When Combining Intrinsic Motivations Undermines Interest: A Test of Activity Engagement Theory

E. Tory Higgins, Jessica Lee, Joonmo Kwon, Yaacov Trope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Three studies with elementary school children demonstrated that combining reading with coloring pictures can undermine children's later interest in reading, while also reducing their interest in coloring. Undermining is maximized when an activity is identified as secondary during the initial engagement, but other conditions must also be met as specified by activity engagement theory (Higgins & Trope, 1990): (a) the multiple input activities must be separately identified and considered simultaneously as alternatives, (b) the activity identified as primary during initial engagement must not be perceived as very attractive, and (c) the responses connected to an identified activity during the initial engagement must be activated subsequently. Conditions for enhancing interest in an activity are also considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)749-767
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1995


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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