Dissertation Defense by David C. Facer

Date and Time

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.


Mother Rosalie Hill Hall, Room 139

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110






Among organizational consultants, human resources practitioners, and organizational leaders, there has been a resurgence of interest in the subject of employee motivation, in part due to the best-selling book, Drive (Pink, 2009). In this book, the author challenged readers to question their beliefs about what motivates employees; this challenge was based on research that questions the validity of widely used management approaches to employee motivation, particularly those based on reinforcement theory. Answering this challenge was difficult, however, given the lack of instruments designed to measure motivation beliefs at all, much less beliefs from a range of prevalent theories.

Using principal components and parallel analyses, the 20-item Motivation Beliefs Assessment (MBA) was created to measure motivation beliefs along four theoretical lines: reinforcement theory; expectancy-valence theory; achievement motivation theory; and self-determination theory. The instrument was validated in two tests involving large samples of businesspeople. Validity and reliability analyses revealed the instrument demonstrates acceptable psychometric properties. Four subscales, each representing a single theory, were confirmed and demonstrated alpha coefficients as follows: reinforcement theory, .77; expectancy-valence theory, .71; achievement motivation theory, .82; self-determination theory, .77. The entire Motivation Beliefs Assessment produced a strong alpha coefficient of .77.

In addition to validating the instrument, this study generated several significant findings. The first of these revealed that there were statistically significant differences in the distribution of beliefs about what motivates employees; specifically, self- determination beliefs were most strongly held, followed by expectancy-valence theory and achievement motivation theory beliefs. Despite their dominant role in organizational systems, respondents agreed with tenets of reinforcement theory at the lowest level. Furthermore, based on effect size analysis, males were more likely than females to agree with reinforcement theory and achievement motivation theory, while non-managers were more likely than managers to agree with self-determination theory.

As expected, the creation of a new instrument like the MBA opens a world of possibilities for both practitioners and scholars. While workplace practitioners now have the ability to actually measure an individual’s beliefs about motivation, researchers can use the instrument to test for differences in these beliefs among individuals in different occupations, companies, industries, and countries. 

**Open to USD faculty and graduate communities