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Motivation and Emotion, Vol. 7, No. 3, 1983
Reconceptualizing of the Overjustification Effect: A Template-Matching Approach 1
Lloyd E. Sandelands z Columbia University
Susan J. Ashford Northwestern University
Jane E. Dutton New York University
The paper reviews traditional attributional explanations for the over- justification effect in task motivation, isolates their weaknesses, and proposes an alternative account based on the notion that individuals process task information schematically. It is proposed that task informa- tion relating to motivation is interpreted by cognitive schema or "tem- plates," which identify tasks as being either instrumental or expressive in nature. When the expressive template is evoked, the task is perceived to be playlike and is experienced as inherently motivating. When the instrumental template is evoked, the task is perceived as a means to an end and task motivation results from the perceived value of the task for attaining intrinsic and~or extrinsic rewards. Structural characteristics o f these templates are proposed. According to this account, overjustification effects occur when the perceived characteristics of tasks change such that the expressive template is replaced by the instrumental template and expressive motivation is transformed into instrumental motivation.
1The authors gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments of Jeanne Brett, L. L. Cummings, James Larson, Joseph Moag, Alice Tybout, and an anonymous reviewer in the preparation of this manuscript.
2Address all correspondence to Lloyd E. Sandelands, Graduate School of Business, 720 Uris Hall, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027.
0146-7239/83/0900-0229503.00/0 © 1983 Plenum Publishing Corporation
230 Sandelands, Ashford, and Dutton
In the last 15 years a substantial amount of research on task motivation has been sparked by a particularly interesting and puzzling motivational phenomenon known in the literature of social psychology as the "over- justification effect" (Lepper & Greene, 1975). This literature is based upon the now well-documented observation that for certain behavioral tasks, under specified conditions, the introduction of externally mediated task rewards leads to a decrease in individual task satisfaction and behavioral persistence (Notz, 1975).
The overjustification effect has been presented to classical motivation theory as an anomaly. While traditional reinforcement (Skinner, 1953; Watson, 1924) and expectancy-value models of motivation (Lewin, 1938; Peak, 1955; Rosenberg, 1956; Vroom, 1964) posit the additivity of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, the decrement in task interest observed with the introduction of pay or other extrinsic rewards to an interesting task belies this fundamental additivity assumption. The overjustification effect has been primarily explained by attribution theories of task motivation (cf. Calder & Staw, 1975; Deci, 1971; Kruglanski, 1975; Lepper, Greene, & Nisbett, 1973; Ross, 1975), although there have been recent attempts to accommodate it within reinforcement theory (cf. Mawhinney, 1979; Scott, 1976).
Despite consensus about the importance of attribution processes for task motivation, problems persist with attributional explanations of task motivation and the overjustification effect. The purpose of this paper is to propose an alternative explanation of task motivation that is also capable of accounting for the overjustification effect. This explanation, called template theory, rests upon a distinction between two fundamentally different types of perceptions about task structure. The first type is called instrumental task perception. It is based on perceptions, or simple expecta- tions, that task performance leads to the experience of intrinsic and/or ex- trinsic rewards, i.e., that the task has an instrumental structure. This perception of task structure is proposed to stimulate subsequent perceptual processing of information about the rewards associated with the task. The second type of perception of task structure is termed expressive. It is based on perceptions that task activity is structured as play. Expressive task perceptions are proposed to propagate a unique form of task motivation herein called expressive motivation.
Template theory argues that people possess cognitive templates or schemas in memory by which they perceive tasks as being structured as instrumentalities or as play. Task perception involves matching the per- ceptual attributes of tasks to these perceptual templates to form meaningful impressions of task structure. When a task is perceived to correspond to the
Reconceptualizing Overjustification 231
expressive template, that template is matched and the task is perceived to have the structure of play. When a task does not match the expressive template, the instrumental template is automatically matched and the task is perceived to be an instrumentality (i.e., a means to an end). The crux of template theory is the hypothesis that perceptions of expressive task struc- ture are affectively more positive and motivating than perceptions of in- strumental task structure. According to template theory, the overjustifica- tion effect occurs when the perceptual attributes of tasks change such that the expressive task template is replaced in perception by the instrumental template and expressive motivation is transformed into instrumental motivation.
The paper begins with a review of attributional explanations of task motivation and the overjustification effect. Following the review, a number of theoretical issues are discussed that question the tenability of current attribution frameworks. In response to these issues, template theory is presented and is argued to be a superior approach to understanding task motivation and the overjustification effect. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of template theory for conceptualizing task motivation in general.
ATTRIBUTIONAL EXPLANATIONS OF TASK M O T I V A T I O N AND THE OVER JUSTIFICATION
The use of cognitive attributional arguments to account for task motivation and the overjustification effect originated with Deci's cognitive evaluation theory. According to Deci (1971, 1972; Deci & Ryan, 1981), a person is intrinsically motivated whenever he locates the cau- sality for his action within himself and extrinsically motivated whenever he locates causality for his action in the environment. Cognitive evalua- tion theory is based on the premise that there are two types of informa- tion revealed by an extrinsic reward: (a) the locus of control for a person's behavior and (b) evidence of a person's competence. Depending upon which aspect of the reward is most salient in a given situation, its introduction will or will not result in the overjustification effect (Deci, 1971). Thus, contexts that make salient the controlling aspect of extrinsic rewards should undermine task interest, while contexts that make salient the competency aspect of these rewards should enhance task interest (Deci, 1975).
A second explanation for the overjustification effect was invoked by Lepper and Greene (1975) and Lepper et al. (1973) to account for intrinsic
232 Sandelands, Ashford, and Dul~on
motivation among young children. These authors employed an attributional variant of Bem's self-perception theory (1972). This theory suggests that people discount internal causes of their behavior if plausible external causes are present. As viewed by self-perception theory, the overjustification effect occurs when a person sees himself or herself undertaking an activity to obtain an extrinsic goal. In this formulation, the nature of the extrinsic goal is of little consequence so long as it is a plausible explanation of task behavior (Lepper et al., 1973). Researchers have utilized "good player awards" and other symbolic and intangible rewards and produced the same undermining effect (Lepper et al., 1973; Lepper & Greene, 1975).
