Taking engagement to task: The nature and functioning of task engagement across transitions

Daniel W. Newton, Jeffery A. LePine, Ji Koung Kim, Ned Wellman, John T. Bush

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Engagement is widely viewed as a motivational state that captures the degree to which individuals apply their physical, cognitive, and emotional energies to their jobs, and ultimately improves job performance. However, this job-level view overlooks the possibility that engagement may vary across the different tasks within a job and that engagement in one task may influence engagement and performance in a subsequent task. In this article, we develop and test hypotheses based on a task-level view of engagement and the general notion that there is "residual engagement" from a task that carries forward to a subsequent task. We propose that although task engagement (engagement in a specific task that comprises a broader role) positively spills over to influence task engagement and performance in a subsequent task, in part because of the transmission of positive affect, task engagement simultaneously engenders attention residue, which in turn impedes subsequent task engagement and performance. These predictions were supported in a study of 477 task transitions made by 20 crew members aboard The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Human Exploration Research Analog (Study 1) and in a laboratory study of 346 participants who transitioned between a firefighting task and an assembly task (Study 2). Our investigation explains how engagement flows across tasks, illuminates a negative implication of engagement that has been masked by the predominant job-level perspective, and identifies completeness as a task attribute that reduces this negative consequence of engagement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2020


  • Attention residue
  • Task engagement
  • Task transitions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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