Unconscious motivation. Part II: Implicit attitudes and L2 achievement


implicit attitudes
Implicit Association Test
social desirability
explicit–implicit correspondence

How to Cite

Al-Hoorie, A. H. (2016). Unconscious motivation. Part II: Implicit attitudes and L2 achievement. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 6(4), 619–649. https://doi.org/10.14746/ssllt.2016.6.4.4


This paper investigates the attitudinal/motivational predictors of second language (L2) academic achievement. Young adult learners of English as a foreign language (N = 311) completed several self-report measures and the Single-Target Implicit Association Test. Examination of the motivational profiles of high and low achievers revealed that attachment to the L1 community and the ought-to L2 self were negatively associated with achievement, while explicit attitudes toward the L2 course and implicit attitudes toward L2 speakers were positively associated with it. The relationship between implicit attitudes and achievement could not be explained either by social desirability or by other cognitive confounds, and remained significant after controlling for explicit self-report measures. Explicit–implicit congruence also revealed a similar pattern, in that congruent learners were more open to the L2 community and obtained higher achievement. The results also showed that neither the ideal L2 self nor intended effort had any association with actual L2 achievement, and that intended effort was particularly prone to social desirability biases. Implications of these findings are discussed.


Al-Hoorie, A. H. (2015). Human agency: Does the beach ball have free will? In Z. Dörnyei, P. MacIntyre, & A. Henry (Eds.), Motivational dynamics in language learning (pp. 55-72). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Al-Hoorie, A. H. (2016a). Unconscious motivation. Part I: Implicit attitudes toward L2 speakers. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 6, 423-454. doi: 10.14746/ssllt.2016.6.3.4

Al-Hoorie, A. H. (2016b, April). Dual-process models of the mind: Implicit attitudes in language learning. Paper presented at the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) Conference, Orlando, Florida, USA.

Anderson, S. F., & Maxwell, S. E. (2016). There’s more than one way to conduct a replication study: Beyond statistical significance. Psychological Methods, 21(1), 1-12. doi: 10.1037/met0000051

Back, M. D., & Vazire, S. (2012). Knowing our personality. In S. Vazire & T. D. Wilson (Eds.), Handbook of self-knowledge (pp. 131-156). New York: Guilford.

Banaji, M. R., & Heiphetz, L. (2010). Attitudes. In S. T. Fiske, D. T. Gilbert, G. Lindzey, & A. E. Jongsma (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (5th ed.) (pp. 353-393). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Barger, S. D. (2002). The Marlowe-Crowne affair: Short forms, psychometric structure, and social desirability. Journal of Personality Assessment, 79(2), 286-305. doi: 10.1207/S15327752JPA7902_11

Bargh, J. A., Gollwitzer, P. M., & Oettingen, G. (2010). Motivation. In S. T. Fiske, D. T. Gilbert, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (5th ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 268-316). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Blair, I. V., Ma, J. E., & Lenton, A. P. (2001). Imagining stereotypes away: The moderation of implicit stereotypes through mental imagery. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(5), 828-841. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.81.5.828

Boo, Z., Dörnyei, Z., & Ryan, S. (2015). L2 motivation research 2005-2014: Understanding a publication surge and a changing landscape. System, 55, 145-157. doi: 10.1016/j.system.2015.10.006

Bouchard, T. J. Jr., Segal, N. L., Tellegen, A., McGue, M., Keyes, M., & Krueger, R. (2003). Evidence for the construct validity and heritability of the Wilson–Patterson conservatism scale: A reared-apart twins study of social attitudes. Personality and Individual Differences, 34(6), 959-969. doi: 10.1016/S0191-8869(02)00080-6

Brunner Huber, L. R. (2007). Validity of self-reported height and weight in women of reproductive age. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 11(2), 137-144. doi: 10.1007/s10995-006-0157-0

Chan, D. (2009). So why ask me? Are self-report data really that bad? In C. E. Lance & R. J. Vandenberg (Eds.), Statistical and methodological myths and urban legends: Doctrine, verity and fable in the organizational and social sciences (pp. 309-336). New York: Routledge.

