This thesis examined the relationship between motivation and performance, within the framework of resource allocation theory. Multilevel analyses were used to examine the relationship between effort intensity and task performance throughout practice, and the moderating effects of cognitive ability, conscientiousness and goal orientation. Three simulated air traffic control experiments were carried out. Studies 1 and 2 used a conflict prevention task, and Study 3 used a conflict recognition task. Measures of effort intensity and task performance were taken at repeated intervals for each participant.
In two out of the three studies, the relationship between effort intensity and task performance strengthened throughout practice. Further, by the end of practice in one of these studies, the relationship between effort and performance was stronger for individuals with high cognitive ability or low performance orientation. The effects of conscientiousness varied across studies, and appeared to depend on the type of performance outcome. In Studies 1 and 2, highly conscientious individuals appeared to direct their effort towards useful task behaviours (aircraft speed changes) more so than their counterparts. However, in Study 3, individuals with high conscientiousness learnt to recognise conflicts more slowly than their counterparts. Also in this study, the negative effects associated with a high performance orientation at the end of practice were stronger for individuals who also had a high learning orientation.
This research has demonstrated that resource allocation theory is an effective framework for understanding the factors that influence skill acquisition from different levels of analysis. Overall, these results highlight the importance of adopting a multilevel perspective when investigating the link between effort intensity and task performance.