Academic Motivation Lab

Department of Psychology

Recent Thesis Projects

2020-2021

Jamie Blackwell – The Relationship Between Authoritarian Parenting and General-Self Efficacy and Well-Being during College: The Role of SES and Perceived Normativeness

Abstract:  Previous research has shown that parenting styles influence children’s well-being. The authoritarian parenting style (low warmth, high control) in particular is associated with negative outcomes, including negative impacts on children’s academic self-efficacy and overall wellbeing. The present study examined the relationship between authoritarian parenting, general selfefficacy, life satisfaction, and subjective happiness in young adults. An important aim of this study was to examine how perceived normativeness of authoritarian parenting and socioeconomic status of the family impacts outcomes. In a sample of 234 college students, authoritarian parenting was correlated with worse outcomes in terms of life satisfaction and subjective happiness. These negative impacts were attenuated, however, if perceived normativeness of authoritarianism was high. Low socioeconomic status was also linked to a higher degree of authoritarianism than high socioeconomic status. These findings imply that well-being outcomes of authoritarian parenting are influenced by perceived normativeness of parenting practices , rather than simply authoritarian parenting in and of itself.

Maxwell Kanter – Exploring and Understanding K-12 Teachers’ Motivation to Innovate During COVID-19

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic truly upended the field of education. In response to the pandemic, distance and remote learning became standard and public educators radically innovated their teaching practices. It is largely unexplored, however, what exactly motivated teacher innovations beyond the necessity of the pandemic. This exploratory qualitative analysis revolved around the central research question, “What motivates K-12 teachers in the United States to innovate their teaching practices during the COVID-19 pandemic?” The present report was grounded in two theories of motivation, namely Expectancy-Value Theory and Self-Determination Theory. Twelve K-12 educators participated in semi-structured interviews for approximately 30 minutes. The interviews were transcribed, coded, and qualitatively analyzed utilizing thematic analysis, ultimately producing five themes: (1) Teachers have radically innovated their teaching practice during the pandemic, (2) Teachers struggle to manage limited resources and strive to fulfill their basic psychological needs, (3) The experiences of teachers are often dictated and prescribed by school administrators and districts, (4) Promoting student engagement and participation is a key motivator for teachers to innovate their practice, (5) The social and emotional well-being of students is a key motivator for teachers as they work to support students and create a community within the classroom. Overall, COVID-19 was a period of immense uncertainty, and this report highlights the motivations for innovating that twelve educators experienced during the pandemic.

Victoria Liu – Examining Trajectories of Academic Motivation Across Four College Years: A Longitudinal, Mixed-Methods Approach

Abstract: College is an important and pivotal period for emerging adults. For decades, researchers have studied college students’ motivational change across their academic careers and proposed strategies to help them navigate the unavoidable academic difficulties. However, most of the longitudinal studies do not capture overall motivational change and instead focus on a portion of college students’ academic lives. The present study assessed several types of academic motivation at different time points throughout students’ college years: middle of first year, middle of third year, and middle of fourth year. Survey results of the main cohort (n =154) indicated a movement toward adaptive motivation from the first to third year followed by a relatively maladaptive shift (loss of autonomous motivation, gain in amotivation). However, a comparison cohort (n = 247) showed a pattern of relative stability over time, suggesting that the negative shifts for the main cohort were largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A second goal of this thesis was to characterize adaptive and maladaptive motivational trajectories, using Self-Determination Theory. After identifying adaptive and maladaptive subgroups, we compared them on several indicators of academic and social functioning. Students in the adaptive trajectory group reported higher self-efficacy and overall higher psychosocial well-being than those in the maladaptive trajectory group. A follow-up interview was conducted to further explore the mechanisms behind change in motivation. Qualitative analysis revealed the following themes: 1) The maladaptive group experienced external pressure/controlled forms of motivation; 2) Both adaptive and maladaptive subgroups felt motivated by Reed’s environment; 3) College is academically challenging for everyone, but the adaptive group appeared to be better at overcoming these challenges; 4) The online schooling format was universally challenging; 5) Personal issues strongly impacted the maladaptive group at senior year. Overall, students with an adaptive pattern of motivational change had an overall higher psychosocial well-being than those with a maladaptive pattern.

