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Motivation Contagion at School: Do Friends Show Similar Motivation in Behaviour and Brain?

Burgess, L. (2020) Motivation Contagion at School: Do Friends Show Similar Motivation in Behaviour and Brain? PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00101620


It has been shown that the motivation of students’ is related to academic achievement. However, while research on the socio-cognitive factors that contribute to students’ motivation is increasing, limited attention has been placed on the impact of their real social networks and peer interactions. Therefore, this thesis investigated the spread of motivation between friends i.e. motivation contagion, within a real school environment. To identify the impact of friendships on levels of academic motivation, a longitudinal research study was performed, measuring individual levels of motivation, and social network connections. Additionally, an fMRI study was carried out to establish if observed behavioural similarity could also be identified in brain activation. In Chapters 2 and 3, I examined similarity of motivation between friends using cross-sectional data. Additionally, students network position was also examined, to establish whether being better socially connected is related to levels of individual motivation. In Chapter 4, longitudinal models were constructed in order to break down similarity into its component parts; selection and influence. Chapter 5 includes the fMRI study detailed above, taking measures of brain activity in response to reward and correlating them with the same responses of those with whom they had social connections. Across chapters, the results were varied and in all cases the hypotheses were partially supported. Similarity between friends was observed in some measures of motivation, but not in others. In terms of motivation contagion, results indicated that selection effects were more pervasive than influence effects, suggesting that friendships are more often formed on the basis of similarity, rather than becoming similar over time. Finally, friendship pairs showed similarity in striatal activation in the brain in response to the cue phase of a rewarding task, but the results varied across two samples. The findings are considered from various perspectives including developmental and methodological considerations. Further, application to educational practice is also discussed. Overall, this thesis provides an original contribution by combining psychology, education and neuroscience to provide new insights into the dynamic nature of friendships in the context of school life.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Murayama, K. and Riddell, P.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences
ID Code:101620
Date on Title Page:November 2019


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