Attributions, Deadlines, and Children's Intrinsic Motivation

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [McMaster University]On: 25 November 2014, At: 14:40Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK</p><p>The Journal of GeneralPsychologyPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:</p><p>Attributions, Deadlines, andChildren's Intrinsic MotivationStephen J. Dollinger a &amp; Mark J. Reader aa Southern Illinois University , Carbondale , USAPublished online: 08 Aug 2013.</p><p>To cite this article: Stephen J. Dollinger &amp; Mark J. Reader (1983) Attributions,Deadlines, and Children's Intrinsic Motivation, The Journal of General Psychology,109:2, 157-166, DOI: 10.1080/00221309.1983.10736082</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all theinformation (the Content) contained in the publications on our platform.However, Taylor &amp; Francis, our agents, and our licensors make norepresentations or warranties whatsoever as to the accuracy, completeness,or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinions and viewsexpressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors, andare not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of theContent should not be relied upon and should be independently verified withprimary sources of information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for anylosses, actions, claims, proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages,and other liabilities whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly orindirectly in connection with, in relation to or arising out of the use of theContent.</p><p></p></li><li><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes.Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan,sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone isexpressly forbidden. Terms &amp; Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>McM</p><p>aste</p><p>r U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 14:</p><p>40 2</p><p>5 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p><p></p></li><li><p>The Journal of General Psychology, 1983, 109,157-166.</p><p>ATTRIBUTIONS, DEADLINES, AND CHILDREN'S INTRINSICMOTIVATION*l</p><p>Southern Illinois University at Carbondale</p><p>STEPHEN J. DOLLINGER AND MARK J. READER</p><p>SUMMARY</p><p>This study assessed the effects of attribution statements and temporaldeadlines on preschoolers' intrinsic interest in puzzles. During a trainingphase, 39 5s completed puzzles under either the presence or absence ofdeadlines (instructions "to beat the timer"). They also heard E make eitherrelevant attributions ("I'll bet you like puzzles") or irrelevant attributionsafter they solved each puzzle. The two major findings of this study runcounter to attribution theory expectations. First, given the presence ofdeadlines, relevant attributions resulted in less subsequent intrinsic interestas compared to irrelevant attributions. Second, in the presence of irrelevantattributions, deadlines resulted in greater task interest when compared withno deadlines. It appears that, like rewards, deadlines may enhance taskinterest if they serve to engender self-perceptions of competence. Alterna-tively, it is conceivable that deadlines can enhance interest by their en-dogeneity to a task, or by providing proximal goals.</p><p>A. INTRODUCTION</p><p>The seemingly paradoxical effects of extrinsic constraints on intrinsicmotivation have attracted empirical interest, as well as controversy duringthe last 10 years [for recent reviews, see Condry (6), Deci and Ryan (7), andLepper and Greene (16)]. While major formulations of such phenomena(often termed "overjustification" after the overjustification hypothesis) arecouched in cognitive and attributional terms, very little direct evidencesupports the notion that attributions can mediate changes in intrinsic moti-</p><p>* Received in the Editorial Office, Provincetown, Massachusetts, on January 17, 1983.Copyright, 1983, by The Journal Press.</p><p>I Thanks are extended to Shirley Dunagan, Director of the Child Study Coop Nursery forher assistance in this project. Reprint requests should be sent to the first author at the addressshown at the end of this article.</p><p>157</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>McM</p><p>aste</p><p>r U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 14:</p><p>40 2</p><p>5 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>158 JOURNAL OF GENERAL PSYCHOLOGY</p><p>vation. Instead, a substantial literature shows that indirect manipulations ofattributions (use of rewards, other constraints, or how a task is introduced)can at times detrimentally affect intrinsic interest in the activity. At the sametime, it is quite clear that direct attributional manipulations can influencechildren's behavior. Direct attributional manipulations consist of statementsto a child (or group of children) suggesting that he/she is the kind of childwho possesses a certain quality or behaves in a particular way. Researchershave shown that such manipulations can enhance children's cooperative-ness, self-control, altruism, neatness, self-esteem, and achievement striving(10, 12, 17,22). One of these studies (17) found that an attributional man-ipulation could exceed the effectiveness of persuasion ("you should be . . ."messages), and equal or exceed the effects of reinforcement.