Danny Meyerhoff – Escaping Online: A Systematic Scoping Review of Internet Use Motives and Internet Addiction

Abstract: Internet addiction is a rapidly growing global health concern but it is poorly understood and understudied. A promising approach for studying internet addiction may rest in the motives for engagement, which have been used for studying other forms of addiction such as alcoholism and gambling. The present study used a scoping review protocol to assess existing concepts, findings, and congruences regarding associations between use motives and internet addiction. Sixteen studies were identified that assessed both use motives and problematic internet use (excluding those focused on gambling, pornography, and other overlapping addictions). A synthesis of findings indicated that motives based on coping and escapism were most predictive of internet addiction, suggesting that mood regulation is an underlying goal and that internet addiction may be a maladaptive behavioral regulation strategy to escape problems, to alleviate boredom, and to cope with psychological distress. Because motive-based interventions have shown promise in other domains, therapeutic techniques based on coping may be an important direction for intervention research. These practical applications as well as implications for models of addition are considered.

2019-2020

Tess Cottrell – Reducing the Stigma Around Intravenous Drug Use: Reframing the Narrative

Abstract: This study investigated the role of linguistic framing and education on the perceptions of people who use injection drugs. A sample of young adults, aged 18-20 living in states with high rates of injection drug use, were shown a short educational presentation dispelling common stereotypes and demonstrating reasons for initiation of injection drugs. One educational module used a less stigmatizing, person-first label to refer to people who use drugs, while the other used a more stigmatizing noun-label (i.e., drug-user). A control group was not shown a presentation. Participants then rated their perceptions of dangerousness, behavioral intentions, and attributions towards people who use injection drugs. There were no differences found across conditions for perceptions of dangerousness, behavioral intentions, or attributions toward people who use drugs. This may be due to difficulties changing perceptions of a highly stigmatized group and the weakness of the manipulation.

Kaitlyn Curnow – Socio-Emotional Factors and Academic Achievement from Childhood to Adolescence

Abstract: Many socioemotional factors impact achievement, but little research has examined if the magnitude of the relationship changes during the transition from childhood into adolescence. The present study used interview transcripts, survey data, and grades from 242 3rd-8th grade participants to test for age differences in the relationship between four socioemotional factors shown to impact achievement: school anxiety, academic amotivation, school connectedness, and mindset. School connectedness and academic amotivation were uncorrelated with GPA overall, and there was no significant difference between the correlations for children (3rd-5th grade) and adolescents (6th-8th grade). For school anxiety, there was a trend such that children's achievement was more negatively impacted by school anxiety than adolescents' – a pattern contrary to my hypothesis. Mindset was negatively correlated with academic achievement for both children and adolescents, but there was no significant difference between age groups, suggesting that the effect is stable over time.

Hannah Moran – From Setbacks to Strengths: Mindset and Everyday Resilience as Predictors of Undergraduate Academic Outcomes

