Motivation and emotion/Book/2021/Feedback and motivation

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Feedback and motivation:
What is the effect of feedback on motivation?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. An American politician provides feedback to his colleagues in relation to a suggested policy amendment.

You may have heard someone say, ‘there are two things in life that are inevitable. Death. And taxes’. You could in reality add a few other variables to that colloquialism, including the concept of 'feedback', and the saying would not lose any of its merit. It is highly unlikely that you (or anyone for that matter) will go through life without receiving feedback. Praise, criticism, reward, punishment, a smiling face, a thumbs down hand gesture (see Figure 1). All of these activities are a type of feedback. Feedback is 'information provided by an external agent regarding some aspect of the learners task performance, intended to modify the learners cognition' (Dujinhouwer et al. 2012).

The question we want to explore in this chapter is, what is the effect that feedback has on motivation? You may have already thought of a time where you personally received some feedback. Perhaps it was in the form of criticism, and perhaps that was a motivationally deflating experience for you. Paradoxically, you may have thought of a time where the feedback you received, spurred you on in the pursuit of a goal.

The answer to the question ‘what is the effect of feedback on motivation’ is probably best summed up by saying “it depends”. "Depends on what", you may have just thought. Well, that is what we are hopefully going to find out in this chapter.

Focus questions:

  • What is motivation?
  • Are there different types of motivation?
  • Does feedback effect the types of motivation differently?

Motivation[edit | edit source]

Most of us understand the concept of feedback. Do we have the same understanding of motivation? Motivation is the answer to a whole range of “why” type questions. Why did he do that? Why did she react that way? Why do they keep making the same mistakes? The answers to these questions have their roots entwined in motivational concepts and theories.

You will find that definitions of motivation range from intellectual linguistic cacophonies that may leave you more confused than ever, through to ideas that are as simple as ‘motivation is a driving force’. Perhaps for the purpose of an introduction, we should go with something in the middle. McInenry's explanation appears to fit that criteria – McInerney (2019) summed up motivation by suggesting that it is a ‘psychological construct invented to describe the mechanism by which individuals and groups choose particular behaviour and persist with it’.

Understanding motivation[edit | edit source]

What is the impact of feedback on motivation? Earlier we suggested that ‘it depends’. This answer may have provided a hint that there were actually a number of variables that needed to be taken into account, when answering such a question. The first of these variables that we are going to look at is, the type of motivation that is the driving force for the individual. To understand the difference between the two main types of motivation, we are going to look at Sally and Kate. Sally and Kate are both 16 years old and they both attend the same high school where they both play on the senior football side.


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Case Study: Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivation.

  • Sally loves soccer, she has done since she was a child. She watches soccer, she plays soccer on her xbox, her room is adorned with pictures of the worlds best soccer players. Sally pesters her siblings to kick the ball with her, any chance she gets. Sally loves soccer. Sally wants to be a vet when she finishes school.
  • Kate loves soccer, and she knows she is good at it – people have told her how good she is since she was a little girl. Kate has continually been picked in representative sides right through school, and even now she is in regular contact with representatives from A League academies. Kate entertains thoughts of one day playing in Europe, and earning a living from soccer. Kate can picture herself on a Weat Bix ad sometime in the future. In Kate's spare time, she goes to the gym, and she does shuttle runs at the park. She watches her diet, and she lives her life to a strict routine. Kate wants to play for Manchester United when she finishes school.

Motivation type and feedback[edit | edit source]

Both Sally and Kate are motivated to play soccer. However, their motivation is different. Sally plays because of the happiness and joy that it brings her. Sally is intrinsically motivated. Kate plays soccer because she knows that she has a chance of being successful at it. Kate could one day have fame and fortune come her way, because of her soccer skills. Kate’s motivation to play soccer has become extrinsically motivated.

