Poster Paper: Motivation Influences Friendship Ties: Social Network Analysis As a Tool for Understanding Dynamics of Psychological Constructs and Networks

Thursday, November 7, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Exhibits (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Brittany Thompson and Olga Kornienko, George Mason University

Self-determination theory posits that a person must fulfill three psychological drives (competence, autonomy, and relatedness) to develop intrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan, 2000). Being integrated into a network of friends is one way to fulfill the drive of relatedness. Furthermore, the process of developing and pursuing intrinsic motivation has implications for individual’s well-being. A stronger focus on extrinsic goals predicts lower well-being and higher distress (Kasser & Ryan, 1996). There has been limited research linking relatedness drive and intrinsic/extrinsic motivation for participation in activities. This study addresses this gap by drawing on social network analysis.

Within a social context, friends’ motivation may influence the focal individual’s motivation. For example, social learning theory (Bandura, 1977) suggests that friends become more similar (peer influence), and social identity theory (Tajifel & Turner, 1979) suggests that friends befriend others who share similar qualities (peer selection). Both processes are at work simultaneously. Friends may select friends with similar levels of motivation, and then become similar to each other over time (peer influence).

This study explores peer selection and influence on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation using a stochastic actor-based modeling approach (Snijders, van den Budt, & Steglich, 2010). We use a sample of 193 marching band members from a large public university in the United States. Data was collected at the beginning and end of the marching band season. Participants nominated their close friends and answered questions about the types and intensity of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for participating in marching band. We used RSiena, an R package, to model peer selection and influence on the psychological constructs while statistically controlling for network structural characteristics.

Results indicated that motivations were significantly associated with peer selection: those with higher levels of intrinsic motivation received fewer friendship ties from others (est. = -0.10, p < .05), and those with higher levels of extrinsic motivation received more friendship ties (est. = 0.13, p < .05). These patterns were observed while controlling for a significant and positive preference to befriend others of the same race and from the same musical section, as well as important network structural processes such as tendency to form mutual and transitive ties (i.e., a friend or a friend is also a friend), and reciprocity. We did not document evidence for peer influence effects on intrinsic or extrinsic motivation.

This study illustrates the utility of novel tools of social network analysis for understanding how social networks in organizational and educational settings influence psychological outcomes. Being able to disentangle contributions of peer selection and influence processes enables researchers and policy scholars to better devise organizational and educational contexts to promote desired outcomes. This analytical tool can improve the efficacy of government and education programs by understanding their application within social networks.