Research on self-determination theory has established that the amount of autonomy support and control in a given situation can enhance or thwart intrinsic motivation. Meanwhile, research in social cognition has shown that people form relational schémas and that having schémas characterised by insecurity can compromise normative functioning. The present study examined how such insecurity, operationalized as attachment anxiety and avoidance, moderates the effects of priming an autonomy-supportive or controlling other on intrinsic motivation and persistence. Ninety participants were primed with either an autonomy-supportive or controlling authority figure and engaged in a novel picture-search task. Although individuals low in anxiety and avoidance responded to the primes as expected (decreasing intrinsic motivation and persisting less in the controlling-prime condition), participants high in anxiety and avoidance did not show the expected changes in intrinsic motivation in response to the primes, and participants high in anxiety responded to the controlling prime with increased persistence.

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Keywords Attachment, Motivation, Priming, Self-determination theory
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Journal Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science
Milyavskaya, M, McClure, M.J. (M. Joy), Ma, D. (Denise), Koestner, R. (Richard), & Lydon, J. (John). (2012). Attachment moderates the effects of autonomy-supportive and controlling interpersonal primes on intrinsic motivation. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 44(4), 278–287. doi:10.1037/a0025828