</p><p>Two studies have provided evidence that attributions can causally in-fluence interest in an activity. In one study, Kruglanski and his associates(14) compared the interest in games of two groups of children treatedidentically during the initial engagement in the games. However, for half ofthe children a retrospective misattribution was employed to lead 5s tobelieve (after the fact) that they engaged in the activity in order to earn aprize. This consisted of the false statement, "As we said before, (you) will beawarded special prizes ... " In a subsequent assessment, these researchersfound that children in this attribution condition expressed less enjoyment ofthe games than children who did not receive the attribution (nor a prize). Inanother study, Pittman and his colleagues (19) manipulated college student5s' interest in an activity via false physiological feedback. The 5s' galvanicskin responses were ostensibly monitored by the E while they performed avisual-motor game. At one point, some 5s were told that their GSR indi-cated increased interest in the task while, for others, GSR was attributed toincreased interest in a monetary reward. Generally consistent with expecta-tions, the task-attribution resulted in a diminished overjustification effect,while the reward-attribution caused a slight augmentation of it.</p><p>Two other studies have provided less compelling results. In a study byDollinger (8), preschoolers were rewarded with tokens for solving puzzlesalthough only half of the children were led to expect that tokens could betraded in for prizes at the conclusion of the experiment. Crossed with thisfactor was the nature of E's attributions while giving tokens to the child.The E commented four times to the effect that the child must be quiteinterested in puzzles (task attribution) or in earning tokens (reward attribu-tion). While subsequent interest was lower in the reward attribution condi-tion, this effect occurred only in the prize-unexpected condition, a finding</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>McM</p><p>aste</p><p>r U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 14:</p><p>40 2</p><p>5 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>STEPHEN J. DOLLINGER AND MARK J. READER 159</p><p>hard to explain by attribution theory. In the prize-expected condition, theresults were non significantly in the direction opposite to expectations. Inanother study, Reader and Dollinger (20) provided college student Ss withbogus personality feedback designed to lead them to believe that they wereintrinsically- or extrinsically-motivated persons (e.g., that they enjoyed "los-ing themselves in an activity" or "never lost sight of the goal"). In this study,a second manipulation (deadlines) affected subsequent intrinsic motivation,but the attributional manipulation had no effect. In view of the inconsistentresults across these four studies, the first purpose of the present research wasto provide a further test of the hypothesis that attributions can influencesubsequent intrinsic motivation.</p><p>The second purpose of this study was to assess the effects of deadlines onpreschoolers' intrinsic interest in an activity. Previous research with collegestudents has shown that, in keeping with attributional explanations, dead-lines can reduce intrinsic motivation (1, 20). A replication of this effect withchildren provided the second impetus for this study.</p><p>B. METHOD</p><p>1. Subjects</p><p>The sample consisted of 20 boys and 19 girls attending a cooperativenursery school affiliated with a university psychology department. The agerange for both boys and girls was 3-6 to 5-4, with mean ages of 4-4 for boys,and 4-7 for girls. One additional boy (who was quite shy) refused to take partin the study. Younger children attended in the morning, and older childrenin the afternoon. Within sex/class combinations, children were randomlyassigned to the four experimental conditions created by the cross-classification of attributions (relevant or irrelevant) and deadlines (presentand absent). The Es were white male adults, one a faculty member and onea graduate student.</p><p>2. Pre-experiment Assessment</p><p>The primary activities used in this study were children's puzzles. Prior tothe experiment, the two nursery school teachers independently rated eachchild's interest in puzzles based on informal observations of their free-timeactivities over a three-week period. A three-point scale was used, withinstructions to rate children as falling in the upper 25%, middle 50%, orlower 25% in puzzle interest. The teachers agreed on their ratings of 28 ofthe 40 children (70%), with a contingency coefficient of .76 between the two</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>McM</p><p>aste</p><p>r U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 14:</p><p>40 2</p><p>5 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>160 JOURNAL OF GENERAL PSYCHOLOGY</p><p>sets of ratings. For the main analyses, these ratings were summed. Themeasure was intended as a possible covariate for the primary dependentmeasures.