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date: 15 July 2020

Motivation and the Organization of Human Behavior: Three Reasons for the Reemergence of a Field

Abstract and Keywords

The fact that behavior is typically active, organized, and goal oriented represents one of the wonders of animate nature. Nonetheless, the organization and integrity of behavior can be disrupted by social contexts, implicit primes and motives, or by biological factors. There has been a strong resurgence in empirical research on these topics, as well as recognition of the potency of psychological factors. Three reasons for this resurgence of interest in the psychology of human motivation are reviewed in detail: (1) the theoretical depth and interdisciplinary nature of the field; (2) methodological innovations that have opened up new avenues of inquiry, and (3) the practical importance of motivation research as a translational science and for improving individual and community wellness through empirically supported interventions. Contributions within this volume are illustrative of all these factors, manifesting interdisciplinary depth, sophisticated methods, and practical applicability.

Keywords: motivation, organization, goals, regnant causes, implicit motives

The most salient and noteworthy feature of the behavior of animate entities is that it is organized. The actions of living things reflect a directed coordination of functions and processes toward specific ends. That behavior sequences are typically coherent and internally regulated, and thus demonstrate equifinality and adaptability is one of the great wonders of our science. It is also the central focus of the field of motivation.

This Oxford Handbook of Motivation is concerned in particular with human motivation, with all the complications that topic entails. Like that of other organisms, human behavior betrays an internal organization, actively operating within its environment, and employing layered, interacting functions and processes. Humans are clearly motivated, goal-directed, creatures. They seek out specific ends, ranging from concrete goals such as obtaining food and shelter to abstract ones such as developing a sense of meaning or attaining aesthetic ideals. Sometimes people's motivation is explicit and conscious; at other times behavior is clearly energized and directed by nonconscious, implicit aims and attitudes. Finally, whether motives are implicit or explicit, the behavior organized by them will be variously successful. Effective motivation requires not only arousal or energy but also guidance by an affective and cognitive system that, at least for most of us, is susceptible to distraction or depletion. The authors represented in this handbook collectively address all of these facets and dynamics of human motivation, grappling with the multiple ways in which the integral organization of motivated action is maintained, as well as how akrasia, or motivational breakdowns, occur.

This timing of this Handbook is particularly apt, given that human motivation is being more intensively studied today than ever before. Broad, empirically based theories of motivation (many of the major ones represented within this volume) are again on the ascendance, influencing thinking (p. 4) across disciplines, domains, and applications of the behavioral sciences. I say “again” because the field of motivation has seen some rises and falls in its brief history.

In the early 20th century, motivational theories were the major organizing forces within both experimental and applied psychologies. Theorists of motivation such as Tolman (1932) and Hull (1943) on the behavioral side, and the formulations concerning motivation within psychodynamic camps (e.g., Freud, 1962/1923; Hartmann, 1939) spawned considerable empirical research that was integrated and interpreted through these paradigms. Yet following White's (1959) seminal review of the inadequacies of both behavioral and psychodynamic drive theories to explain active exploration, curiosity, and other phenomena associated with motivation, learning, and development, some major shifts happened within the discipline, and for many experimentalists, motivation faded as a focus of inquiry.

On the behavioral side, even before drive theories were stumbling, the cognitive revolution was beginning to supplant them. Indeed, Hilgard (1987) argued that cognitive approaches had presented a worldview in which questions of motivation as posed within drive theories were effectively “dead.” In the cognitive tradition issues of motivation could be addressed in terms of acquired valences or preferences, attributions, and expectancies, all used to predict the direction and persistence of behavior. Indeed, I believe if Tolman were alive today he would feel vindicated in seeing the reliance of behavioral theorists on those “hypothetical” intervening variables that stand between the environment and manifest behavior.

Without tracing the history of this movement, it is no accident that this volume contains a very significant set of contributions that derive from the cognitive traditions within psychology, in particular the chapters on the topic of goals. As discussed by Murayama, Elliot, and Friedman (Chapter 12, this volume), goals can be defined as a form of regulation that guides behavior in the service of specific aims. Goals, they argue, help the individual to focus attention and to protect responses compatible with one's motives. This definition suggests how closely goals and motivation can be tied, insofar as goals are in many ways the servants of motives. For example, in Chapter 13, Gollwitzer and Oettingen demonstrate how explicitly set goals, especially when accompanied by specific implementation plans, enhance the likelihood that one's intentions reach fruition. In contrast, Aarts and Custers (Chapter 14) marvel at the power of motivated but nonconscious goals to entrain and direct behavior. Freund, Hennecke, and Mustafić (Chapter 16) distinguish between process and outcome-focused goals and the differential dynamics and influence of these goals across the life span. In all these cases motivation and goals are distinguished but interactive.

