The hierarchical model of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (HMIEM) is a comprehensive theory that seeks to describe human motivation and its determinants and outcomes from a multilevel perspective. Its major premise is that in order to more completely understand the motivation of sport participants (e.g., athletes, coaches, referees, fans), one needs to consider their motivation in various contexts and at various levels of generality. In line with self-determination theory (SDT), the HMIEM posits the existence of three types of motivational constructs: intrinsic motivation (behaving out of pleasure and free choice), extrinsic motivation (behaving to obtain rewards or avoid punishments), and amotivation (the relative absence of motivation). These motivational constructs are organized both vertically and horizontally within the HMIEM. This structural arrangement serves to integrate knowledge on the personality (vertical axis) and social psychological (horizontal axis) determinants of motivation.
First, the vertical organization of elements in the HMIEM specifies that the three types of motivation (intrinsic, extrinsic, and amotivation) exist at three different levels of generality: global, contextual, and situational. The most stable level is situated on top (the global level) and the most ephemeral (the situational level) at the bottom. The global level corresponds to a person’s usual way of functioning at the personality level (e.g., Susan is typically intrinsically motivated). The next level is the contextual level. It corresponds to one’s usual motivation in a particular context such as sports, education, leisure, or interpersonal relationships. This type of motivational orientation is moderately stable and can vary from one context to another. For instance, Susan may be intrinsically motivated to play sports but extrinsically motivated to go to school. Finally, the situational level is the most specific and refers to one’s motivational state in the present moment, the here and now. For instance, you may observe that Susan is intrinsically motivated to play tennis right now.
Top-Down and Bottom-Up Effects
Importantly, the HMIEM postulates that relationships exist between the levels of the hierarchy such that the type of motivation one has at a given level influences his or her motivation at the other levels. The relationships between motivation at the different levels of the hierarchy take place through the top-down and bottom-up effects. Top-down effects refer to the influence of higher levels in the hierarchy upon lower levels. Specifically, global motivation influences both contextual motivation and situational motivation whereas contextual motivation influences only situational motivation. Each level has the strongest influence on the level immediately below (i.e., the proximity principle). In other words, global motivation will have a stronger influence on contextual motivation than on situational motivation. For example, if Susan has a high global intrinsic motivation, all else being equal, she is also likely to have a high level of intrinsic motivation at the contextual level (next level below) such as in sports. Research supports this top-down hypothesis showing that the more athletes have a high level of contextual intrinsic motivation for sports the more they have a high level of situational intrinsic motivation during a game. Similar findings have been obtained in physical education (PE) settings.
Second, bottom-up effects represent the influence of lower levels in the hierarchy upon higher levels. This effect explains how repeated motivational changes at a given level instigate changes in motivation at the next higher level. For example, if Susan repeatedly experiences increases in intrinsic motivation (e.g., during many tournaments), she may become more prone to adopt an intrinsically motivated orientation in the context of sports. In turn, this increase in intrinsic motivation at the contextual level in sports may also lead to increases in intrinsic motivation at the personality level (i.e., the global level). The proximity principle applies here as well. Thus, situational motivation will have a stronger effect on contextual motivation than it will on global motivation. Longitudinal research provides support for these hypotheses.
Social Psychological Processes
The HMIEM also describes a horizontal organization of elements that describe the nature of the social psychological processes through which changes in motivation take place and lead to outcomes. The same sequence takes place at all three levels of the hierarchy: “Social Factors→Psychological Needs→Motivation→Outcomes.” At the beginning of the sequence, it is postulated that motivation is determined first and foremost by social factors. For instance, global social factors are so pervasive that they are present in most areas of a person’s life. One example is parenting, which represents a rather continuous influence on children because it spans many life contexts and situations. The way parents raise their children determines, in part, whether the children will adopt an intrinsic or extrinsic way of interacting with the environment (i.e., a global motivation). Second, contextual social factors are recurrent factors but only in a specific context such as in basketball (i.e., a basketball coach) or in school (i.e., a teacher). Third, situational social factors are present at a single point in time. For example, winning a basketball game on a Sunday afternoon may have an impact on one’s situational motivation to join another scrimmage match when the opportunity comes up. Importantly, global social factors determine global motivation, contextual factors determine contextual motivation, and situational factors determine situational motivation.
Next, the HMIEM postulates that the influence of social factors on motivation occurs through basic psychological need satisfaction. Need satisfaction acts as a mediator between social factors and motivation at every level of generality in the model. The more an individual’s psychological needs are met in general, in a given context or in a specific situation, the more he or she will engage in activities in an intrinsic way at the global, contextual, or situational level. For example, the more athletes perceive their coach as supporting their needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness, the more they will develop an intrinsic motivation for sports. Much empirical support exists for the role of need satisfaction as mediators of the effects of social factors (e.g., the coach’s behavior) on athletes’ motivation. Of additional importance is that motivation in different contexts can interact in different ways. For instance, motivation in a given context (e.g., education) may add to, or even conflict with, motivation in another context (e.g., sport). In other words, there might be compensation or additive effects among different contexts. Research in sport and education empirically supports the presence of such effects.
Finally, the social psychological process ends with the effects of motivation on outcomes of three types: affective, cognitive, and behavioral. Such effects take place at every level of the hierarchy and are specific to the level of generality. In other words, global motivation produces global outcomes, contextual motivation produces contextual outcomes, and situational motivation produces situational outcomes. For example, Susan may generally experience positive emotions, enhanced concentration, and better performance when playing sports because she has an intrinsic motivation in this context. However, she may experience less desirable consequences such as negative emotions, decreased concentration, and poorer performance in another context (e.g., at school) because she is more extrinsically motivated in this context. At all levels of generality, intrinsic motivation leads to the most positive outcomes whereas extrinsic motivation produces the least positive consequences. Once again, research supports these postulates.
In sum, the HMIEM offers a comprehensive explanation of athletes’, coaches’, referees’, andfans’ motivation from multilevel, personality, and social psychological perspective.
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