Obtaining professional certificates has become a trend in business schools and the business community in Taiwan. There are several organizations that award relevant professional certificates, for example, courses of study are available through the Securities and Futures Information Centre, the Life Insurance Association of the Republic of China, the Taiwan Insurance Institute, the Risk Management Society of Taiwan, the Life Insurance Management Institute of the Republic of China, the Non-Life Underwriters' Society of the Republic of China, and the Taiwan Academy of Banking and Finance. When people apply for jobs after graduating from a university, they are usually required to have some relevant certificates. Moreover, as students who have professional certificates constitute the group with the most important indicators for university evaluations by the Ministry of Education, students are being encouraged to obtain professional certificates while they are still in school. From an educational viewpoint, improving student learning attitudes and professional knowledge through examination preparation and understanding the motivations and attitudes of students taking certificate examinations are, therefore, important.
We investigated the internal motivations of students taking these examinations, employing different research methods including a qualitative method, a questionnaire survey, and an experimental method. Our results could be used to provide concrete directions for students when counseling them about certificate examinations. On the whole, our purpose in this research was twofold: (1) to examine both internal and external motivation from a cognitive-oriented motive viewpoint, and identify student motivations for participating in certificate exams; (2) to examine whether cognitive dissonance theory, from the motive viewpoint, is applicable to attitude changes in participating in certificate examinations, while examining the relationship between the impact of external justifications on attitude changes (including rewards, free will, responsibility, commitment, and effort or cost) and student attitudes.
Motivation is a force that directs specific behavioral alternatives, which are suggested when individuals choose to behave in a certain way (Chiang & Jang, 2008). In addition, Amabile (1997) indicated that both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation determine what a person is capable of doing within a given domain. Intrinsic motivation is driven by deep interests and involvement in the work, curiosity, enjoyment, or a personal sense of challenge while extrinsic motivation is driven by the desire to attain some goal that is separate from the work itself, such as achieving a promised reward, meeting a deadline, or winning a competition.
According to those holding the cognitive-oriented-motive (COM) viewpoint, people may be subject to many external motivators when they take part in certificate examinations, including compliments from others, threats, money, rewards (Lepper, Greene, & Nisbett, 1973), scores, and fame (Deci, 1971; Deci, Vallerand, Pelletier, & Ryan, 1991), as well as internal motivators such as a sense of belonging and autonomy (Deci et al., 1991; deCharms, 1968), a sense of capability (Bandura, 1977; Deci et al., 1991), and having a goal and a plan (Tolman, 1959). There are four key factors that serve as indicators for the external motivators that threaten internal motivation (Deci, 1972; Deci et al., 1991); namely, expectancy, relevance, tangibility, and noncontingency. When the rewards of students participating in certificate examinations are uncertain, the external motivators will not lessen the internal motivations that maintain these reinforcement effects. Therefore, students take certificate examinations because the external motivators of internal motivations are more unexpected, less relevant, intangible, and highly contingent, and the internal motivations for participation are stronger and more attractive.
DISSONANCE IMPACT AND FACTORS RELATED TO ATTITUDE CHANGES
Quantity of rewards and attitude changes The relationship between rewards (i.e., incentives) and changes in attitude is an important predictor for those employing cognitive dissonance theory. Regarding a student's participation in certificate examinations, sufficient motivation can change a previous attitude. Dissonant impacts will not exist when individuals feel too much stress or when there are too many incentives that lead individuals to act inconsistently. More incentives result in behavior opposite to that which is usual because the "making excuses based on external justification" is sufficient. If the dissonant attitude results from external pressure or incentives, the discomfort will be eliminated.
In a classic experiment conducted by Festinger and Carlsmith (1959), students were asked to undertake a boring task. The participants were paid to tell a lie: the experimenters persuaded the participants that the task was interesting. In this experiment, some participants were paid US$1 for their help while others were paid US$20. The control group was not asked to tell a lie. The result was in line with cognitive dissonance theory. That is, the former (lie) group thought that the task was more interesting and were more willing to participate in similar tasks. Based on cognitive dissonance theory, when there was enough external justification for such behavior, there was less dissonance. On the other hand, those in the US$1 group presented a fake report because they had insufficient external justification, and therefore they experienced higher dissonance, which they tended to eliminate by altering their previous attitude. Other researchers have conducted similar experiments and have produced results that apply to general, rather than trivial, attitudes (Leippe & Eisenstadt, 1994).
High incentives can change a student's attitude. As universities want students to participate in certificate examinations, they offer various incentives. Students will experience dissonance if they participate in examinations with few incentives and insufficient justification. According to cognitive dissonance theory, students with incentives will consider it beneficial to attempt an examination.
Commitment degree and attitude changes Do individuals change their attitude to lessen dissonance? A individual's degree of commitment to the decision or behavior is an important factor. Dissonance contributes to changes in attitude if the behavior or the tasks are irrevocable commitments.
