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Effects of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation on attention and memory

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Lucy Robinson, Dr Lucy Stevens, Professor Hamish McAllister-WilliamsORCiD, Dr Peter GallagherORCiD


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It is well recognised that motivational factors can influence neuropsychological performance. The aim of this study was to explore individual differences in intrinsic motivation and reward-seeking and the effect of these on attentional and mnemonic processes, in the presence or absence of financial incentives. Forty participants (18-35 years) completed two testing sessions where the Attentional Network Test (ANT) and the Newcastle Spatial Memory Test (NSMT) were administered. After a baseline assessment, participants were re-tested after randomisation to a non-motivated (control) group or to a motivated group, where payment was contingent upon performance. Performance in the motivated group was significantly improved compared to the control group on the NSMT (condition by session; F(1,33) = 4.52, p = 0.041) and the ANT, with participants increasing performance to cued presentations within the alerting network (F(1,36) = 5.48, p = 0.025) and being less distracted by incongruent stimuli in the executive control network (F(1,36) = 6.74, p= 0.014). There were significant negative correlations between the 'Interest/Enjoyment' Intrinsic Motivation Inventory subscale and both NSMT between-search errors and ANT(alerting). In the motivated group, those who had higher self-reported internal motivation were less susceptible to- or affected by- the external motivation of financial incentive. The effects of motivational factors should not be overlooked when interpreting absolute levels of performance in neuropsychological processes. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Robinson LJ, Stevens LH, Threapleton CJD, Vainiute J, McAllister-Williams RH, Gallagher P

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Acta Psychologica

Year: 2012

Volume: 141

Issue: 2

Pages: 243-249

Print publication date: 01/10/2012

ISSN (print): 0001-6918

ISSN (electronic): 1873-6297

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2012.05.012


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