Motivation and emotion/Book/2020/Conscientiousness and motivation

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Conscientiousness and motivation:
What is the relationship between conscientiousness and motivation?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Are you someone who thrives on being organised, self-disciplined and efficient? Have you been described as being reliable and responsible? If so, you are demonstrating characteristics of the personality trait conscientiousness.

There is a general acknowledgment in the psychological literature that conscientiousness is the personality trait most related to motivation (Hart, Stasson, Mahoney & Story, 2007; Komarraju, Karau & Schmeck, 2009; Roberts, Lejuez, Krueger, Richards & Hill, 2012).

This chapter explains the relationship between conscientiousness and motivation. It provides an overview of conscientiousness, the associated traits[vague], how conscientiousness is influenced[vague], and the relationship between conscientiousness and motivation. The theoretical frameworks of self-determination theory, achievement motivation and goal setting theory are used to understand and analyse conscientiousness and motivation, and their relationship. Further, the question on[awkward expression?] whether we can intervene in conscientiousness is considered.

Focus questions:

  • What is conscientiousness?
  • What is the relationships between conscientiousness and motivation?
  • Can you intervene in conscientiousness?

What is conscientiousness?[edit | edit source]

Conscientiousness is a personality trait that is well known as one of the five constructs within the Big Five personality traits.

Traits of conscientiousness[edit | edit source]

The traits[trait?] of conscientiousness sit along a continuum. Individuals are able to display either high or low levels of conscientiousness (Roberts et al., 2012).

At one end of the continuum, those who display high level traits of conscientiousness tend to be reliable, responsible, efficient, organised, industrious, self-disciplined as well as task and goal oriented (Fayard, Roberts, Robins & Watson, 2013; Roberts et al., 2012). High levels of conscientiousness are also said to be strongly related to happiness and life satisfaction, as well as higher achievement both personally and professional (Fayard et al., 2013; Roberts et al., 2012). At the other end of the continuum, individuals displaying low level traits tend to be impulsive, disorganised, spontaneous, and less goal oriented (Fayard et al., 2013). Those that display low levels of conscientiousness are more likely to experience negative affect (Fayard et al., 2013).

How is conscientiousness influenced?[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. Monozygotic and dizygotic twins

The nature versus nurture debate is a common feature of the discussion when exploring personality (McCrae et al., 2000). This debate aims to determine the impact and influence of genetics and the environment on individual personality (McGue & Bouchard, 1998).

Roberts et al., (2012) states that conscientiousness can be both influenced by nature and nurture, with approximately 40 to 50% of conscientiousness related traits determined by genetics, and the variance being made up by environmental influences. This is supported by McCrae et al. (2000), who highlight that personality is largely determined by nature, however learning and experience can reshape the developing brain. Further, research has shown that personality traits are not a set construct, and can develop throughout the life of an individual (Roberts & Mroczek, 2008). Conscientiousness is said to only change a minimal amount during adolescence, but increases drastically throughout adulthood (Roberts & Mroczek, 2008).

Twin studies are often used in research when investigating the nature versus nurture debate. The main types of twin studies involve identical (monozygotic) and fraternal (dizygotic) twins (Figure 1) (McGue & Bouchard, 1998). These studies aim to investigate how twins, that either share all or half of their genetic material, differ in personality when in a shared or non shared environment (McGue & Bouchard, 1998). In their research on adult twin participants, Borkenau, Riemann, Angleitner, and Spinath (2001) found that 40% of personality was attributed to genetic makeup, 25% from shared environmental influence, and the final 35% from non-shared environmental influence.

