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Motivation and volition in economic decisions

  • People face economic decisions on a daily basis. Quite often, these decisions involve high stakes and some degree of personal risk, as choices produce real consequences that set the course for future actions. Although decades of decision research in the intersection of psychology, behavioral economics, and neuroscience have much advanced our knowledge about the psychological underpinnings of economic decisions, several academic disputes remain unsettled. Indeed, surprisingly little is known about the role of motivation and volition in guiding economic decisions. Certainly, people’s motives, goals, and their expectations of attractive rewards are important drivers of decision making. Yet, motivation and volition cannot be reduced to goals and incentives. The cognitive mechanisms underlying economic decisions are rather complex, and motivation and volition may impact decisions at the level of these cognitive processes. This dissertation considers the role of motivation and volition in economic decisions by examining the impact of experimentally induced motivational and volitional states of mind on economic choices and decision processes. Using different methods and decision making paradigms, four experiments provide novel evidence that informs the ongoing debates in motivation research, decision science, and psychophysiology. In short, Experiments 1a and 1b explore the possibility of interactive effects between motivation, volition, and financial incentives in determining economic performance. Moving on to the level of decision processes, Experiment 2 examines the impact of motivation and volition on decision processes under risk. Decision times, eye movements, and pupil dilations provide process measures of cognitive effort, pre-decisional information search, and affective arousal, respectively. Finally, Experiment 3 investigates how particular decision attributes relate to affective and motivational processes in decisions under risk. The findings of the present dissertation can be summarized in terms of four main conclusions. First, incentives are effective for improving economic performance when the payment of attractive monetary rewards is contingent on performance. Yet, higher incentives do not further improve performance. Second, the experimental manipulation of motivational and volitional mindsets does not directly affect choices, but notably impacts decision processes. Third, the influence of motivation and volition on economic decisions appears to depend on the appropriate incentivization of the task at hand. Fourth, risky choice attributes that entail no gain at all, i.e., zero-outcomes, elicit high levels of affective arousal and motivational avoidance tendencies that guide selective attention and decision making in the lottery choice paradigm. The implications of these findings are discussed for theory development in motivation research and decision science, as well as in terms of their practical implications for decision making in managerial contexts and other high-stakes decision environments.

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Metadaten
Author:Jonas Ludwig
URN:urn:nbn:de:bsz:1141-opus4-400
Referee:Anja Achtziger, Peter M. Gollwitzer
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Language:English
Year of Publication:2020
Date of first Publication:2020/07/02
Publishing Institution:Zeppelin Universität
Granting Institution:Zeppelin Universität
Date of final exam:2020/05/13
Release Date:2020/07/02
Tag:decision research, psychology, behavioral economics, neuroscience, economic decisions, motivation, volition, cognitive processes, motivation research, psychophysiology, incentives
Pagenumber:X, 225 Seiten
Licence (German):License LogoEs gilt das UrhG