Yet another attributional explanation was proposed by Kruglanski, Riter, Amitai, Margolin, Shabtai, and Zaksh (1975) in response to concep- tual problems they felt inhered in the distinction between internal and ex- ternal behavior causation. These authors propose an explanation based on a distinction between causes that are part of the content of the activity and those that are incidental consequences. Accordingly, intrinsic motiva- tion is said to occur when a person's self-attributed cause for task be- havior inheres in the content of the task. In contrast, extrinsic motiva- tion is posited when a person's self-attributed cause for his or her behavior inheres in the task's consequences. If a task is ordinarily associated with extrinsic rewards, the reward is considered endogenous, and should enhance intrinsic motivation. If a reward is task-exogenous (i.e., merely incidentally associated with a given task), then the traditional overjustifica- tion effect should occur (Kruglanski et al., 1975).
A final attributional explanation has been proposed by Calder and Staw (1975; Staw, Calder, Hess, & Sandelands, 1980). According to these authors, perceptions of both the "means" of a task (i.e., task behavior) and its "ends" (i.e., outcomes, goals) are utilized in the attribution calculus. When means are perceived as positive and ends as negative (satisfying task, no reward), the attribution of internal causation is made. When means are perceived as negative and ends positive (unsatisfying or dis- satisfying task, reward), the attribution of external causation is made. Finally, when a positive end is situationally linked with a positive means (satisfying task, reward) the attribution calculus is less clear-cut as at- tributions of internal or external motivation are possible. Staw et al. (1980) hypothesize that in this situation, the resulting explanation of be- havior depends upon which attribution is stronger.
Despite subtle differences, all of the foregoing attributional accounts are concerned with the effects of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards on causal attributions relating to task interest and subsequent voluntary behavior. All posit that individuals act as if they identify intrinsic and extrinsic rewards as being the reasons for their behaviors. And finally, all offer the
Reconceptualizing Overjustification 233
same overjustification hypothesis-namely, that the provision of extrinsic reasons for engaging in an interesting task leads to decrements in subsequent intrinsic interest. Although theorists posit somewhat different attributional processes to explain the overjustification effect, the dif- ferences between these processes are small when compared to the sub- stantial overlap between them in their view of the cognitive basis of motiva- tion. This overlap provides a basis for the critique in the following section.
Theoretical Issues in Attribution Theories of Task Motivation
Recently, attributional explanations of task motivation have attracted criticism. Interestingly, this criticism has not addressed the theory's ability to order empirical findings (Kruglanski, 1975; Lepper & Greene, 1978) but rather has focused upon conceptual problems and questions about the integrity of theoretical assumptions. Among the most compelling of these criticisms are the following:
Unwarranted Assumption of Continuous and Conscious Information Processing. Underlying attributional explanations of task motivation is the assumption that people make attributional and motivational judg- ments on the basis of how they perceive the causes of their behavior (Heider, 1958; Kelley, 1967). These perceptions of causality are assumed to be based on conscious and ongoing processing of information about them- selves, their behavior, and the environment. Recently some theorists have begun to question whether these assumptions are valid or even necessary to explain the cognitive basis of motivation and emotion. Langer (1978) has wondered whether the reason why attribution processes are so frequent- ly observed in experimental research is because most of this research is conducted in the laboratory. According to Langer, the experimental laboratory is the type of context in which people are likely to be concerned about the causes of their behavior. Echoing this view, Lepper and Greene (1978) admit the possibility that "these hypothesized attributional processes occur only when "triggered" by some factor that produces explicit attention to the appropriate attributional questions" (p. 130).
Consistent with this view, recent empirical research has suggested that a view of man/woman as assiduous attributor of causality is un- warranted in many cases. For example, Langer (1978) and her associates (Langer, Blank, & Chanowitz, 1978) present evidence suggesting that many ostensibly thoughtful actions are actually unconscious and automatic, and occur without the individual ever thinking about explanations of their causality. This was demonstrated in a field study (Langer et al., 1978) in which persons were asked by a confederate of the experimenter for permission to cut in front of them in a line to use a community Xerox
234 Sandelands, Ashford, and Dutton
machine. By manipulating both the information content and the semantic structure of this request, they demonstrated that for small requests, the semantic structure of the request was more important for inducing com- pliance than the information content of the request. For large requests, this pattern of results was reversed.
The authors invoked the concept of a cognitive script (cf. Abelson, 1976) to explain these findings. Subjects in the small request condition were hypothesized to employ a simple compliance script when faced by a request of a particular semantic structure. As a result, individuals paid attention only to the semantic structure of the request and not to its in- formation content. High compliance occurred if a request was semantically structured as i f a reason for cutting in line was provided. Compliance occurred even if the reason offered contained no new information. In contrast, in the large request condition, subjects not only paid attention to the semantic structure of the request but also were sensitive to its in- formation content. Their explanation for this effect suggested that subjects in the large request condition were more mindful and conscious of the request and its information content because of the cost of compliance. In light of this cost, subjects complied only when sufficient justification for the request was given, regardless of the semantic structure of the request. In this case, scripted behavior did not occur. Comparing the compliance patterns between small and large request conditions, the authors concluded that while in both cases it appears that subjects make a conscious decision whether or not to comply with a request, only in the case of the large request do subjects pay strict attention to their informa- tion environment. In the case of the small request, compliance occurred with only minimal cognition.
Langer et al. (1978) cite this study, as well as others, to make the point that the inferential processes traditionally assumed by cognitive theories of behavior may not occur as generally or as often as commonly thought. In their opinion, the fact that attribution or dissonance pro- cesses are commonly observed in the laboratory is not compelling evidence that such processes occur always, or even often, outside the laboratory.
In a similar vein, Zajonc (1980) points to a number of empirical studies that collectively suggest that many affective and motive responses to tasks occur with little or no prefatory cognition. Citing the work of Moreland and Zajonc (1977, 1979) and Wilson (1979), Zajonc argues that affective reactions to a stimulus may result even if that stimulus is not accompanied by cognitions as elementary as recognition. According to Zajonc, then, under certain circumstances it is unnecessary that affective and motive responses be anticipated by cognitive inference processes such as those of dissonance or attribution.