Connelly, B. S., & Ones, D. S. (2010). An other perspective on personality: Meta-analytic integration of observers’ accuracy and predictive validity. Psychological Bulletin, 136(6), 1092-1122. doi: 10.1037/a0021212

Crowne, D. P., & Marlowe, D. (1960). A new scale of social desirability independent of psychopathology. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 24(4), 349-354. doi: 10.1037/h0047358

Csizér, K., & Dörnyei, Z. (2005). The internal structure of language learning motivation and its relationship with language choice and learning effort. The Modern Language Journal, 89(1), 19-36. doi: 10.1111/j.0026-7902.2005.00263.x

Cunningham, W. A., Johnson, M. K., Gatenby, J. C., Gore, J. C., & Banaji, M. R. (2003). Neural components of social evaluation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(4), 639-349. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.85.4.639

Cunningham, W. A., Johnson, M. K., Raye, C. L., Gatenby, J. C., Gore, J. C., & Banaji, M. R. (2004). Separable neural components in the processing of black and white faces. Psychological Science, 15(12), 806-813. doi: 10.1111/j.09 56-7976.2004.00760.x

Dasgupta, N., & Greenwald, A. G. (2001). On the malleability of automatic attitudes: Combating automatic prejudice with images of admired and disliked individuals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(5), 800-814. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.81.5.800

DeCasper, A. J., & Spence, M. J. (1986). Prenatal maternal speech influences newborns’ perception of speech sounds. Infant Behavior and Development, 9(2), 133-150. doi: 10.1016/0163-6383(86)90025-1

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (Eds.). (2002). Handbook of self-determination research. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.

Dörnyei, Z. (2001). Teaching and researching motivation. Harlow: Longman.

Dörnyei, Z. (2005). The psychology of the language learner: Individual differences in second language acquisition. London: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Dörnyei, Z. (2009). The L2 motivational self system. In Z. Dörnyei & E. Ushioda (Eds.), Motivation, language identity and the L2 self (pp. 9-42). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Dörnyei, Z. (2014). Motivation in second language learning. In M. Celce-Murcia, D. M. Brinton, & M. A. Snow (Eds.), Teaching english as a second or foreign language (4rd ed.) (pp. 518-531). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Dörnyei, Z., & Al-Hoorie, A. H. (in press). The motivational foundation of learning languages other than global English. The Modern Language Journal.

Dörnyei, Z., & Chan, L. (2013). Motivation and vision: An analysis of future L2 self images, sensory styles, and imagery capacity across two target languages. Language Learning, 63, 437-462. doi: 10.1111/lang.12005

Dörnyei, Z., & Ryan, S. (2015). The psychology of the language learner revisited. New York: Routledge.

Dörnyei, Z., & Ushioda, U. (2011). Teaching and researching motivation (2nd ed.). Harlow: Pearson.

Eid, J. (2008). Determining the relationship between visual style, imagination, the L2 motivational self system and the motivation to learn English, French and Italian (Unpublished master’s thesis). University of Nottingham, UK.

Elgar, F. J., Roberts, C., Tudor-Smith, C., & Moore, L. (2005). Validity of self-reported height and weight and predictors of bias in adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 37(5), 371-375. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2004.07.014

Ellis, R. (2009). A reader responds to Guilloteaux and Dörnyei’s “Motivating language learners: A classroom-oriented investigation of the effects of motivational strategies on student motivation.” TESOL Quarterly, 43(1), 105-109. doi: 10.1002/j.1545-7249.2009.tb00229.x

Fazio, R. H. (2001). On the automatic activation of associated evaluations: An overview. Cognition and Emotion, 15(2), 115-141. doi: 10.1080/02699930125908

Ferguson, M. J., & Bargh, J. A. (2004). Liking is for doing: The effects of goal pursuit on automatic evaluation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(5), 557-572. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.87.5.557

Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Evanston, IL: Row, Peterson.