Abstract: While academic stressors are unavoidable and perhaps ubiquitous features of the collegiate environment, vast individual differences exist in students’ perceptions of and responses to these experiences of challenge; while some students are stifled by academic difficulty and incapacitated by failure, others are invigorated by challenge and see setbacks as an opportunity for learning and growth. Previous studies indicate that students’ implicit theories of intelligence (i.e. growth versus fixed mindset) may influence their academic successes and task-specific patterns of persistence, but research has not yet considered how mindset might predict “academic buoyancy,” or students’ resilience to everyday academic setbacks, which has been shown to predict positive school outcomes. Moreover, few studies have examined how mindset or buoyancy might relate to long-term college retention. The present study used a mixed-methods, longitudinal design to explore the relationships among mindset orientation, academic buoyancy, achievement, and retention in a large sample of Reed College undergraduates. Quantitative survey measures were used to examine whether individual differences in students’ mindset at their entrance to college would predict differences in subsequent academic achievement, college retention, and academic buoyancy. Qualitative follow-up interviews with survey participants were conducted to provide a more nuanced understanding of the particular beliefs and behaviors which distinguish growth versus fixed minded students. Survey results indicated that buoyancy was a significant predictor of academic achievement and retention, but the relationship between mindset and academic outcomes was nonsignificant. Interview data, however, suggested several meaningful differences between growth and fixed minded students in terms of collegiate experiences and outcomes.

Lonnie Patzman – It’s good to watch Friends, but it’s better to be friends: Prosocial behavior on TV and its real world influences on teenaged viewers

Abstract: Research suggests that just like depictions of antisocial actions and behaviors in media, depictions of prosocial actions and behaviors have an impact on those who consume said media. However, unlike antisocial media content, prosocial media content has been found to be positively correlated with prosocial outcomes. Despite prosocial media being a growing field of research within psychology, there is still little understanding of what makes up the relationship between depictions of prosociality onscreen and subsequent prosocial behavior, particularly when it comes to the ways in which individual differences across viewers may augment this relationship. The present study examined the correlation between prosocial media content and prosocial behavior and the moderating effect of reflective though on this relationship with a sample of 59 first-year college students between the ages of 18-20. For this study, reflective thought was conceptualized as need for cognition and eudaimonic motivations for television viewing. The context of onscreen prosocial acts was also explored as another potential factor that plays a role for individual differences in media effects. Participants completed an online survey assessing media habits, need for cognition, motivations for TV viewing, and prosocial behavior. In addition, several open-ended questions about reflection on TV and the impact of TV were included. A separate content analysis of prosocial behavior in 10 TV programs was additionally performed. Surprisingly, there was no relationship between watching highly prosocial television shows and prosocial behavior, even for those high in reflective thought as measured by eudaimonic motivation for media consumption. Participants also reported not being frequent viewers of the 10 shows surveyed upon. However, eudaimonic motivations to watch television, but not need for cognition, was correlated with greater prosocial behavior. Qualitative results further suggest that reflective thought does play a role in how individuals are impacted by the television they consume, but it is still unknown if reflection plays a moderating role in the relationship between prosocial content and prosocial behavior. This study underscores the importance of better understanding teenagers’ relationship to media and indicates the need to explore even newer media platforms popular with adolescents.

Nell Scherfling – The Double-Edged Sword: Mindset, Goals, and Feedback Recipience in a Narrative Feedback System

Abstract: While a variety of learner characteristics have been studied in the feedback recipience process, mindset has not been considered one such characteristic. Previous research indicates that the implicit beliefs individuals hold about the nature of their intelligence impact how they interpret their successes and failures. Thus, it is presumable that mindset may shape how individuals understand and interpret feedback on academic work. Through a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, the present study examined how students’ intelligence mindset and achievement goals impacted their experiences with Reed College’s narrative feedback system. A total of 280 freshman students responded to openresponse questions regarding their perceptions of feedback at Reed. A coding analysis of these responses suggested that, regardless of mindset, students consistently experienced mastery focus, low performance pressure, and difficulty self-assessing their work. From the initial study’s cohort, 248 students participated in a qualitative survey during their junior or senior year at Reed, assessing their mindset, achievement goals, and perceived usefulness of Reed’s feedback system. Students with a fixed mindset were more likely to endorse ability-validation goals and less likely to perceive Reed’s feedback as useful, while students who endorsed mastery goals were more likely to perceive Reed’s feedback as useful. Finally, 14 students participated in semi-structured interviews regarding positive and negative experiences receiving feedback. Through a coding analysis, two primary differences between growth mindset and fixed mindset students emerged. Fixed mindset students more frequently reported validation from their professors as a positive feedback experience whereas growth mindset students more frequently reported an increase in their ability to self-assess their academic performance over time. Recommendations for Reed’s feedback system based on these findings are explored.

