Thoman, D.B., Brown, E.R., Mason, A.Z., Harmsen, A.G., & Smith, J.L. (2015). The role of
altruistic values in motivating underrepresented minority students for biomedicine.
BioScience, 65,183-188. doi: 10.1093/biosci/biu199
Title: The role of altruistic values in motivating Underrepresented Minority Students for
Authors: Dustin B. Thoman1*, Elizabeth R. Brown2, Andrew Z. Mason3, Allen G. Harmsen4,
and Jessi L. Smith2
1Department of Psychology, California State University, Long Beach, Long Beach, CA 90840
2Department of Psychology, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717
3Department of Biological Sciences, California State University, Long Beach, Long Beach, CA
4Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT
Corresponding Author: Dr. Dustin B. Thoman; Department of Psychology, California State
University, Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Blvd. PSY 100, Long Beach, CA 90840
phone: 562-985-5012; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Keywords: science education; research motivation; broadening participation; underrepresented
minority students; science interest
Understanding how cultural values influence undergraduate students’ science research
experiences and career interest is important for efforts to broaden participation and diversify the
biomedical research workforce. Results from our prospective longitudinal study demonstrated
that underrepresented minority student (URM) research assistants who see the altruistic value of
conducting biomedical research feel more psychologically involved with their research over time
which, in turn, enhances their interest in pursuing a scientific research career. These altruistic
motives are uniquely influential to URM students and appear to play an important role in
influencing URM students’ interest in scientific research careers. Further, seeing how research
can potentially impact society and help one’s community does not replace typical motives for
scientific discovery (e.g., passion, curiosity, achievement), which are important for all students.
These findings point to simple strategies for educators, training directors, and faculty mentors to
improve retention among undergraduate URM students in the biomedically related sciences.
The role of altruistic values in motivating Underrepresented Minority Students for
Significant disparities exist in employment within scientific fields by race and ethnicity.
For example, Hispanics, African Americans, and American Indians collectively represent 26% of
the U.S. population, but only represent 10% of the science and engineering workforce (NSF
2014). College students from these ethnic backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in
science (or underrepresented minority (URM) students, as defined by NSF) are initially choosing
to pursue undergraduate science majors at higher rates than in the past (from 2002 to 2012
Hispanics increased from 36.4% to 41.6%, African Americans from 35.5% to 36.4%, and Native
Americans from 30.6% to 33%; NSF 2014). However, this initial interest has not translated into
matriculation at the undergraduate or graduate level (Ginther et al. 2009) and is certainly not
poised to meet national scientific workforce diversity goals (NSF 2008).
Because of high attrition rates in undergraduate science majors, recent national reports
recommend focusing on retention efforts as the most effective strategy to build and diversify the
scientific workforce (PCAST 2012). Although national data suggest that lower pre-college math
and science preparation may account for much of the increased attrition between URM and
White students during their first years of college (NCES 2013), there is also evidence for a
disproportional URM dropout rate at the later stages of education (Garrison 2013). This is
especially troubling, as these students have successfully completed the foundational math science
coursework. Our study focuses on this later stage of undergraduate education, examining the role
of a biomedical research experience in promoting motivation for and ultimately persistence
within the discipline (McGee et al. 2012, Graham et al. 2013). Specifically, we study research
and research career motivation among students who have already demonstrated skills and a level
of achievement and scientific sophistication to be accepted by a faculty member as student
researchers in biomedical faculty laboratories. The research experience is a critical juncture in
undergraduate student decision-making processes on whether or not to pursue graduate-level
research and research careers (Graham et al. 2013).
How do we increase retention among URMs pursuing biomedical research-related
training and careers? There have been various approaches proposed to this question. Traditional
approaches have attempted to identify predictors of achievement that were “missing” in URMs.