García, O. (2014). Countering the dual: Transglossia, dynamic bilingualism and translanguaging in education. In R. Rubdy & L. Alsagoff (Eds.), The global-local interface and hybridity: Exploring language and identity (pp. 100-118). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Gardner, R. C. (1985). Social psychology and second language learning: The role of attitudes and motivation. London: Edward Arnold.

Gardner, R. C. (2007). Motivation and second language acquisition. Porta Linguarum, 8, 9-20.

Gardner, R. C. (2010). Motivation and second language acquisition: The socio-educational model. New York: Peter Lang.

Gardner, R. C., & Gliksman, L. (1982). On “Gardner on affect”: A discussion of validity as it relates to the Attitude/Motivation Test Battery: A response from Gardner. Language Learning, 32, 191-200. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-1770.1982.tb00527.x

Gardner, R. C., Lalonde, R. N., & Moorcroft, R. (1985). The role of attitudes and motivation in secod language learning: Correlational and experimental considerations. Language Learning, 35, 207-227. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-1770.1985.tb01025.x

Gardner, R. C., & Lambert, W. E. (1959). Motivational variables in second-language acquisition. Canadian Journal of Psychology/Revue canadienne de psychologie, 13(4), 266-272. doi: 10.1037/h0083787

Gardner, R. C., & MacIntyre, P. D. (1991). An instrumental motivation in language study: Who says it isn’t effective? Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 13(1), 57-72. doi: 10.1017/S0272263100009724

Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (1995). Implicit social cognition: Attitudes, self-esteem, and stereotypes. Psychological Review, 102(1), 4-27. doi: 10.1037 /0033-295X.102.1.4

Greenwald, A. G., Banaji, M. R., & Nosek, B. A. (2015). Statistically small effects of the Implicit Association Test can have societally large effects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108(4), 553-561. doi: 10.1037/pspa0000016

Greenwald, A. G., McGhee, D. E., & Schwartz, J. L. K. (1998). Measuring individual differences in implicit cognition: The Implicit Association Test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(6), 1464-1480. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.74.6.1464

Greenwald, A. G., & Nosek, B. A. (2009). Attitudinal dissociation: What does it mean? In R. E. Petty, R. H. Fazio, & P. Briñol (Eds.), Attitudes: Insights from the new implicit measures (pp. 65-82). New York: Psychology Press.

Greenwald, A. G., Nosek, B. A., & Banaji, M. R. (2003). Understanding and using the Implicit Association Test: I. An improved scoring algorithm. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(2), 197-216. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.85.2.197

Gregg, A. P., Seibt, B., & Banaji, M. R. (2006). Easier done than undone: Asymmetry in the malleability of implicit preferences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(1), 1-20. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.90.1.1

Henry, A., & Cliffordson, C. (2015). The impact of out-of-school factors on motivation to learn English: Self-discrepancies, beliefs, and experiences of self-authenticity. Applied Linguistics. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1093/applin/amv060

Hessel, G. (2015). From vision to action: Inquiring into the conditions for the motivational capacity of ideal second language selves. System, 52, 103-114. doi: 10.1016/j.system.2015.05.008

Higgins, E. T. (1998). Promotion and prevention: Regulatory focus as a motivational principle. In P. Z. Mark (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 30, pp. 1-46): Academic Press.

Inquisit (Version [Computer software]. (2014). Seattle, WA: Millisecond Software.

Johnson, T. P., Fendrich, M., & Mackesy-Amiti, M. E. (2012). An evaluation of the validity of the Crowne–Marlowe need for approval scale. Quality & Quantity, 46(6), 1883-1896. doi: 10.1007/s11135-011-9563-5

Kim, T.-Y. (2009). Korean elementary school students’ perceptual learning style, ideal L2 self, and motivated behavior. Korean Journal of English Language and Linguistics, 9(3), 461-486.

