My main research interest concerns the question why people are doing what they are doing. Why would a student put effort in his school work? What moves a child to comply or defy the rules of his parents? Why does a patient decide to continue or quit therapy? Why is an unemployed person looking for a job? Why are we recycling and do we do something for the betterment of the environment? These are all motivational questions.
Throughout my research I try to map out the reasons that motivate people’s behavior and the goals and ambitions that people pursue throughout their lives. An important question that I try to address is whether particular motives and goals are more likely to be associated with enduring persistence, high quality performance, personal wellness (e.g., low depression), a smoother identity development, and more adjusted social functioning (e.g., low prejudice). In addition, I try to examine how the social environment, including parents, teachers, coaches and therapists, can affect people’s motivation.
This research can yield important practical insights for how to organize schools, companies, clinical settings and the society as a whole. After all, each of us functions to some extent as a motivation psychologist when we try to stimulate and encourage people around us in our daily lives. In answering these questions, I try to help build and extend the self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000; Vansteenkiste, Ryan, & Deci, 2008), but equally rely on other motivational (e.g., achievement goal theory, expectancy value theorie), developmental (e.g., separation-individuation theory, social domain theory), clinical (e.g., motivational interviewing, transtheoretical model of change) and work and organizational theories (e.g., goal setting theory, job demands resources model).