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Do free-riders choose to study arts and humanities?

Posted November 27, 2014

What reasons are driving young people to choose their university degrees? Are there any patterns? Psychologists Anya Skatova and Eamonn Ferguson at the University of Nottingham attempted to answer this interesting question.

Picture: University Library. Image credit: uniinnsbruck via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0.

Picture: University Library. Image credit: uniinnsbruck via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0.

They found significant differences not only among diverse subjects, but also between men and women. “The findings can feed into both theoretical accounts of proximal motivation as well as provide help to improve degree programmes at universities and support better career advice,” the researchers think.

Different subjects provide different chances to realize future plans. However, association between personal motivation and career choice is still underexplored. This is unfortunate as a choice of a degree might be one of the most important life decisions. British scientists investigated, whether different motivations of prospective and undergraduate students can account for different discipline choices?

“The current study theoretically identified and empirically tested four motivations for choosing a degree: Interest (motivated by the enjoyment of the activity), Career (motivated by achievement striving), Loafing (led by the choice of easy options), Helping (motivated by benefit to others),” Skatova and Fergusson say.

They discovered that individuals enroll in medical programs, because they are driven by the wish to help others and have a successful career. Meanwhile, engineering students are willing to achieve something as well, but usually are not very interested in their subject. In contrast, science students are really interested in their subject-matter, but are rarely driven by pro-social motivations. Interestingly, choice of Arts and Humanities was characterized not only by carelessness about upcoming career, but also by high level of free riding.

“We also demonstrated gender differences: females were high in Helping (both samples) and Interest (only in the undergraduate sample) motivation, while males scored higher in Career (only in the undergraduate sample) and Loafing (both samples),” authors of the study explain.

Interestingly, respondents whose degree choice was strongly correlated with loafing were not as sociable, friendly and organized as those, who are driven by wish to achieve something. In addition, individuals who cared about their future career showed a higher degree of emotional stability and were more open to the new experiences.

Article: Skatova A. and Ferguson E., 2014 Why do different people choose different university degrees? Motivation and the choice of degree., Frontiers in Psychology 5:1244. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01244, source link.

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