National funding for training programs was, in turn, directed to supplement these assumed
missing attributes (e.g., resources, mentorship, rewards, or skill and confidence training), without
specific attention to the cultural context in which these students live and learn. In contrast, newer
approaches emphasize the importance of cultural influences that shape many URM student
experiences and seek to understand what aspects of science education and science research
training facilitate, or hinder, career interests of students from groups who have not traditionally
been part of mainstream science (Harper 2010). This new approach subtly shifts attention away
from changing URM students to be more like majority White students towards ideas of how to
change science education and research training. It is supported by the leadership of the NIH
Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity Division (NIGMS TWD 2013), and derives
from the growing recognition that science and science education are not value- or culture-free,
but instead may inadvertently perpetuate the status quo (Lee and Luykx 2007, Boutte et al.
2010). In this paper, we focus on one possible cultural influence that may affect some URM
students’ motivation for biomedicine; namely the cultural importance of undertaking research
that involves “giving back” and “helping others” (called altruistic goals, which we consider more
To identify whether and how some cultural influences might increase or decrease
scientific research interest among URM students, and why these same factors may differ from
those that predict research interest among majority White students, we derive study predictions
from Goal Congruity Theory (Diekman et al. 2010). This theory suggests that career motivation
derives, in part, from the perceived congruity between individuals’ most highly valued career
goals and the degree to which a given career is perceived to afford (or fulfill) these goals. This
theory can not only be used to predict career interest of specific individuals by examining their
individual-level profiles of goals and perceived goal affordances, but it can also be used to
predict group-level differences in career interest in cases where groups differ in mean values of
goal importance or in perceptions of whether a career is more or less likely to afford those goals.
For example, research shows that women, who tend to more highly value the goals of working
with and helping others (social and altruistic goals) than men, report greater interest in science
careers when they perceive greater social and altruistic goal affordance in science and that gender
differences in science career interest can be partially accounted for by differences in goal
congruity (Morgan et al. 2001, Weisgram and Bigler 2006, Diekman et al. 2010).
Accordingly, cultural differences in career values between students from URM
backgrounds and majority White backgrounds may lead to lower perceived congruity for URMs
than Whites in science research careers. Empirical data suggest that although students from
URM backgrounds value intrinsic motives (e.g., curiosity, enjoyment of problem solving,
passion for discovery) for pursuing careers as much as White students, their career interests are
also more likely to be influenced by highly altruistic cultural values (Johnson 2002; Smith et al.,
forthcoming). This is concordant with Latino, Native American, and African American cultures
placing greater significance on the altruistic value of helping others through one’s work,
particularly contributing to one’s community (Martin and Martin 1985, Harper 2005, Fryberg
and Markus 2007, Torres 2009, Villaruel et al. 2009, Mohatt et al. 2011).
This cultural orientation toward valuing altruistic career goals may be problematic for
URM students in science because scientific research careers are generally perceived as focused
on the individual scientist and on individual achievement, not on altruistic goals (Morgan et al.
2001; McGee and Keller 2007; Weisgram et al. 2010; Diekman et al., 2010; Diekman et al.,
2011; Gibbs and Griffin 2013). Most science educators and education materials give little
attention to developing altruistic connections for students (Harding 2006). Further, successful
assimilation into scientific culture typically requires focus on the narrow, exclusive, and
objective disciplinary culture (Carlone 2003). Influenced by social stereotypes (imparted by
historical media portrayals) about scientists as older White males working in isolation on
theoretical laboratory research, detached from any community outside of science (Barman 1997;
Rahm & Charbonneau 1997), undergraduate students’ views of science careers are likely to be
incongruent with altruistic career goals. This broad perception of science research careers is
incongruent with URM students’ cultural value toward careers that afford altruistic opportunities.
Support for the importance of altruistic goals in science career interest is highlighted in a
survey of 201 high-achieving alumni of an undergraduate biology enrichment program for URMs
(Villarejo et al. 2008). Among a much broader range of questions about undergraduate research
experience, advising, career paths, and career goals, these alumni were asked to select, from a
series of hypothetical statements, what attributes would make a career as a Ph.D. scientific
researcher appealing for them. The two most highly selected attributes for these URM alumni
were satisfaction and interest in doing science (selected by 63% of alumni) and knowing that
scientific knowledge they created would help members of their community (selected by 66% of
alumni). The authors further report that in follow-up interviews with approximately half of the
alumni who left the scientific research career path, several cited “a desire to help others in a more
direct manner” as a reason why they chose an alternative career path (Villarejo et al. 2008).