The 'dark side' of conscientiousness[edit | edit source]

The vast majority of research on conscientiousness highlights the positive outcomes associated with having high levels of conscientiousness (Hart et al, 2007; Komarraju, Karau & Schmeck, 2009; Roberts et al., 2012). However, Furnham (2017) argue that there is a dark side to this personality trait when taken to extreme levels. Individuals that demonstrate extremely high levels of conscientiousness can be linked to perfectionism, being resistant to change, and being overly cautious (Furnham, 2017; McCord, Joseph & Grijalva, 2014), which can lead to obsessive-compulsive behaviours (Carter, Guan, Maples, Williamson & Miller, 2015). These highly conscientious individuals may solely focus on obeying rules and staying within guidelines, which can affect skill development and creativity (McCord et al., 2014). There is limited research available on the dark side of conscientiousness. Further research needs to be undertaken to better understand this issue (Boyce, Wood & Brown, 2010).

Test your knowledge![edit | edit source]

1 Which of the following is not a trait of high conscientiousness?


2 Is conscientiousness determined by:

a mix of both

Theoretical frameworks[edit | edit source]

There are many theoretical frameworks that help explain the relationship between conscientiousness and motivation. The three most prevalent theories in the literature are self-determination theory, academic motivation, and goal setting theory.

Self-determination theory[edit | edit source]

Figure 2. Psychological needs of self-determination theory

Self-determination theory (SDT) is a theory of motivation that investigates individuals[grammar?] inherent growth tendencies and innate psychological needs (Ryan & Deci, 2000a). SDT places different types of motivation along a continuum (Deci & Ryan, 1985). At one end of the continuum is amotivation, which is described as lacking self-determination and motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000a). Next is extrinsic motivation, which is performing an activity driven by tangible rewards (Ryan & Deci, 2000a). Finally, intrinsic motivation is performing an activity for the inherent satisfaction and enjoyment, and represents high self-determination (Faye & Sharpe, 2008; Barkoukis, Tsorbatzoudis, Grouios & Sideridis, 2008). It is important to note that both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are multidimensional constructs (Faye & Sharpe, 2008). There are four types of extrinsic motivation, namely; external regulation, introjection, identification, and integration (Faye & Sharpe, 2008). Faye and Sharpe (2008) identify that as an individual moves from external regulation towards integration, they become less dependent on external motivators and progress towards intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation can be differentiated into three specific constructs; intrinsic motivation to know, intrinsic motivation toward accomplishment, and intrinsic motivation toward stimulation (Faye & Sharpe, 2008).

Further, three key psychological intrinsic needs are identified to be involved with self-determination and are the basis of self-motivation, optimal functioning, and personal well-being. These needs are identified in Figure 2. as autonomy, competence, and relatedness (Ryan & Deci, 2000a). Autonomy is the feelings of choice, agency and being self directed; competence refers to the feeling of being effective, and relatedness is the need to be connected, and experience satisfying social connections (Faye & Sharpe, 2008; Legault, 2017). It is when autonomy, competence, and relatedness needs are fulfilled that self-determined behaviours are produced (Faye & Sharpe, 2008).

Achievement motivation[edit | edit source]

Achievement motivation is a theory that describes an individuals personal drive and motivation to achieve goals, success and excellence (Cassidy & Lynn, 1989). A measure, developed by Cassidy and Lynn (1989), proposed seven factors of achievement motivation. These factors being; pursuit of excellence, work ethic, status aspiration, competitiveness, acquisitiveness, mastery, and dominance (Cassidy & Lynn, 1989). Hart et al., (2007) later refined this theory into a two-dimensional model of achievement motivation. This refined theory includes intrinsic motivation, which consists of excellence, mastery, and work ethic; and extrinsic motivation, which consists of acquisitiveness, competitiveness, dominance, and status aspiration. This theory examines the relationship between these factors of motivation and personality (Hart et al., 2007).

