Locus of control and expectancy theory : predictions of academic effort

Date

1974

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Abstract

The expectancy theory of motivation has been widely discussed in organizational psychology as an explanation of variations in effort and work performance of employees. The basic model involves predictions of effort based on subjective probabilities of certain outcomes following successful performance and the desirability of these outcomes. Extensions to the basic model have been suggested which include perceptions of social norms about effort on a task. This study compared three variations of the expectancy theory model to predict effort on academic tasks. Models involving more than two components were cross-validated. The postulated relation between locus of control of reinforcement and performance-outcome expectancy was examined. It was hypothesized that locus of control would moderate the predictions of effort. Cross-lagged correlations were used to make inferences about the causal relation between expectancy attitudes and effort. The subjects were 84 undergraduate students in a self-paced Social Psychology course. The content of the course was divided into 20 units of work. After studying each unit, students took a unit quiz, the task in this study. After passing a quiz, each student completed a questionnaire that measured the expectancy theory variables in this study and began work on the next unit. Effort was measured by two questionnaire ratings concerning how hard the student worked on the unit passed and how many hours were studied. A third effort measure consisted of records of the number of test opportunities elapsed between unit quizes. The results showed that extentions to the expectancy model measuring normative beliefs were significantly related to the questionnaire measures of effort. All other hypotheses were not confirmed. The results were interpreted within a consistency theory framework. It was concluded that this study, using students in a self-paced course rather than members of the work-force, offers no convergent support to the expectancy theory of work motivation.

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Keywords

Expectation (Psychology), Locus of control

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