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Handbook of epistemic cognition


Jeffrey A. Greene, William A. Sandoval, Ivar Bråten




New York

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Why do you want to teach? What are the reasons you decided to major in philosophy in college? Why did you consult three different physicians and comb through hundreds of medical journals just to find out whether you should have your daughter vaccinated—isn’t asking your own doctor sufficient? Motivation is at the root of all of these types of questions. Motivation researchers are primarily concerned with the cognitive processes by which people initiate and sustain behaviors. For example, if a group of teachers indicate they decided to teach because they believe ensuring the next generation of young people enters their adult lives prepared to face the challenges of the 21st century, then these teachers are likely describing a belief in the utility of what they do. On the other hand, if a student said she decided to major in philosophy because she took introductory courses in logic and in ethics and earned superior marks in these classes, then her competence beliefs are likely the most salient aspect of her motivation. Although motivation historically has been presented in many different ways (e.g., need satisfaction, innate drives), in this chapter we frame the most commonly studied constructs of motivation as important cognitive structures and processes that guide our behaviors. We conceive of behaviors in a broad sense of the word to also include cognitive behaviors such as asking oneself whether a certain strategy is the best approach to solve a problem. This focus is in line with the purpose of this chapter and handbook—to focus on cognitive structures and processes that guide behaviors related specifically to building and evaluating knowledge. Given this focus on the cognitive basis of motivation, we then explore how motivational aspects of cognition relate to aspects of cognition that concern the nature of knowledge and knowing. Although the literature about the intersection of motivation and epistemic cognition is relatively small, scholars are becoming increasingly interested in questions such as, “why might some students refer to a politician about whether vaccines are effective and safe rather than refer to their family doctor?” At the heart of these types of questions is the assumption that cognitive behavior (including epistemic cognition) is motivated. That is, might some students refer to their teachers as the definitive source for an answer because they believe that it is not worth the time and effort to find more nuanced answers from multiple sources of information? Or might other students seek out alternative answers that are different from their textbook because they want to show off to their peers and teachers about how smart they are? To understand the linkages between motivation and epistemic cognition, however, we must first understand the theoretical frameworks that guide research in motivation as well as the empirical findings that have supported them. Motivation is a very broad construct that can include competence beliefs (i.e., “Am I able to do this task?”), value beliefs (i.e., “Do I find this task compelling?”), and goal orientations (i.e., “What is the reason I am engaging in this task?”). Given the large number of constructs included under the umbrella term of motivation, clarification is necessary regarding which constructs are typically included when researchers describe motivation. From there, we explore the studies that have examined the links between epistemic cognition and motivation, we consider ways that theory on epistemic cognition has implicitly enveloped motivational constructs, and we delineate how clear motivational constructs might inform such research. We conclude by exploring areas where future research is needed, and offer comments about the types of studies that may be productive for the field.



Epistemic Cognition and Motivation

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