Reconceptualizing Overjustification 235
As currently formulated, attribution theory is inadequate for explaining this "mindless" behavior. To account for causal attribution under conditions of minimal information processing requires a theory of how internal and external structures of causality are identified independent- ly of perceptions of the content of causes. Current attributional models, however, postulate that it is the meaning content of intrinsic and extrinsic task rewards that determines the nature of causal attribution. Deci (1971; Deci & Rayan, 1981), for example, asks whether extrinsic task rewards are perceived as controlling or informational. Lepper et al. (1973) ask whether they are perceived as plausible or sufficient causes for task be- havior. Finally, Calder and Staw (1975) ask whether extrinsic rewards (i.e., ends) are valued more or less positively than intrinsic rewards (i.e., means). In each case the underlying causal structure of task behavior is presumed to be inferred from cognitions about the meaning content of rewards. This type of explanation proceeds in a direction opposite to Langer's-where the structure of a script implies meaning content. In attribution theory, perceptions about meaning content (i.e., task rewards) lead to inferences of causal structure.
The question of whether attribution processes are continuous or occasional strikes at the core of current attributional conceptions of task motivation and overjustification effects. The questionable generalizability of the assumption that people are continuous and mindful processors of information and attributors of causality offers the possibility that other cognitive processes may better explain task motivation phenomena in general and the overjustification effect in particular. Template theory is offered as a process theory that accommodates this possibility.
Ambiguous Distinction Between Internal and External Attributions and Motivations. Attribution theories of task motivation assert that self- attributed causes for behavior affect motivation according to whether they are internal or external to the person (Bern, 1972; deCharms, 1968; Lepper & Greene, 1975; Nisbett & Valins, 1971). The integrity of this distinction has drawn increasing attention and criticism (cf. Calder, 1977; Guzzo, 1979; Kruglanski, 1975; Lepper & Greene, 1976; Reiss & Sushinsky, 1975, 1976). Reiss and Sushinsky (1975) claim that the distinction is un- necessary, and they present data to suggest that the overjustification effect can be more parsimoniously explained by a "competing response" hypothesis (cf. Child & Waterhouse, 1952). Kruglanski (1975) argues that the categories of internal and external causes are conceptually indistinct and thereby theoretically problematic. He concludes:
• . . the current applications of the internal-external distinction may suffer from two conceptual difficulties: (a) the problem of criterion and (b) the problem of inference. The first of these problems is that the classification of specific causes into
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the internal and external categories has typically lacked explicit justification, and the two criteria that seem to underlie such categorizations (the notions of generi- cally internal or external causes and of the uniqueness standard) need not coincide, The second problem is that the existing treatments of the internaPexternal dis- tinction furnish little rationale for linking it with the various inferences with which it has been credited. (pp. 404-405)
In response to the conceptual ambiguity of the distinction between internal and external causes for behavior, Kruglanski and his colleagues (Kruglanski et al., 1975) propose a content-consequence (i.e. endogenous- exogenous) distinction to mediate attributional judgments. A similar distinction between means and ends is proposed by Calder and Staw (1975). It is not clear that these reformulations of the attributional calculus actually improve upon the problems they propose to solve. As Staw et al. (1980) have noted, the content-consequence distinction is difficult to apply to many kinds of tasks. Except for games for which there are explicit rules about rewards (e.g., gambling), it is difficult to determine whether or not rewards inhere in a task's content. Moreover, many tasks for which monetary rewards are provided do not differ markedly from tasks for which payment is not thought necessary (e.g., manual, secretarial, or supervisory work in voluntary versus nonvoluntary organizations). A more trenchant critique of both the content-consequence distinction and the means-ends distinction is suggested by Calder (1977), who argues that at the level of scientific explanation (as opposed to naive or everyday explanation) both of these reformulations are identical to the distinc- tion between internal and external causes. According to Calder, these alternative formulations are not defined in terms that distinguish them conceptually from internal and external causes. Thus, while "content- consequence" or "means-ends" terminologies may more accurately reflect the phenomenology of attributions about task motivation, they are not, in Calder's view, scientifically distinguishable f rom the terminology of internal and external behavior causation.
More sweeping and compelling criticisms of the internal-external distinction in attribution theory are those of Reiss and Sushinsky (1975) and especially Guzzo (1979). These authors question the more fundamental distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation types. Reiss and Sushinsky (1975) argue that the concept of intrinsic motivation as distinct from extrinsic motivation is vague and has been inconsistently operationalized. They conclude, "In the final analysis, the distinction be- tween intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is such that the overjustification hypothesis is too vague for scientific purposes" (Reiss & Sushinsky, 1975, p. 1124). Guzzo (1979) believes that the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation types should be abandoned altogether, as follows:
a) there is no unambiguous definitional separation of intrinsic and extrinsic re- wards, whether the definitional statements are highly conceptual or highly operational;
Reconceptualizing Overjustification 237
b) there is not clear demarcation of reward types based on tevel of need served; c) the two types of rewards do not consistently differentiate themselves on the
basis of reciprocal influence of reward effects, as has been theorized; and d) the two types of rewards are not distinguishable on the basis of differences in
hypothesized cognitive consequences of rewards. (p. 82)
On reflection it can be seen that the problems of distinguishing in- trinsic and extrinsic motivation types stem primarily from a failure to adequately define intrinsic motivation as a theoretical construct. Within attribution theories of task motivation "intrinsic motivation" is defined as motivation that results f rom perceptions of internal causation (e.g., feelings of personal causation (deCharms, 1968), competence (Deci, 1971), or internal causality (Lepper & Greene, 1975; Nisbett & Valins, 1971)). How such perceptions come about is left unspecified. Indeed, internal causation is more often regarded as a residual ca tegory--a default classification made when clear external behavior causes are not present.
The failure to provide a clearly independent conceptual definition of intrinsic motivation has prompted the criticism by some authors that intrinsic motivation has been only operationally defined (cf. Brief & Aldag, 1977; Calder, 1977; Kruglanski et al., 1975; Reiss & Sushinsky, 1975). Clearly, further conceptual development is necessary to explicate intrinsic and extrinsic motivation types within the attributional framework. Im- provement over current conceptualizations rests on theoretical frameworks that define inherently motivating tasks in concrete and independently verifiable terms. Template theory represents such as framework.
TEMPLATE THEORY A N D TASK MOTIVATION
Attribution theory posits that task motivation derives from people's causal interpretations of their behavior. It assumes that people perceive their actions in instrumental terms, i.e., with reference to either intrinsic or extrinsic rewards. If this assumption is relaxed and the possibility is entertained that people perceive their own behavior in noninstrumental as well as instrumental terms, then an alternative account of overjustifica- tion effects is made possible.
