The effect of program selection procedures on participants' motivations-attitudes: in regard to the program, evaluation of the program, participative behaviors, and program outcome

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Effects of three program-participant selection modes randomization, volunteering, and qualifying by possessing certain characteristics (systematic merit) upon participants' attitudes-motivations, their participative behaviors, and program outcome were researched. Bern's self-perception theory was integrated with attribution theory to predict: 1) random assignment would adversely affect the measures; 2) systematic merit assignment would favorably affect them; and 3) the volunteer condition would produce no effect. A program purported to provide techniques which could increase test-taking ability was created. Seventy-five subjects, lower level undergraduates, were randomly assigned to three selection groups. Gender was held constant across the groups. All subjects participated in the experimental sessions individually. Random condition subjects were told that "scientific reasons" required subjects to be randomly chosen as participants. They subsequently engaged in a "chance" drawing with a confederate to determine if they would participate in the study. Systematic merit subjects were told that a reading test and an attitude questionnaire all subjects had earlier completed would be scored to determine their eligibility; i.e., to determine if they had "reasonable test taking skills, adequate reading ability, and a reasonable attitude towards the task at hand." Each subject waited with a confederate while the tests and questionnaires were supposedly being scored. The confederate received her scores first and indicated that she was not qualified. The subject was then told that s/he had qualified for the program. For the volunteer condition subjects became program participants with no prior manipulation. After the selection manipulation subjects answered a questionnaire which measured their attitudes and motivation in regard to the program. Then they were given a packet containing the test-taking strategies and a number of practice exercises. They were instructed to proceed at their own pace, and they completed as few or as many of the practice exercises as they desired. When the subjects had finished the packet they were given a test to measure their test-taking ability. Finally, subjects responded to a session evaluation questionnaire and then were asked if they would return for a second session. Subjects returning for the second session completed the same attitude-motivation and evaluation questionnaires; they again completed a brief test after they had finished their individualized, self-paced packet, and they were asked if they would attend a potential third session. To recapitulate, dependent variables were: attitude motivation in regard to the program, evaluation of the program, effort (number of practice exercises completed and length of time per session), program outcome (test score), and committment (number of subjects returning for the second session, and number of subjects volunteering for a third session). A multivariate analysis of variance for the first session dependent variables revealed no overall statistically significant effect. It appears that the three selection conditions did not differentially affect the dependent measures. However, univariate analyses did suggest that two of the variables—number of practice exercises and time approached significance and were in the predicted direction for the systematic merit group (p < .07 and p < .06, respectively). For the second session no statistically significant results were found. Level of committment also did not differ significantly for the three groups. It was observed that all groups held highly favorable views towards the program and evaluated it very positively. From Bern's statements about the functioning of internal cues, it was concluded that when attitudes-motivation are initially quite salient selection experiences do not cause attitude-motivation change. It appears that if programs offer positively valued activities selection modes will not affect program clients' motivation-attitudes or behavior.