Kennon M. Sheldon

University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, United States

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Publications (126)317.96 Total impact

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In a three-wave, year-long, large-sample dataset (N = 755), 10 candidate "personality strengths" (Grit, Gratitude, Curiosity, Savoring, Control Beliefs, Meaning in Life-Presence, Strengths Use, and Engagement, Pleasure, and Meaning-Based Orientations Toward Happiness) were compared as predictors of 6-month increases in goal attainment, and as moderators of goal attainment effects upon boosted subjective well-being (SWB). Seeking internal replication, we tested our models twice, both during T1-T2 and during T2-T3. We also examined whether any Personality × Attainment moderator effects upon change in SWB at T2 still persisted at T3. Grit was the only candidate strength that predicted increased goal attainment from T1 to T2 and from T2 to T3, and Curiosity was the only candidate strength that moderated attainment effects on well-being from T1 to T2 and from T2 to T3. T2 Goal attainment effects on SWB were best sustained at T3 when Meaning Orientation increased from T1 to T2. Implications for identifying keystone constructs in personality (and positive) psychology are discussed. © 2015 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.
    Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 02/2015; · 2.52 Impact Factor
  • Mike Prentice, Kennon M Sheldon
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    ABSTRACT: ABSTRACT We test whether people with a relatively more intrinsic vs. extrinsic value orientation (RIEVO) are particularly likely to enact cooperative behavior in resource dilemmas when they are primed with relatedness goals. In Study 1, high RIEVO participants primed with relatedness exhibited more restrained fishing behavior in a resource dilemma than their unprimed counterparts or participants low in RIEVO. Study 2 replicated this effect and further showed that the prime must signal the possibility of satisfying a valued goal (relatedness satisfaction) in order to elicit the value-consistent behavior. We discuss these results in the context of recent process models of goal priming, and also discuss how these findings contribute to our understanding of cooperative behavior and the predictive power of value constructs more broadly.
    The Journal of Social Psychology 10/2014; · 0.64 Impact Factor
  • Kennon M. Sheldon, Lawrence S. Krieger
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    ABSTRACT: Prior research on intrinsic versus extrinsic values has focused on the comparative importance subjects assign to the two types of values, showing that relative intrinsic versus extrinsic value orientation (RIEVO) predicts higher or increased well-being. In two studies, we show that rated action taken regarding the two types of values is just as essential to study. Support was found for four hypotheses: (1) there was a significant behavior/importance gap, such that participants “walked” (acted on values) less than they “talked” (endorsed those values); (2) this was especially true for intrinsic values, an interaction suggesting that the intrinsic ideals of personal growth, community, and connection often receive only lip service; (3) the “walk” (behavior ratings) measure of RIEVO subsumed the “talk” (importance ratings) RIEVO measure’s effects on well-being outcomes, suggesting that researchers interested in predicting well-being from values should perhaps focus on rated value enactment, not value importance; and (4) participants with higher meaning in life, lower search for meaning, more self-concordance at work, and greater chronological age evidenced more consistency between their talking and their walking.
    Motivation and Emotion 10/2014; 38(5). · 1.55 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Objective The present studies examined whether implicit or explicit autonomy dispositions moderate the relationship between felt autonomy and well-being.Method Study 1 (N = 187 undergraduate students) presents an initial test of the moderator hypothesis by predicting flow experience from the interaction of autonomy need-satisfaction and autonomy dispositions. Study 2 (N = 127 physically inactive persons) used vignettes involving an autonomy (un)supportive coach to test a moderated mediation model in which perceived coach autonomy-support leads to well-being through basic need satisfaction. Again, the effects of need satisfaction on well-being were hypothesized to be moderated by an implicit autonomy disposition.ResultsStudy 1 showed that individuals with a strong implicit autonomy (but not power or achievement) motive disposition derived more flow experience from felt autonomy than individuals with a weak implicit autonomy disposition. Study 2 revealed that perceived autonomy-support from sport coaches which we experimentally induced with a vignette method, leads to autonomy-satisfaction, which in turn has positive effects on well-being. This indirect effect held at high and average but not low implicit autonomy disposition.Conclusion The results indicate that the degree to which people benefit from autonomy need-satisfaction depends on their implicit disposition towards autonomy.
    Journal of Personality 09/2014; · 2.44 Impact Factor
  • Kennon M Sheldon
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    ABSTRACT: Pursuing personal goals is an important way that people organize their behavior and mature as individuals. However, because people are typically unaware of their own implicit motivations and potentials, they may pick goals that do not serve them well. This article suggests that "self-concordant" goal selection is a difficult self-perceptual skill, with important ramifications for thriving. Various means of conceptualizing and measuring goal self-concordance are considered. Then, relevant literature is reviewed to show that goal self-concordance, as assessed by a self-determination theory methodology, is predicted by goal/motive fit; that goal self-concordance in turn predicts more persistent goal effort and, thus, better goal attainment over time; and that self-concordant goal selection is enhanced by personality variables and interpersonal contexts that promote accurate self-insight and personal autonomy. Implications for the nature of the self, the causes of personality thriving and growth, and the free will question are considered.
    Personality and Social Psychology Review 06/2014; 18(4). · 6.07 Impact Factor
  • Kennon M. Sheldon, Lawrence S. Krieger
    The Journal of Positive Psychology 02/2014; 9(3):219-226. · 1.67 Impact Factor
  • Mike Prentice, Marc Halusic, Kennon M. Sheldon
