Perceived Restorativeness in Improving Motivation: Comparison
Please note this is a comparison between Version 3 by Diego Bellini and Version 2 by Beatrix Zheng.

Motivation is an essential element of learning and a determinant of academic success. Notably, high levels of student motivation lead to higher levels of productivity. Therefore, university students need to improve their motivation levels to increase academic achievement. They can improve motivation through job resources such as Perceived Restorativeness.

  • motivation
  • restorative environments
  • stress
  • higher education

1. The Perceived Restorative Quality of the Environment in the Academic Context within the JD-R model.

In the learning environment, a variety of resources or demands may have an influence on individuals. For instance, the perceived quality of the physical environment may determine satisfaction [1][2] and learning efficiency [3][4][5].
Precisely, many aspects of physical design, such as spatial layout or noise, can hinder or improve performance by affecting a student’s physical and psychological resources [5]. More precisely, the environment can allow individuals to relax and distance themselves from everyday thoughts and demands. In this regard, university students have multiple demands placed on them, such as taking exams and engaging in many activities. As a result, they may experience mental fatigue [6][7][8] that, in turn, may reduce their effort level, affect their concentration, and lead to lower academic performance [9]. In this regard, the concept of restorativeness [10] refers to the capacity of the environment “to offer a concrete and available means of reducing suffering and enhancing effectiveness” [11].
Research has paid relatively little attention to the characteristics of learning environments that help students complete restoration to improve their performance.
According to attention restoration theory (ART) [6][12], direct attention is voluntary; it plays a crucial role in controlling distraction, requires effort, and is related to attentional fatigue [11]. The theory describes how the socio-physical environment can support psychological restoration and explains how mental fatigue and direct attention can be restored through four proprieties: Fascination, being away, extent, and compatibility [13].
Fascination is described as an effortless form of attention that allows a fatigued attentional system to rest [11]. This property is present when individuals find a place or situation interesting for them. Being away refers to distancing oneself from routine activities and demands that lead to attentional fatigue. In this condition, students have a sense of being in a different place and/or engaged in different cognitive content [11].
Extent refers to the scope and coherence of the environment that has vast content to the extent that it is possible to get lost in it. Hence, the environment is perceived as a “whole other world” [6]. Finally, compatibility refers to the fit between the demands of the setting and environment and an individual’s goals; the setting and environment should support the actions needed by individuals to achieve their purposes [14].
ART has generally been applied to explain psychological restoration and as a strategy to cope with stress using the natural environment and the learning environment with natural elements [15][16], but recently, some researchers have also examined the role of restoration in the workplace [17][18][19] and in the academic context [20]. In academic environments, Yusli and colleagues [20] found a positive relationship between restorativeness and well-being in a sample of university students.
ART constructs explain how the restorative experience may help students restore or gain internal resources to meet environmental and learning demands.
Therefore, it is important to verify whether the characteristics of the learning environment in reducing stress can be helpful in improving further resources such as, in this research, motivation and flow in the academic context. The relationship between resources and demands and the process that fosters positive outcomes can be described by the JD-R model as follows.

2. The Job Demands–Resources Model (JD-R)

The job demands–resources model (JD-R) [21] is a conceptual framework used to explain the dynamics of resource depletion and restoration on job or study characteristics. Therefore, this model is relevant in understanding the role of restorativeness in the learning environment.
According to the JD-R model, every job (including student activities) is characterized by job demands and job resources [22][23]. Demerouti and colleagues [22] defined job demands as “all physical, psychological or social aspects of the job that require sustained physical or mental effort and that are therefore associated with psychological costs, such as emotional exhaustion” [24], (p. 501). Examples of job demands (in the learning context) are time pressure, long studying hours, noise, and all elements that drain energy. In university or learning contexts, the number of courses or the number of study hours can contribute to mental demands. In contrast, job resources are defined as “those aspects of the job that are functional in achieving work goals in stimulating personal growth and development, and reducing job demands and the associated psychological costs” [24], (p. 501).
Examples of job resources (in the learning context) include support from teachers, colleagues, and the environment (which helps to achieve an individual’s goals) and performance feedback, which may enhance learning. Job demands and job resources can be both external (e.g., rewards, task variety, and social support) and internal (cognitive) [22]. In the learning context, the JD-R model premises that the combination of high job demands and high job resources results in learning engagement [25].
The JD-R model also incorporates personal resources [26], referring to all aspects of the self that are generally linked to resilience and reflect an enhanced self-perceived ability to successfully influence one’s environment [23][27].
Personal resources positively affect job resources [28] and strengthen the positive relationship between job resources and well-being [28]. Specifically, personal resources are relevant antecedents of motivation and can promote job/academic resources, which, in turn, can further increase personal resources [29].
Restorative environments, or restorativeness, can be considered job resources because of their ability to replenish psychological resources and help students to gain some psychological distance from ordinary activities and engage effortless attention in some interesting activities.
Essentially, the JD-R model combines two psychological processes, a stressful process and a motivational process, which can explain the dynamics of resource depletion and restoration.
A stressful process, due to excessive job demands and lack of resources, may lead to negative outcomes such as poor performance [28][30]. Excessive job demands drain energy and other resources [21]. This stress process is also aligned with the Conservation of Resources (COR) theory [31], which suggests that stress occurs when an individual’s energy resources are depleted or new resources are not available.
A motivational process that is promoted by abundant job resources may lead to positive outcomes such as superior performance [32]. Job resources enhance employee energy and motivation. More precisely, the availability of resources can counteract the negative effects of demands [21][33][34], foster worker growth, learning, and development [35][36], and decrease work stress and burnout in the learning context [37].
Increasing resources protects workers against the adverse effects of job demands and promotes work engagement, whereas a lack of resources could have health-impairing consequences [38]. A recent meta-analysis [39] summarized the positive effect of job resources on work engagement and satisfaction. Generally, resources can positively affect individuals, facilitate their engagement, protect them from psychological discomfort [40], and predict motivation [21].