Template theory argues that perceptions of task structure may be ex- pressive (noninstrumental) as well as instrumental. These perceptions, in turn, are critical determinants of affect toward tasks and subsequent motive force. According to this theory, perceptions of task structure are mediated by a process of template matching wherein perceptual attributes of tasks are matched against cognitive templates in memory. When the instrumental template is matched, the task is perceived as being instrumental and motivation results from the perception that the task leads to valued outcomes (intrinsic and extrinsic). When the expressive template is
238 Sandelands, Ashford, and Dutton
matched, the task is perceived as being playlike and motivation results from immediate affective responses to the task itself. These responses are based not on perceptions of the task's instrumental value but rather on its intrinsic, aesthetic qualities. This difference is then held to account for differences in task attitudes and motivation observed in the overjustifica- tion effect.
Template theory thus implies a fundamental distinction between instrumental and expressive motivation, one that closely mirrors the dis- tinction between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation as orginally con- ceived by Sigmund Koch (1956). Koch's version of intrinsic motivation is labeled "expressive" to clearly distinguish it from conceptualizations of intrinsic motivation in attribution theory that are instrumental in orienta- tion. According to attribution theory, intrinsic motivation occurs when an individual explains his/her behavior by referring to instrumentalities that reside somehow in the nature of a task. This conception does not capture the essence of Koch's original distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. As Koch (1956) described it, intrinsic motivation "is in funda- mental respects intrinsically determinated within the conditions of its own context, that it is self-regulated, self-determining, self-liquidating" (p. 17). According to Koch, the most prominent feature of intrinsic motivation is that it is distinctly noninstrumental. In the view of template theory, this form of motivation (i,e., expressive motivation) stems from perceptions of tasks as having specific structural characteristics, and not from percep- tions of internal or external task rewards.
The prototypical example of an expressively motivating task is play. By examining the perceptual characteristics of play, one can fashion a description of tasks that will likely match an expressive template. The literature on play provides a rich description of the characteristics of expressive activities.
Perceptual Qualities of Expressive Activities
Within the psychological and anthropological literatures on play are a few recurring themes in the description of play activities. Play activities (including games of skill) are distinguished from nonplay activities primarily on the basis of whether their meanings are literal or figurative in nature (cf. Bateson, 1972; Miller, 1973). According to Bateson (1972), the essence of play, as distinct from other forms of activity, is its figura- tive na ture- the fact that meanings within play are make-believe, nonreal, and nonliteral. Similarly, other authors have noted that play involves a peculiar sense of being suspended, or detached, from the real world (Berlyne, 1968; Caillois, 1961; Csikszentmihalyi, 1974; Dewey, 1925;
Reconceptualizing Over justification 239
Erikson, 1950; Groos, 1901; Huizinga, 1950; Levy, 1978; Piaget, 1962). According to Erikson (1950), in play man is "on vacation from reality" (p. 185). The meaning of play to the individual is therefore purely figura- tive.
The "figurativeness" of play is particularly important because it relates to many of the other characteristics commonly ascribed to it, many of which appear important precisely because they make figurative experience possible. Studies of play emphasize five perceptual character- istics that bear on perceptions of figurativeness: Play is perceived to (1) occur in episodes that distinguish it from other activities in the stream of experience, (2) be nonproductive in the sense that outcomes are of minimal relevance to participants outside the boundaries of the play episode, (3) be freely engaged in by participants and behaviors within play freely chosen, (4) be governed by rules, and (5) have uncertain performance out- comes. Each of these characteristics will be considered in turn.
Play Perceived to Occur in Episodes. Play is an activity that is per- ceived to exist outside of the boundaries of the real or serious world (Bateson, 1972; Caillois, 1961; Huizinga, 1950; Levy, 1978). As such it is perceived to have its own boundaries, which identify it in space and time as unique. In the absence of such boundaries, people could not distinguish when meanings are supposed to be perceived literally or figuratively. For example, Neff (1968) has suggested that the function of the baseball um- pire is to help manage and maintain the boundaries of the game and thus preserve the distinction between the figurative reality of the game and the literal reality outside of it.
Play Perceived as Nonproductive. Many authors stress the fact that play is perceived by participants to have little personal value outside the context of the play episode. Play is perceived to involve neither the produc- tion of material wealth (Caillois, 1961) nor the accrual of social benefits such as praise or social esteem (Huizinga, 1950). Pure play is wholly "expressive," completely noninstrumental and nonrationalized. Outcomes produced in such activities are perceived as being of no use outside the context of the activity. When outcomes are perceived to be important outside the play episode, the nonserious, figurative character of play is vitiated. An activity pursued for instrumental purposes is not truly figurative or playful because it is not perceived independently of the real or literal value attributed to its consequences.3
3The nonproductive quality of play does not mean that individuals do not value play out- comes within the figurative context o f the play episode. In games, for example, players care a great deal about who wins and who loses. When the game is over, however, the outcomes mean nothing. Games are, after all, only games.
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Play Perceived as Freely Engaged. A third perceptual characteristic ascribed to play is personal freedom. Players perceive that participation is voluntary and that they are free to act however they wish within the bounds of the play episode (Huizinga, 1950; Levy, 1978; Miller, 1973). In perceiving this characteristic, individuals view their actions as being unbound or unconstrained by forces external to the activity. This preserves play's figurative essence (i.e., its detachment from the real or literal).
Play Perceived to Be Governed by Rules That Define a Relationship Between Behaviors and Outcomes. A fourth characteristic of play is that it is perceived to be governed by an internal system of rules that define the domain and sequence of actions allowed to participants (Caillois, 1961; Kusyszyn, 1977; Levy, 1978; Piaget, 1962). These rules serve two functions. First, they define what is to be included and excluded from the play episode and thereby identify it as an activity separate from other activities in the flow of experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1974; Neff, 1968). Second, they define a lawful experience between play behaviors and play outcomes. By following the rules, participants believe that their actions will neces- sarily result in some outcome.
Play Perceived to Produce Uncertain Outcomes. A feature of play considered essential by most observers is the perception of tension or uncertainty about outcomes (Berlyne, 1968; Caillois, 1961; Huizinga, 1950; Levy, 1978). Perceived uncertainty about outcomes, coupled with the per- ception that outcomes are lawfully related to behavior, lends suspense to play. Many authors believe that this quality of suspense is critical to its enjoyment (Caillois, 1961; Kusyszyn, 1977; Levy, 1978).