2018-2019

Paloma Martinez-Picazo – Self-Efficacy and the Regulation of Motivation

Abstract: The present thesis seeks to examine the significance of self-efficacy and the regulation of motivation in a sample of Reed College sophomore students (n = 131). A mixed-methods strategy was employed to contribute to an emerging body of literature on the two theories. Analyzing past year data on self-efficacy for the participants showed that self-efficacy remained relatively stable through the freshman to sophomore year transition. The regulation of motivation was found to significantly and positively correlate with self-efficacy. Additional statistical analyses indicated that positive changes in self-efficacy were predictive of positive changes in the regulation of motivation. Qualitative interviews were held with a subset of the participants depending on membership into one of four groups identified to represent possible patterns of change (including stability, increases, and decreases). The interview data (n = 15) provided additional insight and support for Bandura’s four theorized sources of efficacy. Thematic analysis of the data revealed important differences in sources of efficacy depending on students’ current, absolute levels of efficacy in addition to the pattern of change experienced over the last year. Supporting Bandura’s theoretical proposals, students currently high in self-efficacy conveyed adaptive approaches to schoolwork and viewed sources of efficacy positively, whereas students low in efficacy expressed academic hardships and weighed negative experiences with sources of efficacy heavily. Students who increased in efficacy appeared resilient and prepared for continual challenges, whereas students decreasing in efficacy took on a defeatist approach. Institutional implications, suggestions for mentors and instructions, and future directions are proposed.

Tehniyat Naveed – Academic Self-Handicapping and its Correlates in Early Adolescence

Abstract: Self-handicapping is a self-protective strategy in which individuals, when placed in an evaluative context, provide themselves and others with excuses for their poor performance. To protect their self-worth, individuals obscure the relationship between their actual performance and inferred ability. Most of what is known of self-handicapping is a result of research conducted with adults, therefore the present study focused on academic self-handicapping and its correlates in early adolescents. Quantitative analyses conducted on student survey data found that, in line with initial predictions, self-handicapping was positively correlated with age and anxiety, and negatively correlated with academic achievement (GPA). Contrary to predicted hypotheses, there was no relationship between students’ self-handicapping scores and gender or theory of intelligence. In order to understand how academic self-handicappers experience school, a qualitative dataset of teacher comments and student interview transcripts was coded and analyzed. These analyses found that teachers made fewer comments regarding self handicappers’ high academic achievement when compared to students who did not selfhandicap. Analyses of interview transcripts revealed that students who self-handicapped were also strategic in their self-presentation and avoided self-descriptions of high effort,caring about grades, and comparisons with their peers. Transcripts also indicated that such students were nervous about their ability to perform well in an evaluative situation. The implications for these results and directions for future research are discussed.

Jessie Willson – Mindfulness, Consent, Gender Identity, and Sexual Orientation: Health Education in Elementary School

Abstract: The current research evaluates a curriculum implemented in two fourth-grade classrooms that focuses on teaching consent, gender identity, and sexual orientation through methods of hands-on inquiry-based learning. There were two conditions, one in which only the sex education curriculum was taught and a second where mindfulness lessons were taught in concert with the curriculum to determine if this would improve outcomes. Frameworks of self-efficacy and bias reduction were used to create measures of boundary-setting self-efficacy and pro-LGBTQ+ attitudes, and a measure of content knowledge was created to assess fact-based learning. A measure of emotional selfefficacy was used to detect effects of the mindfulness lessons, and all measures were assessed using a pre/post-test. Quantitative data showed a significant increase in content knowledge from pre- to post-test and a significant increase in emotional self-efficacy, but no significant differences across other measures and no significant differences between mindfulness and curriculum-only conditions. Qualitative data gathered from open-ended responses to three scenarios showed a significant decrease from pre- to post-test in misunderstanding a friend when they decline a hug, an increasing trend in participants expressing that they would maintain their boundaries in the case of being asked for a hug and not wanting one, and a decreasing trend in participants’ uncomfortable responses to a friend telling them they are gay. These results suggest fourth graders are capable of learning these age-appropriate topics, and that advances in social and moral reasoning skills as well as fact-based learning are attainable.

