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Life Goals, Achievement Motivation and Value of Efforts in Confucian Society. Hwang Kwang-Kuo Department of Psychology National Taiwan University. Table 1: Implicit theories, goals and behavior patterns in achievement situation (Dweck & Leggett, 1988).

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Life goals achievement motivation and value of efforts in confucian society

Life Goals, Achievement Motivation and Value of Efforts in Confucian Society

Hwang Kwang-Kuo

Department of Psychology

National Taiwan University


Table 1 implicit theories goals and behavior patterns in achievement situation dweck leggett 1988
Table 1: Implicit theories, goals and behavior patterns in achievement situation (Dweck & Leggett, 1988)


  • Students with achievement situation (Dweck & Leggett, 1988)“entity theory” would show a particular pattern of learning due to their confidence level in learning the task.

  • Because they view one’s ability as a fixed and unchangeable trait, for those who have a strong confidence in their talents, they would maintain strong motivation and show a “mastery oriented” pattern of learning. .

  • For those students who are less confident, they would attribute their failure to such stable internal traits as lacking of task ability. When they encounter difficult task, they would show a behavior pattern of “helplessness” which is characterized with low motivation and unwilling to keep on trying.

  • Those students with “incremental theory of intelligence” and “learning goal” may maintain a strong motivation and show a “mastery oriented” learning behavior regardless of their confidence level .


Criticism on dweck leggett s 1988 theory of achievement motivation
Criticism on Dweck& Leggett achievement situation (Dweck & Leggett, 1988)’s (1988) Theory of Achievement Motivation

  • The general model of implicit theories was constructed on the presumption of “methodological individualism”.

  • It assumed that an individual is the locus of control for his action, and one’s implicit theories on the malleability of his intelligence may determine one’s choice of personal goals and the accompanying cognition, emotion and behavior.

  • In order to develop a theoretical model to study the achievement motivation and learning behavior in Confucian society, it is necessary for us to construct a theoretical model on the presumption of “methodological relationalism” (Ho,1991)


  • Culture of individualism emphasizes achievement situation (Dweck & Leggett, 1988)“right-based morality” which advocates that an individual has the right to choose his life goal.

  • Culture of Confucian relationalism stresses “duty-based morality” which insists that an individual is obligated to negotiate with other “persons-in-relation” to determine one’s life goal of great significance for the sake of maintaining harmonious relationships with others in one’s social network.


Theory of achievement motivation in confucian society
Theory of Achievement Motivation in Confucian Society achievement situation (Dweck & Leggett, 1988)

Table 2:A theory of life goals and achievement motivation in Confucian society


  • most children are encouraged to pursue achievement goal of achievement situation (Dweck & Leggett, 1988)“vertical distinctiveness” in Confucian society. Pursuing this kind of goal is viewed as a student’s obligation.

  • As long as the student works hard enough, his/her personal competence will certainly be increased.

  • So long as an individual has strong confidence on one’s competence for a particular task and believes that s/he has enough potential to learn this task, s/he may take the increment of competence for this task as “learning goal” and obtaining positive social evaluation as “performance goal”.

  • Furthermore, he may show a behavior pattern of “mastery orientation” and persistently deal with various challenges in learning this task.


  • When an individual does not have confidence in his/her own ability for attaining the goal of vertical distinctiveness, but s/he feels that he is obliged to pursue this kind of goal under significant others’ expectation, his/her task competence can not be increased, s/he may suffer from an ambiguity of learning goal, set avoidance of negative social judgment as one’s “performance goal”, and even manifest a behavior pattern of “learned helplessness” by avoiding challenge and being not persistent in doing the task.


  • The pursuit of ability for attaining the goal of vertical distinctiveness, but s/he feels that he is obliged to pursue this kind of goal under significant others“personal goal” is mainly out of an individual’s personal choice, rather than social expectation.

  • The reason for an individual to pursue this kind of achievement goal is, on the one hand, out of one’s own interest, and on the other hand, because s/he has the ability to do so.

  • Therefore, s/he is able to learn related tasks diligently and manifest a behavior pattern of “mastery orientation”.