Alongside these cognitive/goal theories, frameworks concerned with fundamental motivations have also rearisen in the past two decades to be among the most actively researched topics in psychological science. These motivational theories replace, in a certain sense, the old drive theory accounts of Hull and Freud with a different set of “drivers.” Rather than tracing motives to drive reduction these theories look to the evolved and acquired psychological needs and motives of individuals. Thus, within terror management theory (TMT; see Kesebir & Pyszczynski, Chapter 4, this volume) the dynamic driver of most behavior is anxiety reduction. People are motivated to pursue cultural goals and projects that help them feel esteemed and avoid awareness of vulnerability and mortality. Self-determination theory, on the other hand, focuses on intrinsic motivations and the basic psychological needs that support them as being fundamental to active behavior (see Deci & Ryan, Chapter 6). Sedikides and Alicke (Chapter 17) argue for self-esteem as a central motivational force, driving behaviors across cultures. These and other broad theories within this book thus look to psychological needs as giving rise to cognitive goals and the actions they guide.

As the examples illustrate, there is clearly a renewed energy surrounding the study of goals and motivation. There are many reasons for this, but three are especially worth elaboration: (1) the theoretical and multidisciplinary depth of motivational questions; (2) the methodological innovations in both quantitative and experimental tools that have facilitated exploration of motivational phenomena; and (3) the obvious practical and social importance of motivation research, with its utility as a translational, applicable science. Each shall be considered in turn.

Reason 1: The Theoretical Depth and Interdisciplinary Nature of Motivation Studies

The study of motivation drills at core foundational issues in the science. As stated earlier, what is most amazing about the behavior of organisms is the fact that it is spontaneously organized: It is both energized and directed. This is evident in what (p. 5) Tolman (1932) understood to be the purposive nature of organisms, as they evidence effort, equifinality, and adaptive intelligence toward specific ends. The principles and mechanisms through which this occurs, as well as the conditions that support or thwart these spontaneous capabilities, are critical problems for scientists at all levels of behavior analysis, from physiological to cultural. Motivation is a problem unique to life scientists. Indeed it is the organized nature of actions that separates the life sciences from the physical sciences, where organized, purposive, behavior does not occur, and where entropy is the dominant force (Mayer, 1997). Instead, in the life sciences, and in the understanding of human behavior, the core interest is in discovering the bases of the negentropic, coherent, and integrated efforts of individuals as they pursue specific goals and outcomes.

Within this Handbook we see the problem of motivated, organized behavior viewed through multiple perspectives, including evolutionary (see Bernard, Chapter 22), physiological (e.g., Gendolla, Wright, & Richter, Chapter 24), neurological (Reeve & Lee, Chapter 21), cognitive (e.g., Carver & Scheier, Chapter 3), phenomenological/experiential (e.g., Jackson, Chapter 8), and cultural (e.g., Sedikedies & Alicke, Chapter 17), among others. At each level of analysis there are basic scientific questions concerning the processes that instigate and support versus disrupt or deplete motivational processes. In fact, the volume illustrates that motivation can be meaningfully studied through multiple levels of description and causal models.

Speaking of multiple levels or types of causality might give some scientists pause, particularly if they view the issue of causation reductively or narrowly. But it is clear that when it comes to motivation there is rarely if ever a singular cause at work. Rather, actions can be depicted best as outcomes of a set of determinative processes that can be described through various levels of analysis and theoretical models. One level of inquiry does not supplant or have epistemological priority over the others, but each has a different type of explanatory power and relevance to specific concerns and questions. Moreover, motivation is itself a phenomenon that resists simple reductionism, because an inventory of components and their functions does not by itself explain their emergent orchestration and directedness.

What shifts in scientific and practical discourse is not the plausibility, but the relevance, of different levels of analysis as explanations, making some causal analyses more regnant than others (Ryan & Deci, 2006). Regnant causes are those deemed most significant or functionally relevant to a problem, thus providing the most satisfying explanation of events. Many causally relevant analyses can be “correct” without being pertinent, or regnant in this sense. Indeed, rather than competing, each type of explanation and analysis must coordinate, even as some rightfully predominate because of their pragmatic utility or value.

