ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (5): 1005-1017.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.01005

• Conceptual Framework • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The “double-edged sword” effect of competence frustration and intervention strategies: Behavioral and cognitive neuroscience perspectives

FANG Hui1, FU Huijian(), ZHANG Huijun2   

  1. 1School of Business Administration, Guangdong University of Finance, Guangzhou, Guangdong 510521, China
    2School of Management, Guangdong University of Technology, Guangzhou, Guangdong 510520, China
  • Received:2021-09-15 Online:2022-05-15 Published:2022-03-24
  • Contact: FU Huijian


Competence frustration refers to the feelings of inadequacy or failure. A growing number of the new generation of knowledge workers are experiencing short-term or long-term competence frustration. After their experience of competence frustration, what is going on the knowledge worker’s motivation in the subsequent task. If the experience of competence frustration has a positive effect on the subsequent work, how can we reinforce it? The experience of competence frustration makes negative consequences, how can we avoid or restore it? Existing researches fails to clearly answer these questions. Based on the self-determination theory, this study is intended to uncover the intertemporal effect of competence frustration on one’s autonomy motivation by integrating different approaches (e.g., behavioral experiment, cognitive neuroscience experiment and field experiment). In addition, this study will test the effectiveness of intervention strategies from both the organizational and individual perspectives. Specifically, this study employs four sub-studies to explore the "double-edged sword" effect and intervention strategies of competence frustration. First, we examine the intertemporal effect of short-term competence frustration on one’s autonomy motivation. Second, we explore the intertemporal effect of long-term competence frustration on one’s autonomy motivation. Thirdly, we construct respective intervention strategies of competence frustration, and explore the validity of intervention strategies such as developmental feedback, autonomous support, and achievement goal orientation through three ERP experiments. Fourthly, we test the effectiveness of intervention strategies in management practice.
This study has important theoretical significance. Firstly, we explore the dynamic influence of basic psychological needs frustration, which may effectively extend the research scope of self-determination theory. Secondly, we examine the effect of perceived (short-term and long-term) competence frustration on one’s autonomy motivation in a subsequent task, expanding the research on antecedent variables of autonomy motivation. Thirdly, this study comprehensively examines the validity of intervention strategies, such as developmental feedback, autonomous support and achievement goal orientation, providing a new perspective for the recovery mechanism of competence frustration. Finally, we adopt cognitive neuroscience indexes to measure one’s autonomy motivation objectively and real-time in the process of participating tasks, which overcomes the shortages of traditional measurement methods and responds to calls for adopting cognitive neuroscience on motivation. Furthermore, our study extends the research of motivation from behavioral level to cognitive neuroscience level.
In addition, the findings of the present study have practical significance for competence frustration management. Firstly, it helps managers to realize that sometimes employees are more brave and sometimes depressed. Scientific intervention of employees' competence frustration can improve their autonomy motivation, which will be conducive to improve enterprise performance. Secondly, we test the validity of intervention strategies through field experiments, which will further provide effective strategies for managers to scientifically manage the competence frustration of the new generation knowledge workers. Furthermore, for employees, they should actively find and create opportunities to satisfy their sense of competence in subsequent tasks if they experience short-term competence frustration, and pay attention to cultivate their own mastery goal orientation. It will help them to get more and more brave and avoid depression after setbacks, so as to boost their autonomy motivation.

Key words: neuromanagement, competence frustration, autonomy motivation, self-determination theory, event-related potentials