Motivation from control

Baruch Eitam, Patrick M. Kennedy, E. Tory Higgins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human motivation is sensitive to value-to the outcomes of actions. People invest mental and physical resources for obtaining desired results or for stopping and reversing undesired ones. Accordingly, people's motivation is sensitive to information about their standing in relation to outcome attainment ('outcome feedback'). In this paper, we argue and present the first evidence for the existence of another motivational sensitivity in humans-a sensitivity to our degree of control on the environment and hence to information about that control ('control feedback'). We show that when actions have even trivial and constant perceptual effects, participants' motivation to perform is enhanced. We then show that increased motivation is not because more information about task performance is available and that motivation is increased only in conditions in which control over the effects can be firmly established by the mind. We speculate on the implications for understanding motivation, and potentially, physical and mental health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-484
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This research was supported by a David C. McClelland Postdoctoral Fellowship and Grant 277/12 from the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) to Baruch Eitam and by Grant 39429 from the National Institute of Mental Health to E. Tory Higgins.


  • Agency
  • Motivation
  • Reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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