  • ability for attaining the goal of vertical distinctiveness, but s/he feels that he is obliged to pursue this kind of goal under significant othersHorizontal distinctiveness” can be regarded as an extension of “personal goal”. An individual may begin to pursue the kind of goal out of one’s choice.

  • However, once s/he attains achievement in this regards, s/he may be encouraged by his/her relatives, friends or colleagues with future expectation on him/her. At this moment, one may believe that one can develop one’s potential to accomplish goal of “horizontal distinctiveness” through personal efforts.

  • In pursuing this kind of achievement goal, one may also set the increment of competence as one’s “learning goal”, the attainment of positive evaluation as “performance goal”, and show a behavior pattern of “mastery orientation”.


Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation self esteem and face
Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Motivation ability for attaining the goal of vertical distinctiveness, but s/he feels that he is obliged to pursue this kind of goal under significant others: Self-esteem and Face

  • “Self-determination theory” proposed by Deci and Ryan (1985, 1992, 2000) argued that an mature individual might be driven by intrinsic motivation for satisfying one’s own interests only.

  • Extrinsic motivation can be regarded as an earlier form of motivation which would be transformed into an intrinsic one in one’s later stage of development.


  • Iyengar and Lepper (1999) ability for attaining the goal of vertical distinctiveness, but s/he feels that he is obliged to pursue this kind of goal under significant others

  • Caucasian children’s would have high motivation only in condition of “self-determination”.

  • Asian American children had high motivation and performance in both conditions of “self-determination” and “in-group determination”; they even had stronger motivation and performed better in condition of “in-group determination”.


  • In Confucian society, when an individual pursues goals of ability for attaining the goal of vertical distinctiveness, but s/he feels that he is obliged to pursue this kind of goal under significant others“vertical distinctiveness”, he must first master his “learning goal”, his intrinsic motivation is thus satisfied and he may feel an increase of “self-esteem”.


  • Tsai(2003) took 332 first grade students of junior high schools (170 males and 160 females) and 311 second grade students in Taipei (189 males and 122 females) from two senior high schools as participants.

  • The senior high school groups were divided into “senior high school group A” and “senior high school group B”

  • The participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire including such predictor variables as “goal orientation”, “entity view toward intelligence” and Chinese “beliefs related to efforts”, and such criterion variables as “strategy of self-handicapping”, “pre-examination idling”, “attribution pattern” and “guilt feeling”.

  • She adopted “Pattern of Adaptive Learning Scale (PALS)” developed by University of Michigan as instrument for measuring “goal orientation. It consisted of five items of “learning goals” , and four items of “performance-avoidance goals”.


  • The mean scores of “junior high school group” were higher than that of senior high school groups in terms of “performance-approach goals” and “performance-avoidance goals” [F(2, 945)=10.67, P<.001; F(2, 945)=16.94, P<.001].

  • The figures partially supported the arguments of “Self-Determination Theory”, namely, when the students got older, their extrinsic motivations to pursue positive social evaluation and to avoid negative social evaluation are gradually reduced.


Table 3. The correlation coefficients among three categories of achievement goals measured by PALS for each of the three groups of participants.


  • There were extremely high correlations between “performance-approach goals” and “performance-avoidance goals” for all these groups of participants (.675***,.757***,.710***, P<.001).

  • Expectations to get positive social evaluations and to avoid negative social evaluation in learning activities are two sides of an individual’s personality trait. Those who desire to acquire positive social evaluation would also try to avoid the negative social evaluation.


  • The correlation coefficients between “learning goals” and “performance-approach goals” for all three groups of participants (.310***, P<.001;.248***, P<.001;.117*, P<.05) were respectively higher than that with “performance-avoidance goals” (.215***, P<.001;.155***, P<.001; -.007, n.s.).

  • When Chinese students are pursuing “learning goals”, they also seek for “performance-approach goals” of acquiring positive social evaluation and attempt to avoid “performance-avoidance goals” of negative social evaluation.


  • The correlation coefficient between these two variables in “junior high school group” was higher than that in “senior high school groups”; that of “senior high school group B” was more than “senior high school group A”.

  • The older the children were, the better their academic performance was, their intrinsic motivations to pursue the achievement of “learning goals” and extrinsic motivations to pursue or to avoid social evaluation tend to be independent.


