Those who value excellence and hard work generally do better than others on specific tasks when they are reminded of those values. But when a task is presented as fun, researchers report, the same individuals often will do worse than those who say they are less motivated to achieve.
The study appears in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
The findings suggest that two students may respond quite differently to a teacher’s exhortation that they strive for excellence, said University of Illinois psychology professor Dolores Albarracín, who conducted the research with William Hart, of the University of Florida.
One may be spurred to try harder, while another could become less motivated.
The study also suggests that those who are “chronically uninterested in achievement” are not operating out of a desire to do badly, Albarracín said. Their differing responses simply may reflect the fact that they have different goals.
I read about a similar study years ago statistics class that I’ve never been able to track back down*, so I’m very glad to have found this article today. The study I read about found that different groups of people performed differently on certain puzzles depending on whether they were presented as “work” or “games.”
*I thought I read it in my statistics text book, but I’ve scoured it cover to cover so now think it must have been a hand-out or part of a test question.
(image from Lumaxart)