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date: 04 July 2020

Through a Fly's Eye: Multiple Yet Overlapping Perspectives on Future Directions for Human Motivation Research

Abstract and Keywords

In this final chapter we examine future directions in motivation research by looking through the individual lenses of our volume authors. We review each chapter for viewpoints on new directions for research. Each chapter offers some unique ideas relevant to the particular area of inquiry, but there is also overlapping emphasis on several issues facing the field as a whole. The most widely cited future direction was for more research into dual-process models of motivation. There were also frequent calls for more intervention research, especially interventions in which process variables and active ingredients can be carefully assessed. A desire for more developmental and neuropsychological studies of motivation was also common among this selected group. The centrality of motivation for human adaptation and wellness makes the pursuit of these topics a central task for psychology.

Keywords: human motivation, dual processes, interventions, development, well-being

The centrality of motivation in human functioning and wellness is clear, and it supplies the rationale for this volume. As the papers included here highlight, motivation plays an essential role in adaptation and in both individual and collective well-being. In addition, many of the common assumptions about human motivation are wrong or overly simplistic, and contemporary research is yielding new insights into what moves us into action, for better or for worse.

Collectively these papers also underscore another fact: The factors that both underlie and influence motivation are complex and multilayered. In this volume, motivation is variously described as being molded through evolution; engendered by culture; facilitated or undermined by parents; impacted by social contexts such as work, school, and leisure settings; and dependent upon underlying neurological mechanisms. In other words, the science of human motivation involves the fluid interplay of biological, psychological and sociocultural determinants of what moves us to action.

Given the importance and the level of complexity inherent in the study of human motivation, there is clearly only going to be increasing research activity on this topic in the years ahead. Where is the field headed? What gaps do motivation studies need to address? What are the proximal and distal problems in line for exploration and discovery?

Each Oxford volume in this series finishes with a “future directions” chapter, typically expressing the views of the editor(s). Although we could finish this volume with a chapter centering on our own views on the future of motivation research, our sensibilities suggest that we provide readers with a more democratic offering. So in this chapter, rather than letting the editor's singular (and rather myopic) views predominate, we will look through the multiple and (p. 555) independent lenses of our chapter authors to provide a “compound eye” view of the field's future directions.

To really see the benefits of presenting a “compound eye” view on future directions in motivation, it is important to understand a bit more about this system. A compound eye has some advantages, especially when looking ahead. For example, flies see through such a system, equipped with a convex surface carpeted by multiple “eyes” called ommatidia. Each ommatidium has its own lens, and it is pointed in a slightly different direction, much like the current perspectives represented in these handbook chapters. Yet in the fly, what each of the separate “eyes” senses significantly overlaps with those next to it (see, e.g., Riley, Harmann, Barrett, & Wright, 2008). These sensory inputs come together so that the fly perceives one image. Such a complex system of vision has both scope and redundancy built into it, contributing to the fly's highly skilled capacity to navigate and “find the sugar.”

Within the present volume are 29 chapters from articulate leaders in the field of motivation, each peering into the future of our field. They are pursuing separate but interrelated theoretical questions, and in doing so harnessing and refining the scientific tools available. Each takes a unique perspective, but there is also overlap in visions of where the field should go. Why not let each of these ommatidum contribute its own uniquely weighted input to our perception? No doubt each will be distinct, but they may also overlap and offer redundancies that highlight the most pressing issues for future work in human motivation research. What compound vision might result?

Accordingly, in what follows we have reviewed each of the chapters in this volume to distill some of the salient directions for future research in the field of human motivation the chapter authors believe should be pursued. It is important to recognize that the authors, when invited to write for this volume, were not specifically asked to reflect on future directions in their chapters. Though some said little in this regard, many devoted significant attention to raising issues that they believe merit future pursuit. Some explicitly commented on the important questions needing to be further explored in their specific areas of research, and many reflected on the methodological and substantive directions the field of human motivation more generally ought to follow. Once presenting these “nutshell” summaries of the authors’ reflections on future directions, we will see whether we can benefit from their compound vision.

