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The Journal of Social Psychology, 1983, 120, 281-282.


University of New South Wales and University of Wollongong, Australia


In a previous paper (1) it was found that the level of occupational achievement motivation observed among a group of Hong Kong Chinese schoolchildren was very close to the level observed in an Australian general population sample. As Australian levels of Achievement motivation are among the world's lowest (2), this finding ran contrary to everything that one assumes about Hong Kong. Given its frenetic capitalism and the great difficulties many of its people have had in making the move to Hong Kong, one would expect very high levels of achievement motivation there. A possible explanation of the result would be that the occupational achievement motivation of children in general is low. One should compare data obtained from high school children in one country only with data obtained from other high school children. The present study was designed to do this.

After some inquiries, a school was found in Australia which seemed in general to offer a good match to the school previously surveyed in Hong Kong. It was a Catholic boy's school in Wollongong, a generally unprestigious urban area. The school, nonetheless, has a reputation for standards above average. Grade 9 (generally aged about 15 years) received the same questions as those administered in Hong Kong (though in the original English rather than in a Chinese translation).

The reliabilities of the two scales among the 119 Ss were as follows: Myers educational motivation scale .66, Ray occupational motivation scale .61. Scoring only the six- and 10-item forms, respectively, of the two scales that had maximized reliability in the Hong Kong sample gave two short scales with reliabilities of .71 and .53. The means for the Myers scale were 29.99 (SD 5.33) and 18.96 (SD 4.36) for the long and short forms, respectively. The means for the Ray scale were 33.59 (SD 4.41) and 23.74 (SD 3.35) for the 14-item and 10-item forms, respectively.

The Australian students, then, were significantly more highly motivated towards educational achievement than the Chinese. Given the often unruly behavior of Australian schoolchildren and the traditional diligence of Chinese schoolchildren, this is an unexpected finding. That it may be an inaccurate finding is suggested by the fact that the solitary anti-achievement item in the Myers scale was found with the Australian sample only to correlate positively rather than negatively with the remaining pro-achievement items. This suggests a strong acquiescence artifact or tendency towards indiscriminate agreement regardless of meaning. The scale would appear not to have been valid with the Australian Ss. Scores on it were artificially inflated by careless responding. This finding may represent an important warning against uncritical acceptance of other findings derived from this scale.

As the scale of occupational motivation is a balanced one, acquiescence effects are thus controlled. There were, however, no anomalous correlations between the items and the total score on this scale. The correlation between the pro- and anti-achievement subscales was .351, This is highly significant and in the expected direction. The scale also showed negligible reliability (.11) when scored for acquiescence only (i.e., without any reverse-scoring). Some confidence may therefore be placed in the finding that the Australian children scored higher (t = 4.75) than the Hong Kong children. This means that the Australian children also scored significantly higher than the Australian adult norm (3).

The present study has served only to deepen the puzzle. To the finding that Hong Kong children are not highly motivated has been added the finding that Australian children are highly motivated. There is clearly very little that can be assumed in cross-cultural research.


(1) Leung, M., Ray, J.J. & Low, W.J.F. (1983) The comparative measurement of motivation towards educational and occupational achievement -- among Hong Kong Chinese. Journal of Social Psychology 119, 293-294.

(2) Ray, J.J. (1982) Authoritarianism and achievement motivation in India. J. Social Psychology 117, 171-182.

(3) Ray, J.J. (1979) A quick measure of achievement motivation -- validated in Australia and reliable in Britain and South Africa. Australian Psychologist 14, 337-344.

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