How Do Extrinsic Value and Text Difficulty Impact Engagement during Learning? An Experimental Approach

Master's Thesis


Despite the ongoing use of rewards in education, there is still an open debate about the circumstances when extrinsically-valued rewards are considered to be effective. The current experiment attempted to address this question by investigating the effects of both extrinsic value (high vs. low value) and text difficulty (easy vs. difficult texts) on engagement and learning during an instructional learning task. Students’ engagement was measured during learning by assessing two types of engagement: (1) affective (i.e., valence and arousal), (2) cognitive (i.e., mind wandering). Results indicated that extrinsic value and text difficulty impacted the two types of engagement differently. Specifically, extrinsic value had a negative impact on valence, but a positive impact on arousal and learning. This suggests extrinsic value can in fact be an effective motivator for learning, given the right context. Conversely, text difficulty had a negative influence on mind wandering. Theoretical implications and potential future directions are discussed.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-07162014-231637

Author Caitlin Spencer Mills
Advisor Sidney DMello
Contributor Julie Turner, Committee Member
Contributor Sidney DMello, Committee Chair
Contributor G.A. Radvansky, Committee Member
Degree Level Master's Thesis
Degree Discipline Psychology
Degree Name MA
Defense Date
  • 2014-05-15

Submission Date 2014-07-16
  • United States of America

  • engagement

  • learning

  • extrinsic value

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


Please Note: You may encounter a delay before a download begins. Large or infrequently accessed files can take several minutes to retrieve from our archival storage system.