Tag Archives: Mark Lepper

Multiple Paths Toward Goals Can Motivate, then Derail Success

Szu-Chi Huang

Szu-Chi Huang

Goal motivation changes as people move closer to their target, according to Stanford’s Szu-chi Huang and Ying Zhang of University of Texas, who built on Heinz Heckhausen’s Action-Phase Model.

Ying Zhang

Ying Zhang

In the first stages of effort, multiple paths toward the goal makes the target seem attainable, noted Huang and Zhang.

Albert Bandura

Albert Bandura

This perception of “self-efficacy,” belief in their ability to achieve a goal by applying effort and persistence, provides motivation to continue goal striving and reduce emotional arousal, reported Stanford’s Albert Bandura.

Clark Hull

Clark Hull

In contrast, when people are close to achieving a goal, a single goal path provides greater motivation, consistent with Clark Hull’s Goal Gradient Theory that motivation increases closer to the goal.

Sheena Iyengar

Sheena Iyengar

A single route to the finish reduces “cognitive load” of considering alternate “hows”, suggested Huang and Zhang.
Like Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper’s finding that “more choice is not always better”, too much choice can derail last steps toward a goal.

Peter Gollwitzer

Peter Gollwitzer

These stages of goal pursuit can be characterized by differing mindsets: “Deliberative Mindset” when considering work toward a goal contrasted with “Implemention Mindset” when planning execution steps to achieve a goal, according to NYU’s Peter Gollwitzer, Heinz Heckhausen, and Birgit Steller of University of Heidelberg.

Huang, a former account director at advertising giant JWT, evaluated customer loyalty behaviors to achieve incentive goals.
In one study, she issued two versions of an invitation to join a coffee-shop loyalty program.

Half of the participants were given a “quick start” to earning 12 stamps required to earn a free coffee by providing them with the first six when they began.
Half of these “head start” volunteers had multiple ways to earn additional reward stamps:  Buying coffee, tea or any other drink.
More than 25% of this multi-option/head start group joined the loyalty program.

The other half of the quick start volunteers could earn more stamps in only one way:  Buying a beverage.
In contrast, significantly more of the customers with a single option joined the loyalty program.

Remaining participants were the comparison group, and received no stamps.
Like the head start group, half these customers could earn more stamps in several ways and more than 1/3 registered for the loyalty program.
The remaining participants had the single option of purchasing more beverages, and registered much less frequently for the loyalty program.

These results show a clear difference between goal pursuit behaviors when close to a consumer goal, may apply to personally-meaningful goals like pursuing fitness, weight reduction, smoking cessation, and confident public speaking.

Besides proximity to a goal, motivation is also determined by:

  • Goal value, related to “high level construal,” and “low level construal,
  • Expectancy of success, based on probability, difficulty, sufficiency, necessity,
Nira Liberman

Nira Liberman

argued Tel Aviv Universitys Nira Liberman and Jens Förster of Jacobs University of Bremen and Universiteit van Amsterdam.

Jens Förster

Jens Förster

Likewise, Huang and Zhang demonstrated the motivational impact of choice.
They compared the number of yoghurt shop customers who reached the incentive target when participants were required purchase six flavors in a specific order compared with any order they chose.

Volunteers with fewer choices were more likely to achieve the incentive goal, earning a free yoghurt.
“…relatively rigid structures can often simplify goal pursuit by removing the need to make choices, especially when people are already well into the process,” explained Huang.

A practical application is that nonprofits are likely to benefit from changing giving options when a fund-raising target is nearly met.
At that time, fewer and simpler ways to donate are likely to result in more participation in the campaign.

-*How do you maintain motivation when you are close to achieving a goal?

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Interrogative Self-Talk Enhance Performance More Than Self-Bolstering Pep Talks

-*Do affirmative self-statements actually help people perform better?

Joanne Wood

Joanne Wood

It depends, found University of Waterloo’s Joanne Wood  and John W. Lee with Wei Qi “Elaine” (Xun) Perunovic of University of New Brunswick confirmed that  people often use positive self-statements and believe them to be effective.

However, two experiments demonstrate that the value of positive self-statements depends on the individual’s level of self-esteem.

