Construct Deficiency in Avoidance Motivation: Development and Validation of a Scale Measuring Vigilance

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Virginia Tech


Two concerns dominate speculation about the lack of progress in motivational disposition research. First, truly unique dispositional constructs have not been identified since wide acceptance of the approach / avoidance distinction. Second, research has largely neglected to account for context in models of motivated behavior. Effective avoidance has systematically been unassessed in motivation research. Social cognitive theory was used to define an effective avoidance motivational trait, vigilance, as an antecedent to effective regulatory behaviors that are avoidant in nature and/or strategy. Two studies were conducted: First, development and psychometric evaluation of a scale measuring vigilance within the existing motivational trait framework (Heggestad and Kanfer, 2000). Exploratory and confirmatory analyses provided initial validity evidence for the vigilance construct; composed of diligence and error-detection facets. Convergent – discriminant analysis revealed that vigilance is significantly related to approach and avoidance motivational constructs identifying two possible sources of contamination in self-report measures of motivational traits. Measurement items may be contaminated with implied outcomes and measurement items may be contaminated with generalized self-efficacy. In the second study, a within-subjects experiment tested the predictive validity of the vigilance measurement scale for task-specific self-efficacy and performance on a task that rewards avoidance-oriented strategies. Vigilance predicted prevention task-specific self-efficacy ( = .29) in one of two experimental conditions. The validation study also offered construct validity evidence for the vigilance construct. Implications and future directions are discussed.



Vigilance, Motivational Traits, Self-efficacy, Psychometric, Validity