Future Directions in Motivation: Assembling a Compound View

Each of the authors of this volume highlights important new directions for the study of motivation as he or she sees it. We present these in the order they appear in the volume. Some of these recommendations for future research are specific to the theoretical framework reviewed in the chapter, but just as often authors also pointed to common gaps in motivation research that currently leave important questions less than fully answered.

General Theories of Human Motivation

Social Cognitive Theory and Motivation

Dale H. Schunk and Ellen L. Usher

  • Schunk and Usher raised questions about the applicability of social cognitive theory across all age groups. Because some learning and experiences of self-efficacy may often require complex cognitive capacities, the authors believe that understanding developmental constraints on these motivational processes represents an important area of further research. Longitudinal methods may help elucidate these questions about developmental changes in self-efficacy and learning.

  • Moreover, because most social cognitive research in motivation has been conducted in Western societies, Shunck and Usher called for a broader examination of the cross-cultural relevancy of the theory.

  • Specific to social cognitive theory, Schunk and Usher believe that future research should focus on how modeled observations can combine with learner practice to “optimize motivational effects.” They pointed to the importance of technology in carrying out this objective. Making modeling more accessible to learners through computers and hand-held devices could make new and diverse modeling opportunities possible. Moreover, having learners watch their own performance on video could improve their ability to self-model.

Cybernetic Control and Self-Regulation of Behavior

Charles S. Carver and Michael F. Scheier

  • In their discussion of the self-regulation of behavior and emotion, Carver and Scheier reexamined some previous assumptions about (p. 556) the hierarchy of behavioral controls. New insights about the dual modes of functioning, and dimensionality within emotions, have prompted this reconsideration. They suggested that a model of hierarchical organization of the self and its goals likely involves “pressures toward compatibility” among values and attitudes. At the same time, lower levels of self-regulation may operate independently of higher levels of self-regulation and may sometimes be in conflict with them. Testing this idea of compatibility (which in our work in self-determination theory we might think of in terms of integration) is seen by Carver and Scheier as an important area for investigation.

  • The authors also raised questions concerning other compatibility-related conflicts in self-control. For example, does self-control pit longer and shorter term goals against each other, as usually thought, or does self-control pit the two mental modes against each other (automatic tendencies vs. planful effort to restrain behavior)?

  • They also wondered whether future research might apply their feedback theory to more fully address the core motivational processes involved in growth and optimal functioning. For example, perhaps enjoyment signals that engaging in the experience is moving the person toward another goal that is already part of the self. More generally understanding ties between affective feedback and growth functions is an agenda for future research.

Terror Management Theory

Pelin Kasebir and Tom Pyszczynski

  • In line with terror management theory's (TMT) tradition of employing innovative methods, Kasebir and Pyszczynski called for more new and creative methods, beyond death-thought accessibility methodology, to explore new territory in terror management processes.

  • The authors saw TMT's applications to psychopathology and fostering peace as other important future directions of research.

  • They also saw further investigation into meaning and certainty, both epistemic and existential forms, as helping to reconcile TMT with other theories about meaning (Heine, Proulx, & Vohs, 2006; Lind & van den Bos, 2002).

  • Recognizing that death reminders can have a positive impact on some individuals, the authors suggest that TMT move beyond only looking at the “darker side” of human motivation and begin to explore in more depth how death can be a “constructive, empowering force” for people.

Too Much of a Good Thing? Trade-Offs in Promotion and Prevention Focus

Abigail A. Scholer and E. Tory Higgins

  • Scholer and Higgins hoped to see future research move beyond analysis at the individual level to explore how groups of individuals with different levels of promotion and prevention orientations work together. This line of research could help elucidate what work environments look like when they are maximizing the benefits of these two motivational systems.

  • Understanding how promotion and prevention motivations work together with other motivations (namely locomotion and assessment motivations) was another area identified for future investigation. The authors reasoned that understanding the bigger picture of how these different regulatory systems interact could help to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs of each particular motivational system. This is in line with their main argument throughout the chapter that more motivation isn't necessarily better—there are trade-offs involved with each motivational system.