Imagine now if you will, that Kate and Sally's soccer side were recently defeated by the high school from the neighbouring town. The coach signalled out both Sally and Kate for their performance. His feedback to both girls was critical and done in public. How do you think that would make both girls feel? It would be reasonable to assume that surely such criticism would have an impact on the motivation of both girls to keep playing soccer. It may well do. However, the answer is related to the type of motivation that was driving both girls to play soccer in the first place. The impact of the feedback on the intrinsically motivated Sally could be different for the extrinsically motivated Kate. The type of motivation driving the behaviour is a very important variable when it comes to understanding what the effect of feedback is on motivation.

Theories on feedback and motivation[edit | edit source]

Self Determination Theory[edit | edit source]

Figure 2. SDT suggests that if Autonomy, Competence or Relatedness are frustrated, intrinsic motivation may decrease.

Self Determination Theory (SDT) is primarily concerned with intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation was a concept introduced into the psychological sciences in the 1950’s. In essence, it was a rebuttal of the existing Drive Theory that was pertinent at the time, and which suggested that human behavior was linked to biological drives, and those biological factors were the catalyst for a person choosing a particular course of action. Early pioneers of SDT argued that sometimes people choose certain actions because they are intrinsically motivated. That is, the action brings them joy, satisfaction, a learning opportunity that they sought for or some other form of personal growth, that had no other reward attached to it, except the addition of experience for the person. In the words of Deci and Ryan (1999), ‘intrinsic motivation is considered a natural propensity of human life, and it is a great source of energy for people's engagement with the world, and their learning from it'.

SDT argues that human beings need to experience satisfaction in 3 areas of life. According to SDT, these areas are known as Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness (see Figure 2). Autonomy refers to a person's agency and their perception of it. It is a person's ability to make their own decisions, without the input of outside forces. People need to feel that they are in control of their life. Competence is a concept that describes a person's ability to complete a task. People need to feel that they have the skills and knowledge to contribute. Relatedness refers to the concept of being a part of something. People need to feel that they belong.

It is important to have a conceptual understanding of these 3 areas in SDT, particularly if we want to understand what the effect of feedback is on motivation, from a SDT lens. SDT argues on a conceptual level, that if one of the 3 areas is frustrated, then motivation will be impacted. Take for example an individual who is provided negative feedback in the workplace, during a routine performance evaluation. If the individual were intrinsically motivated to work in their field, the negative feedback would decrease their motivation (Deci and Ryan 2016).


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Self Determination Theory: Feedback is likely to decrease motivation.

Self Determination Theory for the most part, tends to suggest that negative feedback will undermine motivation, because negative feedback has a detrimental effect on the competence area within the SDT paradigm. However, SDT makes some qualifications about negative feedback, pointing out that in certain instances, competence beliefs of the individual will not be impacted by feedback, and thus the feedback may actually increase intrinsic motivation.

Information Processing Theory[edit | edit source]

In much the way that SDT was a rebuttal to drive theory, Information Processing Theory (IPT) emerged as a counter argument to Behaviorism theories, which at the time were placing a great emphasis on the role of stimulus and response, to explain motivation and other human behavior. IPT, at a conceptual level, is the idea that the human brain is a biological computer, and this biological computer receives sensory input, which it then processors, to in turn provide an output (Mayer 1996). That output could be anything from a physical activity to a stored memory to a cognitive learning experience. IPT sees input as necessary for development, and therefore feedback - in any shape or form - is nothing more than a necessary component in the input, process, output framework. In other words, 'specific feedback and information processing work together to impact learning' (Goodman et al. 2011).

Like a computer, our brain also has segmented areas for short term and long-term memory, except we do not call those areas a CPU or a Hard Drive. There are several variables which determine where we store our inputs, for example whether they stay in the CPU (short term memory) or the Hard drive (long term memory). One of these variables is repetition of the input. This is where feedback -  which remember according to IPT, is a necessary part of learning - demonstrates its effect on motivation.

IPT argues that feedback increases intrinsic motivation. The theory suggests that repetitious feedback is the input that allows the human brain (the biological computer) to process the feedback, and correct a course of action, via a new ‘feedback informed’ output. It could be argued that these new ‘feedback informed’ outputs allow the individual a greater chance of obtaining autonomy, relatedness and/or competence which we spoke about in Self Determination Theory.


