Persist when the work gets hard rather than giving up because
failure is assumed to be caused by a lack of effort which he/she
can change by trying harder.
Select challenges of moderate difficulty (50% success rate)
because the feedback from those tasks tells you more about
how well you are doing, rather than very difficult or very easy
tasks which tell you little about your ability or effectiveness.
Work with a lot of energy because the results are believed to be
determined by how hard you try.
The unmotivated person will:
Avoid success-related chores because he/she tends to (a) doubt
his/her ability and/or (b) assume success is related to luck or to
"who you know" or to other factors out of his/her control. Thus,
even when successful, it isn't as rewarding to the unmotivated
person because he/she doesn't feel responsible, it doesn't
increase his/her pride and confidence.
Quit when having difficulty because he/she believes failure is
caused by a lack of ability which he/she can't do anything
Choose easy or very hard tasks to work on because the results
will tell him/her very little about how poorly (presumably)
he/she is doing.
Work with little drive or enthusiasm because the outcome isn't
thought to be related to effort.
Obviously, our beliefs about what causes and influences our
behavior have a marked impact on our expectations and, thus, our
motivation. In chapter 6, we will read about "learned helplessness"
which, of course, is associated with little motivation. In chapter 14, we
will also learn much more about many cognitive factors that affect our
behavior and emotions. Therefore, one way to change our motivation
is to change our beliefs--our attributions. For example, we could teach
(and prove to) unmotivated, underachieving, and depressed people
that they can control life-events by exerting more effort. There have
been demonstrations that intentionally "trying harder," say on every
other day, actually results in more behavioral changes, but it is hard
for some people to exert extra effort. The next section is a case in
The Motivated Underachiever
Harvey Mandel and Sander Marcus (1988, 1995) have an
interesting view of the "unmotivated" student. They say an
underachiever with an "academic problem" is not unmotivated, but in
fact is highly motivated to do poorly and get mediocre grades! Why?
Because they want to avoid success! Why and how would anyone
choose to blow off school work which is clearly connected with what
one does for a lifetime? Because they are afraid of achievement and
want to avoid responsibility. The underachiever unconsciously utilizes
excuses to explain why he/she is doing poorly and why it isn't his/her