mystery shopping, performance measurement, motivation crowding


Mystery shopping is used in a variety of service industries to measure service performance, as a training tool for employees, and to ensure the safety and security of the product offered. The persons performing this activity, mystery shoppers, experience various motivations, some of which are similar to employees and/or volunteers. These motivations can be intrinsic, where the performance of the activity is a reward itself, or extrinsic, meaning performance of the activity is a method for attaining a reward. The dominance of intrinsic or extrinsic motivation can shift within the individual, which is termed motivation crowding. Individuals can crowd in when intrinsic motivations are supplemented and supported by extrinsic motivations, or crowd out if extrinsic motivations become the dominant factor, devaluing the activity and reducing intrinsic motivation. This study examines the motivations of mystery shoppers and examines whether the tenets of motivation crowding are supported using a mixed methods research design. The objectives for the study were to identify, classify, and measure mystery shopping motivations using motivational theory to test for the presence of motivation crowding, as reflected in the initial two hypotheses: H1: There are salient dimensions of motivation influencing individual participation in mystery shopping activities. H2: Mystery shoppers experience motivation "crowding in" after initial performance of mystery shopping activities, with intrinsic motivations increasing. To address the first hypothesis, the study began with a qualitative research approach utilizing semi-structured interviews with current mystery shoppers. Through qualitative analysis, 14 constructs of mystery shopper motivations were identified. The constructs were then utilized to develop the Mystery Shopper Motivation Scale, following the eight-step scale development process defined by DeVellis (2003). The scale was then refined through pre-testing and pilot testing, and was used in a survey administration to 323 current mystery shoppers. Through factor analysis, the motivations identified were quantitatively supported, and then dependent t-tests indicated the presence of motivation crowding affecting mystery shoppers. However, unanticipated increases in extrinsic motivations prompted further analysis of motivations based on mystery shopping experience levels, resulting in the addition of a third hypothesis: H3: The direction of motivation crowding is dependent on the mystery shopper's level of experience. H3a: Mystery shoppers who have performed less than 10 mystery shops will crowd in, with an increase in intrinsic motivations and a decrease in extrinsic motivations. H3b: Mystery shoppers who have performed between 10-24 mystery shops will crowd in, with an increase in both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, and intrinsic motivations remaining the dominant factor. H3c: Mystery shoppers who have performed 25 or more mystery shops will crowd in, with an increase in both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, but extrinsic motivations becoming the dominant factor. Results supported motivation crowding as dependent on the experience level of the mystery shopper, prompting the categorization of three distinct mystery shopping phases of activity: the novelty phase, the exploratory phase, and the career phase. Empirical results of the survey were then compared to a subsequent round of qualitative analysis of mystery shopper online forums. Recommendations for future research include longitudinal studies of novelty phase mystery shoppers, examination of the effects motivation crowding may have on mystery shopper behavioral intentions, and incorporation of the perceived costs associated with mystery shopping.


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Graduation Date



Severt, Denver


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Education


Educational Research, Technology, and Leadership

Degree Program









Release Date

May 2009

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Included in

Education Commons