Atkinson (1957)Motivational Determinants of Risk-Taking Behavior 90L56503 Behavioral Decision Making 28.01.2014 Peter Kenttäand Mikael Öhman
Agenda Experiment General background for motivation theories The focus of this paper Theoretical model Criticism Discussion
Experiment – Part 1/2 The course Behavioral Decision Making (90L56503) offers five different alternatives for grading, each associated with different probabilities for passing the course. Assume that there is a negative linear relationship between the probability to pass and the expected grade. What alternative would you choose?
Experiment – Part 2/2 Now consider the situation where you failed the course with the grading alternative you chose in part 1, despite the fact that you were able to put in as much effort as you had planned. You want to try again, but unfortunately you don’t feel that the first attempt on the course has improved your odds for the second attempt. What alternative would you choose?
General background for motivation theories B A Because of historical reasons motivation theories usually employ a Newtonian conception of change One way to understand motivation theories is to compare them to vector calculus • All motivations operate on a single plane (source, direction, strength/quantity) • Motivations are directly comparable …and therefore can be summated (A + B = AB) (If B = -1/3A AB = 2/3 A) • The strongest motivation or “force” determines behavior Assumes that all behavior is determined • no randomness in behavior
”Whenbothmotivation to approach and motivation to avoidaresimultaneouslyaroused, the resultantmotivation is the algebraicsummation of approach and avoidance. The act which is performedamong a set of alternatives is the act for which the resultantmotivation is mostpositive. The magnitude of response and the persistence of behaviorarefunctions of the strength of motivation to perform the act relative to the strength of motivation to performcompetingacts.” -Atkinson 1957, p. 361 (italicsadded)
The focus of this paper Made in the 50’s Perhaps the first paper to discuss the relationship between achievement, motivation and risk taking Offers a mathematical approach Context: “Constrained performance” (laboratory settings) Source: A disposition/characteristic of one’s personality Direction: Many divergent combinations of incentives and risks Strength: The focus of the paper is to relate a level of performance to a set of possible directions (incentives and risks)
Theoretical modelMotivation and Choice Motivation to achieve as a determinant of choice Motivation to avoid failure as a determinant of choice Aroused motivation to achieve (approach) and to avoid failure (avoidance) as a joint function of Motive (M), Expectancy (P), and Incentive (I)
Theoretical modelMotivation and Choice – Illustrative assumption Assuming that for all choices (tasks), we get
Theoretical modelMotivation and Choice – Illustration, Ms = Mf • If Ms = Mf your motivation does not affect your choice of task • With the assumptions of linearity all tasks appear equally attractive
Theoretical modelMotivation and Choice – Illustration, Ms > Mf • If Ms > Mf your achievement motive is stronger, which affects your choice of task • With the assumptions of linearity task E now appears most attractive • Motivation to achieve is strongest when uncertainty regarding the outcome is greatest • Incidentally this is also the point where anxiety about failure is the greatest
Theoretical modelMotivation and Choice – Illustration, Ms < Mf • If Ms < Mf your motive to avoid failure is stronger, which affects your choice of task • With the assumptions of linearity tasks A and I now appear least unattractive • Anxiety about failure is strongest when uncertainty regarding the outcome is greatest • The fearful person, must he choose, prefers the least threatening of the available alternatives: either the task which is so easy he cannot fail, or the task which is so difficult that failure would be no cause for self-blame and embarrassment
Theoretical modelMotivation and Performance “If [the person with a stronger achievement motive] were to be confronted with a single task […], we should expect him to manifest strongest motivation in the performance of a task of intermediate difficulty where Ps equals .50. If presented either more difficult tasks or easier tasks, the strength of motivation manifested in performance should be lower.” and “How does [the person with a stronger motive to avoid failure] behave when offered only a specific task to perform? […] He is motivated to avoid failure, and when constrained [he must perform the task], there is only one path open to him to avoid failure – success at the task he is presented. So we expect him to manifest the strength of his motivation to avoid failure in performance of the task. He, too, in other words, should try hardest when Psis .50” In other words you expect your performance to matter the most where the task outcome is most uncertain, hence your (relative) performance will be the best at this task, independent of whether you are driven by the motive to achieve, or the motive to avoid failure.
Theoretical modelWith subjective probabilities, Ms > Mf • If Ms > Mf your achievement motive is stronger, you should choose the task with the highest outcome uncertainty • Succeeding in a task increases the subjective probability of success for the task ultimately leading to the choice of an objectively more challenging task • Succeeding in a challenging task increases motivation while succeeding in an easy task decreases it • Failing in a task decreases the subjective probability of success for the task ultimately leading to the choice of an objectively easier task • Failing in a challenging task decreases motivation while failing in an easy task increases it
Theoretical modelWith subjective probabilities, Ms < Mf • If Ms < Mf your motive to avoid failure is stronger, which means that in minimizing anxiety you will choose the task with the smallest outcome uncertainty • If the easiest task is chosen and you • Fail, your motivation to avoid the task increases and you will switch to the most difficult task (with current assumptions) • Succeed, the task becomes less and less unpleasant • If the most difficult task is chosen and you • Fail, you reduce anxiety about the task • Succeed, your motivation to avoid the task paradoxically increases
Key theoretical points “The performance level should be greatest when there is greatest uncertainty about the outcome, i.e., when subjective probability of success is .50, whether the motive to achieve or the motive to avoid failure is stronger within an individual” “Persons in whom the achievement motive is stronger should prefer intermediate risk, while persons in whom the motive to avoid failure is stronger should avoid intermediate risk, preferring instead either very easy and safe undertakings or extremely difficult and speculative undertakings”
Criticism Motivation to choose a task and the motivation to persist in it are no longer considered the same (e.g., Duckworth et al. 2007) Mental accounting of success and failure is not linear (e.g., Baumeister et al. 2001) Assumes a simple dispositional structure (Ms=constant) of motivation and therefore does not take priming effects into account (e.g., Bargh & Chartrand 1999) Omits other factors (e.g., self-theories) that have shown to influence the choice between performance goals (high probability of success) and learning goals (low probability of success) (e.g., Dweck 2000) Omits intrinsic motivations when aggregates choices to overall approach and avoidance motivation based on expected extrinsic rewards. (e.g., Deci & Ryan 2000) The assumption of simplistic social relations, i.e. failure leads to embarrassment and humiliation, does not hold. (e.g., Lyubomirsky 2009) Assumes that failure and success are objective dichotomous variables
Discussion Do you believe that your performance is greatest when your expected probability of success/failure is 50%? Would you choose similar odds of success in all situations? • In other words, do you try to achieve with the same vigor in all contexts and situations? Does this theory still retain some theoretical value? • Can you imagine a real-life situation where the proposed theory could have explanatory value?
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