Motivation purity bias: Expression of extrinsic motivation undermines impressions of intrinsic motivation and engenders discrimination in selection decisions
I will present research findings on a phenomenon we label motivation purity bias - the expectation of hiring managers that candidates will signal pure intrinsic motivation (interest in the task itself) without signaling any extrinsic motivation (interest in features unrelated to the work itself, such as salary and benefit). During the selection and hiring process, there is an exchange of information between candidates and hiring managers regarding the reasons why the candidates would be motivated to work in the given position. We theorized that candidates’ expressions of extrinsic motivation (e.g., expressing one would be satisfied with extrinsic job features offered to prospective employees) would lead managers to infer that the candidate is less intrinsically motivated, ultimately causing discrimination against such candidates in selection decisions. This effect is tremendously disconcerting in light of strong evidence suggesting that extrinsic and intrinsic motivation are positively correlated, and thus that decision makers should be making the opposite inference. When intrinsic motivation is high, more information about a candidate’s satisfaction with the extrinsic features of the job provides more information about the fit of the candidate and his or her intention to commit to the job. I will present the results of four studies, conducted among HR professionals, hiring managers, and business school students, utilizing various methodologies and theory testing approaches, that jointly find support for our theory. I will discuss implications for fairness and efficiency of selection decisions, for the way candidates present themselves, as well as policy implications of the findings.