Expectancy-Value Theory

Focus on complex and interactive nature of attitudes. Attitude affects behavior, intent, and goals.
Constructs: ability beliefs, expectancies for success, task value

DOMAINS: Education, Business, Psychology, Advertising
Contributors:  Sarah Chauncey           

The theory was founded by Martin Fishbein in the 1970s.
More recent formulations:
Eccles, 1983; Wigfield, 1994; Wigfield & Tonks, 2002


"This theory asserts that the amount of effort that people (students) are willing to expend on a task is the product of (a) the degree to which they expect to succeed at the task,and (b) the degree to which they value the task and value success on the task." (Green 2002: 990)

According to expectancy-value theory (Eccles et al., 1983; Wigfield & Eccles, 2000), students’ beliefs concerning the degree to which they are confident in accomplishing an academic task (self-efficacy) and the degree to which they believe that the academic task is worth pursuing (task value) are two key components for understanding students’ achievement behaviors and academic outcomes.2. (Liem, Lau, Nie, 2008: 487-88)

2 The literature notes that the construct of ‘‘expectation for success’’ can be differentiated between (1) one’s belief in one’s capability in accomplishing a given task, or also called ‘‘efficacy expectation’’ or ‘‘self-efficacy’’ (Bandura, 1997), and (2) one’s belief that effort one exerts would lead to a desired outcome, or also called ‘‘outcome expectancy.’’ As stated by Wigfield and Eccles (2000, p. 71), ‘‘. . . our expectancy construct is more similar to Bandura’s efficacy expectation than it is to the outcome expectancy construct.’’ In the present study, we therefore measured students’ efficacy expectation or self-efficacy rather than their outcome expectancy.

Within expectancy-value theories (DeBacker & Nelson, 1999; Eccles, 1984; Eccles et al., 1983), utility value is considered as one component of task value along with attainment value, intrinsic value, and costs. Utility value refers to the perceived instrumentality or the degree of perceived usefulness of the present task to attain present and future goals. Utility value thus is determined by “how well a task relates to current and future goals” (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002, p. 120) (VanSteenkiste, Simons, Lens, Soenens, Matos, & Lacante 2004: 755)

"In an educational context, students who believe they are capable of mastering their schoolwork typically have positive expectations for success and, hence, high motivation and achievement (Nicholls et al., 1989). What further contributes to students’ motivation and achievement is their valuing of an academic task, as well as the interface of their expectancies and task values (Arbreton & Blumenfield, 1997; Eccles, 1983)." (Martin 2009:  334)

"In a recent model representing the development of students’ expectancies for success and task values, Wigfield and Tonks (2002) identified the role of significant socializers’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors in the development of students’ expectancies and values. In particular, expectancies and values are influenced by the socializers with whom students have significant relationships. Thus, expectancy-value theory implicates relationships as an important component of its theoretical framework, and expectancies and values may be conceptualized as being, in part, relationally determined." (Martin 2009: 334).
REFERENCES ~ Coding Spreadsheet - Web View
  • Alexander, P., Wigfield, A., & Eccles, J. (2000). Expectancy-value theory of achievement motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 68.

  • Green, S. (2002). Using an expectancy-value approach to examine teachers' motivational strategies. Teaching and Teacher Education, 18(8), 989-1005.

  • Kaplan, A., & Flum, H. (2009). Motivation and identity: The relations of action and development in educational contexts--an introduction to the special issue. Educational Psychologist, 44(2), 73-7.

  • Lau, S., Liem, A., & Nie, Y. (2008). Task- and self-related pathways to deep learning: The mediating role of achievement goals, classroom attentiveness, and group participation. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 78(pt4), 639-62.

  • Liem, A., Lau, S., & Nie, Y. (2008). The role of self-efficacy, task value, and achievement goals in predicting learning strategies, task disengagement, peer relationship, and achievement outcome. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 33(4), 486-512.

  • Martin, A., & Dowson, M. (2009). Interpersonal relationships, motivation, engagement, and achievement: Yields for theory, current issues, and educational practice. Review of Educational Research, 79(1), 327-65.

  • VanSteenkiste, M., Simons, J., & Lens, W. (2004). Less is sometimes more: Goal content matters. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96(4), 755-64
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