The Experience of Play and Expressive Motivation
Table I summarizes the perceptual properties of play. These prop- erties provide a foundation for postulating a theory of expressive motiva- tion and developing an alternative explanation of overjustification effects. Template theory argues that the configuration of perceptions that identifies an activity as play (whether or not it is called "play") is responsible for expressive motivation. According to this theory, all of the perceptual characteristics of play just described are sine qua nons of play perceptions
Table I. Perceptual Properties of Play
Episode structure Nonproductive Freely engaged Rules that define relationship
between behaviors and outcomes
Figurative perception of activity as play
Reconceptualizing Overjustification 241
such that expressive motivation is not experienced unless each and every characteristic is perceived. Morever, the perceptual elements of play are hypothesized to have no affective or motivational effects by themselves but derive their meaning and power only in reference to the entire structure. Thus, an activity is expressively motivating, if, and only if, it is perceived as (a) episodic, (b) nonproductive, (c) freely engaged, (d) governed by rules linking behaviors to outcomes, and (e) having uncertain outcomes. These characteristics are important theoretically because of the role they play in inducing and maintaining the essential play quality of figurativeness. If an activity is not perceived to have all these characteristics, then it will not be perceived as playful or inherently motivating. The activity, if engaged in at all, will be pursued because it is viewed as a means of achieving some personally valued end. It will not be expressively moti- vating.
Template Theory and Task Motivation
Template theory rests on a general cognitive model that postulates that perceptions are mediated by cognitive structures called "templates" or "schemas," which act as built-in maps or programs for the processing and interpretation of perceptual data (Bartlett, 1932; Neisser, 1976). According to this model, task perception is conceptualized as a matching process whereby perceptual data about tasks are matched to templates stored in memory to form meaningful task impressions. Template theory proposes that instrumental and expressive forms of task motivation result from the instantiation of different cognitive templates in task perception. The instrumental template is proposed to consist of a simple instrumental model or "structure" of task behavior wherein tasks are cognitively represented as means to valued outcomes (e.g., intrinsic or extrinsic rewards). The expressive template, on the other hand, is proposed to correspond to the description of play outlined above, wherein tasks are cognitively represented as a single structure consisting of the five perceptual features associated with play. Following the general cognitive model of schematic processing, it is proposed that when a task is perceptually matched to the instrumental template it will be experienced as instrumentally motivating, and when it is perceptually matched to the expressive template it will be experienced as expressively motivating?
4At this time, it is not clear just how instrumental and expressive templates might be matched in perception. One possibility is that they are matched on the basis of necessary and sufficient task attributes. Another possibility is that instrumental and expressive templates are cognitively represented in the form of idealized prototypes in memory (cf. Rosch, 1978). Tasks might then be matched to prototypes by simple judgments of sim!larity.
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The crux of template theory is the hypothesis that, all other things being equal, expressive (play) perceptual structures evoke more positive affective and motivational responses to task behavior than do instrumental perceptual structures. Or in other words, reactions to tasks themselves are more positive when they are perceived to be structured as play as com- pared to when they are perceived to be structured as instrumentalities. Support for this hypothesis comes from research that has demonstrated the alienating properties of certain instrumental tasks despite their reward value (cf. Blauner, t964). In contrast, research on play has consistently documented the positive affect associated with its engagement (cf. Beach, 1945; Berlyne, 1968; Csikszentmihalyi, 1974; Weisler & McCall, 1976).
Numerous hypotheses have been advanced to account for the positive emotionality of play perceptions. Among these are proposals that play (1) satisfies basic needs such as a need for play (Groos, 1901; McDougall, 1908), exploration (Berlyne, 1968), competence (White, 1959), or control (Erikson, 1950; Miller, 1973; Weisler & McCall, 1976); (2) reduces psy- chological tensions (Erikson, 1950); (3) maintains equilibrium levels of arousal (Fiske & Maddi, 1961); (4) facilitates cognitive and motoric development (Bruner, 1974; Groos, 1901; Miller, 1973; Piaget, 1962); and (5) promotes the "risk-free" development of important functional skills (Miller, 1973). Other theorists have argued that play activities are plea- surable for aesthetic reasons (Arnheim, 1954; Koch, 1956; Langer, 1942) and that the characteristics of p l ay - in particular its figurative essence- make it a formal analogue of art? Koch (1956), for example, argued that certain forms of human activity, such as play, have aestheticlike qualities, which he called "value determining properties," that determine affective experience and motive response. These aesthetic qualities are viewed as fundamentally different in kind from instrumental causes of emotion and behavior such as need satisfactions, drive reductions, or equilibrium restorals.
~There seem to be two important similarities between play and the fine arts that relate to their functioning as vehicles for aesthetic experience. First, both are figurative expressions. This aspect has been viewed as essential for the aesthetic experience o f art (Langer, 1975) as well as for the playful experience o f activity (Bateson, 1972). A second commonal i ty seems to be an emphasis upon the analogic mode of expression (for art, see Langer, 1942; for play, see Bateson, 1972). As Langer (1942) has noted, the capability of an art form to express emotions or sentiments is a function o f how well its symbolic structure can accommodate the dynamic structure o f emotional life. Both play and art (e.g., music, painting, dance) are ideally suited to this task.
Reconceptualizing Overjustification 243
TEMPLATE THEORY AND THE OVER JUSTIFICATION EFFECT
Using template theory, the overjustification effect can now be recon- ceptualized as the change in task interest and behavioral persistence that results when a task initially perceived as expressively structured (i.e., as corresponding to the structure of play) is altered in such a way as to be perceived as instrumentally structured. At the level of perceptual processing, overjustification effects occur when the expressive perceptual template is replaced by the instrumental perceptual template. Rather than focusing upon the effects of cues about intrinsic and extrinsic rewards upon causal attributions, template theory directs theoretical attention to the effects of rewards and/or other task cues upon perceptions of task structure (i.e., instrumental versus expressive). The difference is subtle but significant. This reconceptualization suggests that the cognitions involved in task motivation and the overjustification effect are not nearly so sophisticated or consuming as the causal reasoning specified by at- tribution theory. Instead, the cognitive process is conceived to be a matter of straightforward classification, a template-matching process by which individuals perceptually match task attributes with cognitive templates from memory.
