Motivation: Self-determination Theory

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Motivation is one of the factors affecting academic performance which have been widely researched. Despite there were tons of theories related to motivation, Self-determination theory (SDT) appeared to be one of the comprehensive yet widely adopted theory in research for academic, organization, and sport setting across cultures. Thus, current study adopted SDT as the underlying framework. Generally, SDT discusses the socio-contextual factors that affects the motivation and psychological development of human. The key concept of SDT surrounds the basic psychological needs for promoting psychological development specifically the autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

Notably, the study of Deci and Ryan (1985a) have led to the initiative of current study. In that study, general causality orientation was proposed to describe individual difference of motivation which consists of co-existing autonomous, controlled, and impersonal orientations. By validating the construct of the General Causality Orientation Scale (GCOS), the external locus of control (LOC) from Internal-External (I-E) scale was strongly correlated to the impersonal subscale and moderately correlated to controlled subscale of GCOS. This further suggested that an individual with external LOC is more likely to be extrinsically motivated or unmotivated. The result was further supported by Pelletier, Dion, Tuson, and Green-Demers (1999).

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The relationship between LOC and motivation was first speculated by Rotter (1966) by indicating that LOC could affect the motivation of an individual despite the actual effect is unclear. In the meantime, LOC was described as the perception of the dependency of an outcome on the behavior of oneself, in another word, the perceived control of oneself on event related to self (Rotter, 1966). Ryan and Deci (2017) further speculated that LOC could explain the difference between the motivated and unmotivated individual, but unable to differentiate the types of motivation. Indeed, an individual with external LOC could adopt the belief that the event is beyond own control, and is expected to have a low motivation level. On the contrary, an individual with internal LOC is expected to have a high motivation level but can be either extrinsic or intrinsic motivated.

The relationship between LOC and motivation was supported indirectly by Deci (1975) and Pettersen (1987). In this case, Deci proposed functional significance as the perception towards an event which could be either controlling (event perceived as controlling the behavior) or informational (event perceived as informational feedback for the behavior). Meanwhile, perceived locus of causality (PLOC) which discusses how an individual perceives own involvement in causing an action was also adopted into the explanation (Heider, 1958; de Charms, 1968). For instance, internal PLOC (I-PLOC) attributes an event as self-regulation while external PLOC (E-PLOC) attributes the event as controlled by reasons other than self. Deci (1975) further suggested that a controlling reward tends to shift PLOC towards the more external end, reduces the sense of competence and self-determination, and undermine IM. Conversely, informational reward gravitates toward more internal PLOC, enhance the competence and self-determination, and then promote IM.

Conversely, Pettersen (1987) demonstrated that perception towards an event was first processed through PLOC before the analysis by LOC. However, it was indicated that both LOC and PLOC is not compelled to the directly proportional relationship. Indeed, an internal LOC could embrace either E-PLOC or I-PLOC and similarly for external LOC. Despite that, there was no study that examine the direct relationship between LOC and motivation. Thus, current study would like to examine the direct relationship between LOC, IM and EM. Based on the speculations by Rotter (1966), Ryan and Deci (2017), and Pelletier et al. (1987), current study hypothesized internal LOC to positively correlate to IM, meanwhile external LOC correlated to EM negatively. For instance, individual with belief that an event is within own control tends to be feel self-regulated, more likely to enjoy and intrinsically motivated by the event vice cersa.

As suggested by Fiske, Kitayama, Markus, and Nisbett (1998), culture is a product of the interactions between individual within the culture, and the culture later was adopted and affect the individual within the culture. This mutually constitutive relationship between culture and individual further led to the emphasis to include cultural context while research human behavior. Consistent to this emphasis, cultural comparison was included in the examination of the relationship between LOC and motivation within current study. In relation to this, individualism-collectivism was widely adopted and found to be able to represent the culture distinctively (Hofstede, Hofstede, & Minkov, 2010). According to Hofstede et al. (2010), individualism refers to a loose social relationship between individuals within a society where care only prioritized for self and immediate family; collectivism refers to a strongly integrated relationship between individuals within a society in which in-group cohesiveness and loyalty are appreciated. Subsequently, Malaysia was accounted as a more collectivistic countries (lower in Individualism Index Values [IDV], 54th ) while Australia was ranked as the second most individualistic countries after America (ranked second in the IDV).

According to Markus and Kitayama (1991), individual within individualistic culture tends to adopt independent self-construal which focus own expression of own internal attributes as the agency. Conversely, interdependent self-construal is often adopted by individual within collectivistic culture which emphasizes interpersonal control as the agency. This statement was further supported by the study of Church et al. (2013). To study the relationship between basic psychological needs satisfaction and well-being, 1384 college students were recruited from America, Australia, Mexico, Venezuela, Philippines, Malaysia, China, and Japan . Consistent to the theory of Markus and Kitayama (1991), Asian countries (more collectivistic) were reported to gravitate towards interdependent self-construal, have lower perceived needs satisfaction of autonomy and competence, and lower in well-being, as compared to the non-Asian countries. In relation to this, collectivistic culture was suggested to be more constricted in pursuing personal interests as compared to individualistic culture.

Despite being the study that opposed the SDT in term of the universality of autonomy across cultures, the study of Iyenggar and Lepper (1999) supported the theory of Markus and Kitayama (1991). Asian-American children who were assumed as collectivistic, and Anglo-American children who were assumed as individualistic were recruited and designated with anagrams task with different conditions: personal choice (allowed to choose own preference), choice of the experimenter, choice of the mother, and choice of in-group member. The findings confirmed that Anglo-American children in condition with personal choice spent more time in the task, yet an interesting result was reported that Asian-American children spent more time in the task that was assigned by their mother or in-group member. Subsequently, Hagger, Rentzelas, and Chatzisarantis (2014) replicated the study and reported similar result. Inference further drawn from both studies to suggest that individualistic culture is more likely to embrace personal choice (IM) whereas collectivistic culture is motivated by social relationship (EM).

In the context of Malaysia, Chong and Ahmed (2012) conducted survey with 1919 undergraduates from nine universities across Malaysia. Throughout the survey, it was reported that Malaysian student were predominantly gravitates towards external regulation and identified regulation which belongs to the extrinsic motivation category. In relation to this, Chong and Ahmed (2012) indicated that the importance of tertiary education certificate has been consistently emphasized in Malaysian workforce. Subsequently, social and family expectations arise which students were expected to graduate from tertiary education for secure a better living standard in the future. Thus, students were most likely to view the pursue of tertiary education as a pathway for a better future for themselves, and this belief could be vary between external regulation and identified regulation depends on the how well the belief internalized. Meanwhile, this statement is also supported by the study of Komarraju, Karau, and Ramayah (2007). Komarraju et al. (2007) identified higher score of Malaysian students in academic motives related to

One of the major studies for cultural difference in LOC was done by Hui (1982). In the review of 70 studies, the result for cultural difference of LOC was not consistent. Hui further suggested that the inconsistencies might be due to perceived control within similar context presented differently across cultures. This speculation was also supported by Cheng, Cheung, Chio, and Chan (2012) by indicated that certain external controlling factors (other persons, social regulation, cultural belief) might be integrated well with collectivistic culture but not in individualistic culture.

Notably, there were limited number of studies concerning the cultural comparison for LOC and SDT (in term of IM and EM differences). Yet, most of the studies done were relatively outdated. In addition, limited studies were found to compare the cultural difference in ALOC and SDT between Malaysia and Australia. Most importantly, the relationship between LOC and motivation had not been explore directly before current study. Thus, it was believed that current study would shed a new light to the body of the knowledge in the relevant field. 


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