You are on page 1of 12

Scheldon, K. M. (2008). The interface of motivation science and personology.

Self-concordance, quality motivation, and multilevel personality integration. In J.

Y. Shah & W. L. (Eds.) Handbook of Motivation Science (pp. 465-476). N.Y.:
The Guilford Press.

Chapter 30

The Interface of Motivation Science

and Personology

Kennon M. Sheldon

MOTIVATION SCIENCE performance. However, I would like to con-

AND THE QUALITY OF MOTIVATION sider a more phenomenological issue, in which
a persons relationship to his or her own goal
In this chapter I address an issue that has had or motive is of paramount importance. Does
an uneasy history within motivation science: the person enjoy and identify with the goal?
namely, the quality of a persons motivation. How does the goal fit with the persons sense of
I consider this issue in depth in the next section self, with the kind of personality traits he or she
by explicating the concept of self-concordance has, and with basic human needs more gener-
(Sheldon, 2002; Sheldon & Elliot, 1999), but ally? Is the goal or motive the right one for
would first like to begin with some more gen- the whole person, or might he or she have in-
eral remarks. My hope is to place the search for stead made a mistake in choosing the goal?
motivational quality in a broader, scientifically These qualitative questions invite humanistic
valid context. and existential analysisforms of inquiry that
Notably, most contemporary motivational cognitively oriented psychologists have long
theories focus on cognitive constructs, such as viewed with suspicion. It is notoriously diffi-
positive expectancies, skill possession, type of cult to conceptualize, quantify, and evaluate
priming, type of goal framing, type of imple- such complex constructs, and thus there is an
mentation intention, type of systemic configu- ever-present temptation to ignore them or to
ration, and so on (Shah, Kruglanski, & Fried- try to reduce them to simpler, more molecular
man, 2003). In addition, they could be said to processes.
focus primarily upon the quantity of motiva- However, I contend that motivation science
tion, and also upon the quantity of effective will not be complete until it successfully


grapples with these vital personological issues, Space does not permit a full discussion of the
which transcend mere cognition. Rather figure (see Sheldon, 2004, for such a discus-
than being dismissable as too vague or too sion), but a brief summary is warranted. The
amenable to explanation via more molecular assumption is that human behavior is influ-
analysis, such questions instead directly ad- enced by a nested set of coacting and interact-
dress the highest levels of influence upon hu- ing factors. Lower-level processes tend to sup-
man behaviorlevels that cannot be reduced ply the how of behavior, and also appeal to
to lower levels of influence. In other words, in scientists desire for parsimony and reduc-
order to understand human motivation fully, tionism. Higher-level processes tend to supply
we will have to understand what it means to be the why of behavior, and appeal to scientists
a motivated person, at a transcognitive level of desire for holistic context and broader intelligi-
analysis. I also show in this chapter that it is bility. Lower levels provide the necessary sup-
quite possible to approach these issues by using ports and prerequisites for higher-level func-
quantitative methodologies. tioning to emerge, and thus higher levels of
organization cannot exist without the lower
levels. However, lower levels can never fully ac-
A MULTILEVEL FRAMEWORK FOR VIEWING count for higher-level effects, precisely because
MOTIVATION AND PERSONALITY of the characteristic of higher-order emergence.
In addition, higher levels can moderate the
To justify my assertion and to locate my discus- functioning of lower levels, in ways that also
sion of self-concordance within an appropriate cannot be understood purely in terms of the
context, I must briefly consider the many levels lower level of analysis. Thus higher levels of
of influence upon human behavior, and also the analysis have to be considered in their own
relation of the various human sciences to each terms (i.e., in terms of principles or regularities
other. Figure 30.1 attempts to provide such a existing at each level of analysis).
global context, using a multilevel hierarchical As this reasoning suggests, a hierarchical
framework. The framework is offered in the pluralistic perspective is probably necessary for
spirit of achieving greater consilience within a full understanding of human behavior, in
psychology (Wilson, 1998), and between psy- which factors at each level of analysis can have
chology and the other social and natural sci- unique main effects upon behavior, and can
ences. also evidence cross-level interactions with fac-
tors at other levels (Cacioppo, Berntson, &
Crites, 1996). Similarly, every type of human
Level of Analysis: Science That Studies It: science (i.e., at every level of analysis within
Figure 30.1) is needed for full understanding:
Culture Sociology, Anthropology

None can be reduced to any other, and each has
Social Interaction Social Psychology its own part to play within the final model of
human behavior. Of course, the relative contri-
Personality Personality Psychology bution of factors and sciences at different levels
of analysis doubtless depend on the particular
Cognition Cognitive Psychology behavioral phenomenon being studied (e.g., bi-
ologically oriented explanations might best ex-
Brain/Nervous System Neuroscience plain a trip to the market, and personality-
oriented explanations might best explain a trip
Organ Tissues Medicine, Biology to the psychiatrist). Although such variations
doubtless exist, the most important point is
Cells Microbiology that no level of analysis is completely reducible
to any other level; all of the levels within Figure
Molecules Chemistry 30.1 supply explanatory power, at least for
some types of behavioral phenomena.
Atoms Physics To apply the model, let us take an example.
A person is choosing to trust and cooperate
FIGURE 30.1. Potential influences on human behavior. with another person, in a situation in which
From Sheldon (2004, p. 17). Copyright 2004 by there is some risk of being exploited. This
Lawrence Erlbaum. Reprinted by permission. behavior might be explained in terms of neuro-
30. The Interface of Motivation Science and Personology 467