Kim, Y.-K., & Kim, T.-Y. (2011). The effect of Korean secondary school students’ perceptual learning styles and ideal L2 self on motivated L2 behavior and English proficiency. Korean Journal of English Language and Linguistics, 11(1), 21-42.

Lamb, M. (2012). A self system perspective on young adolescents’ motivation to learn English in urban and rural settings. Language Learning, 62(4), 997-1023. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9922.2012.00719.x

Lambert, W. E. (1973, November). Culture and language as factors in learning and education. Paper presented at the 5th Annual Learning Symposium on “Cultural Factors in Learning,” Bellingham, Washington, USA and at the Annual Convention of the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Denver, Colorado, USA. Retrieved from ERIC database. (ED096820)

Lanvers, U. (2016). Lots of selves, some rebellious: Developing the self discrepancy model for language learners. System, 60, 79-92. doi: 10.1016/j.system.2016.05.012

MacIntyre, P. D., Mackinnon, S. P., & Clément, R. (2009). The baby, the bathwater, and the future of language learning motivation research. In Z. Dörnyei & E. Ushioda (Eds.), Motivation, language identity and the L2 self (pp. 43-65). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

MacIntyre, P. D., & Serroul, A. (2015). Motivation on a per-second timescale: Examining approach-avoidance motivation during L2 task performance. In Z. Dörnyei, P. MacIntyre, & A. Henry (Eds.), Motivational dynamics in language learning (pp. 109-138). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Masgoret, A.-M., & Gardner, R. C. (2003). Attitudes, motivation, and second language learning: A meta-analysis of studies conducted by Gardner and associates. Language Learning, 53(1), 123-163. doi: 10.1111/1467-9922.00212

McClelland, D. C. (1987). Human motivation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

McClelland, D. C., & Atkinson, J. W. (1948). The projective expression of needs: I. The effect of different intensities of the hunger drive on perception. The Journal of Psychology, 25(2), 205-222. doi: 10.1080/00223980.1948.9917371

Molenaar, I. W., & Sijtsma, K. (2000). MSP5 for Windows: A program for Mokken scale analysis for polytomous items (Version 5.0). Groningen: ProGAMMA.

Morey, R. D., & Rouder, J. N. (2015). BayesFactor: Computation of Bayes factors for common designs. R package version 0.9.12-2. Retrieved from http://CRAN.R-project.org/package=BayesFactor

Moskovsky, C., Assulaimani, T., Racheva, S., & Harkins, J. (2016). The L2 motivational self system and L2 achievement: A study of Saudi EFL learners. The Modern Language Journal, 100(3), 641-654. doi: 10.1111/modl.12340

Motha, S., & Lin, A. (2014). “Non-coercive rearrangements”: Theorizing desire in TESOL. TESOL Quarterly, 48(2), 331-359. doi: 10.1002/tesq.126

Multon, K. D., Brown, S. D., & Lent, R. W. (1991). Relation of self-efficacy beliefs to academic outcomes: A meta-analytic investigation. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 38(1), 30-38. doi: 10.1037/0022-0167.38.1.30

Nassaji, H. (2012). Statistical significance tests and result generalizability: Issues, misconceptions, and a case for replication. In G. K. Porte (Ed.), Replication research in applied linguistics (pp. 92-115). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Neuliep, J. W., & McCroskey, J. C. (1997). The development of a U.S. and generalized ethnocentrism scale. Communication Research Reports, 14(4), 385-398. doi: 10.1080/08824099709388682

Oswald, F. L., Mitchell, G., Blanton, H., Jaccard, J., & Tetlock, P. E. (2013). Predicting ethnic and racial discrimination: A meta-analysis of IAT criterion studies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105(2), 171-192. doi: 10.1037/a0032734