Template theory makes two predictions about task motivation: (a) People experience positive task affect and expressive motivation when the task is perceived to be structured as play, and (b) a decrement in task affect and expressive motivation (i.e., the overjustification effect) occurs when perceptions of task structure change from expressive to instru- mental. In light of these predictions, it is expected that the tasks for which overjustification effects have been observed would resemble play. Table II presents a representative listing of tasks used in research on the overjus- tification effect. As the table clearly reveals, a majority of these tasks in- volve some type of puzzle-solving or gamelike activity and require a certain degree of involvement and imagination of the participants. In fact, with the exception of those tasks deliberately chosen to be monotonous, most are puzzles, games, or creative tasks - a l l clearly playful.
More substantial support for template theory comes from the existing empirical data surrounding overjustification phenomena. To date, six con- ditions have been found to be necessary to produce the effect: Rewards must be (1) contingent on the task or contingent on performance, (2) expected, (3) salient, and (4) task-exogenous; (5) there must be no norm for payment; and (6) individuals must experience choice to engage in the task. From the standpoint of attribution theory, these parameters are important because they ensure that persons attribute their behavior to external causes
244 Sandelands, Ashford, and Dutton
Table 11. Tasks Used in Overjustification Research"
Number of Task type studies
Puzzle solving Soma (13), computer (1), hidden pictures (3), 20 ad lib game (2), water jar problem (t)
Artistic tasks Drawing (7), collage (1), headline writing (1), 11 drum playing (1), learning songs (1)
Games Athletics game (1), stockmarket game (1), chess (1), 7 Star Trek game (1), labyrinth game (1), road race game (1), coin toss (1)
Choice tasks Choosing among slides (1), sorting cards (3) 4
Assembly tasks Erector sets (2), simple assembly (1) 3
Monotonous tasks Erasing letters (1), copying text (1), reading text (1), 5 coding scores (2)
Miscellaneous tasks Taste-testing (1), Dot-to-dot connecting (1) 2
"Adapted from Sandelands, Ashford, Dutton, and Hinton (1980).
(Deci, 1971), to consequences as opposed to the content o f the act ivi ty (Kruglanski et al., 1975), or to the ends as opposed to the means o f an act ivi ty (Calder & Staw, 1975). W h e n these pa rame te r s are not present , the presence o f a reward or o ther external const ra in t does not a f fec t a t t r ibut ions o f internal causat ion, and thus preserves or enhances the level o f interest in the activity.
The impor t ance o f these pa rame te r s and others less widely researched can be readily explained by t empla te theory. Accord ing to templa te theory , the condi t ions necessary to observe the over jus t i f ica t ion effect are those tha t (a) ensure tha t a task is perceptua l ly s t ructured as expressive initially and (b) change the perceptual characteris t ics o f the task f r o m expressive to ins t rumenta l . The fo rmer condi t ion is intuit ive. Unless a task is perceived as expressive initially, the addi t ion o f rewards canno t unde rmine expressive mot iva t ion . The lat ter condi t ion suggests that unless the perceptua l char- acteristics o f an expressive task are al tered, no change in expresive mot iva - t ion will occur . Here an expressive task remains expressive (i.e., p layful) even af ter the appl ica t ion o f some rewardl ike t rea tment . To fully i l lustrate the exp lana to ry power o f t empla te theory , each o f the a f o r e m e n t i o n e d pa rame te r s is discussed below.
Reconceptualizing Overjustification 245
Rewards Contingent on Task Engagement or Task Performance. According to template theory, a change in perceptions of task structure from expressive to instrumental can come about in a number of ways, two of which are featured in the overjustification literature. First, when an extrinsic reward or constraint (e.g., deadlines, surveillance) is ad- ministered contingently on task engagement (Anderson, Manoogian, & Resnick, 1976; Lepper et al., 1973), it may alter perceptions of expressive task structure by leading the perceiver to dissociate the behavior from its original outcome and substitute in its place the reward or constraint. In this case the reward competes with the original task outcome in deter- mining the structure of task perception. When the reward is perceived to be the consequence of task behavior, an instrumental task perception results (because the task is now an instrumentality) and a decrement in task interest and behavioral persistence ensues. When the external reward is either not perceived or not assimilated to the task, no change in the original perception of task structure is anticipated.
The second way an external reward can affect change in perceptual structure from expressive to instrumental is by attaching a literal value to existing task outcomes. In overjustification studies this has been found to occur when external task rewards are administered contingently on levels of performance (Deci & Ryan, 1981; Harackiewitz, 1979; Pinder, 1976; Pritchard, Campbell, & Campbell, 1977; Weiner & Mander, 1978). In studies of this type, the reward compromises the expressive task struc- ture by attaching a literal value to task outcomes and thereby defining the task as productive and instrumental.
Reward Must Be Expected. In studies with children, researchers dis- covered that rewards must be expected by task incumbents for the over- justification effect to occur (Greene & Lepper, 1974; Lepper et al., 1973; Perry, Bussey, & Redman, 1977). According to template theory, the reward value of a task must be anticipated beforehand if the task is to be perceived as an instrumentality (i.e., a means to an end). If received unexpectedly, after a task is completed, a reward could not have in- fluenced ongoing perceptions of the task as expressive, and could not have caused an overjustification effect (i.e., decrement in expressive motivation).
Reward Must Be Salient. When viewed from template theory, the requirement that rewards must be salient to produce overjustification effects (Ross, 1975) is patent. Unless individuals attend to, and are aware of, the presence of a given task reward, that reward cannot influence their perceptions of the motivational structure of the task and thus cannot produce an overjustification effect. Only when a reward is salient is it likely to be perceived and likely to encourage a perception of the task as instrumental.
246 Sandelands, Ashford, and Dutton
Although template theory anticipates the importance of reward salience, it also suggests that the strength of the original expressive task perception also affects whether or not a salient reward will result in per- ceptual restructuring. In support of this argument, Arnold (1976) found that in a highly interesting game the administration of a salient external reward resulted in no decrement in task interest or behavioral persistence. This suggests that rewards must be not only salient but also sufficiently compelling to overwhelm the initial expressive task perception. Sig- nificantly, this particular prediction is not readily afforded by attribution theories, which assume that if an external reward is both salient and a sufficiently plausible reason for behavior, then an external attribution will be made and the overjustification effect will result.