</p><p>3. Procedure</p><p>During the first session of a two-part experiment, 5s individually accom-panied one of the Es to the "surprise room" of the nursery school "to playwith some puzzles." Puzzles used during this training phase were adaptedfrom those of the McCarthy Scales of Children's Abilities. Upon beingseated, E described the task, and for half of the children presented a three-minute sand timer, demonstrating two or three times how it worked. Then 5was encouraged to "try to do the puzzle before the time is up-try to beat thetimer!" For deadline Ss, the timer was again turned over with each newpuzzle. For no-deadline Ss, the timer was never in view. Following puzzlecompletions, E said, "That's OK!" and for deadline 5s he added, "You beatthe timer." The E then stated one of four prearranged attribution statementsin an "offhand" conversational manner. Relevant attributions were as fol-lows:</p><p>1. I'll bet you really like puzzles.2. It looks like you're a puzzle-lover.3. I'll bet you like puzzles more than most kids here.4. I can tell you really liked these puzzles.</p><p>Irrelevant attributions consisted of the following statements:1. I'll bet you really like ice cream.2. It looks like you're a --- lover. (Here E used 5's clothing and</p><p>appearance to comment on a likely interest.)3. I'll bet you like this school more than most kids here.4. I can tell you really liked being here today.</p><p>One prearranged attribution statement was used for each puzzle solved.When 5s failed a puzzle (typically by looking to E for help with a bewilderedexpression), Ss were given one or two subtle hints to help solve it. Whensuch puzzles were solved, attribution statements were made, but thesepuzzles were not included in the child's score for number-of-puzzles-solved.In addition to the number-solved, a second measure consisted of the solutiontime for the fourth puzzle which was successfully completed by all 5s.</p><p>The training phase concluded with a brief assessment of the 5's preferencefor more (or less) challenging puzzles. This measure was obtained becausepreference for challenging variants of a task is one aspect of intrinsicmotivation (9, 11). Children were shown four new puzzles on a different</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>McM</p><p>aste</p><p>r U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p>] at</p><p> 14:</p><p>40 2</p><p>5 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>STEPHEN j. DOLLINGER AND MARK]. READER 161</p><p>table, and were asked which they would like to do if they could do only oneand had as much time as they needed. The easiest puzzle (scored 1) had fivepieces; intermediate puzzles had nine and 17 pieces; and the hardest (scored4) had 22 pieces.</p><p>The assessment phase was conducted one week after the training phasewas completed. Ss were individually accompanied to a different researchroom (termed "the blue room") by a different E 2 to playa game called "MyFavorite Thing." The E in the assessment phase was blind to the S'scondition in the training phase. Upon arrival, S was shown the first of twotables each containing seven toys or activities. Each table contained twonew puzzles (one easy, one difficult) and five other activities includingmazes, crayons and paper, kaleidoscopes, a puppet, styrofoam airplanes,play money and jewelry, a magic slate, dot-to-dot pictures, plastic mul-ticolored octagonal shapes, and a color-matching pegboard. After exploringthe activities on the first table, the S was asked to "pick your favoritething-the one you like the very best." This activity, ranked 1, was removedand the procedure was repeated until all seven activities were ranked. The Ethen conducted a consistency check by re-presenting the child's second- andsixth-ranked toys, and again asking for a preference. The entire procedurewas repeated for the seven toys on the second table. A summary score forpuzzle interest was derived by averaging the ranks assigned to the fourpuzzles on the two tables.</p><p>Ten of the 39 children reversed their choice on one of the two consistencychecks, and one of these children reversed her choice on both. Thesechildren were included in the main analyses, but were excluded in a sup-plementary analysis.</p><p>C. RESULTS</p><p>Teacher ratings, originally planned as a possible covariate, did not differacross the four treatment conditions and were essentially unrelated to meanpuzzle rank (r = .05), number-of-puzzles-solved (r = .23), solution time on</p><p>2 Both Es conducted the training phase with approximately equal numbers of children in thefour experimental conditions, with one testing the morning children and the other testingafternoon children. Es then reversed roles for the assessment phase. Hence, the identity of the Ewas confounded with class and, therefore, the age of the Ss. In the absence of additionalres...</p></li></ul>


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