This paper has two major aims. First, to investigate how positive emotions and intrinsic motivation affect each other over time. Second, to test the effect of positive emotions and intrinsic motivation on subsequent educational choices. Through two ordinary study semesters, 64 sport students in Norway reported on their intrinsic motivation for outdoor activities (twice) as well as positive emotions after two three-day outdoor events (four times). Next autumn, students study choice was collected. Pre-established intrinsic motivation increased the level of positive emotions, as suggested by the self-determination theory. Additionally, positive emotions increased intrinsic motivation, even when the effect from pre-established intrinsic motivation was controlled for. Hence, positive emotions also had a separate building effect, as proposed by the broaden-and-build theory. Intrinsic motivation was the main predictor for students who continued with an outdoor specialization. Positive emotions were the key predictor for students who picked sport as their major. The study has implications for the practical educational field as well as for general health promotion and well-being in paying attention to the emotional experience as it demonstrates that positive emotions improve intrinsic motivation.
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