James Shah
Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

The last two decades have seen the increasing integration of two formerly disparate research traditions in psychology, that of motivation and cognition. Nowhere has the benefit of this new synergy been more evident than in the study of the nature and process of goal pursuit. In defining a future state of affairs to approach or avoid, goals serve as motivational points of reference for the fulfillment of regulatory needs. But goals are also knowledge structures and, as such, follow many of the same principles of acquisition, activation, change, and organization that have been articulated in the extensive research on knowledge representation. Our research examines goals from both perspectives : It notes, for instance, the significance of goals¹ regulatory function and accessibility for determining emotional experience and attainment behavior as well as the nature, determinants, and implications of goal structure. In focusing on both the regulatory and epistemic nature of goal pursuit, we have paid particularly close attention to the impact of these different properties on subjective experience and behavior. We have recently begun to apply this "synergistic" approach to an analysis of interpersonal phenomena, exploring how our interactions and experiences with other individuals and groups may often help us fulfill our own regulatory needs and to define our social reality. Indeed, we have begun to amass compelling evidence suggesting that how we feel about, and behave toward, other individuals and groups may be significantly affected by our needs for accomplishment, security and cognitive closure. Thus, in broad sense, our approach has led us to consider the independent and interactive effects of motivation and cognition and to explore the implications for how we feel and act, both with respect to our own pursuits and to the world around us.

Current Appointments & Affiliations

Contact Information

  • 322 Reuben-Cooke Building, Durham, NC 27710
  • Box 90086, Durham, NC 27708-0085

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