The effects of success on task enjoyment and persistence
This thesis explored two issues. Firstly, how participants would respond,in terms of task persistence and task enjoyment, to differing levels of success, when a task was presented to them with a mastery-focus (Experiments 1-5). Secondly, whether improving at task caused participants to enjoy tasks more than achieving a constant level of success (Experiments 6-10). Experiments 1-3 provided evidence that when participants were given the opportunity to persist with a task for as long as they wanted, they persisted longer after performing poorly. However, despite persisting longer, they did not enjoy the task. Experiments 4-5 adopted the same paradigm as Experiments 1-3, but included a second free-choice persistence phase where participants were unaware their behaviour was being monitored. In Experiments 4 and 5, participants who performed poorly persisted longer initially, but less during the subsequent free-choice phase. Again, those who performed poorly during the initial phase reported that they did not enjoy the task. It was suggested that neither the achievement-goal theories of Nicholls (1984) and Dweck (1986) nor Deci's (1975) theory of intrinsic motivation could adequately account for the persistence behaviours observed in the second persistence phase in Experiments 4 and 5. Instead, it was suggested that participants persisted because of the pleasure derived from solving the problems. Experiments 6-10 examined the role of improvement in task enjoyment. Experiments 6 and 7 were control studies intended to establish wheter the paradigm was appropriate to examine improvement. Experiments 8-9 showed that relative to achieving a consistent level of performance, improvement increased task enjoyment. However, this result was found only when participants did well; when they did poorly at a task, improvemenpt produced less enjoyment(Experiment 10). Both results can be explained if participants' expectations are taken into account as well as their rate of success. The final conclusions chapter discusses the types of achievement targets individuals might set themselves when what constitutes good performance at a task is ambiguous, and relates this analysis to the findings from all ten experiments.