our interest may autonomously grow and develop further because when we know something about our topic of interest, new information we come across may not fit well with what we know. Because we want to resolve the conflict between what we know and the new information, our interest is sustained. Click here to read more »

Alfie Kohn’s critique on praise (which differs from Carol Dweck’s)

Alfie Kohn, author of Punished by Rewards, has written an article, Criticizing (common criticisms of) praise, in which he says that his critique on praise differs from Carol Dweck’s critique on praise. Kohn views praise as a way of doing something to people instead of working with them and he prefers the latter. Apart from this value judgement, he says, praise has the negative effect of undermining people’s intrinsic motivation for the task they are praised for. Furthermore, praise, according to Kohn, signals conditional acceptance (while children need unconditional care). Kohn points out what he is not arguing for: 1) to praise less frequently, 2) to praise more meaningful, 3) to praise for effort rather than ability, 4) to give kids only praise when they deserve it. Click here to read more »

Discuss progress with each other

discussBy focusing on progress in meaningful work, your work experience and your performance are stimulated. It is useful to make explicit what progress you have achieved, for example by keeping a progress diary. If you don’t make progress explicit it may well be that you are not aware of the progress you are actually making. This is because progress can remain largely invisible if you don’t consciously focus on it. The reason for this is that we usually focus our conscious attention mainly on what has gone wrong and on what we still have to do. Progress which you have already made is thus easily overlooked. Click here to read more »

Remove obstacles

Making progress in meaningful work is one of the most motivating factors for employees. Therefore, it is important to talk about and to describe desired and achieved progress, frequently. But did you know that negative occurrences such as setbacks and failures can have a  2 to 3 times stronger (negative) effect on motivation than positive factors? This was shown in a study by Amabile and Kramer.

Because negative events can have such a strong negative impact it is important to, whenever you can, prevent and take away any disturbing factors. Managers play an important role  in this. As a manager, by removing obstacles, you can enable motivated employees to make the progress they want to make. Here are four examples of such obstacles: Click here to read more »

Define ‘meaningful’

In 5 steps to harness the progress principle I mentioned the research finding that progress in meaningful work is extremely motivating. In other words, the more you think that your work contributes to what is valuable to you, the more motivating it will be for you to achieve progress in this work. To speak of meaningful work, means to go beyond a simple  task or results focus. To do meaningful work means that, as an employee, you have the feeling that completing the task or achieving the results is linked to an underlying purpose that is valuable to you. Here is an example.
Click here to read more »

5 steps to harness the progress principle

In their large-scale study, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer have discovered that making progress in meaningful work is a main contributor to a positive work life and to good performance (Read more about this study, here). Here are a few practical suggestions to harness the power of meaningful progress.

  1. Define ‘meaningful': It is progress in meaningful work which is so motivating. Therefore it is important to know what ‘meaningful’ means to you. You can do this by deliberate thinking about what is important to you at work and by discussing meaningfulness with colleagues and managers. Chances are, you will start to start to see the meaningfulness of your work better and maybe you will even manage to increase it. > More about this Click here to read more »

A growth mindset makes people focus more on the desired future

Implicit theories and motivational focus: Desired future versus present reality
A. Timur Sevincer, Lena Kluge, Gabriele Oettingen (2013)


Abstract: People’s beliefs concerning their abilities differ. Incremental theorists believe their abilities (e.g., intelligence) are malleable; entity theorists believe their abilities are fixed (Dweck in Mindset: the new psychology of success. Random House, New York, 2007). On the basis that incremental theorists should emphasize improving their abilities for the future, whereas entity theorists should emphasize demonstrating their abilities in the present reality, we predicted that, when thinking about their wishes, compared to entity theorists, incremental theorists focus more toward the desired future than the present reality. We assessed participants’ motivational focus using a paradigm that differentiated how much they chose to imagine the desired future versus the present reality regarding an important wish (Kappes et al. in Emotion 11: 1206–1222, 2011). We found the predicted effect by manipulating (Study 1) and measuring implicit theories (Study 2), in the academic (Study 1) and in the sport domain (Study 2).

3 Questions and answers about the growth mindset

mindsetxYesterday, I attend a congress presentation which included a section about the advantages of a growth mindset. After the presentation there was room for a few questions from the audience. The following questions were asked: 1) Can you change people’s mindset?,  2) What proportion of the people have a fixed mindset and what proportion have a growth mindset?, 3) Is it really necessary that everybody has a growth mindset? Wouldn’t it be better to have a combination of people with a fixed mindset and people with a growth mindset in your team?


These are questions I have heard before and which I think are interesting. The presenter gave some good answers but I have some additional answers I’d like to share here. Click here to read more »

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