On the Relationship between Motivating Style and Elementary Students’ Creative Thinking: The Mediating Role of Autonomous Motivation
2011, 43 (10):
Given its importance and applicability to literally every field, creativity is a topic of ever-increasing interest; Motivation has been frequently and predictably related to creativity. The focus of research, concerning their relationship, has transferred from distinguishing extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation – to treating extrinsic motivation differentially. Synergistic extrinsic motivation can contribute to creativity, while non-synergistic motivation can undermine creativity. Based on much empirical research, Self-determination Theory (SDT) treats motivation from a new perspective. SDT proposes that there are four types of internalization that differ in the degree to which the regulations become integrated with a person’s sense of self: external regulation, introjected regulation, identified regulation and intrinsic motivation. The conception of internalization and types of regulation has shifted the primary differentiation from a focus on intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic motivation, to a focus on autonomous motivation (AM) versus controlled motivation (CM). As has been made clear in many papers, the most positive outcomes are derived from AM, while CM is either unrelated or negatively related to adaptive outcomes. Research has shown that AM is effective for performance – especially on complex or heuristic tasks that involve deep information processing or creativity – while CM is associated with lower well-being and poorer functioning. However, in making predictions regarding which type of motivation has the most positive impact on outcomes, the nature of the task does make sense. Just as Gagné & Deci (2005) proposed, “Controlled motivation will yield poorer performance on heuristic tasks than autonomous motivation, but will lead to equal or better short-term performance on algorithmic tasks.” Based on SDT, we can predict behavior more accurately according to one’s degree of self-determination. Then what can SDT shed light on in the relationship between motivation and creativity? Research is needed to explore this point. Motivating style – autonomy supportive or controlling – is motivation orientation of children’s significant others. According to SDT, when the social context is autonomy supportive, people are motivated to internalize the regulation of important activities; whereas when the context is controlling, self-determined motivation is undermined. What’s more, children are sensitive to interpersonal environment. A number of studies have shown that AM mediates the relationship between autonomy support and adjustments. Accordingly, we suppose that self-determined motivation mediates the relationship between autonomy support and creativity.
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In addition, various cross-cultural researchers state that autonomy is not valued in Eastern cultures, and hence, is unlikely to predict optimal functioning. It has been argued that adults in Eastern societies are less focused on promoting autonomy. With regard to the Chinese cultural context in particular, the support of autonomy appears to be a less common socialization practice because of the prevailing Confucian values. Therefore, it is one of the primary purposes to test the applicability of SDT in China.
The present study investigated the relationship among motivation (AM and CM), adults’ motivating style (highly controlling, HC; moderately controlling, MC; moderately autonomy supportive, MA; highly autonomy supportive, HA) and creativity in China. Academic Self-regulation Questionnaire, the Motivators’ Orientations Questionnaire, and Torrance Test Thinking Test (figure) were administered to 305 late elementary students (151 boys and 154 girls) in Jinan City, Shandong Province using hierarchical multiple regression analysis. The results supported SDT on the whole. Results were as follows: (1) MA, MA and HA were all positive predictors of one’s level of creative thinking; while HC could not predict one’s level of creative thinking. (2) AM was a positive predictor of creative thinking; while CM could not predict creative thinking. (3) AM played as a mediating role between the relationship of motivating style and creative thinking. To be specific, AM wholly mediated the relationship of MC and fluency, MA/HA and originality, and partially mediated the relationship of MA/HA and fluency. The results derived from this thesis indicated that SDT does have cross-cultural generalization, though there were some specific points regarding Chinese students that may be due to Chinese culture. These results imply that support from significant others do impact Chinese students. We can nurture children’s creative thinking by creating a supportive social climate and facilitating the more self-determined motivation.