chemical factors (i.e., elevated dopamine or Self/Life Story

serotonin levels within the persons brain), +
cognitive factors (i.e., high expectancies, acces-
Personality = Goals/Intentions
sibilities, or calculated utilities within the per-
sons mind), personality factors (i.e., particu- +
lar values, traits, and self-images within the Traits/Individual Differences
persons personality), social contextual factors +
(i.e., particular communication patterns or sta-
Organismic Foundations
tus relations existing between the two person-
alities), and cultural factors (i.e., particular
norms, traditions, or orientations of the culture FIGURE 30.2. Four tiers of personality and person-
in which the two personalities interact). The ality theory. From Sheldon (2004, p. 47). Copyright
goal of multilevel empirical analysis would be 2004 by Lawrence Erlbaum. Reprinted by permis-
to determine how best to predict a target sion.
behavior (such as cooperation by a given per-
son in a given situation in a given culture), by
considering the main and interactive effects of thinking and feeling), his or her goals and mo-
relevant factors at every level (or at least many tives (the conscious objectives, projects, and
levels) of analysis. Of course, we do not yet purposes that he or she pursues), and his or her
possess the modeling capability to handle mul- self and self-concepts (the narratives and self-
tilevel models of this complexity (Hox, 2002), images in which the person lives). McAdams
and even if we did, the sheer quantity of data argues that each of these three levels of analysis
required would be daunting (i.e., samples of supplies independent information about the
thousands of people from around the world person, because none of the levels is reducible
upon whom thousands of measurements would to other levels.
be made). Still, thinking in these terms may be Whereas the traits, goals, and selves levels
a useful exercise. address important domains of individual dif-
To restate my earlier claim within the con- ference, it also seems important to consider
text of Figure 30.1, most contemporary moti- basic personality processes that are common
vational and personality research focuses on to all individuals, and upon which individual
the cognitive level of analysis, again by focus- differences rest (Buss, 1995). Thus I have ar-
ing on expectancies, framing, action plans, gued (Sheldon, 2004) that there should also
priming and semantic associations, ifthen be a fourth, organismic foundations level
contingencies, and the like. Indeed, there have appended to the hierarchy (as has been done
been some attempts to explain personality in Figure 30.2). I have taken an evolutionary
completely in terms of cognitive informa- perspective in elaborating on this level, specif-
tion processing (Cervone, 2004; Shoda & ically by considering innate physical needs
LeeTiernan, 2002). However, I believe it is vital and drives, innate social cognitive mecha-
to consider personality processes at their own nisms, innate psychological needs and mo-
level, rather than attempting to reduce them to tives, and innate sociocultural universals. In
lower levels. What are the unique psychologi- particular, I have focused on basic psycholog-
cal contingencies and imperatives that operate ical needs at this level, because of their rele-
at this higher level of analysis, and that must be vance for optimal functioning and well-being.
considered on their own terms? I have suggested that security, self-esteem, au-
In order to begin to approach this question, tonomy, competence, and relatedness consti-
it is necessary to further unpack the personality tute the universal set of psychological needs
level of analysis in Figure 30.1. One potentially that all humans in all cultures need in order
useful framework for doing so is provided in to thrive (Sheldon, 2004; Sheldon, Elliot,
Figure 30.2. The framework builds upon Kim, & Kasser, 2001).
McAdamss proposed three tiers of personal- Notice that the four levels of analysis de-
ity and personality theory. McAdams (1996, picted in Figure 30.2 can be viewed as hierar-
1998) has argued that complete personality chically nested, at least to some extent. Person-
analysis involves consideration of a persons ality traits emerge in the interaction between
personality traits (biologically, temperamen- basic human nature and the individual persons
tally, and historically influenced patterns of unique genetics and developmental history;

goals and motives emerge in the interaction be- (Sedikides & Skowronski, 1997). Still, the con-
tween the persons personality traits and his or structed nature of the self entails that people
her environment and affordances; and selves can sometimes be out of touch with them-
and self-stories emerge in the interaction be- selves, such that there is incongruence be-
tween the persons motives, goals, and behav- tween self-concept and underlying organism
iors and his or her desire to tell a coherent life (Rogers, 1964). In terms of Epsteins (1973)
story. Thus the four tiers described above might well-known self-theory model of the self, peo-
be inserted directly into Figure 30.1, as elabo- ples theories about who they are can be quite
rations at the level of personality. Of course, inadequate in modeling their actual underlying
goals are more than emergent products of personalities.
traits, and selves are more than emergent prod- In order to measure the state of self-
ucts of traits and goals. Still, even if the as- concordance, I have applied self-determination
sumption of strong emergence does not hold in theorys perceived locus of causality (PLOC)
the case of the four levels of personality, I still concept (Deci & Ryan, 1991, 2000; Ryan &
contend that they depict four unique and irre- Connell, 1989). This humanistically based con-
ducible forms of personological inquiry, and cept specifies a continuum of motivational in-
that together they usefully elaborate upon the ternalization, ranging from external (the per-
personality level of analysis depicted in Figure son acts because the situation or some other
30.1. person seems to compel it; no internalization)
to introjected (the person acts because he or she
compels him- or herself, to avoid guilt or anxi-
THE SELF-CONCORDANCE CONCEPT ety; partial internalization) to identified (the
person acts to express a self-endorsed value or
Elsewhere (Sheldon, 2002), I have conceptual- belief, even if the behavior is nonenjoyable or
ized self-concordance as the extent to which a even aversive; full internalization) to intrinsic
persons goals correctly represent their deeper (the person acts because of the interest, stimu-
personality dispositions, needs, and motives. In lation, and pleasure supplied by the behavior
terms of Figure 30.2, self-concordance con- itself; inherent internalization). External and
cerns the degree of consistency or fit between introjected motivations represent controlled
the goal level of personality, and the organismic forms of motivation, in which the person does
and trait levels of personality. The person has not feel like the cause of his or her behavior.
managed to select the right goals for him- or Identified and intrinsic motivations represent
herselfthe ones that best channel and direct self-determined forms of motivation, in which
the persons energies in the service of his or her the person feels fully causal with respect to his
best potentials. This is no small feat, given that or her behavior. Deci, Ryan, and colleagues
self-knowledge and self-access are forever un- have published a wide variety of studies dem-
certain (Wilson, 2002). Thus people can some- onstrating the positive effects of acting for self-
times select terribly inappropriate goals for determined rather than controlled reasons,
themselves, wasting much time and energy in within domains as diverse as education, sports,
their pursuit. organizations, and medicine (see Deci & Ryan,
How can people act against their own best 2000, for a review).
interests? In my view, this is a consequence of Because my own work employs the PLOC
the fact that the emergent self has irreducible concept, it might be said to provide simply an-
higher-level influence upon its own behavior. other way of assessing self-determination. Al-
The self creates itself, and in so doing it has the though this is true, I have argued that the
freedom (or the curse) to make poor or incor- PLOC concept has extended meaning in the
rect choices with respect to its own deeper na- case of idiographic personal goals (Sheldon,
ture and lower-level supports. Self-perception 2002). Rather than assessing reactive and
is difficult (Wilson, 2002), and people are eas- domain-specific motivation with regard to
ily distracted from the subtle internal signals experimenter-supplied stems, personal goal
that might indicate the most optimal choices. methodologies instead allow assessment of
Of course, the emergent self also has the ability proactive domain-general motivation, with re-
to create excellent solutions to the organisms gard to participant-supplied stems. Such goals
problems, which is presumably why it evolved and initiatives encompass a wide variety of life
30. The Interface of Motivation Science and Personology 469

