Quantifying the Effects of Motivation on Listening Effort: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

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Motivation influences the amount of listening effort (LE) exerted or experienced under challenging conditions, such as in high-noise environments. This systematic review and meta-analysis is the first to quantify the effects of motivation on LE. The review was pre-registered in PROSPERO, and performed in accordance with PRISMA guidelines. Eligible studies examined the influence of motivation or individual traits (related to motivation) on LE in adults. Motivational factors, coded as independent variables, included financial reward, evaluative threat, perceived competence, feedback, and individual traits. LE outcomes were categorized as subjective, behavioral, or physiological. The quality of evidence was assessed using an adaptation of the Cochrane Collaboration Risk of Bias Tool. Nested random-effects meta-analyses were performed to quantify and compare the influence of motivational factors across LE outcomes. After assessing 3,532 records, 48 studies met the inclusion criteria and 43 were included in the meta-analyses. Risk of bias was high, for example, many studies lacked sample size justification. Motivational factors had a small-to-medium effect (mean Cohen's d = 0.34, range: 0.11–0.72) on LE. When LE outcomes were considered collectively, an external manipulation of motivation (perceived competence) produced a larger mean effect size compared with individual traits. Some combinations of motivational factors and LE outcomes produced more robust effects than others, for example, evaluative threat and subjective LE outcomes. Although wide prediction intervals and high risk of bias mean that significant positive effects cannot be guaranteed, these findings provide useful guidance on the selection of motivational factors and LE outcomes for future research.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTrends in Hearing (Online)
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2022


  • effortful listening
  • evaluative threat
  • financial reward
  • individual traits
  • perceived competence


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