The Unique Place of Psychological Theory

Causal explanations can operate at the level of physical/material causes, as well as at the level of cognitive, emotional, and social constructs as theorized and measured with the tools of psychology. Although some scientists early in the 20th century eschewed abstract or formal variables like those so frequently used in psychology, most all contemporary philosophers of science embrace them and acknowledge their necessity (Curd & Cover, 1998).

Psychological models of motivation, which make up the bulk of the current volume, operate on the level of inferred constructs, intended to capture the forces at work in energizing and directing action. Causal models at this level of analysis can be a particularly important point of entry into describing and predicting motivated behaviors. If one wants to intervene in intentional behaviors (e.g., dietary habits, work practices, physical activity and exercise), knowing the types of feedback, significant cognitions, meanings, and perceived social contexts that support or thwart these behaviors provides considerable leverage. Because the sources of variance accounting for molar behavior are so readily captured by the constructs and “causes” studied by psychologists, they represent among the most regnant levels of analysis for many human behaviors.

James (1892) clearly recognized this special power and utility of psychological theory, describing it as a science of “practical prediction and control” which when realized would represent “an achievement compared with which the control of the rest of physical nature would appear comparatively insignificant” (p. 148). Ok, perhaps astrophysicists would not agree! Nonetheless, the extent to which psychological interventions can impact important behaviors, from health maintenance to learning, is impressive. It is perhaps for this reason that psychological variables such as needs, goals, attributions, and perceptions even supply the target or criterion variables upon which other levels of analysis are often focused.

In addition to considerations of prediction and control, the psychological analysis of actions is also semantically meaningful in a way mere physical (p. 6) descriptions could never be. As Kauffman (2000) underscored, “compared to a hypothetical ‘complete’ physical description, the action-and-doing description picks out the relevant features with respect to the goals of the autonomous agent” (p. 126). Kaufmann further maintained that, once we are at the level of creatures that can have internal models of, and plans for, the future, we “seem to have arrived at a level of organization in which action and goal talk becomes essential” (p. 126). This is just to say again that reductionism is often a misplaced language game, in which the most important features of a situation are obscured rather than highlighted. In this regard, psychological explanations are not only often the most causally regnant, they also often make the most sense among explanations.

The fact that in this field we can plumb multiple levels of analysis from the molecular to the social and seek to coordinate them with psychological phenomena reflects the dynamic nature and complexity of motivation. The field thus befits the scientific ideal of consilience (Wilson, 1999) in which multiple levels of analysis mutually inform and constrain the problems in focus. Because science is inherently systematic, and totalizing, coordination between levels of analysis, or consilience, is logically demanded. Furthermore, in this reciprocal coordination the constraints, contours, and limits of prediction within any given level of analysis become apparent.

Theoretical depth leads to a richness and diversity of frameworks. The volume opens with chapters summarizing what are among the most vibrantly researched and integrative theories of human motivation on the current stage. They collectively attest to the multiple deep psychological accounts of human motivation that are supported by empirical research. Each of these theories was in fact selected for this volume because it represents a framework that is organizing significant scientific and scholarly inquiries around the globe, and often in multiple disciplines.

For example social cognitive theory, as developed by Bandura (1986) and described in this volume by Schunk and Usher (Chapter 2) emphasizes the idea that human learning and behavior are largely shaped by social environments, including the reactions and approval of others. As they observe and interact within social-cultural contexts, individuals learn about their own efficacy as well as the contingent consequences of specific behaviors. They then act in accordance with their beliefs about their capabilities and the expected outcomes of actions. Social cognitive theory is thus a broad and widely applied view, which depicts human nature as relatively open to social and cultural conditioning and learning. It also emphasizes the importance of feelings of efficacy and competence, and how any factors that diminish that psychological experience undermine the subsequent probability of motivated action.

Control theory is presented in Chapter 3 by Carver and Scheier. They would likely not, when speaking technically, call their framework a theory of motivation, but rather a cybernetic model of behavior regulation. Yet in the editor's view, it needed to be included here anyway. Their influential perspective has generated more than three decades of careful research on goals and their successful, and unsuccessful, enactment. In terms of motivation, control theory interprets goal-directed action as reflecting a hierarchy of feedback processes that regulate behavior. In this model, affect and emotions are understood as both generated and intensified or dampened as an aspect of regulation, providing another set of feedback processes. This model leads to both expected and surprising predictions—among them that when we are feeling particularly good we are more likely to reduce effort on a task and “coast.”