"Motivation is a construct that changes within individuals, over time and across various situations" (Yeo & Neal, 2004, p. 231)

Goal setting theory[edit | edit source]

Goal setting theory is one that investigates why some people perform better at certain workplace tasks than others (Locke & Latham, 1994). This theory places strong importance on the relationship between setting goals and performance (Lunenburg, 2011). Bipp and Kleingeld (2011) indicate that goals are affected by performance by aiming an individuals behaviour, attention, and effort towards the goal. Goal setting theory highlights individuals ability and self-efficacy, task complexity, feedback, situational constraints, and goal commitment that can have an effect on performance (Bipp & Kleingeld, 2011). Goal setting is an effective technique used to motivate individuals. In order to create high levels of motivation and effectiveness, goals must be specific, difficult but attainable, and accepted (Lunenburg, 2011). When goals meet the above requirements, performance, motivation, and satisfaction will increase (Lunenburg, 2011).

The relationship between conscientiousness and motivation[edit | edit source]

Conscientiousness is the personality trait most known to be related to motivation. There are many different environments in which conscientiousness is related to motivation, such as an academic, workplace, and health environment.

Conscientiousness and academic motivation[edit | edit source]

File:Studying Person.jpg
Figure 3. People who are conscientious are more likely to be academically motivated

Academic motivation is an important construct as it allows individuals to direct their behaviour, effort, and energy towards specific academic goals (Kalaivani & Rajeswari, 2016).

[what?] Literature highlights the strong correlation between conscientiousness and academic motivation, performance, and success (Werner, Milyavskaya, Klimo & Levine, 2019). In a study conducted by Komarraju et al., (2009), it was found that conscientiousness was positively related to both academic and achievement motivation (Figure 3) . Further, Hart et al., (2007) found that the trait of conscientiousness was positively related to both intrinsic and extrinsic achievement motivation. However, the correlation was much stronger for intrinsic achievement motivation, with conscientiousness being positively correlated with mastery and work ethic (Hart et al., 2007)[Provide more detail].

Within self-determination theory, there is the academic motivations scale (AMS) which measures the sub-scales of extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation, and amotivation (Komarraju et al., 2009). The AMS aims to measure the levels of motivation of students towards learning (Komarraju et al., 2009). This scale finds that students that are extrinsically motivated may perform academic tasks with dissatisfaction and resistance (Ryan & Deci, 2000a), while students that are intrinsically motivated like to seek challenge and competition (Komarraju et al., 2009). Amotivated students disengage in the work and are more likely to drop out (Komarraju et al., 2009). Further, when school environments promote mastery, intrinsic motivation is encouraged, however, when school environments focus on performance and grades, motivation and achievement levels of students decrease (Komarraju et al., 2009).

"students with high intrinsic motivation to accomplish may achieve their greater academic success by manifesting higher levels of conscientious behaviours, such as being self-disciplined, organised, attending class and studying systematically" (Komarraju, Karau & Schmeck, 2009, p. 50)[Provide more detail]

Conscientiousness and performance motivation in the workplace[edit | edit source]

Employees are the backbone of all organisations. Their performance and motivation levels are crucial to the success of the organisation and leads to better organisational commitment, engagement, and competitive advantage (Varma, 2017).

When choosing employees, workplaces should consider recruitment practices that seek to recruit employees that balance job performance, alongside their motivation (Barrick & Mount, 2009). According to Barrick and Mount (2009), the two personality traits that predict motivation levels are conscientiousness and emotional stability. Conscientiousness is said to be "the most important trait motivation variable in the work domain" (Roberts, Rogers, Thomas, & Spitzmueller, 2018) and one of the most reliable predictors of positive work outcomes (Roberts et al., 2012). This personality trait leads to higher performance in the workplace (Bajor & Baltes, 2003).[Provide more detail]

Individuals that display high levels of conscientiousness are very goal oriented and are more likely to achieve those goals. According to goal setting theory, goals have a major influence on employee behaviour and performance (Lunenburg, 2011). Goal setting theory is often connected to work motivation, as it is suggested that when employees set goals that are specific, difficult but attainable, and accepted, performance will be maximised (Gagne & Deci, 2005). In their research, Bipp and Kleingeld (2011) found that an individual's commitment to their goals, and overall job satisfaction are directly related to high performance in the workplace.