Dickerson, Thibodeau, Aronson, and Miller (1992) demonstrated that commitments influence attitude changes, which decrease dissonance, and that commitment can also solve actual problems. In an experiment on water conservation, half of the participants were reminded of how wasteful they had been when using water in the past, when taking a shower, while the other half was reminded of nothing. In addition, other participants were induced to make a public commitment by encouraging others to shorten their shower time. According to cognitive dissonance theory, participants that were reminded of how wasteful they were in using water, and who made public commitments, should have experienced more dissonance, and thus tried harder to conserve water. The results were in line with the predictions.
Based on cognitive dissonance theory, students who consider taking examinations and who make a public commitment will have an improved attitude towards taking the examination. Hence, their behavior will be consistent with their attitude, creating less dissonance.
Responsibility for consequences and attitude changes Taking responsibility for consequences has an impact on attitudes. When taking responsibility, regardless of the extent, the consequences can reasonably be predicted: one will experience dissonance. Pallak, Sogin, and Van Zante (1974) indicated that when a boring task is reevaluated the latter evaluation will decrease dissonance if the participants feel that they are responsible for the task. When participants attribute their behavior to internal factors, they will think that they are responsible for the consequences related to that behavior. Therefore, attitude changes will occur (Sogin & Pallak, 1976).
When one feels a high level of responsibility for a task, one's attitude will be positively altered. When students participate in certificate examinations and are responsible for the consequences, they experience dissonance. However, changes in attitude lessen the dissonance. Moreover, when one is responsible for consequences, no matter what the results, even if the behavior is consistent with the previous attitude, this results in attitude changes, which enforce the former attitude (Scher & Cooper, 1989).
Justification of effort or cost and attitude changes The way to avoid dissonance is to rerecognize the value of objectives when making a great effort to do something; this is known as justifying cost or effort. For instance, in a boring discussion group used in a previous study, some participants went to great lengths to be accepted whereas some fitted in easily (Li, 2000). Li found that those who had made the effort had better evaluations in the team discussion compared to those who had obtained success easily. Wicklund, Cooper, and Linder (1967) used joining the United States Marine Corps as an example. To eliminate the sense of dissonance, those who volunteered to serve in the marines tended to persuade themselves that they had made the right choice, and they affirmed the value of joining the marines. These attitude changes may have helped them to convince themselves that their previous efforts were worthy. Therefore, people who make an effort to do something will have a more positive attitude towards it than those who do not.
Free will and attitude changes According to cognitive dissonance theory, only when there is freedom to make a decision will inconsistent behavior result in dissonance; in situations where there is not free will dissonance will not occur. In a study conducted by Linder, Cooper, and Jones (1967), students were asked to write an essay that was inconsistent with their opinions. Some participants had a choice of whether or not to write the essay, while some did not. In addition, some were paid $2.50, while others were paid $0.50. The fewer the incentives, the more attitude changes the researchers observed. Moreover, there were no dissonant effects when the freedom to choose was removed, and vice versa. Finding ways to help students who do not have a positive attitude toward certificate examinations to change their attitude should be possible, based on this principle.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND MEASUREMENT
In Study 1 we examined students' motivations for taking certificate examinations, and whether internal or external motivators had a greater impact on the process of obtaining certificates, from the viewpoint of those holding the COM view. In Study 2 we examined the attitudes of these students using a survey research method and focusing on external justification, including rewards, degree of commitment, taking responsibility for consequences, amount of cost or effort, and decision-making freedom.
STUDY 1: INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL MOTIVATIONS FOR TAKING CERTIFICATE EXAMINATIONS
We used an adapted purposive sampling method. The sample sources were business and management schools in Taiwan. The total sample comprised 398 participants, and 342 of these returned valid surveys. Participants were asked to complete measures of the internal and external motivations for participating in business and management certificate examinations.
The evaluation survey of the motivators was based on that developed by Gao and Lin (2006). We chose items that were applicable to the motivations of examination participants, and based on the cognitive-oriented approach, we divided them into two categories: internal motivator and external motivator. The participants were asked to complete the survey, indicating their degree of agreement with survey items, scored on a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree. Items with low internal consistency scores were deleted to give a final total of 19 internal and 5 external motivation items.
The Cronbach's [alpha] for the entire motivation scale was .89 and those for separated internal and external motivations were .87 and .78, respectively. Confirmatory factor analysis was conducted to test the construct validity for this motivation scale. The goodness of fit summary indicated that the measurement model was acceptable (x2/df = 2.60; GFI = .91; AGFI = .90; NFI = .90; NNFI = 0.89; RMSR = .061).
A 2 (certificate category: received vs. not received) x 2 (motivation category: internal motivation vs. external motivation) analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted, with motivation treated as the within-subjects factor and certificate treated as the between-subjects factor (see Table 1).