contexts, and thus they allow for comprehen- and developmental achievement, upon which
sive assessment of the motivational aspect of individuals vary. Failures to select self-
personality (Emmons, 1989). Also, they allow appropriate goals may be indicated when the
for consideration of important questions about person endorses relatively controlled, rather
personality development that go beyond than self-determined, reasons for his or her
domain-specific motivationquestions con- goals. In such cases, the persons choices are
cerning how people construct and create them- perhaps being overly driven by others or by
selves over time. nonintegrated internal pressures, rather than
Interestingly, personal goal statements are by his or her own underlying needs, traits, and
created ex nihilo: A participant can identify growth impulses.
any goal he or she likes, with no constraints on
content. One might expect, then, that people
would only write down goals that they truly EMPIRICAL SUPPORT
enjoy and/or believe in. Surprisingly, however, FOR THE SELF-CONCORDANCE CONSTRUCT
this is not the case: Our data reveal that some
people list many goals that they do not enjoy I have begun this chapter by considering the
and do not believe in. I have explained this par- quality of motivation, and obviously I see
adox (Sheldon, 2002) with the above-discussed the self-concordance measure as an apt mea-
suggestion that some people do not have the sure of motivational quality. It is, of course,
maturity or self-perceptual skills to select the important to back up such a claim with ap-
correct goals for themselves (i.e., goals that propriate evidence. One implication of the
well represent their personalities and that humanistic perspective outlined above is that
would further their growth and well-being if self-concordance should be concurrently asso-
pursued). The sign of such non-self-concordant ciated with a wide variety of positive person-
goals is that a person does not enjoy them and ality characteristics and states. Another impli-
cannot get behind them. cation, given that personal goals are dynamic
Notice that my approach to assessing self- constructs that energize and regulate the per-
concordance does not directly assess the fit of sons behavior over time (Little, 1993), is that
goals (at level 3 of Figure 30.2) with the per- self-concordance should be associated with
sons traits and his or her organismic needs (at positive changes in a persons characteristics
levels 1 and 2 of Figure 30.2). However, I as- and state over time. This section outlines
sume that the latter judgments are difficult to the evidence in support of these two implica-
make; they require accurate knowledge of ones tions.
own needs and traits, for starters, as well as the One study (Sheldon & Kasser, 1995) as-
ability to estimate the relevance of ones goals sessed the self-concordance of participants 10
for those entities. In contrast, judgments con- most important personal strivings (Emmons,
cerning the humanistic quality of ones goals 1989), using the PLOC measure discussed
(i.e., does one feel pressured and guilty regard- above. Concurrent associations were found be-
ing ones goals, or instead interested and identi- tween aggregate self-concordance and a wide
fied with them?) are much easier to make, and variety of positive personality and state vari-
approach the same basic issues from a phenom- ables, including self-actualization, vitality, pos-
enological perspective. Also, many people have itive affect, openness, empathy, self-esteem, au-
ambivalent relationships with their goals, and tonomy orientation, life satisfaction, and low
readily admit to feelings of guilt or pressure negative affect. Another study (Sheldon, 1995)
with respect to them. Thus the PLOC method- found associations between self-concordance
ology may provide a valuable shortcut to as- and two different measures of personal creativ-
sessing persongoal fit. ity. A third study (Sheldon & Elliot, 2000)
To summarize, self-concordance is conceptu- found that self-concordance for goals within
alized as the degree to which conscious goals particular life roles was associated with greater
(at level 3 of Figure 30.2) correctly represent satisfaction and better performance of those
the deeper and more stable levels of personality roles. These findings all support the postulate
(organismic needs and traits/dispositions, at that self-concordance and many types of posi-
levels 1 and 2 of Figure 30.2). Selecting self- tive functioning should be correlated at a given
appropriate goals is viewed as a difficult skill moment in time.