In Chapter 5 Scholer and Higgins discuss regulatory focus theory, first introduced by Higgins (1997), and consider two fundamental motivational systems: the promotion system and the prevention system. The theory is introduced largely in terms of individual differences—of the benefits and trade-offs faced by people who are prevention oriented (i.e., vigilant and security focused) versus promotion oriented (i.e., eager and accomplishment seeking). The former are highly sensitive to change and more oriented to “oughts” and “shoulds”; the latter are more interested in change and growth, and are oriented toward pursuing ideals. These distinct orientations have different adaptive value as a function of context, as Scholer and Higgins review, and each can mobilize approach or avoidance behaviors. The theory also assumes an underlying motivation for people to experience regulatory fit—that is, behavior that is consistent with their prevention or promotion orientation. Regulatory focus theory thus presents intersecting principles that afford a specificity of predictions concerning people's emotions and motivation in different situations.

Terror management theory, presented here by Kasebir and Pyszczynski, is a broad theory of human meaning and values derived from both existentialist reflections on death anxiety and the work of Ernst Becker, who once argued that the task of a unified science should be “the incessant implementation of (p. 7) human well-being” (Becker, 1968, p. xiii). TMT argues that our personal goals and cultural activities are mainly focused on self-esteem maintenance, which in turn serves as a buffer from awareness of mortality. Defense against the anxiety associated with death is thus in the TMT view a principal driving force of symbolic and cultural activities, and the generation of meanings and purposes. TMT has harnessed experimental techniques to assess attitudes and motivations following mortality salience events, with results that suggest that people are indeed often acting out of nonconscious defensive attempts to stave off existential threat. TMT challenges the view of humans as conscious and rational beings, showing instead that underlying ultimate concerns can in some individuals automatically activate complex, and sometimes defensive, behaviors and attitudes.

This Handbook also contains a chapter on self-determination theory (SDT). Although presented here by Ed Deci and myself, the theory represents the efforts of a diverse yet cohesive community of scholars from around the world with interest in this perspective. SDT envisions an active, assimilative, and dynamic human nature, supported or thwarted in its basic psychological needs. In fact, SDT posits a specific human nature, one that thrives under conditions of support for competence, autonomy, and relatedness, and yet becomes defensive, reactive, and compliant under conditions of need deprivations or thwarts. The assumption of universal basic needs has been both descriptively and experimentally generative, addressing phenomena such as the undermining effect of controlling rewards, the characteristics that make an activity intrinsically motivated, the processes that facilitate greater internalization and integrated regulation of extrinsic motivation, and the reasons materialism leads to unhappiness. SDT has thus been broadly applied in domains from work, education, psychotherapy, and medicine to sport, play, and entertainment.

Outside of broad-based theories this volume also contains reviews of theory and research on specific motivational processes and phenomena that have big implications. For example, Chapter 7 by Muraven addresses a phenomenon that has captured the interests of dozens of experimental social psychologists for over a decade—namely ego depletion. Muraven, who is an originator of the ego-depletion concept and model, examines the myriad factors associated with the self-control of behaviors that require effort and drain human energies. Ego-depletion effects bear on the multiple ways that the human intentions and goal pursuits are vulnerable to akrasia, and thus his chapter has broad relevance to both theories and practical models of motivation.

In Chapter 10, Silvia tackles that most important of motivational forces for development and learning, namely curiosity. He discusses curiosity as both an evolved feature of human nature, and as a motivational process that is strongly affected by social contexts and supports. Similarly, Renninger and Su take on the topic of personal interests—reviewing both the development of those abiding passions and investments that define us as individuals, and the factors that sustain them. Patall, in Chapter 15, reviews and integrates the vast literature on choice as it relates to motivation. She looks at the evidence that choice facilitates sustained motivation over time through enhancing commitment to actions; and how choice can entail costs, from cognitive load to cultural conflicts. Finally, in a quite unique chapter (Chapter 18) Roberts and Waters consider the issue of gender as it relates to motivation and interpersonal relationships. They specifically are concerned with objectification as an influence on women, and its costs for both their motivated performance and well-being. These topical reviews integrate an array of empirical findings on motivational processes and raise critical questions for continued research.

