Research Around Choice, Autonomy, and Motivation

Posted on May 11, 2012


Just read the following article describing a study demonstrating the importance of choice and autonomy in motivation:

What’s the best way to encourage kids

In one of the experiments, Ibrahim Senay, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and two co-authors asked a group of subjects to prepare for an anagram-solving task by thinking either, “Will I work on anagrams?,” or “I will work on anagrams.” The participants who posed the question to themselves went on to solve significantly more of the anagram problems than those who contemplated the statement. In another experiment, subjects who simply wrote down “Will I” 20 times did better on the anagram task than subjects who repeatedly wrote “I will.”

Simply setting the frame of mind to one of autonomy and choice, “will I work on anagrams?”, despite still basically being forced to work on anagrams, resulted in participants doing far more work. Powerful stuff. Would be curious to see follow-up research that explores this further.

Posted in: Motivation, Research