Behavioral change in a constant environment: Shift to more difficult tasks with constant probability of success

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Abstract

Tested hypotheses derived from J. Atkinson and D. Birch's (1970, 1974) dynamic theory of action, which proposes a theoretical reorientation from an episodic to a dynamic view of motivation. Traditional episodic theories of achievement motivation predict constant risk preference over a series of free choices from various difficulty levels when the assumed situation-specific determinant (probability of success) remains constant. In contrast to this, dynamic theory predicts a shift to more and more difficult tasks for success-oriented and failure-oriented Ss. Dynamic theory predicts that the initial ambivalence between very easy and very difficult tasks predicted by traditional theory of achievement motivation for failure-oriented Ss, is quickly replaced by a consistent preference for very easy tasks in that motive group. 77 undergraduates were administered a TAT using sex-specific verbal cues, and a short form of the Test Anxiety Questionnaire. 32 males and 32 females were randomly chosen and assigned to experimental or free-choice groups. Results support the predictions. (24 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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