In short, the theoretical chapters in this volume represent some of the most important organizing frameworks in the science of motivation today. Each of these explanatory frameworks shifts out a distinct yield of predications, laws, and applications that are broadly influencing the scientific and applied communities. Looking across this collection, I am reminded here of the words of pioneer psychologist Robert S. Woodworth, who once stated about psychological schools of thought that: “Every school is good, though no one is good enough” (Woodworth, 1948, p. 255).

Reason 2: Methodological Innovations and the Resurgence in Motivation Studies

Although the romantic view of the development of new knowledge is that it is the product of individual insight and genius, many of the recent insights in the field of motivation were made possible less by individual genius and more by new and better tools for exploration. Explorers in a dark cave get farther when someone provides a better headlamp.

Among these new tools, several deserve to be highlighted as playing particularly strong roles in advancing the science of human motivation: Statistical advances in structural equation modeling, multilevel modeling, and growth-curve analysis; (p. 8) experimental advances in the measurement and priming of implicit motivational processes; and new interfaces linking biology and neuropsychology to psychological models of behavior.

Changes in Statistical Methods

One of the characteristic features of behavioral science is its frequent use of statistical inference in the development of laws and principles. Although there are clearly limits to inductive-statistical explanations of events (see classic work by Hempel, 1965), the probabilistic and multidetermined nature of human behavior makes such methods essential tools of behavioral science. Yet these statistical tools themselves have traditionally had limitations in what they could describe, and what covariances and patterns could be detected. For example, the classical ANOVA approach to data restricts our imagination to what accounts for mean changes in a given variable, rather than trajectories, patterns, or intra-individual variability in change.

Recent methodological advances in quantitative analysis have thus lent new excitement to the field. In particular, multilevel modeling methods (e.g., Raudenbush & Bryk, 2002) have allowed investigators to look not only at how individuals differ from one another in motives and goal, but also at how and why an individual waxes and wanes in various motives and behavioral regulations across time or situations. Most every classical question in the field was originally posited as a “between persons” issue; yet for most of us personally and practically the core concern is at a “within-person” level of analysis, or what leads to rises and falls in motivation within individuals over time, settings, or events. Describing change over time, and what components of motivation remain stable or vary intra-individually becomes increasingly critical as we examine trajectories during or following critical events or planned interventions. These new tools have thus allowed us to at least begin to overcome the limitations of a cross-sectional psychology (see Lazarus, 2003) that hampered the study of motivation for so long.

New Experimental Methods and the Study of Implicit Motivation

Current experimental methods are allowing researchers to investigate previously underexplored phenomena, including the ubiquitous influence of nonconscious motivations. Clearly a great deal of human behavior is not consciously driven. We have many habitual and overlearned behaviors that can be performed without intention or conscious control. But beyond habits, research suggests that much of the time our actions are being selected or sustained based on motivational dynamics of which we are unaware. Our attitudes and motives can be, to different degrees, implicit. Of course, as Westin (1998) points out, this is something long clear within psychodynamic circles, but there is a new vigor in experimental studies regarding this topic.

Many of the methods underlying recent research on nonconscious motivational processes build off of the idea of accessibility, in which reaction times are used to estimate how activated a motive or attitude is for a person. Related to the issue of activation are priming methods, in which motives or attitudes are potentiated by exposure to, or “priming” of, strongly associated constructs, thereby enhancing the accessibility of, and thus the likelihood of enacting, specific motives or goals (e.g., see Aarts, Custers, & Holland, 2007). Activating or priming a motive or goal can set in motion a rich network of cognitive, affective, and behavioral processes that provide both energy and direction (i.e., motivation) outside of conscious awareness. In fact, people's behavior can frequently be prompted by goals primed by situational elements of which they are not aware but that nonetheless make certain motives more accessible than others. Chapter 14 by Aarts and Custers in this volume provides an excellent review of some of these methods, along with considerable evidence that well-organized behaviors not only can be, but frequently are, under “unconscious control.”

This strong renewed interest in nonconscious motivation has also opened up a dynamic new area of investigation where we can look not just beyond self-report, but at the interface of conscious (and reportable) and nonconscious motives, as Chapter 9 by Thrash, Maruskin, and Martin in this volume reviews. As they point out, as methodological refinements have occurred, correlations between implicit and explicit measures of motives and attitudes have increased, and these refinements have helped clarify more systematic individual and situational variations in implicit/explicit discrepancies. Such discrepancies, in turn, appear to be related to both developmental and proximal factors, and to predict well-being and motivational outcomes.

At the same time as studies impress us with the potential of nonconscious processes to organize intentional behaviors, the same methods allow researchers to demonstrate how individuals can exert tremendous regulatory control over their own actions. Thus, research has shown, for example, how people high (p. 9) in mindfulness and autonomy (see Deci & Ryan, Chapter 6, this volume), or in an implemental rather than deliberative phase of action (see Gollwitzer & Ottengen, Chapter 13) are more resilient in the face of depletion effects, threats, and challenges as they pursue goals. This is true even with respect to regulating implicit processes, which some can manage through volitional processes (e.g. Legault, Green-Demers, Grant, & Chung, 2007; Niemiec et al., 2010). Ironically, it seems, the very focus on the influence of nonconscious motivations over behavior has made salient the specific strengths and resources that allow some individuals to override such influences and more effectively pursue consciously endorsed goals.

Toward a Life Science: Beyond Reductionism to Coordinated Analyses

Robust advancements in methods have also been evident in a new synergism between biological and psychological inquiry. Methods such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) allow us to link brain processes with specifically activated motives and inhibitions, clarifying the mechanics behind behavioral dynamics (see Chapter 21 by Reeve and Lee). More accurate physiological models of cardiovascular functioning allow better gauging of effort, and thus the study of its dynamics and determinants (e.g., Gendolla, Wright, & Richter, Chapter 24). In the area of coping, assays of cortisone and other biologic indicators also allow us to better gauge human reactivity, stress resources, and estimate the likelihood of goal success as a function of different sources of motivation. Finally, studies of how the physiological effects of diet and activity impact mood and motivation (see Chapter 23 by Thayer) show the import of biological factors on vitality and functioning.

As with statistical enhancements, these observational advances in the biological sphere, especially as they are linked with constructs of psychological interest, have tremendous promise for refining theory. The fact of the matter is that psychological processes are themselves embodied. The different constructs studied within social sciences must therefore map to distinct patterns of activation (Ryan, Kuhl, & Deci, 1997). Such mapping is not an acceptance of physicalism, but rather reflects integrative science rather than reductionism, and helps pave the “two-way street” that Reeve and Lee depict between neurosciences and psychology. More important, it facilitates tests of theory, harnessing biology to advance regnant psychological models, providing new avenues for examining covariations with external, social, and genetic influences. This is again congruent with the idea of consilience and the principle that all levels of analysis must be capable of coordination.

Reason 3: Practical Importance of Motivational Science as a Core

Translational and Applied Discipline

Perhaps just as crucial to the resurgence of the field of motivation as these scientific advances is a renewed appreciation of its practical importance. As any good dialectical materialist might have predicted, it is probably more because motivation matters on the bottom line—for productivity at work, learning in schools, and adherence within clinics—than because it is of inherent intellectual or scientific interest that it is at the forefront of our thinking. Given that the most important societal goals require human energy and commitment to be actualized, motivation may in fact be the most critical applied topic of our field. Indeed, even for discoveries in other sciences to be applied, motivation represents a core translational science, because it addresses what must occur for new knowledge, products, or inventions to be adopted and actively used.

Chapters in this Handbook speak to myriad important applications of motivation theory. Indeed, reviewed in this volume are chapters on topics where motivation is clearly a central concern, including work (Grant & Shin, Chapter 28), education (Wigfield, Cambria, & Eccles, Chapter 26), psychotherapy (Holtforth & Michalak, Chapter 25), and exercise and sport (Hagger, Chapter 27; Weis, Ambrose, & Kipp, Chapter 29). Moreover, because motivation is so richly an interpersonal matter, also included is a section on motivation in relationships, which contains work on parenting (Pomerantz, Cheung, and Qin, Chapter 19), close relationships (Gable & Prok, Chapter 20), gender and objectification (Roberts & Waters, Chapter 18), and self-protection in the context of social comparisons (Sedikides & Alicke, Chapter 17). What one sees in each of these review chapters is a generative framework that not only is advancing the basic science but is also helping to translate that science into practices that yield better human outcomes from the workplace to the playground. These chapters, applied to everyday concerns and settings, make clear the extent to which motivation theories and research are organizing and informing significant practical activities and interventions in multiple fields of human endeavor.

The word motivated is not a complex term. It simply means “to be moved.” Although human bodies can be physically moved by many forces, it is those (p. 10) animating energies that organize purposive action that are illuminated by the authors in this volume. And they are shedding light on phenomena that are not only of great practical concern to most of us but also represent one of the central scientific mysteries in our universe.

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