The Course of Motivation. Toure-Tillery, Fishbach. Journal of Consumer Psychology 2011.


  1. Explores motivation and goals, considers two aspects:
    1. Attaining a “focal” goal (“outcome-focused dimension”)
    2. Doing things “right” while achieving that goal (“means-focused dimension”)
  2. Identifies conditions where motivation to achieve focal goal decreases during goal pursuit <normally it increases I believe>
  3. Propose that motivation to “do things right” has a U-shape
  4. “We define a goal as a cognitive representation of a desired state…”
  5. “Motivation refers to the psychological force that enables action (Lewin, 1935). We suggest that motivation can manifest
    itself by increased effort and persistence aimed at reaching a goal’s desired state…”  called outcome-focused motivation

    1. Means-focused motivation, on the other hand, is a desire to do things properly in pursuit of the goal
  6. “classic goal-gradient effect”
  7. Once a goal is achieved, motivation drops below baseline (just before achievement, it is as high as it gets) – normally
  8. A few possible explanations of goal-gradient effect:
    1. It is unpleasant to leave things unfinished
    2. Near the goal, each action feels like it is accomplishing much more than actions taken earlier
    3. Prospect theory, and reference points (it is most painful when failing a task at the very end), so in order to avoid increasingly strong negative feelings if there is something that causes task failure, people are willing to invest more and more energy
  9. On the other hand, goal-gradient effect isn’t always observed:
    1. Ongoing tasks that have no clear ending (staying fit/in shape)
    2. Lack of external goal priming (by some cue)
    3. Just finishing a task (can be worn out from significant exertion of just finishing another task, and motivation drops below baseline)
    4. Type of task matters as well (selecting for purchasing vs selecting that expresses taste is high and low depleting, respectively; level of effort impacts later behavior)
    5. Pursuit of multiple goals
    6. If things are easier than expected, individual may “coast” to the end, likewise if things are going poorly, the individual may want to invest extra energy
    7. In continuous tasks, positive milestones also lead to reduced motivation
  10. In terms of behavior according to multiple goals, doing well in one often caused a slip (indulgence) in some other area
  11. Research on self regulation holds that people consider if a goal is worth pursuing (commitment), and potentially if the pace of undertaking the goal is adequate (progress)
  12. People are more aggressive during commitment than progress <but this seems at odds with the goal-gradient effect>
  13. When people have a low initial level of commitment, they construe actions as being related to commitment, but when commitment starts high, actions are construed to be in the progress phase
  14. When people consider a task at a more abstract, meta level, they are more likely to construe action as commitment, and undertake similar tasks (is putting on sunscreen just that, or is it preventing cancer – if the latter, more likely to put on a hat)
  15. When choices are presented as part of a goal, actions are construed more as commitment as well
  16. Means focused motivation
  17. <Reading this quickly so hope I’m not missing big pieces or misreading anything>
  18. People may use “proper means” for a few reasons
    1. To become more skillfull
    2. May fit certain goals better (may be related to whether people are risk-sensitive or averse)
    3. Doing things “correctly” can be good for self-image
    4. On the other hand, relaxing standards can be important because it may involve investing energy in things that are ultimately not important
      1. Standards may be relaxed just enough to prevent negative self image
  19. “The course of means-focused motivation: slacking in the middle”
  20. Classically, studies on sequences show that beginning and end are most salient and easy to remember (primacy/recency)
    1. People felt better at a task if they were told they were doing well at the beginning or end, as opposed to the middle
  21. Also study showed that Jews are more likely to light Hanukah candles at the beginning and end of holiday (ha!)
  22. “Simultaneous activation of outcome- and means-focused motivations”
  23. More investment in goal-directed behavior at beginning (commitment) or end (goal gradient) interacts with slacking-in-the-middle while performing tasks
    1. At the end, may be a conflict to finish quickly, but also to do it “correctly”
  24. Because of these interactions, studies have to be designed carefully
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: