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Goal Pursuit

Goals are desirable end states that people want to maintain (e.g. a thin figure) or achieve (e.g., academic excellence). More often than not, people pursue important goals in various intrapersonal (e.g. temptations, prior goal pursuit efforts) and interpersonal (e.g. others' goal pursuit, social interaction) contexts. Consistent with the perspective of situated social cognition (Smith & Semin, 2004), our lab examines how the various aspects of the goal pursuit process are dynamically shaped by the relevant context.

Interpersonal Influences

Interpersonal Influence in Goal Pursuit

Social others’ goal pursuit constitutes an important context within which a person pursues his/her goals.


We examine both passive and active influence from others’ goal pursuit. Passive influence occurs when the person simply observes others’ pursuit without actual

interaction. Active influence occurs when the person’s own pursuit dynamically interacts with others’ pursuit. Sample questions that drive our research are:

1. How do goals transfer from one individual to another? 


2. How is one’s goal pursuit strategy affected by others’ strategies? 


3. What are the differences between individual goal pursuit and shared goal pursuit?

Temporal Context

Temporal Context of Goal Pursuit

Goal Pursuit also occurs in a temporal context, i.e. sandwiched by preceding goal pursuit effort and subsequent (anticipated ) goal pursuit.

We examine how one pursues goals within this temporal context. Preceding goal pursuit may elicit feelings of depletion and fatigue, which impact the current pursuit. Future or anticipated goal pursuit may be "borrowed" by the person to justify a temporary respite in the present.


Sample queries that we examine are:

1. Does prior effortful goal pursuit impair current goal pursuit?

2. If so, through what processes (e.g. reduced motivation, increased feeling of fatigue, or depleted self-control resources)?

Image by Nicolai Berntsen

Temptations, Goal Conflicts, and Self-Control Strategies

Goal pursuit occurs in the context of competing goals. For example, the long-term pursuit of academic success often occurs in the presence of short-term hedonic goals, or temptations. Hence, pursuing a focal goal involves negotiation with other conflicting goals.


Our lab study how people resolve such goal conflicts with self-control strategies.


Sample questions that motivate our research are:

1. What is the nature of the impulses related to temptation?


2. How do people resist temptations with self-control strategies (e.g., proactively removing temptations in an environment)?


3. Do people always abstain from temptations or do they strategically indulge in temptations?

Image by Serafima Lazarenko
Temptations and Self-Control Strategies

Goal Pursuit and Society

A special context within which one’s goal pursuit takes place is the broader society. Our pursuit of important goals shape and are shaped by aspects related to the community, politics, and the socio-economic environment.

Our lab examines the dynamic interplay between people’s motivated pursuit and factors of societal import.


Sample questions that we study are:

1. What are the motivational underpinnings of national identification?

2. How does personal goal pursuit shape public opinion?

3. What motivates people to engage in intergroup conflict?

Image by Liam Edwards
Goal Pursuit and Society

Emotions and Goal Pursuit

Goal pursuit is an emotion-laden endeavor. We cheer at successes and frown at setbacks in our pursuits.

We study how emotions and affects affect the way we approach goal pursuit, resolve goal conflicts, and interact with social others’ goal pursuit.


Sample questions we try to answer are:

1. What emotional states favor long-term goal pursuit?

2. How do social emotions such as gratitude facilitate the flow of goals among individuals?

Image by kazuend
Emotions and Goal Pursuit
Interpersonal Influence in Goal Pursuit
Temporal Context of Goal Pursuit
Emotions and Goal Pursuit
Temptations, Goal Conflicts and Self-Control Strategies
Goal Pursuit and Society
Social Cognition, Motivational Processes, and Creativity

Social Cognition, Motivational Processes, and Creativity

Our lab has ongoing interests in basic social cognitive, motivational, and creativity processes that are related to goal pursuit.


This line of research complements our focus on the context.


Sample questions include:

1. How do epistemic motivations affect the way we interact with the social context?

2. How are creativity processes related to goal pursuit?

Image by Kevin Jarrett
Social Cognition
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