Motivation, Personality, and Development within Embedded Social Contexts: an Overview of Self-Determination Theory

Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan

  • A theme of this chapter was how people exist within embedded social contexts that affect their psychological need satisfactions and wellness both directly and indirectly. Deci and Ryan were thus especially interested in developing a better understanding of how different levels of social influence (e.g., interpersonal, institutional, cultural, politico-economic) interact to impact motivational outcomes and well-being.

  • There was special interest in both new historical and technological trends that are changing the traditional avenues of socialization and modes of influence on goals and values. Particularly noted was the extending reach of corporate capitalism, and increasing exposure to media and interactive technologies, and their role in facilitating or undermining basic need satisfactions.

  • (p. 557) Their comments also focused on the study of forces that thwart or facilitate peoples’ basic needs within and across diverse settings as potentially informing policy and interventions aimed at fostering individual and community wellness.

Motivational Processes

Ego Depletion: Theory and Evidence

Mark Muraven

  • Muraven sees a better understanding of how practicing self-control helps to build self-control as a critical next step in ego-depletion research. Understanding this pathway will be valuable for the theory and for designing interventions. Knowing more about practice effects can specifically inform interventions by identifying tasks that are most effective to practice, and by specifying the optimum practice time and frequency that leads to improvements in self-control. Interventions that aim to build self-control could have value for the individual for society, as self-control is involved in many important behaviors like controlling aggression, getting along with others, and resisting temptation.

  • Another direction for future research that Muraven identified involves the finding that depletion leads to greater passivity. Exploring this finding further and connecting it to changes in the brain may help create a more comprehensive and unified theory of depletion.


Susan A. Jackson

  • Jackson pointed to the importance of investigating neurological and psychophysiological correlates of flow for the theory's advancement. Utilizing such methods, she argues, is crucial to a deeper understanding about what systems are in play when an individual is in a state of flow.

  • She also recommended that future research continue to examine both individual differences and situational factors (e.g., competition) that facilitate and hinder the flow experience. Furthermore, Jackson also raised questions as to how person and situational variables interact to affect the different dimensions of flow. Additionally, how do these dimensions of flow shift across contexts and within individuals? She identified this interplay of context and person as one of the most important directions for the future of flow research.

Implicit-Explicit Motivation Congruence

Todd M. Thrash, Laura A. Maruskin, and Chris C. Martin

  • In their chapter, Thrash, Maruskin and Martin pointed out a lot of variation in how congruence in implicit and explicit motivation is operationalized and modeled across studies. Because these differences lead to different conceptualizations and different robustness of findings, the authors called for a more careful and explicit rationale when operationalizing the construct and presenting one's analytic approach in future studies on congruence.

  • They also raised an interesting question that we have sometimes wondered ourselves: Why not cite Freud? Many of Freud's writings can speak to congruence in implicit and explicit motives, and the authors argue that ignoring these insights “undermines rather than serves scientific credibility and progress.” Thrash et al. suggested that when possible, researchers should better understand and utilize historical insights.

  • Practicing what they preach, the authors highlight insights from Freud about integrating incongruence as a direction for future research. Though acceptance is typically thought to be the only way to integrate incongruence, there are two other “healthy” ways to integrate incongruent motives posited by Freud that merit exploration: rejection and sublimation. The authors encouraged researchers to consider these other options as a means of integration, as both rejection and sublimation of motives (especially implicit ones) can be accomplished in self-determined and mindful ways.

  • Another future direction of research in congruence that the authors identified is to move beyond a between-persons level of analysis. Exploring how an individual varies across time and across “content domains” in the congruence of their implicit and explicit motives represents an important and unexplored area of investigation.

Curiosity and Motivation

Paul J. Silvia

  • Silvia wondered whether the different lines of thought on curiosity couldn't be connected in future pursuits on curiosity and motivation. He suggested some connections between self-determination theory and emotion psychology, for example. He encouraged researchers to be (p. 558) open to bridging theories in an effort to better understand the motive of curiosity, with the risk that doing so might result in changes to the concept of curiosity.