Attaining life goals self esteem and face
Attaining Life Goals, self-esteem, and Face “junior high school group” was higher than that in “senior high school groups”; that of “senior high school group B” was more than “senior high school group A”.

  • Kitayama, Markus, Matsumoto and Norasakkunkit (1997), asked 63 students from Kyoto University in Japan and 88 students from University of Oregon in the US to make their best to describe the situations which can (1) enhance and (2) decrease their self-esteem, they used the method of random sampling to obtain 50 situations from each combination and had 400 situations in total for constructing a questionnaire.


  • The situations of success or failure might represent life goals pursued by university students in Western culture of individualism as well as their counterparts in East Asian culture of relationalism.

  • If items related to “attaining/not attaining” life goals in Japanese and American situations collected by Kitayama and Markus et al. (1999) are randomly sampled to develop a questionnaire, administer it to a group of university students in Taiwan, ask them to evaluate the degree of enhancing or decreasing their self-esteem in each situation of “ success” or “failure”, and subject the data collected to factor analysis, the types of life goals in East Asian society might be revealed.


  • In addition to evaluation of goals pursued by university students in Western culture of individualism as well as their counterparts in East Asian culture of relationalism.“self-esteem” by university students in the first group, evaluations by the four groups of participants can be respectively calculated to obtain the personal value and social value of each situation and its influence on one’s personal self-esteem and feeling of face.


Factor ia personal goal self efficacy
Factor IA: Personal goal: goals pursued by university students in Western culture of individualism as well as their counterparts in East Asian culture of relationalism.“Self-efficacy”

Factor IA:Self-Efficacy


  • This is a kind of feeling of self-improvement when an individual attains one’s “learning goal” in pursuing a particular goal of achievement defined by oneself.

  • This kind of feeling was named as “self-efficacy” by Bandura (1997). Therefore, this part of “personal goal” was named as “self-efficacy”.


Factor ib personal goal self affirmation
Factor IB: Personal goal: individual attains one“Self-affirmation”



Factor vertical distinctiveness
Factor Ⅱ: Vertical distinctiveness concrete content of attaining certain personal goals and satisfying one


  • Content of items in Factor Ⅱ were mainly related to the attainment of certain goals highly valued by the society.

  • Attaining this kind of goal usually implies a victory in the process of severe social competition, it also means the possibility of being highly appreciated by the society. It can be regarded as typical “vertical distinctiveness” in East Asia society.


Factor iii horizontal distinctiveness
Factor III: Horizontal distinctiveness attainment of certain goals highly valued by the society.



Figure 1 the participants evaluation on personal value and social value of four success situations
Figure 1 goals pursued by an individual with potential support from peer group, however, they were not goals which an individual might be encouraged to pursue by the whole society. Therefore, It was named as :The participants’ evaluation on personal value and social value of four success situations


Figure 2 goals pursued by an individual with potential support from peer group, however, they were not goals which an individual might be encouraged to pursue by the whole society. Therefore, It was named as : The participants’ evaluation about the influence of four success situations on their self-esteem and feelings of having face.


Two types of achievement goal
Two Types of Achievement Goal goals pursued by an individual with potential support from peer group, however, they were not goals which an individual might be encouraged to pursue by the whole society. Therefore, It was named as


Table5 the participants evaluation on eight attributes of academic and talented performance
Table5: The participants goals pursued by an individual with potential support from peer group, however, they were not goals which an individual might be encouraged to pursue by the whole society. Therefore, It was named as ’ evaluation on eight attributes of academic and talented performance


Table 6 goals pursued by an individual with potential support from peer group, however, they were not goals which an individual might be encouraged to pursue by the whole society. Therefore, It was named as :Factor analysis of participants’ evaluation on attributes of academic and talented performance


Table 7 goals pursued by an individual with potential support from peer group, however, they were not goals which an individual might be encouraged to pursue by the whole society. Therefore, It was named as :The difference between factor scores of academic and talented performance on factors of social pressure and personal efforts


Table 8 goals pursued by an individual with potential support from peer group, however, they were not goals which an individual might be encouraged to pursue by the whole society. Therefore, It was named as : The difference of participants’ evaluation on the malleability of one’s own ability for academic and talented performance


Effort model and ability model
Effort Model and Ability Model goals pursued by an individual with potential support from peer group, however, they were not goals which an individual might be encouraged to pursue by the whole society. Therefore, It was named as

  • Findings of pervious researches have shown that American students, teachers and parents tended to adopt ability model and attributed one’s academic success to innate abilities.

