The Role of the Goal Concept in Motivation Science



Management has long been concerned with the question of how to motivate employees. Different motivational theories have been proposed, but few are related to goals. In this talk Professor Gollwitzer from New York University (NYU) will elucidate how relying on the goal concept facilitates the development and testing of theories in the science of motivation. For this purpose, he will focus on those theories whose development he was closely involved with the self-completion theory, the mindset theory of action phases, and the theory of if-then planning (also known as Implementation Intentions). So the focus is not on discussing the many different goal theories that have been developed and tested in the psychology of motivation by addressing the consequences of setting, striving for, and attaining goals of a different kind, or the various self-regulation strategies that have been suggested to help people commit to, pursue, and attain these goals. Rather, Professor Gollwitzer will try to demonstrate convincingly that the goal concept is a powerful tool when it comes to creating theories that facilitate the understanding of phenomena that are at the center stage in the science of motivation.


Peter M. Gollwitzer has worked in academic institutions in the US and in Germany (universities and research institutes such as the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research), heading various interdisciplinary research groups. The common theme of his research is the effective self-regulation of thought, affect, and action. His research methods reach from conducting laboratory studies using cognitive task paradigms (e.g., executive function tasks) and taking neuro-physiological (EEG, fMRI, MEG) and behavioral measures, to performing field experiments and intervention studies with clinical samples (e.g., children with ADHD, stroke patients, individuals suffering from addictions or anxiety disorders). He has developed various models of self-regulation: the Theory of Symbolic Self-Completion (with Robert A. Wicklund), the Rubicon Model of Action Phases (with Heinz Heckhausen), the Auto-motive Model of Automatic Goal Striving (with John A. Bargh), the Mindset Theory of Action Phases, and a Theory of Planning that specifies implementation intentions (if-then plans) as a powerful self-regulation tool. Currently he is Professor of Psychology at New York University and a recipient of the Max Plank Research Award.