  • Silvia also pointed to exploring the interplay of traits and states as a direction of future research in curiosity. Looking at how “curious traits influence curious states” using a variety of new methods could advance the field of curiosity in motivation. He also suggested examining the “midrange” level of curiosity (the level of idiosyncratic interests), especially how it develops, as a future direction.

Interest and Its Development

K. Ann Renninger and Stephanie Su

  • Renninger and Su suggest that future interest research focus more on developmental transformations. For example, can the meaning of factors like novelty vary across phases of interest and across age groups?

  • The authors also wondered about the role of contextual supports in facilitating interest at different phases of interest development, and they suggested this too as an important future area of research.

  • They also encouraged interest researchers to draw upon the existing body of work in interest to better understand differences in studies using different measures and methods. This could help provide a more unified and comprehensive understanding of interest.

Goals and Motivation

Achievement Goals: Examining The Thoughts, Attitudes, and Behaviors that Characterize People's Competence-Based Pursuits

Kou Murayama, Andrew J. Elliot, and Ron Friedman

  • Murayama, Elliot, and Friedman identified the processes underlying goal pursuit as an important priority for future investigation in achievement goals. Understanding this process could help inform interventions.

  • They also detailed ways to advance achievement goal work, including extending the framework by using a “3x2 framework” to understand different types of achievement goals, and better understanding the consequences of mastery-avoidance goals.

  • The authors also called for broader methodologies such as priming, diary methodologies, and continued work on developing interventions.

  • Other areas of needed investigation identified by the authors involved a more fine-tuned understanding of the interdependent relations between achievement goals.

  • They also suggested that understanding how situational factors may affect achievement goals and understanding potential cultural differences in these effects would be an important area for future research.

Goal Regulation and Implementation: Goal Setting and Goal Striving

Peter M. Gollwitzer and Gabriele Oettingen

  • Gollwitzer and Oettingen saw future directions in goal regulation and implementation as better understanding how mental contrasting and implementation intentions can best help people create goals that help them fulfill their wishes.

  • The authors discussed an intervention that taught people how to effectively set and implement goals by themselves, and carrying out more of these interventions would be a worthy pursuit for future goal research.

  • They also called for more focus on potential mediators of the effects of goal regulation and implementation, such as increased efficacy or control beliefs.

Unconscious Goal Pursuit: Nonconscious Goal Regulation and Motivation

Henk Aarts and Ruud Custers

  • Aarts and Custers encouraged more investigation of the role of awareness of goals in producing behavior. Many questions remained unanswered, such as whether consciousness mediates goal-priming effects. To answer such questions, they recommend that manipulation checks always be used, and eventually researchers should develop more refined methods to examine just how conscious people are of goal primes directing their behavior (e.g., Seth, Dienes, Cleeremans, Overgaard, & Pessoa, 2008).

  • The authors highlighted another challenging question for future research: How do unconscious goals “flexibly control” behavior?

  • (p. 559) The authors also raised many questions about when consciousness can play a role in goal pursuit. They wondered whether consciousness may facilitate performance in some contexts more than others, and whether consciousness may be especially important in stopping, or overriding behavior.

  • Moreover, the authors suggested that an important avenue of future research is determining whether consciously and unconsciously activated goals stimulate cognitions and the brain in similar or distinct ways. Diverse methods and levels of analysis, especially at the neurological level, are likely needed to answer these questions and yield additional insights on goal-related processes and efficacy.

The Motivational Complexity of Choosing: a Review of Theory and Research

Erika A. Patall

  • Patall believes that future research in choice should explore whether the effects of choice go beyond the effect of having one's preferences.

  • She also thought it was important that researchers focus on factors that enhance or inhibit choice effects. She raised the important issue of systematically testing, through experimental design, certain assumptions that are made in the literature about choice, such as about the effort required for making different types of choices.

  • Future research in choice should also test how factors like interest, perceived competence, and developmental age interact to affect different motivational outcomes.