  • Students, teachers and parents in Asian countries tended to adopt effort model. They believed that an individual’s ability was malleable. One could improve one’s abilities through one’s efforts.

  • Cheng & Wong (1996) the idea of “diligence is the means by which one makes up for one's dullness” was deeply rooted in Chinese society.

  • Chen(2004)utilized the 1997 data of a nation-wide Survey of Social Change in Taiwan.


  • Taiwanese people tend to attribute career success to internal factors and believed that exerting efforts will tend to success.

  • D’Ailly (2003) adopted 806 participants from high and medium levels of elementary school students in Taiwan .

  • There was significantly positive correlation between “extent of efforts” and “academic performance”.

  • Their “intrinsic interest” in academic activities was not only unrelated with “extent of efforts”, but also had a negative correlation with “academic performance”.


  • Viewing from the conceptual frameworks in Table 2 and 3 . internal factors and believed that exerting efforts will tend to success.

  • Western students tend to pursue their academic performance in accordance with their personal choice. Their learning activities are very similar to Asian students’ pursuit of horizontal distinctiveness.

  • The scores of “junior high school group” on both variables of “effort as a merit” and “effort as a mean” were significantly higher than that of two senior high school groups [F(2, 945)=5.69, P<.01; F(2, 945)=30.02, P<.001]. However, their mean score of “entity view toward intelligence” was lower than that of two senior high school groups [F(2, 945)=25.78, P<.001].


Table 9 internal factors and believed that exerting efforts will tend to success. :The correlation coefficients among two views of efforts and entity view toward intelligence for three groups of participants.


  • Among each of the three groups of participants, there were significant and stable correlations between “effort as a merit” and “effort as a mean” (.392***,.334***, .364***, p<.001).

  • Those participants who believed that effort is a kind of virtue tended to believe that effort can increase one’s capacities regardless of their ages.


  • Among the three groups of participants, there were negative correlations between “effort as a mean” and “entity view toward intelligence” (-.426***, -.399***, -.250***), which implied that those who believe in “effort as a mean” such as “diligence is a mean by which one may make up for one's dullness” are less likely to think that intelligence is unmellable.


  • A significant negative correlation between correlations between “effort as a mean” and “entity view toward intelligence” (-.426***, -.399***, -.250***), which implied that those who believe in “effort as a mean” such as “diligence is a mean by which one may make up for one's dullness” are less likely to think that intelligence is unmellable.“effort as a merit” and “entity view toward intelligence” can be found only in “senior high school group B” (r=.209***, p<.001). Both the correlation coefficients in “junior high school group” (r=.144,n.s.) and “senior high school group A” (r=.-.033, n.s.) were not significant.

  • “Effort as a merit” and “entity view toward intelligence” were two independent concepts without a stable correlation for the Chinese participants in Taiwan.


  • Viewing from the theory of achievement motivation proposed by Dweck & Leggett (1988), the students’ implicit theories of intelligence (so-called “entity view toward intelligence”) would influence not only their achievement motivation, but also their learning behavior.

  • According to the theoretical model proposed in this article (see Table 2), an individual’s beliefs related to “efforts” rather than one’s implicit theory of intelligence are crucial factors affecting his or her achievement motivation and learning behavior in the Confucian society.


Table 10 by Dweck & Leggett (1988), the students:The correlation coefficients among entity view toward intelligence, viewing effort as a virtue, viewing effort as a mean, goal orientation, learning behavior and attribution after failure for each of the three groups of participants.

Table 10:The correlation coefficients among entity view toward intelligence, viewing effort as a virtue, viewing effort as a mean, goal orientation, learning behavior and attribution after failure for each of the three groups of participants.


Table 10 by Dweck & Leggett (1988), the students:The correlation coefficients among entity view toward intelligence, viewing effort as a virtue, viewing effort as a mean, goal orientation, learning behavior and attribution after failure for each of the three groups of participants.


