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Trait emotional intelligence as a predictor of the achievement motivation of Slovak university students

Lucia Paskova and Lada Kaliskd

Introduction to achievement motivation

The study of motivation is important and offers the potential for understanding the human personality. Motivation creates assumptions for the development of various abilities of an individual, as it is a momentum of human activity. Demands for the youth at school, in families, or at work require a certain level of motivation for activities in order to reach given goals. According to Ferjencik and Tatranova (2001), motivation determines human behavior. The importance of motivation is indicated by the Fleischman-Gagne law which states that motivation, along with abilities, is a decisive factor for human achievement and, to a certain extent, motivation can compensate for insufficient abilities (Elliot, 1999).

Out of a large number of psychological terms, one can argue that the term of motivation, after being studied for a long time, still lacks satisfactory explanations. One possible reason could be that it is fairly difficult to isolate complex psychological processes, which cannot be directly observed and measured. Thus, motivation is a hypothetical construct that must be explained by concrete behavioral changes. In addition, it is a broad term including other factors such as effort, wanting, desire, tendency, wish, expectation, pressure, interest, purpose, goal, etc.

Human activity manifests in behaviors and even inactivity has motivational backgrounds (i.e., fear of problems, the need for rest, etc.). In general, motivation is a psychological process that results in a final internal state. Boros (2001) emphasizes the influence of motive on achievement itself and claims that motivation is a process realized by functional relations of dispositions and impulse situations. Motives increase achievement and behavioral intensity, supplying an individual with a sufficient amount of energy necessary for the achievement.

McClelland (1985) distinguished implicit and explicit motivation systems. An implicit motivation system is made up of motives such as the achievement motive, the motive of power, the motive of affiliation, and the motive of intimacy, which has an evolutionary origin being biologically anchored. They do not include conscious mental and control processes. The basic difference between implicit motives and explicit goals lies in the fact that motives apply to a wide range of stimulating properties and personal goals, tied only to chosen target objects.

The achievement motive, or need for achievement, refers to an individual’s desire for significant accomplishment, mastering skills, and high demands. It consists of two needs: reaching success and avoiding failure. It is an integrative perspective of motivation resulting from various personality aspects leading to performance. Personality is tied to performance and to achievement motivation, covering such characteristics as tolerance for risk, fear of failure, and others. This type of motivation is a drive developed from an emotional state. One may feel the drive to achieve by striving for success and avoiding failure. In achievement motivation, Covington (2000) states that one would hope that they excel in what they do and not think much about the failures or the negatives. S/he strives to accomplish something, to do his/her best, to excel others’ performance. This involves competition with a particular standard of excellence or performance.

Aspects of measuring personal success are determined by inter-individual and intra-individual features and are connected to the expectation of achievement level involving cognitive processes of evaluation. It is necessary to consider an important feature of the achievement motive (similarly also to other implicit motives) that this motive cannot be expected to be activated by itself - as it is in the case of impulses or needs. This motive having a status of personality trait becomes active (i.e., turns into a motivation) only when an individual is confronted by a motive-appropriate situation. Heckhausen (1980) characterizes it as “repeated insistency” in various situations. Simultaneously, it is presupposed that people have, for those situations, developed generalized visions of goals and expectations, therefore, they are able to estimate the course of events (and their own actions) based on previous experience and, more or less, they can have the feeling of security or fear as to whether it ends in the course of their expectations. Achievement motivation is defined by Murray (1938) as a special motive to master, manage, organize, or manipulate physical objects, human beings or ideas independently, to overcome obstacles and attain a high standard, to rival and surpass others, and to increase self- regard by successful exercise.

The achievement evaluation can be influenced by age, health state, level of mental abilities, degree of acquired work habits, and social relationships (Sarkisova, 1998). In achievement characteristics, Neigel, Miao, and Montagna (2017) see a substantial role of time and define it as follows: Achievement is 1. The amount of work done by an individual in a certain time unit. 2. The result of goal-oriented activity reached in a given time. Efficiency is determined as maximum performance capacity, the biggest achievable performance when employing all back-up powers etc.

Dzuka (2003) states that with a gradual increase of activation and as a result of the emotional stimulation of the environment or the signal speed relevant for the activity, achievement will increase. This increase will continue until the optimum is achieved, then the attention range will narrow down for relevant signals and the achievement decrease will occur. In other words, the bigger the fear of failure, the weaker the achievement motive. According to Atkinson and Raynor (1974), there are two achievement orientations in humans - to achieve success and to avoid failure. Beating this dualism of Atkinson’s model has been attempted by interactionalistic psychologists, who were seeking a way to overcome the gap between the trait model of personality and the situational model, which reduces changes in behavior to changes in external - situational agents. According to their view, psychological interpretations as well as importance are essential. These interpretations are assigned to those by an individual and they are mediated by cognitive agents. Sagie, Elitzur, and Yamauchi (1996) consider tendencies to achieve success and to avoid failure as relatively stable dispositions that lead to trans-situation consistent behavior although this position was not confirmed with research. Atkinson’s findings influenced a number of research activities that focused on verifying the relations to the basic variables of achievement behavior as well as their relations to other variables.

Equally inspiring is McClelland’s concept, whose research came from his understanding of motive as an experience-dependent connection of expecting an affective change with certain conditions of this change (see Nakonecny, 1997). This attitude was used in forecasting the economic growth of a country, based on a contextual analysis of text documents (the basic assumption of McClelland’s attitude can be simply explained in this way: the higher the achievement motivation the country shows, the more probable the economic growth). His understanding of achievement motivation prevails even now. McClelland understands it as the relatively stable predisposition of an individual - expecting certain affective changes in relation to achieving or not achieving a goal (e.g., the motivational influence of hope on success or fear on failure).

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