  • Patall also saw research on the mechanisms and pathways through which choice leads to different motivational outcomes as another important direction.

On Gains and Losses, Means and Ends: Goal Orientation and Goal Focus Across Adulthood

Alexandra M. Freund, Marie Hennecke, and Maida Mustafić

  • Freund, Hennecke, and Mustafić discussed the potential benefits and mechanisms of a process focus as opposed to an outcome focus in people's goal orientation. They found that a process focus helps with adaptation after failure, and they encouraged future research on goal focus to test this relatively new idea. Yet because age-related shifts in goal orientation research are relatively new, future research should continue to examine the trajectories of people's orientation of goal focus across the life span using longer term longitudinal designs.

  • The authors also state that future research will have to show the incremental validity of goal focus above and beyond well-established motivational constructs such as intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Motivation in Relationships

Self-Enhancement and Self-Protection Motives

Constantine Sedikides and Mark D. Alicke

  • Sedikides and Alicke believe that exploring the dynamic between self-enhancement and self-protection motives is an important pursuit for new research. As these motives can operate independently, and may also interact in unknown ways, they recommended that researchers treat these motives as separate dimensions rather than as two ends of a continuum. Treating these motives as separate dimensions can help answer questions about how they may facilitate or impede one another in different contexts and also help to examine their interplay with other self-evaluation motives.

  • The authors wondered about the relations between implicit and explicit self-enhancement and self-protection motives. They advocated using new methodologies to help elucidate these relations and their functional effects.

  • They also called for future research exploring the situational factors and individual differences that constrain self-enhancement and self-protection.

The Gendered Body Project: Motivational Components of Objectification Theory

Tomi-Ann Roberts and Patricia L. Waters

  • In discussing self-objectification and its many adverse consequences to health and psychological well-being, Roberts and Waters wondered why some individuals are motivated to engage in self-objectification behaviors and others aren't.

  • Given the current cultural climate, understanding the factors that promote resilience in the face of societal pressures to conform is critical for developing interventions that could start to bolster resilience to self-objectification (p. 560) in girls and women. Designing interventions to reduce objectification of girls and women at the community and societal level, and interventions to promote resilience to societal pressures at the individual level, represent important next steps to reduce adverse outcomes like disordered eating, body shame, and depressive symptoms.

  • The authors suggested that self-objectification can be thought of as motivated behavior but also as a type of amotivation, or external locus of control with respect to norms of physical attractiveness. Testing these ideas in relation to other theories of motivation will be important in advancing self-objectification theory.

Parents and Motivation: the Role of Relatedness

Eva M. Pomerantz, Cecilia Sin-Sze Cheung, and Lili Qin

  • Many themes emerged in Pomerantz, Cheung, and Qin's chapter about parenting and motivation that they identified as important empirical questions to test. For example, understanding how different phases of the parent–child relationship impact children's academic functioning, and understanding the limits of relatedness to children's academic functioning represent two closely related lines of future research discussed by the authors.

  • The authors also believe that further understanding of developmental pathways, such as how children's sense of responsibility to parents may have an increased effect on their motivation over time, is needed in future research. They also called for examination of this issue cross-culturally.

Avoiding the Pitfalls and Approaching the Promises of Close Relationships

Shelly L. Gable and Thery Prok

  • Gable and Prok called for the field of approach and avoidance social motivation to move beyond examining individual differences to look at the situational factors, such as environmental cues for incentive or threat, that influence an individual to pursue interpersonal goals. Understanding cues in the environment and other situational influences represents a fruitful area of future research.

  • They considered it important for future research to examine implicit incentives and threats and their impacts on motivation.

  • They also wondered whether it is possible for people to learn to focus on different relationship goals, especially those low in approach or high in avoidance goals. Interventions on people's relationship goal tendencies, such as by cueing incentives, could be important for improving relationship functioning and wellness.

  • The authors called for more careful study of how motives and goals operate in long-term relationships over time.