Reward Must Be Task-Exogenous. Research by Kruglanski et al. (t975) suggests that the overjustification effect occurs only when a reward is perceived to be task-exogenous (i.e., a consequence of the task). Again, template theory accommodates this finding. It indicates quite clearly that for a task to be perceived as instrumental it must be perceived as a means to a valued end. Thus, for an instrumental task perception to occur (and thereby the overjustification effect), the reward must be seen as a consequence of the task. If the reward is viewed as part of the in- trinsic content of the task and not as a task consequence, then it does not invite a perception of the task as instrumental and no overjustifica- tion effect will result.
No Norm for Payment. Recent research has demonstrated yet another precondition for the overjustification effect. In an experiment, Staw et al. (1980) manipulated norms for payment for a particular task and assessed their impact on the relationship between extrinsic rewards and task motivation and satisfaction. They found evidence for the over- justification effect only when there was no norm for payment. This finding is easily explained by template theory through the salience ex- planation provided above. When rewards are attached to a task for which no norms for payment exist, they are salient and encourage a change from expressive to instrumental task perception. When there is a norm for payment, the task is not perceived as expressive initially, as the norm for payment assures that the task is perceived as productive. Consequently, the task is perceived as instrumental at the outset and the provision of rewards has no effect on task interest or behavioral persistence.
Choice to Engage in the Task. A final parameter of the overjus- tification effect concerns task choice. Research shows that individuals must feel that they freely choose to engage the task before the administra- tion of a reward will produce the overjustification effect (Folger, Rosen- field, & Hays, 1978; Turnage & Muchinsky, 1976). The manner in which
Reconceptualizing Overjustification 247
template theory explains this parameter departs somewhat from its ex- planations of previous parameters. The parameters discussed thus far are important because they ensure that rewards will alter the perceptual struc- ture of the task from expressive to instrumental. Thus, it is necessary that a reward be contingent on task engagement or task outcomes, be expected, salient, and task-exogenous, and be presented when no norm for payment exists before it will stimulate a change in perceptual structure from expressive to instrumental. In contrast to this line of argument, the logic supporting the requirement of free choice pertains to the conditions necessary for an activity to be expresive initially, i.e., before the introduc- tion of rewards. Recalling the typifying characteristics of play, it was shown that an activity must be entered into voluntarily if it is to be per- ceived as play. Thus, the free-choice parameter is necessary to establish that a task is perceived as expressive in i t i a l ly - fo r only then can the pro- vision of external rewards affect perceptual structure and precipitate a decrement in expressive motivation,
Additional Parameters Suggested by Template Theory
The power of template theory is demonstrated not only by its ability to order known parameters of the overjustification effect but also by its ability to suggest additional parameters for the effect. Whereas attribution theories of task motivation identify parameters on the basis of how they impact perceptions of task behavior as being motivated by external concerns (i.e., rewards, choice to participate, deadlines, sur- veillance), template theory identifies them on the basis of how they impact instrumental or expressive perceptions of task behavior. Consequently, template theory offers unique predictions about the occurrence of over- justification effects that are not easily accommodated by attribution theories of task motivation.
According to template theory, the overjustification effect occurs when a task initially perceived as expressive is later perceived as instrumental. Theoretically, this could occur if any of the structural conditions for expressive motivation are altered such that the instrumental template is perceptually matched instead of the expressive template. 6 On this basis,
61t seems likely that the instrumental template is easier to match than the expressive tem- plate. Individuals have a great capacity for rationalizing their actions by finding ends for which their behavior is an instrumental means. Thus, one can hypothesize that unless a task is perceived to correspond fully to the expressive template, the instrumental template will be matched instead.
248 Sandelands, Ashford, and Dutton
one can predict that alterations of an expressive task that make it non- episodic (e.g., by designing it as an endless cycle or by stretching it out over tong periods of time) or involuntary (e.g., by making it obligatory), or that make its outcomes certain (e.g., by setting easy goals), productive (e.g., by introducing a reward or making the reward value of task outcomes salient), or unconnected to behaviors by rules (e.g., by making outcomes noncontingent on behaviors) will result in a decrement in expressive motivation. While attribution theory predicts some of these effects (e.g., task involuntary, outcomes productive, outcomes contingent on behavior), it does not predict effects for either outcome certainty or episode structure.
Perhaps the most significant new hypothesis offered by template theory concerns the effects of making superfluous external rewards or intrinsic task rewards perceptually salient. In contrast to attribution theory, which stipulates that only plausible extrinsic rewards can produce the over- justification effect, template theory allows that any reward cue (including superfluous rewards or internal rewards) could identify task structure as a means to an end (i.e., an instrumentality) and product the effect. Supporting evidence is provided by a series of studies by Lepper, Sagotsky, DaFoe, and Greene (1982), which have found that perceptual judgments of task interest and motivation are sometimes based on simple and direct perceptions of the structural properties of tasks and not on perceptions of task content or reward content. In one of these studies, preschool subjects performed two interesting tasks. Half of these subjects were informed that they would have to perform one task in order to perform the other (i.e., that the first task was instrumental for the second). Re- maining subjects were given no contingency instructions and performed the tasks in the order given to them. It was found on an unobtrusive measure of task preference taken 2 weeks later that the simple injunction of an instrumental contingency between the two tasks led to a decrement in preference for the task presented first. The authors surmised from this experiment, and from two that were conceptually analogous, that the simple fact of perceiving a task as instrumental is sufficient to produce a decrement in intrinsic interest. With respect to the literature on over- justification effects, they argued that their findings "suggest strongly that the effects observed in overjustification research are the result of the im- position of superfluous extrinsic constraints on children's actions, not a specification of the use of tangible rewards per se" (p. 2). Interpreted in light of template theory, this research supports the view that affective judgments about tasks arise from direct perceptions of task structure.
CONCEPTUAL ISSUES IN TEMPLATE THEORY
Comparison with Attribution Theories of Task Motivation
In comparison to attributional explanations of task motivation and the overjustification effect, template theory enjoys two distinct advantages. First, it makes less stringent assumptions about the manner in which task information is processed in the determination of motive states. It proposes that tasks are perceived in a relatively straightforward way through a process of template matching. Depending on whether the instrumental or expressive template is matched, tasks will have distinct motivational consequences. In the terminology of Langer (1978), it allows for the possibility that people experience task motivation in a relatively "mindless" sort of way (i.e., without being conscious of the process).