To turn to the second implication, we (Shel- pared to fall goal attainment. Finally, spring
don & Elliot, 1998) evaluated the dynamic ef- goal attainment predicted even higher adjust-
fects of self-concordance in a month-long study ment at the end of the freshman year. Thus it
of personal projects (Little, 1993). In that appears that beginning a new period of life
study, self-concordance predicted greater longi- with self-concordant goals may lead to an up-
tudinal goal attainmentan effect that was ward spiral of positive change.
mediated by the greater sustained effort that Notably, in all of the studies discussed
participants gave to more self-concordant above, more conventional and cognitively
goals. We argued that people do not give up as based constructs were assessed in addition to
quickly on their self-concordant goals, because self-concordanceconstructs such as skills, ex-
such goals accurately represent deeper person- pectancies, plans, commitment, framing (ap-
ality and thus have more stable motivational proach vs. avoidance), and implementation in-
resources to draw upon. A second study (Shel- tentions. Although these constructs sometimes
don & Elliot, 1999) replicated and extended had their own effects, in all cases self-
these findings, supporting an elaborate path concordance demonstrated significant indepen-
model concerning dynamic changes in well- dent effects. For example, in the Sheldon and
being. In that model, which fit the data well, Elliot (1999) study, self-concordance was still a
self-concordance at time 1 predicted greater significant predictor of goal attainment even
goal attainment during the semester. Goal at- when the significant effects of implementation
tainment in turn predicted greater organismic intentions, approach (vs. avoidance) framing,
need satisfaction during the semester (strong and life skills were taken account of. This sup-
experiences of autonomy, competence, and re- ports the assertion made at the beginning of the
latedness as assessed at five points during the chapter that personological or self-level issues
semester), which in turn predicted rank-order cannot be reduced to cognitive-level constructs,
increases in global well-being (positive mood, but rather need to be given independent voice
negative mood, and life satisfaction) from the in any final model of goal striving. Again, I be-
beginning to the end of the semester. lieve that motivation science needs to consider
In the Sheldon and Elliot (1999) study, in ad- all of the levels of analysis listed in Figure 30.1,
dition to influencing goal attainment directly, in order to arrive at a complete picture.
self-concordance also interacted with goal at-
tainment to predict organismic need satisfac-
tion: The more self-concordant the attained FURTHER FEATURES
goals, the greater the boost in need satisfaction. OF THE SELF-CONCORDANCE CONSTRUCT
A similar interaction was obtained in a dif-
ferent longitudinal study (Sheldon & Kasser, In this section I discuss some of the most recent
1988): Those with more self-concordant goals research concerning the self-concordance con-
derived more well-being benefits from attain- struct, to better illustrate the nature of the con-
ing those goals. Note that the finding that self- struct.
concordance predicted greater longitudinal
need satisfaction supports the assumption, ar-
Self-Concordance Effects
ticulated above, that self-concordance as mea-
Are More Than Goal Content Effects
sured by the self-determination theorys PLOC
methodology adequately measures the fit be- Self-concordance addresses the quality of moti-
tween the persons goals and his or her deeper vation by asking people why they are striv-
personality (which includes organismic needs). ing. For what phenomenological reasons are
A two-cycle study of personal goal striving they pursuing a goal? Another important issue
over the freshman year (Sheldon & Houser- for considering the quality of motivation, how-
Marko, 2001) extended this model even fur- ever, is in terms of the what of goals: What
ther. In that model, which also fit the data well, are the specific goal contents and targets that
initial goal self-concordance predicted fall goal people are pursuing? Kasser and Ryan (1993,
attainment, which also predicted increased ad- 1996) proposed a distinction between intrinsic
justment over the first semester of college. Fall (intimacy, community, personal growth) and
goal attainment also predicted increased self- extrinsic (money, fame, beauty) goal contents.
concordance for spring semester goals, which Supporting the idea that this measure indexes
predicted greater spring goal attainment com- the personological health of motivation,
30. The Interface of Motivation Science and Personology 471