Evolutionary and Biological Perspectives

Neuropsychology and Human Motivation

Johnmarshall Reeve and Woogul Lee

  • A goal of Revee and Lee's chapter was to show the relevance of neuroscience to motivation research in an effort to expand the field through introducing new methodology and theoretical conceptualizations. They wondered about the future of motivation and neuroscience, and how much the two fields will come to influence one another. They put this future in the hands of motivation researchers, who will need to be open and willing to learn more about neuroscience and its methods for this advancement to occur.

  • The authors raised many questions that will require a good deal of empirical support to eventually answer. For example, they asked whether neuroscience is relevant to only some parts of motivation or whether it is relevant to more general and complex types of motivation. Another question they posed as meriting inquiry: Can the brain generate motivation of its own? Or is the motivation at the neurological level always a response to environmental events?

  • They also encouraged more research on the compatibility of dependent measures in neuroscience, such as reaction times and cortical activations, with typical outcomes in motivation research. Research in motivational neuroscience has begun to identify neural bases of different motivational states, but completing such an endeavor might arguably be the biggest challenge facing this field.

Evolved Individual Differences in Human Emotion

Larry C. Bernard

  • Bernard advocates for more support from other areas of investigation, including comparative psychology and behavioral genetics, to further the study of evolved individual differences in personality and motivation.

  • (p. 561) He believes that future research should test multiple and conflicting motives to understand how they may interact to shape behavior. Moreover, it is important to test how different strengths in motive dimensions shape social cognition.

  • Bernard highlighted experimental personality research as a direction of future research.

  • He also saw potential utility of evolved individual differences in applied areas such as education, industrial/organizational, health, and clinical psychology.

Moods of Energy and Tension that Motivate

Robert E. Thayer

  • Thayer hoped that future investigations could help clarify how complex moods arise. He discussed “seemingly paradoxical effects” resulting from biopsychological states that simultaneously activate and deactivate the body, and thus suggested investigating these biopsychological states further as an important avenue in future research. He implied that moving beyond cross-sectional designs could help clarify the interplay of energetic and tense arousal producing complex moods. Experience or event sampling methodologies could be useful to future work.

  • Another unanswered issue that Thayer raised as a direction for future research concerns determining the “moderate point at which increasing tension leads first to increased energy but at some point to reduced energy.”

Effort Intensity: Insights from the Cardiovascular System

Guido H. E. Gendolla, Rex A. Wright, and Michael Richter

  • Gendolla, Wright, and Richter identified more investigation into the roles that consciousness and automaticity play in expending effort as an important future direction. Do people always consciously determine how much effort to mobilize for a behavior? The authors asserted that effort could become learned to the point of automaticity. Although the authors reviewed some evidence supporting this, they suggested that more research needs to be conducted before clear claims can be made about implicit effort mobilization.

  • They wondered whether awareness might also explain some of the mechanisms through which certain effort mobilization effects occur.

  • The authors suggested that future research examine the roles of personality and individual differences, and situational variables like task context and task framing on effort intensity and mobilization.

  • They also encouraged future researchers to conduct studies using other physiological correlates, such as brain activity, in tandem with cardiovascular measurements to better understand how the central and autonomic nervous systems interact to mobilize effort.

Motivation in Application

Motivation in Psychotherapy

Martin Grosse Holtforth and Johannes Michalak

  • Grosse Holtforth and Michalak asserted that motivation is critical for psychotherapy in all patients, and as such it should inform many aspects of therapy. A great deal of research is needed to answer the questions that they raise about motivational factors in psychotherapy. For example, insofar as motivational factors are linked to the onset and maintenance of psychopathology, what are the mechanisms underlying these links? Also on the issue of mechanism, the authors wonder about the mechanisms that underlie change in different therapeutic approaches.

  • Are there changes in both implicit and explicit motivation during psychotherapy interventions? Do different types of therapies change these two motivations in different ways?

  • To the extent that cultural factors impact motivation, how do they impact treatment?

  • Addressing the authors’ question about brain changes corresponding to changes in motivation during the course of therapy necessitates incorporating neuroscience methods into treatment outcome studies.

