Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and volition are important constructs in research on selective exposure to media. Building on recent psychological theories of action (Gollwitzer 1990; Heckhausen & Kuhl 1985), media exposure results if a person develops an (intrinsically or extrinsically motivated) intention and invests sufficient volitional effort to carry out the intention.
A general aspiration to turn to a medium is developed in a motivational phase that precedes any action (sometimes termed the “deliberative phase”). In the motivational phase, a mere wish to acquire a certain psychological or material outcome is translated into an intention to acquire that outcome via media exposure (called a “behavioral intention”; Gollwitzer 1993; Vorderer 1993). Expectancy-value-based evaluations underlie the formation process (e.g., Babrow 1989). Knowledge derived from one’s own prior experiences and information obtained by the observations of others feed the translation from a wish to a general behavioral intention. For example, a vague wish to feel socially engaged could result in the intention to go out to the movies, as prior knowledge exists that the movie characters and other movie-goers effectively provide a social atmosphere. Accordingly, the individual would both deem it very likely that he or she would feel socially integrated when watching a movie (expectancy) and evaluate this outcome very positively (value). Consequently, it is probable that the individual would develop an intention to watch a movie (Ajzen 1991; Rise et al. 2003).
In a subsequent phase, called the volitional phase (or the “implementation phase”), an individual picks the strongest or most convenient intention from the list of existing behavioral aspirations. Intentions to choose a medium are likely to be implemented if the user has properly identified when, where, and how to carry out the exposure to the medium (for implementation intentions, see Gollwitzer 1993 and Rise et al. 2003; for instrumental media use, see Rubin 1984), and if the current situation does not allow for pursuing alternative goals (e.g., eating, accomplishing a job task, etc.). In addition, intentions that led to successful behavior in the past (e.g., a strong entertainment experience) are more likely to be implemented, as they build on stronger attitudes and can be automatically triggered by external cues (Bargh et al. 2001).
Users intentionally turn to the media because they strive either for intrinsic or extrinsic outcomes (Eccles & Wigfield 2002). Intrinsically motivating outcomes are achieved immediately in the course of the exposure to the medium through diverse pleasurable experiences (Vorderer et al. 2006; Sherry 2004). “Someone who is seeking entertainment usually does so for its own sake, i.e., in order to experience something positive, like enjoyment, suspense, amusement, serenity” (Vorderer et al. 2006, 6). Atkin (1985, 63) addresses intrinsic media gratifications as “transitory mental or emotional responses providing momentary satisfaction at an intrinsic level.” According to self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan 1985 and 2000), intrinsic pleasure rests on experiences of autonomy, competence, and social relatedness; situations that effectively inform an individual about related capabilities (e.g., being competent or being socially related to others) are pleasurable. In a similar fashion, media can activate the pleasure pathways of the human user (Bryant & Miron 2002). Consequently, drawing on self-determination theory, it has been argued that media users frequently turn to the media following an intrinsic motivation to feel autonomous, competent, and socially included (Vorderer et al. 2006).
Users also turn to the media to achieve extrinsic outcomes, sometimes referred to as uses (Atkin 1985) or utilities (Sherry et al. 2006). Extrinsic behavior exists in two distinct situations: either “when people engage in an activity to comply with an externally pressuring demand” (e.g., a task) or when they try to “meet internally pressuring feelings of guilt, shame, and self-aggrandization” (Vansteenkiste et al. 2005, 484). Accordingly, extrinsically motivated media use is task-oriented (cf. instrumental media use; Rubin 1984 and Noble 1987) and driven by the struggle to meet external and/or internal pressures. For example, the intention to write an email at work might result from the expectation of receiving praise from the boss or avoiding a reproach. Or the intention to write a daily SMS in a romantic long-distance relationship might build on the extrinsic goal not to feel guilty.
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