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Information Processing Theory: Feedback can increase motivation.

  • Imagine that you have a coworker who never wears deodorant. One of your colleagues eventually suggests (in the nicest possible way) that he really should try deodorant. Later on that day, in his monthly supervision, the boss mentions the same issue to him. On the bus home that very afternoon, a fellow commuter tells him again (in not so pleasant terms) that he really needs to wear deodorant. Your coworker has received a repetitious input (feedback) that he needs to wear deodorant. This feedback message will be processed and stored in his memory (hard drive). The new output is that the next morning, your colleague wears deodorant. What are the advantages of this? Well, of course he will smell more pleasant, however from a psychological theory perspective, your colleague will now enjoy greater levels of relatedness in his day-to-day activities, because he is not being ostracized or criticized by his fellows. The repetitious nature of the feedback was the catalyst for a learning experience, which in turn created a greater sense of relatedness. It could be a far-fetched example, but hopefully you can see why Information Processing Theory tends to argue that feedback can increase motivation.

Goal Setting Theory[edit | edit source]

Figure 3. American Psychologist and inaugural proponent of Goal Setting Theory, Edwin Locke

In the Goal Setting Theory (GST) of motivation, proponents of the theory argue that various levels of motivation among people are the result of a difference in goals that people pursue. The theory suggests that more challenging goals will lead to higher performance in the goal pursuit (Merriman 2017). Feedback is therefore an important variable within GST. GST argues that feedback has a modifying effect on goals - in that people will change their course of action based on the feedback they receive. The theory argues that the same goal can be pursued through multiple approaches, and often is, because of feedback people inevitably receive. In other words, the theory is cyclical, arguing that a loop exists that follows a cyclical pattern of ‘action, feedback, new action, feedback’ and so on and so forth, until the goal is realized.

There are some elements of Goal Setting Theory that have been linked with other personality and social cognitive theories. For example, GST ventures into personality theory in that it makes note that an individual with a personality trait of high conscientiousness is likely to respond unfavorably to any type of negative feedback. The high conscientiousness personality type can have their performance suffer because of negative feedback. On the other hand, Albert Bandura’s Self Cognitive Theory argues that an individual with high self-efficacy, is more likely to take negative feedback and use it as a catalyst to correct their course of action in pursuit of their goal, rather than become demoralized by it..


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Goal Setting Theory: Feedback is necessary for motivation.

"For goals to be effective, people need summary feedback that reveals progress in relation to their goals. If they do not know how they are doing, it is difficult or impossible for them to adjust the level or direction of their effort or to adjust their performance strategies to match what the goal requires. If the goal is to cut down 30 trees in a day, people have no way to tell if they are on target unless they know how many trees have been cut. When people find they are below target, they normally increase their effort or try a new strategy. Summary feedback is a moderator of goal effects in that the combination of goals plus feedback is more effective than goals alone".

                                                                                                        Locke (see Figure 3) & Latham - Building a Practically Useful Theory of Goal Setting and Task Motivation

Important Variables[edit | edit source]

Research has suggested that age and gender may be two important characteristics of the feedback receiver that moderate the effect of feedback on intrinsic motivation (Fong et al. 2019). In other words – not everyone receives feedback in the same manner. In the next section we are going to look at some specific variables that can have an influence on the effect that feedback has on motivation.

Age[edit | edit source]

Research has been conducted that indicates that negative feedback delivered to school aged children can interfere with motivation and may even exacerbate depressive symptoms. According to Thompson et al. (2020) this is because some have a cognitive predisposition to internalize negative feedback as evidence of failure. This of course could be true for adult populations as well, however the research appears to suggest that adults generally have more cognitive ability to process feedback using a range of different cognitive appraisal paradigms. For an individual with a developing brain, the appraisal response to feedback is much more dichotomous – the feedback is viewed as either “good “or bad”, not as an opportunity to learn, a challenge to rise to or a variable necessary for course correction. Feedback engages the striatum (DePasque 2015), which is far less active in a child than it would be in an adolescent or an adult.