  • Clearly, diverse methodologies are needed to answer these complex questions. The authors proposed that experimental and longitudinal designs can help clarify these questions and advance future research in this field.

Motivation in Education

Allan Wigfield, Jenna Cambria, and Jacquelynne S. Eccles

  • Wigfield, Cambria, and Eccles believe that the issue of how individual differences (p. 562) in children, namely gender and ethnic differences, and different classroom contexts impact student's motivation merits attention for future research.

  • They encouraged future research to move beyond self-report measures of motivations and outcomes. They noted that conducting interviews and having multiple informants could help create a more complete picture of children's motivation in the classroom.

  • They urged researchers to continue to do intervention work, especially quasi-experimental designs and randomized trials, in classrooms at all education levels (from early elementary grades to high school).

  • The authors also identified collaboration with policy makers as an important next step to make sure that findings from motivation research, especially interventions, can better inform school reform in an effort to optimize children's motivation in school.

Advances in Motivation in Exercise and Physical Activity

Martin S. Hagger

  • Hagger identified interventions to change physical activity behavior as a main avenue for future research. He believes that careful evaluation of physical activity interventions is critical for understanding the “active ingredients” of change and of basic mechanisms of motivation.

  • He prioritized replicating and manualizing interventions as a direction for future studies, and as such called upon researchers to detail all aspects of their interventions, including how they evaluate treatment fidelity.

  • Hagger also pointed to research about implicit and explicit motivational processes on physical activity behavior as another valuable future area.

Work Motivation: Directing, Energizing, and Maintaining Research

Adam M. Grant and Jihae Shin

  • Grant and Shin hope to see researchers extend the scope of outcomes of work motivation into more specific topics such as creativity and task persistence.

  • They also would like to see more work on the effects of a broader range of rewards, such as recognition and appreciation, on motivation. Understanding these other reward structures may also help elucidate other conditions that can facilitate motivation.

  • Grant and Shin suggest that moving beyond the individual level of analysis is an important area for advancement of work motivation. Examining how motivation operates in work groups and teams, for example, merits more research attention.

  • They also encouraged future research focusing on the issue of worker motivation over time. Research that employs longitudinal methods could address this issue.

Motivation in Sport and Physical Activity

Maureen R. Weiss, Anthony J. Amorose, and Lindsay E. Kipp

  • Weiss, Amorose, and Kipp identified the issue of how family dynamics affect physical activity motivation in youth as a needed direction for future research. For example, family structure differences (e.g., single- vs. two-parent households) and family characteristics such as socioeconomic status may differentially impact sports and physical activity motivation. Understanding how these factors interact to facilitate or hinder motivation may serve to elucidate risk and protective factors, and help inform interventions and populations to be targeted.

  • Furthermore, these authors would like to understand in a fine-tuned way the parts of interventions that are more or less effective, such as the optimum length of time for a coaching intervention. They encouraged further investigation into the “active ingredients” producing change in coaching and teaching behaviors that lead to enhanced motivation in children.

  • They also thought that it is important for future research to determine how and why peer groups and friendships affect physical activity motivation.

  • They proposed that a variety of methodologies are necessary to accomplish these objectives, including ethnographic, interview, observational, and survey methods.

Motivation's Future: What's the Buzz?

Remembering that our Oxford Handbook of Human Motivation authors were not explicitly asked to write about future directions, most nonetheless did make some forward-looking comments. In our review of articles we tried to cull these visions (p. 563) into a cohesive picture of the future of motivation work. Of course, each of our “ommatidium” provided some unique ideas, typically connected with the specific area of research. But some overlap, or redundancy occurred, and we focus on that.

Perhaps the most widely cited future direction that emerged was, at least for us, a somewhat surprising one. Mentioned more than any other area for future research was investigations of dual-process models or more study of the distinctions and relations between automatic, or implicit, and deliberative, or explicit, goals. The fact that this interest emerged in so many papers reflects motivation researchers’ renewed interest in nonconscious processes and the motivated behavior they can organize. We would add to this the strong interest in the dynamic nature of motivation, as implicit and explicit processes can operate congruently or be in conflict. So despite our surprise it should have been of little wonder that this was the most saliently expressed future direction in the field, since it has both basic research and broad applied implications.