A second advantage of template theory, as compared to attribution theories of task motivation, lies in the precision with which it specifies theoretical constructs. As noted earlier, one problem in attribution theory has been a persistent failure to operationalize the perceptual basis of internal attributions. In template theory, the perceptual basis of ex- pressive and instrumental task perceptions is defined in terms of specific perceptions about task structure. Thus, if a person perceives a task as episodic and voluntary, and its outcomes as nonproductive, uncertain, and not determined by rules about behavior, the expressive template is hypothesized to be matched and expressive motivation will occur. Conversely, if any one of these characteristics is not perceived, then the instrumental template is expected to be matched and no expressive motiva- tion will ensue. This suggests that template theory may be testable in ways that attribution theory is not.
Template Theory and the Paradox of Nonadditive Rewards
It is important to note that template theory resolves the apparent paradox of the nonadditivity of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards observed in the overjustification effect. Template theory argues that task motivation is always either instrumental or expressive. Instrumental motivation derives from a perception that a task leads to receipt of rewards. These rewards may be either internal or external to the task itself. Ex- pressive motivation, on the other hand, is wholly unlike instrumental
250 Sandelands, Ashford, and Dutton
motivation as it derives from the pleasures associated with experiencing an activity structured like play. These two types of motivation are mutually exclusive as the perception of a task in one way precludes its being per- ceived in the other. This fact resolves the paradox of the nonadditivity of internal and external rewards. When an activity is perceived as instrumen- tal, perceived intrinsic and extrinsic rewards are expected to be additive in their motivational effect. However, when an activity is perceived to be expressive, there is no instrumental motivation emanating from the task. Intrinsic and extrinsic rewards operate in concert to influence motivation or they do not operate at all. In no case do they conflict with each other. Thus, the paradox of nonadditive rewards is only illusory. It results from a confusion of reward types (i.e., intrinsic and extrinsic) with motivation types (i.e., instrumental and expressive).
Relationship of Template Theory with Classical Motivation Theory
One noteworthy aspect of template theory is its complementary relationship with classical theories of motivation. Classical motivation theories, such as expectancy-value or reinforcement, are theories of instrumental motivation. For the range of behaviors that are not ex- pressive, these theories are probably appropriate descriptions of motivational phenomena such as behavioral choice or choice of effort levels. However, for those behaviors that are expressive, noninstrumental forms of motivation are at work, and a theory of "expressive motivation" is required. Template theory represents a first step in the development of such a theory.
Implications for Future Research
If instrumental and expressive motivation truly exist as identifiable types, then future research should be undertaken to examine differences between them. The boundary conditions of theories of both instrumental motivation (e.g., expectancy-value theory and reinforcement theory) and expressive motivation (e.g., template theory) need to be explicated, for only then will it be possible to determine which motivation theories apply to which behaviors. In essence, what is being recommended is that at- tempts to construct universalistic theories of task motivation be abandoned in favor of attempts to conceptualize motivation more in terms of "middle- range" theories (Merton, 1967). To do this, however, means that the historical dependence on purely instrumental theories of motivation must
Reconceplualizing Overjustificalion 251
be a b a n d o n e d / A distinction between instrumental and expressive theories of motivation is a preliminary step in this direction.
By "breaking set" from current views of motivation, template theory permits explanations of expressive as well as instrumental motiva- tion. Of course, the theorist who is resolutely entrenched in an instrumental view of motivation can still counter the arguments of template theory by claiming that expressive motivation does not exist as expressive ac- tivities are also rewarding and satisfy instrumental goals. Indeed, it is in the nature of instrumental theories of motivation that it is always possible to posit the existence of a formerly unrecognized instrumen- tality to explain behavior. This is a difficult argument to settle either way. Nevertheless, if there is ever to be a noninstrumental form of motivation, motivation theorists will need to wean themselves from such habits of thought.
S U M M A R Y
The literature on the overjustification effect has been discussed. Current attributional explanations for the effect were reviewed and critiqued on the basis of their common theoretical underpinnings. Two aspects of attribution theory were found to limit its tenability: (a) overly stringent assumptions about the way people process information in making judgments relating to emotion and motivation, and (b) conceptual ambiguity surrounding the distinction between internal and external attributions. These concerns prompted a reconceptualization of task motivation into two basic types-expressive and instrumental. Instrumen- tal motivation was defined as the motive force that derives from per- ceptions that a task leads to the attainment of either intrinsic or ex- trinsic rewards. Expressive motivation was defined as the motive force that derives from the emotional pleasures of perceiving a task as play. On the basis of a review of the scientific literature on human play, a rudimentary description of play activities was developed. This description
7One cannot help but wonder why motivation theorists have focused so exclusively upon an instrumental conception of task motivation. One answer may be that this particular con- ception of motivation preserves a flattering view of people as rational and efficacious in their behavior. Another may be that this conception reflects an unwitting scientific use of naive psychological concepts (cf. Heider, 1958). Psychologists may believe in the validity of instrumental theories of task motivation for no other reason than that they seem so in- tuitive or because people commonly explain their own behavior in distinctly instrumental terms (cf. Koch, 1956). In any case, there is no logical or empirical reason to believe that motivation is exclusively instrumental.
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was then used to develop hypotheses about the cognitive templates used in perceptions of tasks as expressive or instrumental. Called "template theory," these hypotheses suggest that expressive motivation results when the perceived task matches the expressive template and instrumental motivation results when the perceived task matches the instrumental tem- plate. Template theory was then applied to the overjustification effect. This effect was argued to occur when expressive task perceptions are transformed into instrumental task perceptions. Empirical support for template theory was garnered from existing empirical research on over- justification effects.
Of broader significance than its application to the overjustification effect, template theory argues for change in the way task motivation is conceptualized. If two fundamental types of motivation truly exist, then the development of all-encompassing theories of task motivation may be infeasible at this time. Consequently, greater effort should be made to develop more modest, "middle-range" theories of motivation, theories which are carefully specified in terms of their domain and range of ap- plicability. At this point it would seem that theories of instrumental motivation have been fairly well developed. However, the concept of ex- pressive motivation and the boundaries of its applicability and impact have only begun to be explored.
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