These negative effects that feedback can have on motivation in children and young people can however be offset with certain techniques in which the feedback can be delivered. It has been argued that instructional feedback has been shown to increase motivation (Deci et al. 1999), and it has been suggested that the social circumstances under which the feedback is delivered can offset the negative nature of the feedback. For example, if negative feedback is to be delivered to a young person, ‘mediated delivery of feedback – where only the participant knows the nature of the evaluation - will have more desirable effects on motivation that an in public or in person delivery (Fong et al. 2019).

Culture[edit | edit source]

There is some information to suggest that cultural influence can have an impact on how feedback is received, and ultimately processed. This in turn influences motivation. A study by Takashiro (2017) found that amongst Asian graduate students, feedback from faculty motivated them to study. However, this phenomenon was connected to the extrinsic motivation of most students who wanted to be faculty members themselves one day. This led researchers to hypothesize that the effort of students, more than abilities, was likely to be influenced by cultural factors, and not feedback per se. Some cultures place greater emphasis on education than others (D'Lima et al. 2014). In other words, some cultures will have increased levels of motivation to pursue a particular course of action, and feedback is going to have no significant impact on them, regardless of whether their motivation was intrinsic or extrinsic. The cultural emphasis on ‘effort’ (as a motivating force) is a variable that supersedes the effect that feedback will have on motivation.

Cultural anthropologists such as Margarat Mead take the concept a step further and believe that “all reactions are socially learned and therefore culturally variable”. This line of thinking argues that it is one's environment that determines reactions to any variable, including feedback, thus strengthening the idea that the effect on motivation that feedback has, is going to be very arbitrary amongst culturally heterogeneous groups. (Reeve 2018)

Feedback delivery[edit | edit source]

The manner that feedback is delivered also has a baring on motivation. If the feedback to be delivered is negative, this can be offset by providing suggestions for improvement (Xu et al. 2016) or criterion feedback. it has been noted that criterion feedback tends to focus the feedback receiver on the task, rather than the performance of others. Normative feedback might look something like “you did worse than most of your classmates”, whereas criterion based negative feedback would look more like “8 out of your 10 answers were incorrect” (Fong et al 2019). It is thought that normative feedback is more detrimental to intrinsic motivation, than is criterion based negative feedback. There is also a line of thought that argues that because effort is a variable that more people feel is in their control, effort focused criticism (feedback) may actually increase intrinsic motivation (Skipper and Douglas, 2015).

Quizzes[edit | edit source]

Nuvola apps korganizer.svg
Quiz
Choose the correct answer and click "Submit":

If you persued a course of action because of a reward attached to it, you would be displaying which type of motivation?

Intrinsic motivation
Extrinsic motivation
Amotivation
No motivation


Nuvola apps korganizer.svg
Quiz
Choose the correct answer and click "Submit":

Which theory tends to suggest that feedback effects motivation negatively, because of the impact feedback can have on a persons sense of competence?

Goal Setting Theory
Information Processing Theory
Social Cognitive Theory
Self Determination Theory


Nuvola apps korganizer.svg
Quiz
Choose the correct answer and click "Submit":

If you had to provide negative feedback to a primary school aged child, and you were very mindful of the need to maintain that childs motivation in school. Which of the following would you NOT do?

Provide written instructional feedback.
Provide verbal feedback in front of the class.
Provide criterion based written feedback.
Provide verbal feedback in a one on one setting.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Now that you have some understanding of the theory and the variables relating to what the effect of feedback is on motivation, you may be able to see more clearly as to why we answered this question earlier with the term “it depends”.

There is no grand theory that adequately answers the question for every occasion and instance where feedback is received. It is more so that we have various theories that individuals in various situations can align with. If you are someone who finds feedback to be a motivationally deflating experience, then Self Determination Theory might explain why that is so for you. On the other hand, if you are more neutral to feedback, in that you see that it can be positive, and it can be negative, but most importantly, you realise that it is necessary for adaptation, then you might be a proponent of Information Processing Theory. Alternatively, if you see feedback as an absolute necessity for the pursuit of any goal, then you might align yourself more with the tenets of Goal Setting Theory. You could be someone who at different times has felt all of the above theories adequately explain your own reaction to feedback that you have received.