According to self-determination theory, work cultures that promote satisfaction on the three basic psychological needs enhance employees intrinsic motivation and promote full integration of extrinsic motivation resulting in positive outcomes for the employee and the employer (Gagné & Deci, 2005). Further, high employee performance can result in both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards which lead to job satisfaction and engagement (Bipp & Kleingeld, 2011).

Conscientiousness and health motivation[edit | edit source]

Conscientiousness has been linked to many positive health outcomes (Figure 4) (Bogg & Roberts, 2014). Bogg and Roberts (2014) state that conscientiousness has consistently been correlated with health outcomes such as longevity and reduced exposure to stress. Conscientiousness is also linked to greater athletic performance and physical activity (Box, Feito, Brown & Petruzzello, 2019). Conversely, low levels of conscientiousness, is[grammar?] linked to diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, Alzheimers disease and an increased risk of mental illness in older adults (Bogg & Roberts, 2014).

Figure 4. Conscientious individuals are more likely to participate in physical activity.

In the context of self-determination theory, the need for autonomy, followed by intrinsic motivation is positively associated with stronger engagement in exercise behaviour (Box et al., 2019). Individuals who are intrinsically motivated are more likely to frequently participate in exercise, and for a longer duration of time (Box et al., 2019). Further, in their study, Ingledew, Markland and Shappard (2004) found that conscientious individuals were less likely to be motivated to exercise by external regulation, rather they were motivated by the internal perceived pleasure of the exercise. The researchers also hypothesise that highly conscientious individuals are more likely to feel self-determined through exercise as it satisfies the need for competence (Ingledew et al., 2004). This hypothesis, however, needs to be furthered examined to determine whether the hypothesis is supported through research.

It is well known that personality traits change and develop over the lifespan, therefore it is important to understand an individuals[grammar?] levels of conscientiousness at an early age, in order to intervene in the significant health impacts of low conscientiousness (Bogg & Roberts, 2014).

Intervening in conscientiousness[edit | edit source]

The [what?] literature identifies different forms of interventions and therapy that can be used to target traits of conscientiousness (Javaras, Williams & Baskin-Sommers, 2017).

Mental contrasting is a technique used in relation to goal setting (Javaras et al., 2017). This technique involves an individual imagining their desired future, and the obstacles in their way to reach this desired future (Javaras et al., 2017). This technique allows the individual to more practically assess their goals, which results in creating more suitable and realistic goals and therefore stronger goal commitment (Javaras et al., 2017).

Conscientiousness is a personality trait that reflects people who are disciplined, hardworking, and goal orientated (Javaras et al., 2017). There are however, those individuals with low levels of conscientiousness who experience challenges. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is known to be associated with lower levels of conscientiousness (Javaras et al., 2017). Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is often used to treat this disorder. Individuals with ADHD display a lack of attention and impulse control, both of which are important aspects of conscientiousness (Javaras et al., 2017). Javaras et al., (2017) states that CBT is used to improve planning, organisation, as well as ways to minimise distraction. These interventions and therapies will only work if the individual is motivated to change. Intervening in conscientiousness must be targeted and specific to unwanted behaviours and traits in order to be successful (English & Carstensen, 2014).

Test your knowledge![edit | edit source]

1 Conscientiousness predicts academic success?


2 What are the three psychological needs mentioned in the self determination theory:

Amotivation, competence relatedness
Autonomy, conscientiousness, relatedness
Autonomy, competence, relatedness

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Conscientiousness is known to the be the personality trait with the strongest relation to motivation[factual?]. The [what?] literature demonstrates that individuals who display high levels of conscientiousness are more likely to be more successful in an academic, workplace, and health context[grammar?]. This relationship can be explained through self-determination theory, achievement motivation, and goal setting theory. All theories make a link between the importance and impact of intrinsic motivation.