they showed that those who give more impor- However, we (Sheldon, Elliot, et al., 2004)
tance to intrinsic rather than extrinsic goals found no such interaction. Instead, we showed
also evidence greater well-being and psycho- that self-concordance predicted concurrent psy-
logical adjustment (see also Kasser, 2002). chological well-being to the same extent in each
Some have argued that what and why of four different cultural groups: China, Taiwan,
effects upon well-being are essentially the same South Korea, and the United States. In other
effect (Carver & Baird, 1998; Srivastava, words, no matter which subsample the partici-
Locke, & Bartol, 2001), and in particular that pants came from, they were happier persons if
content effects are reducible to reason (or mo- they were more self-concordant persons. This is
tive) effects. However, recent research (Shel- as would be expected, according to self-
don, Ryan, Deci, & Kasser, & 2004) indicates determination theorys assumption that all hu-
that the what and the why factors make mans need to feel ownership and identification
independent contributions to predicting well- of their own behavior (presumed to be a species-
being and positive outcomes. Because of these typical and largely invariant characteristic, lo-
additive main effects, those who pursue intrin- cated at the bottom level of Figure 30.2).
sic goals for self-concordant reasons are typi- It is worth briefly considering why the data
cally best off; those who pursue extrinsic goals do not seem to support the cross-cultural per-
for nonconcordant reasons are usually worst spective. Deci and Ryan (2000) have argued
off; and those who pursue extrinsic goals for that cross-cultural analyses of autonomy often
self-concordant reasons, or intrinsic goals for conflate personal autonomy (volition and self-
nonconcordant reasons, are generally in the ownership) with social independence (freedom
middle. from influence by others). According to self-
determination theory, these are very different
constructs. One can feel quite proud and inde-
Self-Concordance Matters
pendent but still not autonomous and voli-
in Collectivist Cultures
tional, because one is being driven by implicit
Self-determination theory is described as uni- fears and self-esteem threats (Crocker & Park,
versally applicablethat is, as applying equally 2004). In contrast, one can feel quite autono-
to all persons in all cultures (Deci & Ryan, mous, even as one is profoundly influenced by
2000). Because the self-concordance measure is another person. From the perspective of self-
based on self-determination theorys PLOC determination theory, the key question is this:
methodology, this implies that goal self- Can one take possession of ones behavior in
concordance should predict positive outcomes the face of that influence? In short, although
in any context or culture. This may sound sur- the benefits of social independence may vary
prising to those familiar with contemporary across cultures, the benefits of autonomy ap-
cross-cultural theory, as cross-culturalists typi- pear to be consistent across cultures, support-
cally view autonomy and self-determination ing the proposal that autonomy is an inherent
as culturally bound constructs. For example, human need (see also Chirkov, Ryan, Kim, &
Markus, Kitayama, and Heiman (1996) and Kaplan, 2003).
Oishi and Diener (2001) have argued that au-
tonomy and self-determination are primarily
Self-Concordance Increases with Age
important in individualist cultures, whereas
in collectivist cultures conformity and group- Self-determination theory is based on an organ-
centeredness are more adaptive and beneficial ismic metatheory. Organismic perspectives, in
for the individual. Note that this argument im- contrast to mechanistic perspectives, as-
plies that there should be a cross-level interac- sume that living things are fundamentally self-
tion between culture (cultural type, at the top organizing and autotelic, or self-moving
level of Figure 30.1) and goal-striving (degree (Goldstein, 1939; Overton, 1976). Piagets con-
of self-concordance, at the personality level of ception of the exploring child, who actively
Figure 30.1), in determining individual well- constructs his or her own mind through self-
being. In this view, although self-concordance initiated interactions with the environment, is a
might predict positive well-being in some cul- good example of an organismic metatheory.
tures, it might predict negative well-being in Organismic perspectives also tend to make op-
other cultures, in which self-assertion is a cause timistic assumptions about human nature
or sign of social isolation or exclusion. namely, that humans are inherently growth-

oriented, and also have an inherent desire to MORE COMPLEX CONCEPTUAL ISSUES
mesh with and contribute to the broader social
The Real Meaning of Self-Concordance
environment (Rogers, 1964). These assump-
tions are based on the essential negentropic na- Some readers may have wondered whether the
ture of life and human life in particular (i.e., self-concordance construct is misnamed. Con-
humans drive to move toward greater organi- ceptually, the construct refers to the fit between
zation and elaboration over time, both intra- conscious goals (at level 3 of Figure 30.2)
personally and interpersonally). However, or- and the two deeper (or lower) levels of
ganismic theories also acknowledge that the personalitythat is, needs and traits (at levels
growth process can be stalled or even re- 1 and 2 of Figure 30.2). Notice that level 4 of
gressed, depending on a variety of problematic Figure 30.2, the self level of personality, is not
social contextual and intrapersonal factors. Be- referred to in this definition. Given this fact,
cause of this, Deci and Ryan (2000) stated that perhaps the construct should be called need
the development of greater self-determination concordance or trait concordance, rather than
is ultimately a dialectical process, in which a self-concordance. Perhaps the term self-
person must learn to integrate external influ- concordance should be reserved to refer to a
ences and internal drives that may initially different state, in which ones goals are con-
overwhelm his or her self-regulatory capacity. sistent with ones self-concept and the self-
Again, however, the organismic perspective character in which one lives. Is there a differ-
suggests that if environments are at least rea- ence between the latter and the former forms of
sonably supportive, then positive change concordance? Potentially yes, if the self is out
should tend to occur over time. of touch with itself, such that the lived self
Recent research has provided significant new does not well reflect the actual personality (i.e.,
evidence for these optimistic assumptions, by ones deeper traits and needs). Ones goals
showing that self-concordance tends to in- might then match ones sense of self, without
crease with age. For example, a cross-sectional matching ones actual personality. In Epsteins
study (Sheldon & Kasser, 2001) showed that (1973) terms, ones self-theory may be a bad
chronological age was associated with higher theory of its topic (i.e., the personality in which
goal self-concordancean effect that partially the self is contained).
mediated the association between chronologi- A related paradox arises when we consider
cal age and subjective well-being. Similarly, the fact that the self-concordance measure is
another study (Sheldon, Houser-Marko, & based on self-report regarding the participants
Kasser, 2006) showed that parents reported self-concept. Doesnt this make it a measure of
higher mean levels of goal self-concordance goalself concordance after all, rather than a
than their own college-age children did. In a measure of goalneeds or goaltrait concor-
related vein, three studies (Sheldon, Kasser, dance? Of course, there are also many potential
Houser-Marko, Jones, & Turban, 2005) problems with self-report, which prompt us to
showed that parents and older participants evi- ask whether participants self-report ratings
denced greater self-concordance for their social should be taken as face-valid indicators of their
duties and roles. These findings further bolster personality structure. But on the other hand,
the evidence base for the self-concordance con- dont personality psychologists usually take
struct, as they show its consistency with the or- self-reports as valid indicators of peoples ac-
ganismic metatheory from which it springs. tual traits and characteristics? Perhaps the
They also suggest that people learn to select latter paradox is not unique to the self-
more self-appropriate goals as they get older, concordance construct, but refers to the more
presumably by having paid attention to their general problems that arise when researchers
own experience. In other words, older persons rely on participants own models of themselves
tend to base their goals less on what others for information about those participants per-
think, and more on accurate internal informa- sonalities.
tion concerning their own needs and personali- Obviously, these are sticky issues. I believe
ties. Again, these two sources of information that the PLOC-based self-concordance mea-
are not necessarily in opposition; those who are sure really does measure goal-to-needs and
better in touch with themselves are typically goal-to-traits fit, given the many documented
better able to be in touch with others. associations of self-concordance with well-
30. The Interface of Motivation Science and Personology 473

