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Expectancy Theory

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:

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

  2. 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 in the plant 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, he or she will receive a greater reward. Example: If I produce more than anyone else in the plant, will I get a bigger raise 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 bigger raise? Is it worth the extra effort? Do I want a promotion?

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.


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