We tested whether or not the covariances of the two repeated variables were homogeneous, which resulted in Box's M = 2.59, F(3, 2774218) = .86, and p = .46. That is, the variables of internal and external motivation were homogeneous. A two-way interaction was obtained, F(1, 340) = 387.54, p < .01. Furthermore, contrasts showed that the internal and external motivation of those with and without certificates was in accordance with the predictions. The internal motivation (M = 3.97) of those who received a certificate was significantly higher than their external motivation (M = 3.45, t = 6.21, p < .01), whereas the internal motivation (M = 3.51) of those that did not receive a certificate was significantly higher than their external motivation (M = 3.84, t = 3.66, p < .05).
STUDY 2: EXTERNAL JUSTIFICATION OF STUDENTS' ATTITUDES
Satisfaction of rewards The evaluation items were the rewards of passing certificate examinations. Participants rated, on a non-graded scale, their satisfaction with the rewards provided by the school (see the non-graded scale below).
Based on the distance scale, the scores that participants received from the nonrating scale were converted into a standard 100-point scale where 0 represents no satisfaction and 100 represents greatly satisfied (Chernev, 2001). The higher the score, the more satisfaction. The test-retest reliability of this scale was .63.
Commitment degree To measure commitment, a 2-point nonrating scale was used, in relation to the question, "What is your commitment to this certificate examination?" The final scores were converted into a 100-point scale as described above, where 0 represents no commitment and 100 represents strong commitment. Higher scores denote higher commitment. The test-retest reliability of this scale was .68.
Responsibility for consequences This measure was used to test whether participants would take responsibility for the consequences of their examination. The same scales were used and the same conversions were made; the higher the score, the more responsibility one felt. The test-retest reliability of this scale was .58.
Degree of effort or cost On a nongraded scale, participants were asked to assess the evaluation system of the examination (including criteria, application requirements, and so on), to understand the degree of effort or cost required to participate in the examination at each school. Moreover, participants were asked to evaluate their own effort, or the cost associated with taking the examination. Their scores were converted onto a 100-point scale. Scores of effort or cost reflected an average, that is, the total score divided by the number of items. Higher scores indicated more effort or cost. The test-retest reliability of this scale was .69.
Degree of free-will On a nongraded scale, participants evaluated the source of stress when participating in certificate examinations, including stress from parents, teachers, and peers, as well as an individuals' degree of free will in making a decision. There were four items. The scores were converted onto a 100-point scale. Degree of free will was calculated as the average of the scores; that is, total scores were divided by the number of items. Higher scores indicated more free will and less extrinsic stress (involuntary factors). The test-retest reliability of this scale was .54.
Attitude when taking the exam (criterion variables) The dependent variable was attitude when taking the examination, and the semantic differential method (Osgood, Suci, & Tannenbaum, 1957) was used to measure attitude. Attitude was the main dimension of the semantic differential method, and it was suitable for measuring teachers' attitudes to evaluation when teaching online. A 7-point scale was used. A pretest was conducted and the results were discussed by experts from related fields to affirm the validity of the content; both item and content validity were established.
The formal scale consisted of nine relative adjectives of evaluation. The items were rated on a 7-point scale, and the internal consistency reliability of the scale was .94. Because the attitude evaluation was used to assess the items, it was appropriate to view this as a single dimension. Therefore, internal cohesion validity (Anastasi & Urbina, 1996) was adapted and used to calculate the correlation between each item on the scale and the total score. All of the correlation coefficients were significant at the level of .001 (range between .60 and .84), indicating that the cohesion of each item was appropriate. The Cronbach's [alpha] was .89.
In this study we examined the attitudes of students taking certificate examinations, and explored whether attitudes were influenced by external justification. Partial correlations analysis was used to explore the relationship between each factor (reward satisfaction, commitment, responsibility, effort or cost, and free will) and attitude, by controlling those that affected external justification. We found that there was a partial correlation with reward satisfaction (.20, p < .05), commitment (.38, p < .05), responsibility (.39, p < .05), effort or cost (.40, p < .05), and free will (-.06, p < .05).
Multiple regression analysis, with forward selection was used, where the scores for each factor were predictor variables and attitude was the criterion variable. The results are shown in Table 2.
The tolerance of each independent variable was between 0 and 1 and the VIF was less than 10 showing that the inflation coefficient was in a reasonable range (Belsley, Kuh, & Welsch, 1980). This showed that the problem of multicollinearity was not serious. It can be seen in Table 2 that the predictor of the whole model regression analysis was appropriate, R = .51, R2 = .26, F(1, 336) = 3.91, p < .05. Effort or cost (P = .22, t = 3.97,p < .001), responsibility for consequences ([beta] = .23, t = 4.36, p < .001), commitment (P = .16, t = 2.70, p < .05), and reward satisfaction ([beta] = .10, t = 1.98, p < .05) were significant predictor variables. Moreover, these predictor variables indicated that higher effort or cost resulted in a better attitude when participating in the certificate examination. Free will was not a predictive factor of attitude. In other words, university students who are forced to take certificate examinations will have a negative attitude.