  • Among participants of those three groups, by Dweck & Leggett (1988), the students“effort as a merit” has significant and stable correlations with “learning goals” (r=.592***,.582***,.576***), “objective indicators of learning” (r=.246***,.177***,.235***), “pre-examination idling” (r=-.438***,-.310***,-.338***), “effort attribution after failure” (r=.269***,.259***,.212***) and “guilt feeling while not working hard” (r=.507***,.618***,.733***).

  • The variable of “entity view toward intelligence” had significant correlation with “self-handicapping” (r=.275***, p<.001) and “pre-examination idling” (r=.291***, p<.001) in “junior high school group” only .


  • Wang(2003) asked 396 high school students from 12 junior high schools in Taipei :

  • (1) perception on the nature of academic and talented performance;

  • (2) students’ believes in one’s general intelligence and specific abilities for academic performance (vertical distinctiveness) and talented performance (horizontal distinctiveness);

  • (3) giving two stories of successful academic and talented performance, asking the participants to attribute their achievements to oneself or other factors;

  • (4) the students’ self-evaluation on their academic and talented performance in class.


The moral significance of efforts in chinese society
The Moral Significance of Efforts in Chinese society high schools in Taipei :

  • Hwang’s (1999, 2001) analysis, Confucian ethics for ordinary people emphasize the values of “tender father and obedient son” : parents must do their best to nurture and take care of their children in expectation that they may have a wonderful future; while children must show their filial obedience by accomplishing the parents’ expectation and fulfill their “unconditional positive duty” in return.


  • Parents would usually ask the children to study hard, in order to fulfill their filial duties.

  • “Effort” and “performance” have totally different meanings in Confucian society: “effort” is a “process” for pursuing the goal, and it is a kind of internal and stable attribute which can be controlled by oneself.

  • “Performance” is the “outcome” of pursuing the goal, it is affected by an individual’s ability, task difficulty and other external factors.

  • Chinese usually encourages an individual to “do everything one ought to do and follow the destiny”. For students, it means that if they study hard, they have already fulfilled their duties as students. As to performance, it is another story and may not necessarily be so important.


  • Fwu(2003) conducted an empirical research to demonstrate those arguments. She took 1470 high school students from northern Taiwan as participants including 652 junior high school students and 818 senior high school students, and used a questionnaire with scenarios as research instrument which consisted of two independent variables: “effort” and “performance”.


  • The participants were asking to evaluate the actor in each scenario on a six point scale for the following dependent variables: (1) Does the actor fulfill his duty in the scenario? (2) Is the actor in the scenario a good student? (3) Does the actor in the scenario make enough effort? (4) Will the actor keep on hard working in the future? (5) Is the actor in the scenario happy or sad?


Figure 3: Means of participants scenario on a six point scale for the following dependent variables: (1) Does the actor fulfill his duty in the scenario’ evaluation on the “fulfillment of duties” by students with different extents of efforts and performance

Fulfillment of duties


Figure 4: The average of the participants scenario on a six point scale for the following dependent variables: (1) Does the actor fulfill his duty in the scenario’ scoring on the “good students” of the students with different efforts and performance

Good Students


Figure 5 scenario on a six point scale for the following dependent variables: (1) Does the actor fulfill his duty in the scenario: Means of participants’ estimation on the likability of “reviewing math at home” for students with different extents of efforts and performance

Review Math alter class


Figure 6: Means of participants scenario on a six point scale for the following dependent variables: (1) Does the actor fulfill his duty in the scenario’ evaluation on the “insufficiency of efforts” by students with different extents of efforts and performance

Insufficiency of Efforts


Conclusion
Conclusion scenario on a six point scale for the following dependent variables: (1) Does the actor fulfill his duty in the scenario

  • Hwang(2005a,b;2006): when non-Western psychologists attempts to transplant Western paradigm of research to study social phenomena in their local society, it is very likely to find that emperical observations of phenomena or results or experiment are inconsistent with predictions derived from the theory.

  • In this case, it is necessary for non-Western psychologists to construct culturally appropriate theory with a consideration of their own cultural context and use them as guides for future empirical research.


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