Further research is needed on the relationship between personality traits and achievement motivation, and different types of interventions that can be used to increase conscientiousness. Further research should also be conducted to determine if individuals can increase their levels of conscientiousness in order to improve motivation, as there is very little evidence that explains this direct correlation.

On a final note, it is important to understand that personality is a multidimensional construct that is dynamic and can change over time. Increasing the level of conscientiousness depends on how motivated an individual can be to work on specific behaviours and traits.

See also[edit | edit source]

Big Five personality traits (Wikipedia)

Conscientiousness (Wikipedia)

Personality and achievement motivation (Book chapter, 2015)

Personality and motivation (Book chapter, 2010)

self-determination theory (Book chapter, 2011)

References[edit | edit source]

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Barkoukis, V., Tsorbatzoudis, H., Grouios, G., & Sideridis, G. (2008). The assessment of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and amotivation: Validity and reliability of the Greek version of the Academic Motivation Scale. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 15(1), 39-55.

Barrick, M., & Mount, M. (2009). Select on Conscientiousness and Emotional Stability. In E. Loocke, Handbook of Principles of Organisational Behavior (2nd ed.). Wiley.

Bipp, T., & Kleingeld, A. (2011). Goal‐setting in practice. Personnel Review, 40(3), 306-323.

Bogg, T., & Roberts, B. (2004). Conscientiousness and health-related behaviors: A meta-analysis of the leading behavioral contributors to mortality. Psychological Bulletin, 130(6), 887-919.

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Box, A., Feito, Y., Brown, C., & Petruzzello, S. (2019). Individual differences influence exercise behavior: how personality, motivation, and behavioral regulation vary among exercise mode preferences. Heliyon, 5(4).

Boyce, C., Wood, A., & Brown, G. (2010). The dark side of conscientiousness: Conscientious people experience greater drops in life satisfaction following unemployment. Journal of Research in Personality, 44(4), 535-539.

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Locke, E., & Latham, G. (1994). Goal setting theory. In H. O'Neil & M. Drillings, Motivation; theory and research (pp. 13-20). Psychology Press.

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McCrae, R., Costa, P., Ostendorf, F., Angleitner, A., Hřebíčková, M., & Avia, M. et al. (2000). Nature over nurture: Temperament, personality, and life span development. Journal of Personality And Social Psychology, 78(1), 173-186.

McCord, M., Joseph, D., & Grijalva, E. (2014). Blinded by the light: The dark side of traditionally desirable personality traits. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 7(1), 130-132.

McGue, M., & Bouchard, T. (1998). Genetic and environmental influences on human behavioural differences. Annual Reviews Inc., 21(1), 1-17.

Roberts, B., Lejuez, C., Krueger, R., Richards, J., & Hill, P. (2012). What is conscientiousness and how can it be assessed?. Developmental Psychology, 50(5), 1-4.

Roberts, B., & Mroczek, D. (2008). Personality trait change in adulthood. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(1), 31-35.

Roberts, Z., Rogers, A., Thomas, C., & Spitzmueller, C. (2018). Effects of proactive personality and conscientiousness on training motivation. International Journal of Training and Development, 22(2), 126-143.

Ryan, R., & Deci, E. (2000a). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 54-67.

Ryan, R., & Deci, E. (2000b). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68, 69.

Varma, C. (2017). Importance of employee motivation and job satisfaction for organizational performance. International Journal Of Social Science & Interdisciplinary Research, 6(2), 10-13. Retrieved 14 October 2020, from.

Werner, K., Milyavskaya, M., Klimo, R., & Levine, S. (2019). Examining the unique and combined effects of grit, trait self-control, and conscientiousness in predicting motivation for academic goals: A commonality analysis. Journal of Research In Personality, 81, 168-175.

Yeo, G., & Neal, A. (2004). A multilevel analysis of effort, practice, and performance: Effects; of ability, conscientiousness, and goal orientation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(2), 231-247.

External links[edit | edit source]