Participants with low self-esteem who repeated a positive self-statement (“I’m a lovable person”) felt worse than people who used no positive self-statement.
They also felt worse than the comparison group when they focused on how the statement was only true.

William Swann

William Swann

Wood’s teamed referred to William Swann’s Self-Verification Theory, which suggests that people prefer that others see them as they see themselves as an explanation of these results.

Swann, of University of Texas at Austin posited that if someone has low self-esteem, a positive self-statement is inconsistent with the person’s experience and self-assessment.
As a result, it would not have “the ring of truth”, and would not have the intended bolstering effect on self-confidence and self-esteem.

This view was validated when participants with high self-esteem felt better when they repeated the positive self-statement statement and when they focused on how it was true.

Ibrahim Senay

Ibrahim Senay

Ibrahim Senay of Istanbul Sehir Universitesi, Penn’s Dolores Albarracin, and Kenji Noguchi of the University of Southern Mississippi investigated the relative impact of “declarative” self-talk, such as “positive thinking” or affirmations (“I will prevail!”) espoused by Maxwell Maltz, Norman Vincent Peale, Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie, and Anthony Robbins.
They compared this well-known self-improvement practice with “interrogative” self-talk, such as introspective self-inquiry (“Can I prevail?”).

Dolores Albarracín

Dolores Albarracín

Half the participants spent one minute asking themselves whether they would complete a series of anagrams before that actually began to work on the anagrams, whereas the other half to told themselves that they would complete the task.
Surprisingly to advocates of self-affirmation, the self-questioning group solved significantly more anagrams than the self-affirming group.

Kenji Noguchi

Kenji Noguchi

The researchers extended and replicated the finding by asking one group of volunteers to write “Will I” 20 times before attempting to solve the anagrams.
Another group wrote “I will” 20 times, and the third group wrote “Will” 20 times.
Those were “primed” with the self-questioning “Will I” solved nearly twice as many anagrams as people in the other groups.

Ibrahim Senay-Dolores Albarracín-Kenji Noguchi diagramAlbarracin suggested that “asking questions forces you to define if you really want something…even in the presence of obstacles,” so is more effective than possibly unrealistically-positive self-affirmations.
The researchers suggest that interrogative self-talk, like interrogative discussions in behavioral counseling, persuasive messages in advertising, editorials, or legal settings, and culturally “polite” behavioral requests, may elicit more intrinsically-motivated action and goal-directed behavior.

Mark Lepper

Mark Lepper

Routinely predictable extrinsic rewards can extinguish intrinsic motivation, found Stanford’s Mark Lepper and David Greene collaborated with Richard Nisbett of University of Michigan.

Richard Nisbett

Richard Nisbett

In fact, interrogative self-talk may counteract suppressors to intrinsic motivation and seems to be a learnable practice that may be transferred or “generalized” from individualized learning in counseling settings.

 

Robert Burnkrant

Robert Burnkrant

This form of inquiry can be persuasive because it focuses the listener’s attention to the argument itself if the question isn’t especially relevant to the listener, or to the message’s source if is more pertinent, reported Rohini Ahluwalia of University of Minnesota, Ohio State’s Robert Burnkrant, and Southern Methodist University’s Daniel Howard.

Min Basadur

Min Basadur

Subjunctive interrogative self-talk, rather than its rhetorical counterpart, can ignite innovation and creativity in organizational settings.
Min Basadur suggested that asking oneself and other How Might We (HMW) ….? enables innovators to defer judgment and  create more options without self-conscious limitations.

Tim Brown

Tim Brown

Embracing the uncertainty of “might” enables innovators to propose ideas “that might work or might not — either way, it’s OK. And the ‘we’ part says we’re going to do it together and build on each other’s ideas,” said Ideo’s CEO, Tim Brown.

This type of self-interrogatory, sometimes presented in group innovation “sprints” at Google Ventures, IDEO, Frog Design or other thought-leading organizations has been effectively been combined with structured innovative problem-solving:  

  • Understand by analyzing problems and requirements through process evaluation,
  • Diverge by applying constraints to “think differently,”
  • Decide by selecting solution to develop,
  • Prototype by “storyboarding” the user experience, process, obstacles,
  • Validate by testing prototypes with potential solution users.

-*Under what circumstances have you found ‘interrogative’ self-talk to enhance performance more than affirmative self-talk?

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