being, need satisfaction, and positive trait ex- self-reports and deeper parts of the personality.
pression. In addition, however, the PLOC mea- One series of studies examined the speed and
sure may also measure goal-to-self fit (Sheldon the accuracy with which participants recog-
& Emmons, 1995); it seems logical to suppose nized and claimed their own goals (flashed on a
that if one enjoys, identifies, and does not feel computer screen), compared to decoy goals.
pressured by a goal, then it probably expresses Specifically, we found a predicted response
and concords with ones life narratives and goal-type interaction, in which mistake trials
sense of self, as well as with ones needs and (saying that a decoy goal was ones own, or
traits. This conjecture awaits empirical corrob- saying that ones own goal was a decoy) took
oration. the most time. Thus one way of identifying im-
Still, the fact that the PLOC judgments are plicit ambivalence regarding a goal may be to
based on self-report raises further concep- look for recognition errors regarding that goal,
tual issues. What if a person appears self- or for hesitation when saying It is mine. To
concordant by self-report, but is quite discor- return to the example, the premedical student
dant in actuality (i.e., the person manifests might misclassify the doctor goal or recognize
illusory self-concordance)? Doubtless this is it slowly, providing clues to its true character
sometimes the case. For example, a premedical for him or her.
student might claim to strongly identify with A second study in this research program ap-
the goal of becoming a doctor, even though he proached implicit ambivalence in a different
or she hates the sight of blood, is bad at math way, showing an interaction such that par-
and science, and seems to have more talent in ticipants took longest when claiming that
other domains of life (Sheldon, 2004). Again, extrinsic goals (money, fame, beauty) were self-
Rogers (1964) described such cases in terms of concordant. In a speeded response task, partici-
the incongruence that can occur between pants were especially slow in responding that
self-concept and underlying organism, such identified and intrinsic motivation words went
that the self-concept does not accurately repre- together with extrinsic goals. The fact that the
sent the actual person and his or her feelings. hesitations occurred primarily in conjunction
Incongruence may result when the person is de- with known problematic goals (Sheldon,
fending an overidealized and inaccurate ver- Arndt, & Houser-Marko, 2003) suggests that
sion of the self due to past ego wounds and delayed responding may be a reliable indicator
threats, or when a person is anxious not to lose of goal problems, even in cases where nothing
the contingent love or approval of a parent or is known about a goals content.
mentor (e.g., in the case of the premedical stu- We have also begun employing the Implicit
dent, a parent who insists on the medical ca- Association Test (IAT; Greenwald, Nosek, &
reer). Pinpointing these cases becomes a vital Banaji, 2003) as a third means of assessing im-
issue, both for reducing measurement error and plicit ambivalence, and also of identifying illu-
increasing the predictive power of the self- sory self-concordance. The IAT asks partici-
concordance measure, and also for better un- pants to categorize stimuli into one of two
derstanding the deeper substantive meaning of categories, when the categories are associated
the construct. How might such illusory self- with either pleasant or unpleasant words. If
concordance be identified? categorization of a particular type of stimulus
is slowed down when that stimulus is associ-
ated with pleasant words, and speeded up
Detecting Implicit Ambivalence
when it is associated with unpleasant words,
or Illusory Self-Concordance
then the person is said to have a negative im-
What is needed is a way of measuring implicit plicit attitude toward the category (relative to
ambivalence regarding goalsambivalence the other category). Typically in IAT research,
that a person does not, or cannot, admit to. the two contrasting stimulus categories con-
Recently our lab (Sheldon, Houser-Marko, cern social cognitive issues such as participants
Osbaldiston, & King, 2007) has been explor- occupational stereotypes (doctor vs. nurse), ra-
ing various potential measures of implicit am- cial biases (blacks vs. whites), or political pref-
bivalence. The basic goal of the research has erences (Democrat vs. Republican). However,
been to develop polygraph-like methodologies we have applied the methodology to measure
to uncover potential discrepancies between relative implicit feelings regarding contrasting