2016-2017

Arlo Feldhaus – The Effects of Storybook-Embedded Linguistic Cues on the Helping Behavior, Intentions, and Cognitions of Preschool-aged Children

Abstract: A large body of research shows that children respond behaviorally and cognitively to cues in the language we use to address them regarding prosocial behavior. However, these effects have largely been assessed in artificial laboratory contexts. The present study examined a more ecologically valid format: a storybook. There is evidence that storybooks can be used to teach a variety of subjects, but can they be used to promote prosocial helping behavior with subtle linguistic cues? Two versions of a storybook, one with noun-based cues (i.e., “being a helper”) and the other with verb-based cues (i.e.,“helping”), were individually presented to 24 preschool children. Measures of helping behavior, intentions of helping, and cognitions about helping showed no significant effect of condition. The non-significant effect of condition on cognitions about helping was, however, of medium strength such that children in the noun condition appeared to endorse helping more so than children in the verb condition. Future research with larger samples should address the extent to which storybooks may shape children’s cognitions about helping.

Kayla Good – The Effect of Praise Type and Linguistic Cues on Parents’ Perceptions of Traits and Behaviors Associated with Achievement

Abstract: Research has demonstrated that parents’ beliefs and expectations about their child’s academic achievement are important predictors of children’s actual academic performance and motivation. The present study examined how parents’ beliefs are affected by two specific aspects of teacher-provided feedback: praise and linguistic cues/framing. A total of 230 parents were asked to imagine that they had received one of three types of hypothetical positive feedback (i.e., person, process, or “combination” praise) from their child’s teacher. Following both the presentation of positive feedback and a subsequent hypothetical scenario in which the child fails, parents’ reactions, causal attributions, and expectations for the child’s future performance and effort were assessed. Overall, few differences were found across conditions following either scenario; however, parents in the combination praise condition did make significantly more references consistent with an adaptive motivation orientation in their post-success open-ended responses relative to parents in the person praise condition. Parents in the combination praise condition also made significantly more references to strategy use in their post-failure open-ended responses relative to parents in the person praise condition. Potential explanations for the minimal differences between praise conditions as well as the apparent adaptiveness of combination praise are discussed.

Gabrielle Wolcott – Risk and Resilience: The Four Sources of Self-Efficacy

Abstract: The present thesis seeks to examine the intricacies and sources of academic self-efficacy in a college population organized by childhood risk. Using Bandura’s theoretical framework, regressions were conducted in order to see which of the four sources (mastery experience, vicarious experience, social persuasion, and physiological arousal) predicted general academic self-efficacy for individuals (n = 161) from low-, medium-, and high-risk backgrounds. These regressions revealed that all groups regardless of family background relied on social persuasion and physiological arousal to inform their personal efficacy beliefs. Qualitative data suggested that the high and low risk groups did differ in the types of social persuasion they received. Most notably, the high-risk group reported significantly more often than their low-risk peers that they were encouraged by professors and that this encouragement often emphasized their ability. In contrast, low-risk students reported significantly more often than their high-risk peers that they received feedback that encouraged them to put in more effort. Implications of these findings and future directions are discussed.