Papi, M. (2010). The L2 motivational self system, L2 anxiety, and motivated behavior: A structural equation modeling approach. System, 38(3), 467-479. doi: 10.1016/j.system.2010.06.011

Phelps, E. A., O’Connor, K. J., Cunningham, W. A., Funayama, E. S., Gatenby, J. C., Gore, J. C., & Banaji, M. R. (2000). Performance on indirect measures of race evaluation predicts amygdala activation. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 12(5), 729-738. doi: 10.1162/089892900562552

Radel, R., Sarrazin, P., Jehu, M., & Pelletier, L. (2013). Priming motivation through unattended speech. British Journal of Social Psychology, 52(4), 763-772. doi: 10.1111/bjso.12030

Rowland, M. L. (1990). Self-reported weight and height. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 52(6), 1125-1133. doi: PMID: 2239790

Rudman, L. A. (2008). The validity of the Implicit Association Test is a scientific certainty. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 1(4), 426-429. doi: 10.1111/ j.1754-9434.2008.00081.x

Rutherford, A. (2000). Introducing ANOVA and ANCOVA: A GLM Approach. London: Sage.

Ryan, R. M. (Ed.). (2012). The Oxford handbook of human motivation. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ryan, S. (2009). Self and identity in L2 motivation in Japan: The ideal L2 self and Japanese learners of English. In Z. Dörnyei & E. Ushioda (Eds.), Motivation, language identity and the L2 self (pp. 120-143). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Sherman, J. W., Gawronski, B., & Trope, Y. (Eds.). (2014). Dual-process theories of the social mind. New York: Guilford.

Sherman, S. J., Rose, J. S., Koch, K., Presson, C. C., & Chassin, L. (2003). Implicit and explicit attitudes toward cigarette smoking: The effects of context and motivation. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 22(1), 13-39. doi: 10.1521/jscp.

Sinclair, S., Dunn, E., & Lowery, B. S. (2005). The relationship between parental racial attitudes and children’s implicit prejudice. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 41(3), 283-289. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2004.06.003

Spencer, E. A., Appleby, P. N., Davey, G. K., & Key, T. J. (2002). Validity of self-reported height and weight in 4808 EPIC–Oxford participants. Public Health Nutrition, 5(4), 561-565. doi: 10.1079/PHN2001322

Strack, F., & Deutsch, R. (2004). Reflective and impulsive determinants of social behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 8(3), 220-247. doi: 10.1207/s15327957pspr0803_1

Taguchi, T., Magid, M., & Papi, M. (2009). The L2 motivational self system among Japanese, Chinese and Iranian learners of English: A comparative study. In Z. Dörnyei & E. Ushioda (Eds.), Motivation, language identity and the L2 self (pp. 66-97). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Taylor, F. (2013). Self and identity in adolescent foreign language learning. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Tedeschi, J. T., Schlenker, B. R., & Bonoma, T. V. (1971). Cognitive dissonance: Private ratiocination or public spectacle? American Psychologist, 26(8), 685-695. doi: 10.1037/h0032110

Tenenbaum, H. R., & Leaper, C. (2002). Are parents’ gender schemas related to their childrens’ gender-related cognitions? A meta-analysis. Developmental Psychology, 38(4), 615-630. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.38.4.615

Thompson, A. S., & Vásquez, C. (2015). Exploring motivational profiles through language learning narratives. The Modern Language Journal, 99(1), 158-174. doi: 10.1111/modl.12187

Wang, F. (2008). Motivation and English achievement: An exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis of a new measurement for Chinese students of English learning. North American Journal of Psychology, 10(3), 633-646.

Wigboldus, D. H. J., Holland, R. W., & van Knippenberg, A. (2005). Single target implicit associations. Unpublished manuscript.

Zogmaister, C., Perugini, M., & Richetin, J. (2015). Motivation modulates the effect of approach on implicit preferences. Cognition and Emotion. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2015.1032892