The Motivational and Instantaneous Behavior Effects of Contexts: Steps Toward a Theory of Goal-Directed Behavior1

Authors

  • Hannah Scheuthle,

    1. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Switzerland
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  • Vicente Carabias-Hütter,

    1. Zürich University of Applied Sciences Winterthur, Switzerland
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  • Florian G. Kaiser

    Corresponding author
    1. Eindhoven University of Technology Eindhoven, The Netherlands
      Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Florian G. Kaiser, Eindhoven University of Technology, Technology Management (IPO 1.22), P.O. Box 513, NL-5600 MB Eindhoven, The Netherlands. E-mail: f.g.kaiser@tm.tue.nl
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  • 1

    This research was supported by Grant #11-52410 from the Swiss National Science Foundation; by Grant #3127 from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology at Zurich; by the Spanish Scientific Research Council; and by the Human-Technology Interaction Group at Eindhoven University of Technology. The authors thank Laura Cohen and Steven Ralston for their language support; the members of the Andalusia Institute of Advanced Social Studies for their advice; as well as Gary Evans, Heinz Gutscher, Gundula Hubner, Ralf Hiitter, Cees Midden, Gideon Keren, Michael Ranney, Wesley Schultz, and Mark Wilson for their comments on earlier drafts of this paper. Any errors are our responsibility.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Florian G. Kaiser, Eindhoven University of Technology, Technology Management (IPO 1.22), P.O. Box 513, NL-5600 MB Eindhoven, The Netherlands. E-mail: f.g.kaiser@tm.tue.nl

Abstract

Contextual conditions affect behavior in 2 ways: (a) They confront people with opportunities and obstacles that affect their motivation to take action; or (b) they instantaneously shape performance, regardless of a person's motivation and even without subjective acknowledgment of the conditions. Traditionally in psychology, the immediate behavioral consequences of a context are disregarded. Based on our theory of goal-directed behavior, we are able to disentangle the instant and the motivational behavioral consequences of contexts. In an example study, 40% of the variation in performance among 660 Swiss and Spanish pupils was explained by motivational differences. Instantaneous constraints and facilitations imposed on people's acts, in turn, revealed a set of Switzerland- and Spain-specific limitations and affordances (hit rate = 97.5%).

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