Expectancy Theory - Cognitive Behavior (2022)

Expectancy Theory

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The expectancy theory of motivation has become a commonly accepted theory for explaining how individuals make decisions regarding various behavioral alternatives. Expectancy theory offers the following propositions:

A. When deciding among behavioral options, individuals select the option with the greatest motivation forces (MF).

B. The motivational force for a behavior, action, or task is a function of three distinct perceptions: Expectancy, Instrumentality, and Valance. The motivational force is the product of the three perceptions:

MF = Expectancy x Instrumentality x Valence

1. Expectancy probability: based on the perceived effort-performance relationship. It is the expectancy that one’s effort will lead to the desired performance and is based on past experience, self-confidence, and the perceived difficulty of the performance goal. Example: If I work harder than everyone else will I produce more?

2. Instrumentality probability: based on the perceived performance-reward relationship. The instrumentality is the belief that if one does meet performance expectations, s/he will receive a greater reward. Example: If I produce more than anyone else, will I get a better grade or a faster promotion?

3. Valence: refers to the value the individual personally places on the rewards. This is a function of his or her needs, goals, and values. Example: Do I want a better grade? Is it worth the extra effort? Do I want to be promoted?

Because the motivational force is the product of the three perceptions, if any one of their values is zero, the whole equation becomes zero.

Expectancy theory generally is supported by empirical evidence and is one of the more widely accepted theories of motivation.

I. Motivation is defined as the force that:

A. Energizes Behavior- What initiates a behavior, behavioral patterns, or changes in behavior? What determines the level of effort and how hard a person works? This aspect of motivation deals with the question of “What motivates people?”

B. Directs Behavior- What determines which behaviors an individual chooses? This aspect of motivation deals with the question of choice and conflict among competing behavioral alternatives.

C. Sustains Behavior- What determines and individuals level of persistence with respect to behavioral patterns? This aspect of motivation deals with how behavior is sustained and stopped.

II. Motivation is behaviorally specific, that is, it is more appropriate to think in terms of an individual’s motivation to excel in a particular job requirement or even to carry out a specific behavior than it is to think about an individual’s overall motivation. We do not generally find people that are either always motivated in every situation or not motivated in any situation. While individual dispositional variables may affect an individual’s motivation level at any particular time, motivation itself is not a dispositional variable.

III. We use the Expectancy Theory of motivation to help us understand how individuals make decisions regarding various behavioral alternatives. This model deals with the direction aspect of motivation, that is, once behavior is energized, what behavioral alternatives are individuals likely to pursue.

The following are propositions of Expectancy Theory:

A. When deciding among behavioral options, individuals select the option with the greatest motivation forces (MF).

MF= Expectancy x Instrumentality x Valance

B. The motivational force for a behavior, action, or task is a function of three distinct perceptions that are:

1. Expectancy- Probability (EP): The expectancy is the belief that one’s effort (E) will result is attainment of desired performance (P) goals. This belief, or perception, is generally based on an individual’s past experience, self confidence (often termed self efficacy), and the perceived difficulty of the performance standard or goal.

a. Examples include:
i. If I spend most of tonight studying will it improve my grade on tomorrow’s math exam?
ii. If I work harder than everyone else in the plant will I produce more?
iii. If I practice my foul shot more will my foul shooting improve in the game?
iv. If I make more sales calls will I make any more sales?

b. Variables affecting the individual’s Expectancy perception:
i. Self Efficacy – efficacy is a person’s belief about his or her ability to perform a particular behavior successfully. Does the individual believe that s/he has the require skills and competencies required to perform well and the required goals?
ii. Goal Difficulty- Goals that are set too high or performance expectations that are made too difficult, lead to low expectancy perceptions. When individuals perceive that the goals are beyond their ability to achieve, motivation is low because of low Expectancy.
iii. Perceived Control Over Performance – For Expectancy to be high, individuals must believe that some degree of control over the expected outcome. When individuals perceive that the outcome is beyond their ability to influence, Expectancy, and thus motivation, is low. For example, many profit-sharing plans do not motivate individuals to increase their effort because these employees do not think that they have direct control over the profits of their large companies.

2. Instrumentality- Probability (PR): The instrumentality is the belief that if one does meet performance expectations, s/he will receive a greater reward. This reward may come in the form of a pay increase, promotion, recognition or sense of accomplishment. It is important to note that when it is perceived that valued rewards follow all levels of performance, then instrumentality is low. For example, if a professor known to give everyone in the class an “A” regardless of performance level, then instrumentality is low.

a. Examples include:
i. If a get a better grade on tomorrow’s math test will I get an “A” in math?
ii. If I produce more than anyone else in the plant, will I get a bigger raise? A faster promotion?
iii. If my foul shooting improves will I have a shot a team MVP?
iv. If I make more sales will I get a bonus? A greater commission?
v. If I make more sales will I believe that I am the best sales person or be recognized by others as the best sales person?

b. Variables affecting the individual’s instrumentality perception:
i. Trust – When individuals trust their leaders, they’re more likely to believe their promises that good performance will be rewarded.
ii. Control – When workers do not trust the leaders of their organizations, they often attempt to control the reward system through a contract or some other type of control mechanism. When individuals believe they have some kind of control over how, when, and why rewards are distributed, Instrumentality tends to increase.
iii. Policies – The degree to which pay and reward systems are formalized in written policies has an impact on the individuals’ Instrumentality perceptions. Formalized policies linking rewards to performance tend to increase Instrumentality.

3. Valance- V(R): The valance refers the value the individual personally places on the rewards. This is a function of his or her needs, goals, values and Sources of Motivation.

a. Examples include:
i. How much I really want an “A” in math?
ii. Do I want a bigger raise? Is it worth the extra effort? Do I want a promotion?
iii. How important to me is it to be team MVP?
iv. Do I need a sales bonus? Is the extra time I spend making extra sales calls worth the extra commission?
v. Is it important to me that I am the best salesperson?

b. Variables affecting the individual’s Valance for outcomes:
i. Values
ii. Needs
iii. Goals
iv. Preferences
v. Sources of Motivation

c. Potential Valued Outcomes may include:
i. Pay increases and bonuses
ii. Promotions
iii. Time off
iv. New and interesting assignments
v. Recognition
vi. Intrinsic satisfaction from validating one’s skills and abilities
vii. Intrinsic satisfaction from knowing that your efforts had a positive influence in helping someone.

VIII. Expectancy and Instrumentality are attitudes, or more specifically, they are cognitions. As such, they represent an individual’s perception of the likelihood that effort will lead to performance and performance will lead to the desired outcomes. These perceptions represent the individual’s subjective reality, and may or may not bear close resemblance to actual probabilities. These perceptions are tempered by the individual’s experiences (learning theory), observations of others (social learning theory), and self-perceptions.

IX. Expectancy Theory can be used to define what is termed a strong situation. Strong situations act as a strong influence on the behavior of individuals, often overriding their personalities, personal preferences, and other dispositional variables.
A. Consequences: There are highly valued positive or negative outcomes perceived to be associated with behavior in the situation. This is the same as Valance in Expectancy Theory
B. Likelihood: There is a high perceived probability that these consequences will follow behavior (e.g., “I am certain that if I swear at my boss, s/he will fire me”). This is the same as Instrumentality in Expectancy Theory.
C. Specificity: Required behavior is well defined and understood by the individual (e.g., “Wear a black tuxedo” is more specific than “dress appropriately”). This is a part of what determines Expectancy in Expectancy Theory.

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