In addition to the theories, we have also ascertained that variables like age, culture and the way feedback is delivered can all effect how the feedback is received, processed and the subsequent effect that it has on motivation. We started this chapter with a colloquialism about ‘death and taxes’. We suggested feedback was another inevitability in life. Let us wrap up with another colloquial saying that perhaps sums up everything we have said to answer the question, what is the effect of feedback on motivation? Again, it depends – it really is different strokes for different folks.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Deci, E L., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R. M (1999). A meta-analytic review of experiments examining the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 627 –668. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/0033-2909.125.6.627

Decci, E.L., & Ryan, R. M. (2016). Optimizing students' motivation in the era of testing and pressure: A Self-determination theory perspective. In W.C. Liu, J.C.K. Weng, & R.M. Ryan (Eds.), Building autonomous learners (pp. 9 –29). Singapore: Springer

DePasque, S., & Tricomi, E. (2015). Effects of intrinsic motivation on feedback processing during learning. NeuroImage (Orlando, Fla.), 119, 175–186. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015.06.046

D’Lima, G. M., Winsler, A., & Kitsantas, A. (2014). Ethnic and gender differences in first-year college students’ goal orientation, self-efficacy, and extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. The Journal of Educational Research (Washington, D.C.), 107(5), 341–356. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220671.2013.823366

Duijnhouwer, H., Prins, F. J., & Stokking, K. M. (2012). Feedback providing improvement strategies and reflection on feedback use: Effects on students’ writing motivation, process, and performance. Learning and Instruction, 22(3), 171–184. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2011.10.003

Fong, C. J., Patall, E. A., Vasquez, A. C., & Stautberg, S. (2019). A meta-analysis of negative feedback on intrinsic motivation. Educational Psychology Review, 31(1), 121–162. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-018-9446-6

Goodman, J. S., Wood, R. E., & Chen, Z. (2011). Feedback specificity, information processing, and transfer of training. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 115(2), 253–267. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.obhdp.2011.01.001

Hu, X., Chen, Y., & Tian, B. (2016). Feeling better about self after receiving negative feedback: When the sense that ability can be improved is activated. The Journal of Psychology, 150(1), 72–87. https://doi.org/10.1080/00223980.2015.1004299

Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation. A 35-year odyssey. The American Psychologist, 57(9), 705–717. https://doi.org/10.1037//0003-066X.57.9.705

Mayer, R. E. (1996). Learners as Information Processors: Legacies and Limitations of Educational Psychology’s Second Metaphor. Educational Psychologist, 31(3), 151– 162. https://doi-org.ezproxy.canberra.edu.au/10.1080/00461520.1996.9653263.

McInerney, D. M. (2019). Motivation. Educational Psychology (Dorchester-on-Thames), 39(4), 427–429. https://doi.org/10.1080/01443410.2019.1600774

Merriman, K. K. (2017). Extrinsic work values and feedback: Contrary effects for performance and well-being. Human Relations (New York), 70(3), 339–361. https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726716655391

Reeve, J. (2018). Understanding motivation and emotion (Seventh edition.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Skipper, Y., & Douglas, K. (2015). The influence of teacher feedback on children’s perceptions of student-teacher relationships. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 85(3), 276–288. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjep.12070

Takashiro, N. (2017). Asian international graduate students’ extrinsic motivation to pursue degrees. Psychological Thought, 10(1), 178–189. https://doi.org/10.5964/psyct.v10i1.199

Thompson, A. M., Wiedermann, W., Herman, K. C., & Reinke, W. M. (2020). Effect of daily teacher feedback on subsequent motivation and mental health outcomes in fifth grade students: a person-centered analysis. Prevention Science, 22(6), 775–785. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-020-01097-4

External links[edit | edit source]