Control and effort costs influence the motivational consequences of choice

Holly Sullivan-Toole, John A. Richey, Elizabeth Tricomi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The act of making a choice, apart from any outcomes the choice may yield, has, paradoxically, been linked to both the enhancement and the detriment of intrinsic motivation. Research has implicated two factors in potentially mediating these contradictory effects: the personal control conferred by a choice and the costs associated with a choice. Across four experiments, utilizing a physical effort task disguised as a simple video game, we systematically varied costs across two levels of physical effort requirements (Low-Requirement, High-Requirement) and control over effort costs across three levels of choice (Free-Choice, Restricted-Choice, and No-Choice) to disambiguate how these factors affect the motivational consequences of choosing within an effortful task. Together, our results indicated that, in the face of effort requirements, illusory control alone may not sufficiently enhance perceptions of personal control to boost intrinsic motivation; rather, the experience of actual control may be necessary to overcome effort costs and elevate performance. Additionally, we demonstrated that conditions of illusory control, while otherwise unmotivating, can through association with the experience of free-choice, be transformed to have a positive effect on motivation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number675
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - May 3 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)


  • Choice
  • Decision-making
  • Effort
  • Motivation
  • Perceived control
  • Personal control


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