3. Restorativeness and Motivation

Based on the JD-R model, which assumes job resources (i.e., restorativeness) enhance employee energy and motivation fostering worker growth, learning, and development [35][36], through a motivational process, the researchers expect that restorativeness is positively linked with student motivation. Motivation in the JD-R model is a mediator of the relationship between job resources (in this research, restorativeness in the learning environment) and positive outcomes (e.g., flow in this case). Generally, the positive effects of the environment have been demonstrated in previous studies [19][41][42][43], but the relationship with restorativeness, motivation, and flow has yet to be considered.
In the following, the researchers address the relationships between learning environments and two relevant psychosocial dimensions related to learning (i.e., flow and motivation).

4. Flow

Csikszentmihalyi described the state of flow as ‘‘a sense that one’s skills are adequate to cope with the challenges at hand, a goal-directed, rule-bound action system that provides clear clues as to how well one is performing…concentration is intense…and the sense of time becomes distorted’’ [44]. Therefore, when individuals enter a flow state, distractions are reduced. Flow occurs when an individual’s skills are sufficient to meet the challenges [44] and whenever their skills fit the situational demands [45]. Individuals perceive a challenge–skills balance, and they believe the task is achievable. If the challenge level or demands exceed an individual’s skill or resources for a task, the situation can produce stress, and the individual may disengage. The European Flow-Researchers’ Network [46] defined flow as “a gratifying state of deep involvement and absorption that individuals report when facing a challenging activity and they perceive adequate abilities to cope with it”.
Three conditions are needed to be in a flow state: Clear goals throughout the activity or process, immediate feedback, and a balance between challenges and skills [47].
Flow is positively related to focused attention, losing track of time, being in control, becoming less self-conscious, enjoying what one is doing, and performance [48]. Specifically, in relation to learning aims, flow was found to be positively related to exam performance [49], goal progress [50], and academic success [51][52][53]. It is a form of psychological well-being that is desirable in academic learning contexts [54]. Bakker [55] applied the flow experience to the working condition, comparing the flow state with work engagement. Specifically, he defined flow as a short-term peak experience characterized by absorption (immersion and total concentration in the work), work enjoyment (pleasure experienced by people during work), and intrinsic work motivation (working to feel pleasure and satisfaction).

5. Restorativeness and Flow

Because the experience of flow, as the researchers have noted, is a balance between skills (or resources) and challenges (or demands), it can be examined according to the JD-R model. Specifically, students can experience a state of flow in the learning context [56] when they can access job resources such as environmental resources in the learning place or when job demands are balanced with high resources (in this case, environmental resources and motivation).
Some authors have found that job resources are an antecedent of flow [57][58] and well-being [55][58].
Specifically, the restorativeness quality of the learning environment, which is functional in achieving work goals and encourages personal growth, development, and learning [35], acts as a job resource, restores direct attention, and promotes concentration through ART.
A recent meta-analysis [59] confirmed that flow had a positive association with many motivational indicators, such as volition, engagement, goal orientation, achievement motive, interest, and intrinsic motivation, and with emotional aspects and performance (because individuals are highly concentrated). Thus, the researchers also expect a positive effect of motivation on flow.

6. Motivation and Flow

Motivation refers to acting to do or obtain something and may significantly affect higher academic performance [60]. Motivation is an important part of human behavior that influences student energy, persistence in tasks [61], and academic achievement [62][63]. There are two types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic [64]. Intrinsic motivation refers to activities carried out for one’s own interest and enjoyment [65]. It refers to activities that provide an individual with personal satisfaction and are not dependent on external rewards [66].
Intrinsic motivation is associated with higher performance, school achievement [67], engagement [68][69][70], and learning and development [71]. Csikszentmihalyi [44] suggests that intrinsic motivation has a relevant role in experiencing a state of flow (which originates from motivation theory) because it serves to energize, direct, and sustain behaviors [72]. Various studies have shown that intrinsic motivation is positively associated with flow, and motivation facilitates flow states [45][73][74]. Therefore, a higher level of individual motivation can, in turn, become an intrinsically enjoyable mental state [75][76] characterized by absorption and intrinsic work motivation defined by Csikszentmihalyi [44][77] as flow.
Conversely, extrinsic motivation depends on external factors. For example, individuals are motivated by rewards, including in the form of social approval or appreciation. Nevertheless, even when an individual is not intrinsically motivated, extrinsic motivation can positively affect well-being, performance, and outcomes when it is generated by values with which the person identifies [64]. Generally, motivated individuals are more likely to experience flow [73][78]. In addition, motivated students are more likely to engage in a learning context and experience more flow than less motivated students [79]. In their empirical research, Csikszentmihalyi and Nakamura [80] observed that when people show an interest in the activity, they can be absorbed with high levels of engagement and concentration.
Recently, Kong and Wang [81] found a positive relationship between the perception and support of parents and students’ flow experience through the mediating role of student learning motivation.
Therefore, motivation is a relevant resource to promote positive outcomes such as flow. It is relevant to note that resources and flow mutually influence each other: resources can predict flow and flow leads to a greater perception of job resources in a virtuous circle [57].
By contrast, a lack of resources has a detrimental effect on worker motivation and performance because it impedes the achievement of goals and the possibility of learning [82], as reported in the JD-R model.


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