Motivational correlates of need for cognition

Yael Steinhart, Robert S. Wyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Need for cognition is usually characterized as an intrinsic desire to engage in challenging intellectual activity. In achievement situations, however, it could be associated with more extrinsic goals such as success or the avoidance of failure. Three experiments examined this possibility. Participants in all studies were led to believe they would perform either an easy or a difficult intellectual task that they were likely to fail. After inducing this expectation, indices of extrinsic motivation were obtained. Participants with high need for cognition became more motivated to avoid negative consequences of their behavior (e.g., failure) when they expected the task they would perform to be difficult. In contrast, participants with low need for cognition were not appreciably affected by these expectancies. The anticipation of engaging in intellectual activity apparently stimulates different motives in people with high and low need for cognition, and the mindset induced by these motives influences their later behavioral decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)608-621
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


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