2015-2016

Maddy Appelbaum – Academic Motivation in Undergraduates: A Person-Centered, Mixed-Methods Analysis

Abstract: The present thesis seeks to examine the common patterns of academic motivation that emerge in a sample of undergraduates from a Self-Determination Theory perspective. Using a person-centered technique, this study assessed the ways that intrinsic, identified, introjected, and extrinsic motivations combine to motivate students. Furthermore, a mixed-methods strategy was used to provide both quantitative survey data (n = 181) and qualitative interview data (n = 20). Cluster analysis revealed five common motivational profiles: a primarily autonomous group, an autonomous-introjected group, a primarily controlled group, a moderate group, and a high quantity group. In order to examine the relative merits of maintaining each style of motivation, several significant correlates were measured (academic achievement, emotions, engagement, needs support, and intrinsic or extrinsic orientation towards the college). These analyses showed the primarily controlled group to be the least adaptive of the five, with participants in that group experiencing the least needs support and engagement, and the most maladaptive academic emotions (i.e. low enjoyment, high shame). Generally, the clusters with the highest intrinsic motivation were the most adaptive, with the autonomous-introjected group surpassing the others on some measures. Overall, this study provides evidence for the benefits of person-centered and mixed-methods research, in that the use of these methods allowed for rich, comprehensive analyses of academic motivation within this population.

Jacob Badger – Motivating Young Musicians: The Effects of Teaching Practice Strategies and Allowing Choice Repertoire

Abstract: A large body of research shows the effects and benefits of a musical education, but very few studies have tried to determine how to teach music effectively. The goal of the present research was to assess the efficacy of a curriculum designed to motivate middle-school music students to practice their instruments independently. A lesson on effective practice habits and strategies was taught to all students enrolled in instrumental music classes at Lane Middle School in Portland, Oregon before they were given a music practice assignment. Half of the students were given a choice of what song to practice, while the other half were given an assigned song to learn. Survey results taken before and after the lesson showed no effect of choice, but a significant effect of the strategy lesson on students’ self-regulation in their independent practice.

Kiki Hawley – The Role of Basic Need Support in Adaptive Coping

Abstract: The harmful consequences of stress, and how to prevent them, has been a subject of critical importance in research across the biological and social sciences. The overarching goal of this thesis was to contribute to a growing body of literature on individual differences in coping behavior, which has important implications for psychological and physical well-being. The present study tested the effectiveness of an intervention designed to support the fundamental psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence (according to Deci and Ryan’s Self-Determination Theory, a model of human development supported by strong empirical evidence) in encouraging college students to rely more heavily on “adaptive” coping strategies and less heavily on “maladaptive” strategies. College students (n = 73) attended an initial laboratory session with three to five other participants during which they completed baseline measures and completed a brief educational session about healthy stress management (if that session had been randomly assigned to the intervention condition). Participants then completed daily “diary” surveys measuring psychological need support and frustration, overall stress level, and coping behavior each evening for the next week, and again three weeks after the intervention. Results indicated that participants who received an intervention demonstrated a moderate increase in need support over the three subsequent weeks; however, this generally did not translate to visible change in coping behavior. Need support was significantly correlated with decreased stress on a daily basis. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.

Clara Rice – Praise-Seeking Behavior Among College Students: Links to a History of Ability Praise, Academic Contingent Self-Worth, and Entity Theory

Abstract: This study examined the potential origins and predictors of college students’ praise-seeking behaviors. In particular, the relationships among childhood history of ability praise, academic contingent self-worth, entity theory, enjoyment of praise, and praise-seeking behavior were assessed among 119 college students. Results showed that receiving academic praise is preferred to other self-esteem boosting activities and other commonly enjoyed non-self esteem boosting activities (ex. eating your favorite food, having sex, etc.). Reporting a childhood history of receiving academic ability praise was significantly related to higher levels of academic contingent self-worth and higher levels of praise enjoyment. Entity theory was significantly related to praise-seeking behavior. Those who ranked receiving academic praise as one of their top three most enjoyed activities were more likely to express insecurity in their feedback responses and were less confident in their ability to judge their own performance. Possible explanation for these findings and implications are discussed.