ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (7): 1589-1603.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.01589

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Structure and effects of motivation: From the perspective of the motivation continuum

JIAN Yunlong1, LIU Yuan1,2()   

  1. 1Faculty of Psychology, Southwest University; Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality (Southwest University), Ministry of Education, Chongqing 400715, China
    2Beijing Key Lab of Applied Experimental Psychology, School of Psychology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
  • Received:2021-09-27 Online:2022-07-15 Published:2022-05-17
  • Contact: LIU Yuan


Motivation is an important non-cognitive factor affecting students’ academic achievement. Despite motivation is generally considered conducive to learning, researchers have long recognized the necessity to differentiate various kinds of motivation in that not all of them are desirable. There is not much dispute on the benefits of intrinsic motivation on academic achievement. In contrast, extrinsic motivation which has been believed to be undesirable since the seventies, was considered more recently by some researchers to be positive and indispensable under certain circumstances.
The present research postulated the "motivation continuum" to resolve the discrepancies from the two directions. In the first direction, the popular theories related to motivation were united under one grand theory. We used the motivation continuum based on the self-determination theory to connect different related theories, including, the interest theory, the goal theory, the expectancy-value theory, the self-worth theory, the reinforcement theory, the social cognitive theory. Each of these theories could help to explain one or more types of motivation on the continuum, from the intrinsic end to the extrinsic end.
In the second direction, we summarized these theories and their applications by analyzing how the motivation structure influenced the outcomes. In brief, there are at least four main perspectives on the structure and effects of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations are antagonistic to the unidimensional structure believers in that intrinsic motivation enhances performance while extrinsic motivation reduces it. To those believing in a multiple-dimensional structure, these two motivations are additive in that both can facilitate performance and work independently.
Recently, more complex structures have been proposed to integrate both the unidimensional and multiple-dimensional hypotheses. The third perspective is a semi-radex structure with a general factor reflecting all types of motivations and specific factors representing various sub-domains. This semi-radex structure leads to a bi-factor model: it extracts it extracts an autonomy element added to the controlling end of the “self-determination factor” while still allows each sub-domain to have a unique influence. In the fourth perspective, the multiplicative model postulates that the two types of motivation work interdependently in an interactive way in that the effect of extrinsic motivation would vary with the level of intrinsic motivation, and vice versa.
In the present research, we summarized the pros and cons of different theories in the motivation continuum model. We also reviewed different perspectives of various motivational structure hypotheses and their corresponding applications. The motivation continuum could be extended and applied to different situations such as in the different measures and perspectives of motivation, different outcomes and their nuanced effects, and different contexts. For context, we have specific interest in the Chinese culture and its related research findings. As the structure of motivation remains topics of great concern, in-depth analyses on the structure of the motivation continuum would facilitate researchers’ application of different theories in the appropriate context.

Key words: intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, motivation continuum, self-determination theory

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