Alongside more examination of implicit and explicit processes, perhaps the next most frequently mentioned future direction was a call for more intervention research, including controlled or randomized clinical trials. The ideas expressed in this vein were not simply calls to “do good” with our knowledge. Instead, oft echoed was the idea that through intervention research we can significantly advance the basic science of human motivation. In attempting to test the efficacy and “stickiness” of interventions we gain greater understanding of mechanisms and basic processes at work, especially if we are careful to both appropriately randomize and measure potential mediators and moderators of obtained effects. Insofar as many theoretical traditions in the field of motivation are experimentally based, intervention research can also help establish the generalizability and relevance of theory to representative populations and everyday contexts.

A third frequently cited direction for future research was the call for more developmental and longitudinal research. Reflecting again the fact that so much theory in this volume is primarily founded upon experimental methods, and therefore focuses on short timeframes and proximal outcomes, the call for longitudinal research has at least two implications. First, longitudinal research advances our causal models because it can allow for some quasi-causal modeling and hypothesis testing. More important perhaps, developmental research would take seriously the idea that motivation transforms over time—changing in its qualities and complexity. Understanding these transformations and the systematic influences of maturation, context, and culture on motivational changes and manifestations over time clearly concerns our volume authors.

Following these “big three” themes of dual process, intervention and developmental research, emerging as important future directions were calls for greater integration between biological and psychological methods and theorizing. As Reeve and Lee point out in their chapter on the neuroscience of human motivation, more of a two-way street needs to develop between neuropsychology and behavioral scientists, one that navigates between the dual hazards of reductionism on the one hand and “floating” unanchored psychological constructs on the other. The excitement here is that mapping of psychological processes onto real-time biological correspondents offers opportunities to test hypothetical processes with a level of detail and resolution not previously accessible in our science. We might add here that this call for more integration was not limited to neuroscience. It is clear that we more broadly need to attach our motivation theories to biological functioning, including physiological measures of effort, exertion, arousal, and fatigue, as exemplified in the work reviewed by Gendolla, Wright, and Richter in this volume.

The only final big category that spanned across the majority of chapters was a desire for more understanding of how individual differences influence motivation. Here we include both calls for more studies of behavioral genetics, as well as more measurement of traits and stable characteristics that emerge in development from interactions of the genome with cultural and environmental factors. Individual differences are indeed understudied in a field that tends to focus on experimental methodologies and situational manipulations and effects. But clearly our experimental effects are frequently moderated by individual differences, many of which are still to be identified in their importance and mechanisms of influence. Put differently, individual differences qualify even the most common effects we study in this field, from the effects of mortality salience on defenses, to the impact of interpersonal controls on intrinsic motivation. Our authors identify our lack of focus on these moderating differences (other than as control variables) as a major gap in our knowledge.

Among the other topics for future direction that were mentioned frequently were the following: more studies of within-person changes over time, more (p. 564) studies of cultural and economic system influences on motivation, more studies of group (as opposed to individual) motivational processes, and more attention to motivation at the interface between humans and technology. And of course most every author called for more refined and sharper tools for digging into their particular plots within this field of study.

When all of these authors’ perspectives coalesce into one compound eye, it is clear that there is plenty of territory yet to explore within the field of human motivation. To get there, the fly's eye view suggests that we will especially need to intensify research efforts with regard to nonconscious motivational processes, accomplish more integrative work with biologists and comparative psychologists, and engage in more informative, research-intensive interventions, among other important future directions. Our hope is that the contributions within this volume help researchers envision new ways forward, so that we can satisfy not only our curiosity about human nature but also optimize our derived knowledge to help enhance human well-being, adaptation, and our collective quality of life. So let's get buzzing.


Riley, D. T., Harmann, W. M., Barrett, S. F., & Wright, C. H. (2008). Musca domestica inspired machine vision sensor with hyperacuity. Bioinspiration and Biomimetics, 3, 026003.Find this resource: