What is it about?

Although intrinsic motivation (wanting to engage in a task because it is enjoyable) is often viewed as preferable to extrinsic motivation (engaging in a task to attain an outcome separate from the task itself), there is evidence that the adaptiveness of these motivational states depends on the type of task being completed. Intrinsic motivation tends to benefit performance on open-ended tasks (e.g., creative writing) and extrinsic motivation tends to benefit performance on closed-ended tasks (e.g., multiple choice). We explored, for the first time, what people's beliefs are about the benefits of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for open-ended and closed-ended tasks. We also showed that having more accurate beliefs helps promote task performance.

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Why is it important?

Our findings show for the first time that typically, people's beliefs align with typical performance effects found in the motivation literature: people generally reported that intrinsic motivational strategies (e.g., making the task more interesting) was more useful for open-ended tasks and that extrinsic motivational strategies (e.g., a reward) was more useful for closed-ended tasks. However, people do not always get it right: in some of our studies, people reported that extrinsic motivational strategies were equally useful across task types. Additionally, we showed that when people do have accurate beliefs about these motivations, it helps them perform well on both open-ended and closed-ended tasks.

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This page is a summary of: Metamotivational beliefs about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, October 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/pspa0000362.
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