GENERAL DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
Researchers have shown that university students who participate in a certificate examination and pass it have higher internal motivation than external motivation; those who do not obtain the certificate have lower internal motivation than external motivation. This indicates that, in universities where external motivations have little impact, the best policy is to improve students' internal motivation.
In this study, effort or cost, responsibility for consequences, commitment, and reward were all significant predictors of attitude. In Study 2 we examined whether external justification could accurately predict student attitudes. Higher effort or cost led to a better attitude. Hence, focusing on the reward factor, which was the predictor with the least strength, and ignoring other factors will have little impact on student attitudes. Free will was not a predictive factor. Students, however, did have a negative attitude when deprived of free will.
Effort or cost influenced students' attitudes the most. By inference, there was a more positive attitude when students invested greater effort, or cared more about cost. Therefore, emphasizing the advantages of certificate examinations for future employment and encouraging students to make a greater effort toward preparing for said examinations, will mean students have a more positive attitude toward them.
It is also important to make it clear that each student must accept responsibility for the consequences of certificate examinations. Helping students to understand this will instill a more positive attitude toward the examinations, leading to better outcomes. We also found that student commitment can influence attitude. Meanwhile, in addition to the rewards factor, more external motivators were employed to improve students' external motivations. The rewards factor had the least impact. This implies that rewards can cause excessive external justification, and do not easily result in a positive attitude. Moreover, due to the positive relationship between reward satisfaction and attitude, each school should reconsider the rewards they offer.
Free will was not found to be a predictor of attitude. However, students have psychological reactance that limits their free will (Brehm, 1966), resulting in a negative attitude toward certificate examinations. Students' attitudes will be more positive if external factors have little impact.
Although in this study we only examined the possible key factors that affect business students' attitudes toward certificate examinations, the findings can also be applied to other schools, as they design future rewards or official measures for evaluating the impact of student attitudes toward certificate examinations. Understanding the specific rewards policy of each school, and whether they contribute to improving student attitudes, is crucial.
We also found that the factors affecting the cognitive dissonance and attitude change of individuals partially predicted student attitudes toward the examinations. The factor of free will did not affect students' attitudes. Future researchers of university student participation in certificate examinations should consider other theories about attitude change, such as self-perception theory (Bem, 1972), function theory (Kiesler, Collins, & Miller, 1969), balance theory (Heider, 1958), stimulus-response theory (Hovland, Janis, & Kelley, 1953), and so on. These theories can be used to compare different attitude changes and/ or to explore and predict better models of student attitudes toward certificate examinations.
External motivators, such as the four factors involved in the human cognitive-motive viewpoint (expected, low relevance, tangible, and contingent; Cameron & Pierce, 1994; Deci, 1972; Deci et al., 1991) will affect internal motivation. Future researchers could examine whether these external motivators can improve students' internal motivations.
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Tainan University of Technology, Tainan, Taiwan, ROC
MEI-LAN LIN AND CHIA-KAI SU
Southern Taiwan University, Tainan, Taiwan, ROC
Pi-Yueh Cheng, Department of Finance, Tainan University of Technology, Tainan, Taiwan, ROC; Mei-Lan Lin and Chia-Kai Su, Department of Hospitality Management, Southern Taiwan University, Tainan, Taiwan, ROC.
This research was funded by a grant from the National Science Council of the Republic of China (NSC 97-2511-S-165-003).
Appreciation is due to anonymous reviewers.
Please address correspondence and reprint requests to: Mei-Lan Lin, Department of Hospitality Management, Southern Taiwan University, No. 1 Nantai St., Yung-Kang City, Tainan 710, Taiwan, ROC. Email: email@example.com
TABLE 1 INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL MOTIVATIONS FOR PARTICIPANTS WITH OR WITHOUT CERTIFICATES Motivation category Internal External motivation motivation Achieved M SD M SD certificates No (n = 129) 3.51 .48 3.84 .46 Yes (n = 213) 3.97 .52 3.45 .59 Note: Internal and external motivation were measured on a 5-point scale. TABLE 2 MULTIPLE REGRESSION ANALYSIS OF CERTIFICATE EXAMINATION ATTITUDE Prediction Standardized Standard t variables regression error coefficient Enter variables Effort or cost .22 .03 3.97 *** Responsibility .23 .03 4.36 *** Commitment .16 .03 2.70 ** Reward satisfaction .10 .02 1.98 * Exclude variables Free will decision R .51 .07 [R.sub.2] .26 * Note: * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001.…