types or contents of goals (i.e., intrinsic vs. tell if a person is pursuing the right goals and
extrinsic goals, ought goals vs. ideal goals, motives? Although this kind of question raises
parent-relevant goals vs. self-relevant goals). concerns regarding value judgments and scien-
In one study (Sheldon, King, Houser-Marko, tific objectivity, I have argued that it is essential
Osbaldiston, & Gunz, in press), we contrasted if we want to understand the whole person, not
intimacy with power goals; this was deemed an just his or her cognitive systems. To justify this
organismically relevant content dichotomy to assertion, I have presented a multilevel hierar-
use, since power has been shown to be neg- chical framework for considering and explain-
atively related to well-being and intimacy ing human behavior, arguing that all levels of
positively related to psychological well-being the framework are necessary for complete ex-
(Emmons, 1991). Participants generated four position. In this point of view, personality and
goals within each category. The eight goals self-level processes cannot be reduced to
were entered into an IAT, which participants mere cognitive processes; there are trans-
took during a later laboratory session. Each cognitive rules and laws operating at this level.
participant engaged in 140 trials. Each trial I have also considered a four-level subframe-
had an associated response time, which could work within the personality level of analysis,
be predicted via a 2 (goal type: intimacy or consisting of organismic needs/characteristics,
power) 2 (associated word type: pleasant or traits/dispositions, goals/intentions, and self/
unpleasant) analysis. Conceptually replicating self-narratives. I have contended that each of
the memory and word association interactions these spheres of the person operates via unique
discussed above, we found interactions such rules and regularitiesprocesses that cannot
that participants took longest in categorizing be reduced to lower levels of analysis (such as
power goals associated with pleasant words biological, neurological, and cognitive levels of
and intimacy goals associated with unpleasant analysis).
words, and were quickest in categorizing inti- Using this model, I have considered the self-
macy goals associated with pleasant words and concordance construct, which is defined as the
power goals associated with unpleasant words. match or fit between personal goals and the
We believe that the slowdown effect was due to two lower levels of personality (species-typical
interference between the predominantly nega- needs and differences in basic traits). I have re-
tive feelings associated with some types of viewed a variety of empirical data to support
goals, and the participants attempts to make the contention that self-concordance has both
a positive or affirmative response regarding momentary and dynamic influence upon a
those goals. persons well-being and level of thriving
The research discussed above shows promise influence that is independent of the influence
for revealing peoples deeper feelings regard- of lower-level, more cognitively oriented con-
ing their goals, and perhaps for pinpointing structs, and is also independent of the higher-
which goals within a persons system are most level factor of culture.
likely to benefit that person and which goals I have then considered the potential prob-
might better be abandoned. In terms of the lems attendant upon the fact that the self-
premedical student example, these methodolo- concordance measure is based on self-report.
gies might help to reveal hidden emotions re- Might some people exhibit illusory self-
garding important personal goalsemotions concordance, claiming strong interest and
of which the person is not consciously aware. identification concerning goals that are in fact
Such findings have clear and important impli- inappropriate for them? Our recent studies
cations for a variety of issues, including person- concerning implicit ambivalence suggest that
ality assessment, counseling techniques, and this can indeed happen, and that it is more
the detection of self-deception (Gur & likely to happen in the case of goals known to
Sackeim, 1979). be problematic for well-being, such as extrinsic
goals and power goals. The long-term aim of
these studies is to produce a technology
SUMMARY by which people might get in touch with
themselvesthat is, access their own implicit
This chapter has begun with a consideration of knowledge concerning the best or most satisfy-
the issue of motivational quality: How can we ing goal choices to make.
30. The Interface of Motivation Science and Personology 475

REFERENCES Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1996). Further examining

the American dream: Differential correlates of intrin-
Buss, D. (1995). Evolutionary psychology: A new para- sic and extrinsic goals. Personality and Social Psy-
digm for psychological science. Psychological In- chology Bulletin, 22, 8087.
quiry, 6, 130. Little, B. R. (1993). Personal projects and the distrib-
Cacioppo, J., Berntson, G., & Crites, S. (1996). Social uted self: Aspects of a conative psychology. In J. Suls
neuroscience: Principles of psychophysiological (Ed.), Psychological perspectives on the self: Vol. 4.
arousal and response. In E. T. Higgins & A. The self in social perspective (pp. 157185).
Kruglanski (Eds.), Social psychology: Handbook of Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
basic principles (pp. 72101). New York: Guilford Markus, H., Kitayama, S., & Heiman, R. (1996). Cul-
Press. ture and basic psychological principles. In E. T. Hig-
Carver, C. S., & Baird, E. (1998). The American dream gins & A. W. Kruglanski (Eds.), Social psychology:
revisited: Is it what you want or why you want it that Handbook of basic principles (pp. 857913). New
matters? Psychological Science, 9, 289292. York: Guilford Press.
Cervone, D. (2004). The architecture of personality. McAdams, D. P. (1996). Personality, modernity, and the
Psychological Review, 111, 183204. storied self: A contemporary framework for studying
Chirkov, V. I., Ryan, R. M., Kim, Y., & Kaplan, R. persons. Psychological Inquiry, 7, 295321.
(2003). Differentiating autonomy from individualism McAdams, D. P. (1998). Ego, trait, identity. In P. M.
and independence: A self-determination theory per- Westenberg & A. Blasi (Eds.), Personality develop-
spective on internalization of cultural orientations ment: Theoretical, empirical, and clinical investiga-
and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social tions of Loevingers conception of ego development
Psychology, 84, 97109. (pp. 2738). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Crocker, J., & Park, L. (2004). The costly pursuit of Oishi, S., & Diener, E. (2001). Goals, culture, and sub-
self-esteem. Psychological Bulletin, 130, 392414. jective well-being. Personality and Social Psychology
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1991). A motivational ap- Bulletin, 27, 16741682.
proach to self: Integration in personality. In R. Overton, W. F. (1976). The active organism in
Dienstbier (Ed.), Nebraska Symposium on Motiva- structuralism. Human Development, 19, 7186.
tion: Vol. 38. Perspectives on motivation (pp. 237 Rogers, C. R. (1964). Toward a modern approach to
288). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. values: The valuing process in the mature person.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The what and Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 68,
why of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self- 160167.
determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11, Ryan, R. M., & Connell, J. P. (1989). Perceived locus of
227268. causality and internalization: Examining reasons for
Emmons, R. A. (1989). The personal strivings approach acting in two domains. Journal of Personality and
to personality. In L. A. Pervin (Ed.), Goal concepts in Social Psychology, 57, 749761.
personality and social psychology (pp. 87126). Sedikides, C., & Skowronski, J. J. (1997). The symbolic
Hillsdale,NJ: Erlbaum. self in evolutionary content. Personality and Social
Emmons, R. A. (1991). Personal strivings, daily life Psychology Review, 1, 80102.
events, and psychological and physical well-being. Shah, J., Kruglanski, A., & Friedman, R. (2003). Goal
Journal of Personality, 59, 453472. systems theory: Integrating the cognitive and motiva-
Epstein, S. (1973). The self-concept revisited: Or a the- tional aspects of self-regulation. In S. Spence & S.
ory of a theory. American Psychologist, 28, 404416. Fein (Eds.), The Ontario Symposium: Vol. 9. Moti-
Goldstein, K. (1939). The organism. New York: Ameri- vated social perception (pp. 247275). Mahwah, NJ:
can Book. Erlbaum.
Greenwald, A. G., Nosek, B. A., & Banaji, M. R. Sheldon, K. M. (1995). Creativity and self-
(2003). Understanding and using the Implicit Associ- determination in personality. Creativity Research
ation Test: I. An improved scoring algorithm. Journal Journal, 8, 6172.
of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 197216. Sheldon, K. M. (2002). The self-concordance model of
Gur, R. C., & Sackeim, H. (1979). Self-deception: A healthy goal-striving: When personal goals correctly
concept in search of a phenomenon. Journal of Per- represent the person. In E. L. Deci & R. M. Ryan
sonality and Social Psychology, 37, 147169. (Eds.), Handbook of self-determination research
Hox, J. (2002). Multilevel analysis: Techniques and ap- (pp. 6586). Rochester, NY: University of Rochester
plications. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Press.
Kasser, T. (2002). The high price of materialism. Cam- Sheldon, K. M. (2004). Optimal human being: An inte-
bridge, MA: MIT Press. grated multi-level approach. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1993). A dark side of the Sheldon, K. M., Arndt, J., & Houser-Marko, L. (2003).
American dream: Correlates of financial success as a In search of the organismic valuing process: The hu-
central life aspiration. Journal of Personality and So- man tendency to move towards beneficial goal
cial Psychology, 65, 410422. choices. Journal of Personality, 71, 835869.