Although the primary focus of this study with URM program alumni was not the role of altruistic
goals or affordance perceptions, this exploratory analysis of appealing attributes and reasons for
leaving the scientific research path provides initial support for the importance of altruistic goals
in science research interest.
Though important, the conclusions that can be drawn from this study are limited and
further studies are necessary that incorporate two key design elements. First, a prospective study
design is needed to counterbalance the limitations of retrospective self-reports and interview
data. Second, multivariate quantitative analysis is needed to distinguish between effects of
altruistic goal affordance perceptions from other goals on career interests. Scientific research and
research careers are motivated by multiple goals, including passion or curiosity (intrinsic) and
money and prestige (extrinsic) goals, and multivariate statistical analyses are required to
explicate potentially over-determined effects of multiple goals on career interests that emerge in
interviews or correlational analyses from data collected at a single point in time. A multivariate
approach permits the unique effects of altruistic affordances to be isolated, while controlling for
perceptions of whether research affords these intrinsic and extrinsic values.
In addition to building upon prior work with these critical methodological features, we
also examine a new theoretical link to explain why making altruistic connections to one’s
research may predict greater science career interest. Greater perceived congruity between one’s
valued goals and what the situation (or career) affords is posited to create a deeper psychological
experience of involvement in one’s research work. At an extreme, psychological involvement
may be experienced as “flow” (Csikszentimhalyi 1990), such that the student feels completely
immersed in her or his research. On a continuum, students may feel more or less psychologically
involved in their research, and variability across students in psychological involvement reliability
predicts subsequent science interest (Smith et al. 2007). Thus, if a student highly values altruistic
goals and perceives her research work as more likely to afford those goals, the resulting
congruity should lead to greater feelings of psychologically involvement in her research, which
should in turn predict greater science research career interest.
The present study is designed to address the research question: does variability across
students’ perceptions of altruistic affordances for their research predict greater psychological
involvement in their research laboratory and scientific career interest, even when accounting for
multivariate effects of intrinsic and extrinsic affordance perceptions? By longitudinally
evaluating the perceptions of a diverse sample of undergraduate students working in faculty
biomedical research laboratories, this study prospectively tests whether perceptions of
undertaking research that affords altruistic goals (at Time 1) leads to greater psychological
involvement in that research and career interest later (at Time 2, 10-12 weeks after the initial
survey). We predict that URMs will feel less psychologically involved in their research and lose
interest in continuing a science research career if they fail to see the benefits of their research
activities to others and in particular to their community. Alternatively, when URM students do
make these altruistic connections, we predict that they will be more likely to maintain high
psychological involvement with their research over time, which enhances their interest in
Study Participants and Procedures
Participants were 337 undergraduate students (46% female; median age = 22) working in
44 different faculty biomedical research laboratories at two universities and 7 tribal colleges. Of
these research assistants (RAs), 100 were classified as being from an URM group (38 Latinos, 31
American Indian or Alaska Natives, 9 African American, 6 Pacific Islanders, and 16 were of
mixed ethnicity including at least one of the URM groups), and 165 were classified as being
White. With Institutional Review Board approval for human subjects research at all data
collection sites, all student RAs were recruited via their faculty research mentors for a survey
study of undergraduate research experiences. Participants were told that the purpose of the study
was to “examine the relationship among students Research Assistants’ everyday experiences,
perceptions of research, and future career motivations.” The analysis covered one academic
semester. At Time 1 (5-6 weeks into the semester) all students completed an initial online survey,
that probed measures of beliefs about whether or not the research they were conducting in the
laboratory afforded (or fulfilled) three types of goals: altruistic, intrinsic, and extrinsic. Simple
demographic information, including gender, ethnicity, and year in school was also collected. The
Time 2 survey, containing measures of psychological involvement in their research laboratory
and science research career interest, was administered approximately 10 weeks later, at the end of
the semester. One hundred seventy five (64 URM; 111 White) of the initially recruited students
participated in the Time 2 survey. Missing data analysis confirmed that those who completed the
Time 2 survey did not differ from those who did not complete the second survey on any of the
study variables collected at Time 1, including perceptions of altruistic affordances, psychological
involvement in the research laboratory, or career interest. Additional details on materials,
methods, and analysis are available in the supplemental information appendix.
Analyses and Results
The data were analyzed in SPSS, using multiple regression analyses with dummy codes
representing participant ethnicity (0 = White, 1 = URM), a continuous variable representing the
altruistic affordance measure, and the multiplicative interaction term created from participant
ethnicity and altruistic affordance. The focal predictor was the interaction between participant
ethnicity and altruistic affordance. We predicted that this interaction term would be significant and
positive, such that greater perceived altruistic affordances in one’s research would predict greater
research laboratory psychological involvement and science career interest for URMs. For majority
White RAs this pattern was not expected to be significant. We report standardized regression
estimates (β), which allow for comparisons of predictor strength on a standardized metric, for the
key study variables in the main text below. More detailed results appearing in the supplemental
information appendix also include unstandardized regression estimates (b) and their standard
errors for all terms in the regression models.
As predicted, a significant positive interaction emerged between participant ethnicity and
altruistic affordance at Time 1 for research laboratory psychological involvement (β = .20, p =
.04) and research career interest (β = .24, p = .01) 10 weeks later, such that for URMs, greater
altruistic affordance predicts greater psychological involvement (β = .37, p = .02) and greater
career interest (β = .39, p = .006). For White students, altruistic affordance is unrelated to
psychological involvement (β = .003, p = .97) and career interest (β = -.03, p = .73). To illustrate
this pattern, we computed predicted values (Ŷs) for URM and White students at representative
high and low values (one standard deviation above and below the mean) from the regression
equations using the unstandardized coefficients (see Figure 1). Further, to demonstrate the scope
of this effect for URM students, we computed odds ratios by dichotomizing both dependent
variables (laboratory psychological involvement and career interest) as well as the altruistic
affordance predictor variable into high/low categories with a mean split, and repeating the
multiple regression analyses as a logistic regressions. These results show that URM students are
3.32 times more likely to have high (v. low) laboratory psychological involvement and 2.55
times more likely to have high (v. low) career interest if they perceived high (v. low) altruistic
affordance in research.
To determine whether perceived altruistic affordance uniquely contributes to research
laboratory psychological involvement and science research career interest above and beyond
other important goals, we added to the regression model both intrinsic and extrinsic affordances.
As seen in Tables S4 and S5, even when controlling for effects of intrinsic and extrinsic
affordances, the results supported the analyses reported above, demonstrating that altruistic
affordance perceptions positively predict research psychological involvement and research
career interest for URM, but not majority White students. Additionally, although intrinsic and
extrinsic affordances were included in the analysis primarily as control variables to test the
research question about the unique effects of altruistic goals, it is worthwhile to note that greater
intrinsic affordance perceptions predicted greater research laboratory psychological involvement
(see Table S4) and greater extrinsic affordances uniquely predicted greater research career
interest (see Table S5). Additional detail on this analysis is provided in the supplemental
Next, to examine the influential process predicting effects on science research career
interest, we tested a mediated moderation model, whereby laboratory psychological involvement
(at Time 2) was predicted to mediate the effect of altruistic affordance (at Time 1) on science
career interest (at Time 2) for URM, but not White students. We utilized the computational tool
PROCESS (Hayes 2013) as a SPSS macro utility to estimate the indirect effects of altruistic
affordances on career interest via psychological involvement for URM and White students,
respectively. Results support the complete mediated moderation hypothesis. A significant positive
indirect effect of altruistic affordance on science career interest through laboratory psychological
involvement was found for URMs, as the 95% bias corrected bootstrap confidence interval (.02 to
.42) was above zero. For White students, however, this indirect effect was not significant, as the
95% bootstrap confidence interval (-.10 to .09) contained zero.
Our results demonstrate that URM students who recognize that their research fulfills
altruistic goals of helping others and giving back to the community are more psychologically
involved in their research which, in turn, leads to greater interest in pursuing science research
careers. Thus, students from cultural backgrounds that traditionally place high value on helping
others through work can be retained in science when their research experience embraces this
cultural strength. These altruistic motives appear to be important to these students in addition to,
not instead of, the intrinsic and extrinsic drivers that are critical for all emerging scientists
(McGee and Keller 2007).
Previous science education intervention research suggests that all students benefit from
activities that increase the relevance (or utility value) of science to their everyday lives (Hulleman
et al. 2009, Hulleman et al. 2010), and such interventions targeted at parents of high school
students also increase their children’s participation in math and science (Harackiewicz et al.
2012). Our findings suggest that that this influence is not equal across ethnic groups and that
establishing this particular aspect of utility value, altruistic societal relevance of research, is
particularly beneficial in promoting persistence in science for URM students. Inversely,
consideration must be given to the potential negative influence of stereotypical images of
disconnected scientists on the recruitment and retention of URM students. For example, even
well- intentioned mentors who advocate that the main purpose for science research is pure
intellectual curiosity may inadvertently hinder the scientific interest of a URM student by failing to
capitalize on an important motivational factor for retaining URM students. By recognizing the
importance of this motivational factor, mentors may help in promoting retention of URM students
in the sciences without changing the nature of the scientific endeavor or the content of the
research experience. Such altruistic connections could be made by science educators or research
training programs/mentors assigning students individual or group projects that require them to
identify the societal or communal benefits of their laboratory experiences in a personal and
culturally meaningful way.
National agencies, such as NSF and NIH, already place high importance on their funded
projects translating specific research objectives to broader impacts. However, during the
formative stages of their research experience, students are unlikely to fully understand the broader
implications and significance of their research duties. A simple approach would be for educators
and mentors to share the translational impact statements with students to help them understand the
possible long-range significance and benefits of the research. Such efforts require no additional
money, just recognition that a personal investment in a student and support for her/his culturally-
connected values can make a meaningful impact in diversifying the biomedical workforce.
Data collected for this study and preparation of this manuscript was supported in part by
grant 1R01GM098462-01 from the National Institute of General Medical Science. Any opinions,
findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are our own and do not
necessarily reflect the views of the National Institutes of Health. We also thank Justin Chase,
Katherine Lee, Gregg Muragishi, and Lisa Zazworsky for their invaluable contributions to this
project. Portions of these data were also presented at the Understanding Interventions to Broaden
Participation in Research Careers conference in May 2014, Baltimore, MD.
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Figure 1. Psychological involvement in the research laboratory (left) and research career
interest (right) as predicted by student ethnicity and perceived altruistic affordance. Predicted
values are computed from the multiple regression equation for the interaction between student
ethnicity (URM v. White) and altruistic affordance (low = -1 SD, high = +1 SD) on
psychological involvement and career interest. Error bars represent ± 2 SEM (0.22 for
psychological involvement and 0.30 for career interest).
Supplementary Information Appendix
Predictor variables: Time 1. Participants responded to statements (modified from
Johnson 2002) about how much they valued altruistic, intrinsic, and extrinsic goals in their
career. To measure perceptions of research laboratory affordances, these statements were
then repeated, this time framed as the extent to which participants perceived the research
they were doing in their faculty’s laboratory as fulfilling altruistic, intrinsic, and extrinsic
goals. Statements were rated on scales ranging from 1(not at all) to 5(very much). Table S1
presents the items and reliabilities for each scale. Because different numbers of items
comprise each of the work goals and affordance variables, means for these variables are
presented as averages rather than sum scores, in order to make these means comparable on
the same 1-5 scale rating metric.
Dependent variables: Time 2. At Time 2 participants responded to statements about
their psychological involvement in a research laboratory (Smith et al. 2007) on scales
ranging from 1(strongly agree) to 4(neither agree nor disagree) to 7(strongly agree).
Participants also responded to statements about their science career interest (Carroll et al.
2009) on scales ranging from 1(never) to 3(sometimes) to 5(always). Table S2 presents the
items and reliabilities for each scale.
Testing the values assumption. Our cultural model assumes that URM students
report greater valuing of altruistic science work goals than White students, but that all
students highly value intrinsic science work goals. Thus, to test this assumption we
compared mean ratings between URM and White students on the three work values:
altruistic, intrinsic, and extrinsic. As predicted, altruistic goals were more highly valued by
URMs (M = 4.41, SD = .86) than Whites (M =4.19, SD = .70, p = .03, d = .27) and intrinsic
science work goals were valued similarly (not statistically different) among URMs (M =
4.47, SD = .51) and Whites (M = 4.35, SD =.48). Extrinsic science work goals were also
more highly valued by URMs (M = 3.84 SD = .81) than Whites (M = 3.42, SD = .87, p =
.001, d = .48). Notably, for both URM and White students, intrinsic science values were
rated as most important. For White students, intrinsic goals were rated considerably more
important than altruistic or extrinsic goals. However, for URMs, altruistic goals were rated
as highly as intrinsic science work goals.
Examining effects of altruistic affordances on research laboratory psychological
involvement and scientific career interest. To test whether greater perceived altruistic
affordances in the laboratory predicts research laboratory psychological involvement and
career interest, we utilized multiple regression. Each outcome measure (psychological
involvement and research career interest) was separately regressed onto a model that
included altruistic affordance and a dummy code variable that indicated participant
ethnicity (URM = 1; White = 0). A multiplicative interaction term was also created with
these two variables, after the continuous altruistic affordance measure was centered (Cohen
et al. 2003). To interpret significant interaction effects from these analyses, we computed
simple regression slopes for URM and White students. We also computed predicted values
(Ŷs) for URM and White students at representative high and low values (one standard
deviation above and below the mean) from the regression equations using the
unstandardized coefficients (see Figure 1).
As predicted, a significant positive interaction emerged between student ethnicity
and perceiving that research fulfills altruistic goals for research laboratory psychological
involvement (β = .20, p = .04) and career interest (β = .24, p = .01). To interpret this
interaction, simple slope analyses reveal that for URMs, greater altruistic affordance
predicts greater laboratory psychological involvement (β = .37, p = .02) and greater career
interest (β = .39, p = .006). For White students, altruistic affordance is unrelated to
laboratory psychological involvement (β = .003, p = .97) and career interest (β = -.03, p =
.73). The predicted values from the regression equation indicate that URM students who
perceived high levels (one standard deviation above the mean) of altruistic affordances in
their research reporter greater psychological involvement in their research laboratory and
greater career interest (ŶImvolvement = 12.91; ŶInterest = 11.62) than URM students who
reported low (one standard deviation below the mean) perceived altruistic affordances
(ŶImvolvement = 11.28; ŶInterest = 8.92), whereas White students reported similar levels of
laboratory psychological involvement and career interest no matter whether they had high
altruistic affordances (ŶImvolvement = 11.94; ŶInterest = 9.27) or low altruistic affordances
(ŶImvolvement = 11.94; ŶInterest = 9.27). Complete results from these regression models are
presented as Step 1 in Table S4 (research laboratory psychological involvement) and Table
S5 (research career interest).
To further demonstrate the extent of this effect for URM students, we computed
odds ratios by dichotomizing both dependent variables (laboratory psychological
involvement and career interest) as well as the altruistic affordance predictor variable into
high/low categories with a mean split, and repeating the multiple regression analyses as a
logistic regressions. Compared to the multiple regression analyses, no new statistical
information regarding hypothesis testing is obtained from this analysis, but coefficients in
the logistic model can be more meaningfully interpreted as odds ratios. Results suggest that
URM students were 3.32 times more likely to have high (v. low) psychological
involvement in their research laboratory and 2.55 times more likely to have high (v. low)
career interest if they perceived high (v. low) altruistic affordance. For majority White
students, consistent with the non-significant results from the multiple regression models,
their odds ratios were close to 1: majority White students were 1.11 times more likely to
have high (v. low) laboratory psychological involvement and 1.29 times less likely to have
high (v. low) career interest if they perceived high (v. low) altruistic affordance.
Examining the relative contribution of altruistic goal affordance. Regression results
presented above demonstrate that seeing their research as fulfilling altruistic goals benefits
URM students by enhancing their psychological involvement in their laboratory and
science research career interest, and that seeing these connections has no effects on White
students. However, all students highly value intrinsic (e.g., passion and curiosity), and to a
lesser extent extrinsic (e.g., money and prestige), work goals so the question remains: does
greater perceived altruistic affordance contribute to URM student motivation above and
beyond effects of intrinsic and extrinsic affordances?
As seen in Table S3, the pattern of correlations among study variables for URM and
White students suggest that both perceived intrinsic and extrinsic laboratory affordances
were positively correlated (though not always significantly) with students’ research
laboratory psychological involvement and career interest. Further, unlike the pattern for
altruistic affordance, these correlations with intrinsic and extrinsic affordances are similar
for URM and White students. Thus, given that all three goal affordances were generally
related to greater subsequent science motivation, and to each other, correlations cannot
address whether there is a unique contribution of altruistic affordances for URMs, in
To test whether perceiving greater perceived altruistic affordances in the laboratory
provide unique prediction to research laboratory psychological involvement and career
interest, we again utilized multiple regression. Because we added new terms to the multiple
regression models described above, results are presented as Step 2 in Table S4 (research
laboratory psychological involvement) and S5 (research career interest). Laboratory
psychological involvement and science research career interest were separately regressed
onto a model that included all three goal affordance measures (altruistic, intrinsic, and
extrinsic), the same dummy code variable as above indicating participant ethnicity, as well
as the multiplicative interaction terms between all variables. For the analyses, all
continuous main effect terms were centered, and multiplicative two- three- and four-way
interaction terms were created with these variables (Cohen et al. 2003). Because none of
the three- or four-way interactions effects were significant they were trimmed from the
The key predictor in these analyses is the interaction term between the ethnicity
code variable and altruistic affordance. As seen in Tables S4 and S5, even when controlling
for effects of intrinsic and extrinsic affordances, the key interaction term between ethnicity
and altruism remained a significant predictor of research involvement (β = .26, p = .04) and
research career interest (β = .24, p = .04) with altruistic goals positively predicting
involvement and interest for URM’s and not White undergraduate research assistants. The
positive direction of the interaction coefficient in both models indicates that the pattern of
this interaction is the same as found when examining effects of perceived altruistic
Additionally, although intrinsic and extrinsic affordances were included in the
analysis primarily as control variables to isolate the unique effects of altruistic goals, it is
worthwhile to note effects of these variables. Specifically, greater intrinsic affordance
perceptions uniquely predicted greater research laboratory psychological involvement (β =
.29, p = .05) and greater extrinsic affordances uniquely predicted greater research career
interest (β = .29, p = .02). There were not significant interactions between ethnicity and
either intrinsic or extrinsic affordances, suggesting that the relationships between these
variables and the study outcomes were similar for all participants.
Examining how perceiving altruistic value in research affects career interest.
Results from the regression analyses support the hypothesis that seeing their work in
the research laboratory as fulfilling more altruistic goals benefits the research experience
and science career interest of URM students. We next examine whether effects of altruistic
affordances on research laboratory psychological involvement mediates the effect on
science career interest. We dropped intrinsic and extrinsic affordances as predictors in these
process analyses, having already established the unique effects of altruistic affordances on
laboratory psychological involvement and career interest for URMs. Thus, we tested a
mediated moderation model, whereby psychological involvement in the research laboratory
(at Time 2) was predicted to mediate the effect of altruistic affordance (at Time 1) on
science career interest (at Time 2) for URM, but not White, students. We utilized the
computational tool PROCESS (Hayes 2013) to estimate the indirect effects of altruistic
affordances on career interest via laboratory psychological involvement for URM and
White students, respectively.
Consistent with the regression analyses reported above, the first step of the mediated
moderation model confirmed that greater perceived altruistic affordance predicted greater
laboratory psychological involvement for URM, but not White, students. In addition, the
second step of the model shows, as predicted, that laboratory psychological involvement
significantly predicted science career interest. Finally, the moderated indirect effects
support the complete mediated moderation hypothesis. Specifically, a significant positive
indirect effect of altruistic affordance on science career interest via laboratory
psychological involvement was found for URMs, as the 95% bias corrected bootstrap
confidence interval (.02 to .42) was wholly above zero. For White students, however, this
indirect effect was not significant, as the 95% bootstrap confidence interval (-.10 to .09)
Self-reported survey predictors at Time 1.
A job that gives you an opportunity to be directly helpful
A job that is worthwhile to society.
A job which is interesting to do.
A job which uses your skills and abilities—lets you do
things you can do best.
A job where you can see the results of what you do.
A job where the skills you learn will not go out of date.
A job where you can learn new things, learn new skills.
A job where you have the chance to be creative.
A job where the chances for advancement and promotion
A job which provides you a chance to earn a good deal of
A job that most people look up to and respect.
A job that has high status and prestige.
The research work I do in this laboratory is worthwhile to
The research work I do in this laboratory gives me an
opportunity to be directly helpful to others.
The research work I do in this laborartory allows me to
give back to my community.
The research work I do in this laboratory is interesting to
The research work I do in this laboratory uses my skills
and abilities—lets me do things I can do best.
The research work I do in this laboratory where I can see
the results of what I do.
The research work I do in this laboratory where the skills I
learn will not go out of date.
The research work I do in this laboratory where I can learn
new things, learn new skills.
The research work I do in this laboratory where I have the
chance to be creative.
The research work I do in this laboratory where chances
for advancement and promotion are good.
The research work I do in this laboratory has a chance to
earn a good deal of money.
The research work I do in this laboratory most people look
up to and respect.
The research work I do in this laboratory has high status
Self-reported survey dependent variables at Time 2
(Chronbach’s α) Items
.69 My research laboratory work does not
hold my attention at all. (reverse-scored)
I think it was a waste of time to do work in my
research laboratory. (reverse-scored)
Career Interest .82 Could you see yourself building a career as a
Could you see yourself building a career in
Correlations Among and Descriptive Statistics for URM and White Students.
1. Altruistic Research
2. Intrinsic Research Laboratory
3. Extrinsic Research
4. Research Laboratory
5. Research Career Interest
2 – 14
2 – 14
Note: Correlations on the lower diagonal represent values for URM students. Correlations
on the upper diagonal represent values for White students.
* p< .05, ** p<.01, ***p<.001
Multiple regression results for research laboratory psychological involvement
Step 1 Step 2
Ethnicity (URM= 1;White = 0)
Ethnicity * Altruistic
Ethnicity * Intrinsic
Intrinsic * Extrinsic
Extrinsic * Altruistic
R2 .04 .15
Note: b = unstandardized coefficient. SE = standard error. β = standardized regression coefficient.
Multiple regression results for research career interest
Step 1 Step 2
Ethnicity (URM= 1;White = 0)
Ethnicity * Altruistic
Ethnicity * Altruistic
Ethnicity * Intrinsic
Intrinsic * Extrinsic
Extrinsic * Altruistic
R2 .07 .16
Note: b = unstandardized coefficient. SE = standard error. β = standardized regression coefficient