Academic journal article Psychologische Beiträge

Achievement Motivation and Implicit Theories of Intelligence

Academic journal article Psychologische Beiträge

Achievement Motivation and Implicit Theories of Intelligence

Article excerpt

1.1 Introduction

Achievement motivation deals with that sector of motivated behavior directed towards the attainment of results which can be assessed against a standard. The term Motivation itself is a descendant of the Latin verb movere which itself means to move. These considerations also formed the basis for classical psychological attempts to define motivation, whereby drives (Freud, 1966), motives (Murray, 1938) or instincts (Hull, 1952) have been identified as the forces igniting human activity. An important characteristic of these constructs is that they function as energizers of action. However, unlike these classical constructs, implicit personality theories are among the catalyst approaches to motivational psychology. The metaphor of a catalyst is borrowed from the domain of chemistry where it refers to an entity which stimulates processes, but is itself void of energy sources. In many cases they remain fully unaffected by processes already being run. In a similar vein, Dweck's decisively deemed implicit personality theories (IPT) of human attributes are not the direct energizers of achievement behavior. IPTs need not be elicited (as need of achievement). They are neither responsible for setting off triggers nor do they allege concrete behavior programs (as are/do instincts), and they cannot be dismantled or satisfied (as can drives). In the terminology of Dweck, IPTs figure as a "meaning system" which has decisive consequences for motivation and behavior, particularly in achievement situations. This point of view concerning the role of implicit knowledge structures is in harmony with recent developments in further sectors of psychology (e.g., Beck, 1996; Epstein, 1990; Gollwitzer & Bargh, 1996; Shweder & LeVine, 1984; Sorrentino & Higgins, 1996).

A side effect of Dweck's stressing the importance of IPTs is the strong cognitive orientation of her theory. This view certainly deviates from many common sense intuitions, which see biological entities like the aforementioned instincts or drives as the ultimate causes of behavior.

However, the prevalence of cognitive aspects in Dweck's theory by no means implicates that she downplays the importance of non-cognitive factors in human behavior, but rather that IPTs shape the ways in which they function. To give a further example, affects are similarly seen as products of processes affected by IPTs. If and how affects or alternative energizers of behavior in turn can bring about a change in the implicit theories of intelligence is not subjected to discussion. One can, however, assume that such alterations are of a primarily cognitive nature (Mueller & Dweck, 1998).

The Motivation Process Model is essentially a trait oriented personality theory, in which environmental variables are only mentioned as boundary conditions. For example, according to Dweck (1989) a high-achieving person could pursue a performance goal, i.e. be motivated to openly display his/her achievements to others, in order to obtain acclaim. However, the focus in the Motivation Process Model is not on those being addressed by the action, but rather how specific personality characteristics predispose specific behaviors. To be more precise, the Motivation Process Model, applied to achievement contexts, is essentially a theory about intra-personal processes under the influence of the IPT of intelligence. Specifically, four central effects of the IPT of intelligence on achievement motivation can be isolated. They have either direct or indirect influence on:

* the seeking and evaluation of information,

* the goals persons pursue,

* behavior, and

* outcome evaluation.

Initially this chapter will present the components of Dweck's Motivation Process Model. Thereafter, a description of the causal relationships postulated by the model will be offered and exemplary consequences for motivational research will be discussed. In conclusion, a short resume of the most important characteristics of the Motivation Process Model will be drawn, with attention being brought to both the strengths of the model as well as those points it leaves open for analysis in future studies. …

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