Sheldon, K. M., & Elliot, A. J. (1998). Not all personal Sheldon, K. M., & Kasser, T. (1995). Coherence and
goals are personal: Comparing autonomous and con- congruence: Two aspects of personality integration.
trolled reasons as predictors of effort and attainment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68,
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24, 546 531543.
557. Sheldon, K. M., & Kasser, T. (1998). Pursuing personal
Sheldon, K. M., & Elliot, A. J. (1999). Goal striving, goals: Skills enable progress, but not all progress is
need-satisfaction, and longitudinal well-being: The beneficial. Personality and Social Psychology Bulle-
self-concordance model. Journal of Personality and tin, 24, 13191331.
Social Psychology, 76, 482497. Sheldon, K. M., & Kasser, T. (2001). Getting older, get-
Sheldon, K. M., & Elliot, A. J. (2000). Personal goals in ting better?: Personal strivings and personality devel-
social roles: Divergences and convergences across opment across the life-course. Developmental Psy-
roles and levels of analysis. Journal of Personality, chology, 37, 491501.
68, 5184. Sheldon, K. M., Kasser, T., Houser-Marko, L., Jones, T.,
Sheldon, K. M., Elliot, A. J., Kim, Y., & Kasser, T. & Turban, D. (2005). Doing ones duty: Chronologi-
(2001). Whats satisfying about satisfying events?: cal age, felt autonomy, and subjective well-being. Eu-
Comparing ten candidate psychological needs. Jour- ropean Journal of Personality, 19, 97115.
nal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 325 Sheldon, K. M., King, L. A., Houser-Marko, L.,
339. Osbaldiston, R., & Gunz, A. (in press). Comparing
Sheldon, K. M., Elliot, A. J., Ryan, R. M., Chirkov, V., TAT and IAT measures of power versus intimacy mo-
Kim, Y., Wu, C., et al. (2004). Self-concordance and tivation. European Journal of Personality.
subjective well-being in four cultures. Journal of Sheldon, K. M., Ryan, R., Deci, E., & Kasser, T. (2004).
Cross-Cultural Psychology, 35, 209233. The independent effects of goal contents and motives
Sheldon, K. M., & Emmons, R. A. (1995). Comparing on well-being: Its both what you pursue and why
differentiation and integration within personal goal you pursue it. Personality and Social Psychology Bul-
systems. Personality and Individual Differences, 18, letin, 30, 475486.
3946. Shoda, Y., & LeeTiernan, S. (2002). What remains in-
Sheldon, K. M., & Houser-Marko, L. (2001). Self- variant?: Finding order within a persons thoughts,
concordance, goal-attainment, and the pursuit of feelings, and behaviors across situations. In D.
happiness: Can there be an upward spiral? Journal of Cervone & W. Mischel (Eds.), Advances in personal-
Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 152165. ity science (pp. 241270). New York: Guilford Press.
Sheldon, K. M., Houser-Marko, L., & Kasser, T. (2006). Srivastava, A., Locke, E. A., & Bartol, K. M. (2001).
Does autonomy increase with age?: Comparing the Money and subjective well-being: Its not the money,
motivation and well-being of college students and its the motive. Journal of Personality and Social Psy-
their parents. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, chology, 80, 959971.
168178. Wilson, E. O. (1998). Consilience: The unity of knowl-
Sheldon, K. M., Houser-Marko, L., Osbaldiston, R., & edge. New York: Knopf.
King, L. (2007). Methodologies for assessing implicit Wilson, T. D. (2002). Strangers to ourselves: Dis-
ambivalence for personal goals. Unpublished manu- covering the adaptive unconscious. Cambridge, MA:
script. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.