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    ABSTRACT: Two conceptions of psychological needs predominate within contemporary motivational science. Motive disposition theory conceives of needs as behavioral motives which direct behavior (needs-as-motives), while self-determination theory conceives of needs as universally required experiences for optimal functioning (needs-as-requirements). Until recently, these perspectives on psychological needs have proceeded without much intersection, despite the fact that they address the same fundamental concept. Here we summarize the Two Process Model of Psychological Needs, which attempts to bridge these two conceptions. We argue that psychological needs are best defined as tendencies to seek out certain basic types of psychosocial experiences, to a somewhat varying extent across individuals, and to feel good and thrive when those basic experiences are obtained, to the same extent across individuals. We suggest that this definition allows a reconciliation of needs-as-motives and needs-as-requirements perspectives and a more consilient science of human motivation. Empirical support for the TPM is also summarized.
    Social and Personality Psychology Compass 02/2014; 8(2).
  • Lawrence S. Krieger, Kennon M. Sheldon
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    ABSTRACT: Attorney well-being and depression are topics of ongoing concern, but there has been no theory-driven empirical research to guide lawyers and law students seeking well-being. The researchers gathered detailed data from several thousand lawyers in four states, to measure a variety of factors considered likely to impact lawyer well-being. These factors included choices and achievements in law school, legal career, and personal life, and psychological needs and motivations established by Self-Determination Theory. Results are standardized and organized into five tiers of well-being factors. They suggest that the priorities and values of law students, lawyers, law schools, and law firms are often misplaced, with apparent negative impacts on lawyer well-being and, by extension, performance, productivity, and professionalism. Factors typically afforded most attention and concern, those relating to prestige and finances (income, law school debt, class rank, law review, and USNWR law school ranking) showed zero to small correlations with lawyer well-being. Conversely, factors typically marginalized in law school and seen in previous research to erode in law students (psychological needs, internal motivation and intrinsic values) were the very strongest predictors of lawyer happiness and satisfaction. Lawyers were grouped by practice type and setting to further test these findings. Despite markedly lower law school grades and current income, public service lawyers had healthier autonomy, purpose, and values and were happier than lawyers in the most prestigious positions (and who had the highest law school grades and incomes). Additional measures raised concerns: subjects did not broadly agree that judge and lawyer behavior is professional, nor that the legal process reaches fair outcomes. Specific explanations and recommendations for lawyers, law teachers, and legal employers are drawn from the data, and the relationships between well-being, productivity, and professionalism are discussed.
    SSRN Electronic Journal 01/2014;
  • Christian Hinsch, Kennon M. Sheldon
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    ABSTRACT: Organizations are frequently turning to social Internet applications in an effort to form bonds with consumers. However, little research has addressed the impact of social Internet consumption on the individual. Two studies of regular social Internet consumers (i.e., users of Facebook and socially connected online games) examined the effects of prompted usage reduction or cessation upon participants. In both studies, participants benefitted on average during the reduction/cessation period, reporting increased life satisfaction and decreased procrastination. The Facebooker versus gamer factor had remarkably few effects (i.e., results generalized across these two groups). Implications are discussed for both consumers and organizations involved in social Internet activities. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
    Journal of Consumer Behaviour 11/2013; 12(6). · 0.75 Impact Factor
  • Yuna L Ferguson, Kennon M Sheldon
    The Journal of Positive Psychology 01/2013; 8(1):23-33. · 1.67 Impact Factor
  • Kennon M. Sheldon, Jonathan C. Hilpert
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    ABSTRACT: Psychological need constructs have received increased attention within self-determination theory research. Unfortunately, the most widely used need-satisfaction measure, the Basic Psychological Needs Scale (BPNS; Gagné in Motiv Emot 27:199–223, 2003), has been found to be problematic (Johnston and Finney in Contemp Educ Psychol 35:280–296, 2010). In the current study, we formally describe an alternate measure, the Balanced Measure of Psychological Needs (BMPN). We explore the factor structure of student responses to both the BPNS and the BMPN, followed by an empirical comparison of the BPNS to the BMPN as predictors of relevant outcomes. For both scales, we tested a model specifying three latent need factors (autonomy, competence, and relatedness) and two latent method factors (satisfaction and dissatisfaction). By specifying and comparing a series of nested confirmatory factor analytic models, we examine the theoretical structure of the need satisfaction variables and produce evidence for convergent and discriminant validity of the posited constructs. The results of our examination suggest that the three need variables should not be combined into one general need factor and may have separate satisfaction and dissatisfaction dimensions. Our model comparisons also suggest the BMPN may be an improved instrument for SDT researchers.
    Motivation and Emotion 12/2012; 36(4). · 1.55 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Self-Determination Theory (Deci and Ryan in Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. Plenum Press, New York, 1985) suggests that certain experiences, such as competence, are equally beneficial to everyone’s well-being (universal hypothesis), whereas Motive Disposition Theory (McClelland in Human motivation. Scott, Foresman, Glenview, IL, 1985) predicts that some people, such as those with a high achievement motive, should benefit particularly from such experiences (matching hypothesis). Existing research on motives as moderators of the relationship between basic need satisfaction and positive outcomes supports both these seemingly inconsistent views. Focusing on the achievement motive, we sought to resolve this inconsistency by considering the specificity of the outcome variables. When predicting domain-specific well-being and flow, the achievement motive should interact with felt competence. However, when it comes to predicting general well-being and flow, felt competence should unfold its effects without being moderated by the achievement motive. Two studies confirmed these assumptions indicating that the universal and matching hypotheses are complementary rather than mutually exclusive.
    Motivation and Emotion 09/2012; 37(3). · 1.55 Impact Factor
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    Kennon M Sheldon
    World psychiatry: official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) 06/2012; 11(2):101-2. · 12.85 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Ninety-five freshmen each recruited three peers to play a "group bidding game," an N-person prisoner’s dilemma in which anyone could win movie tickets depending on their scores in the game. Prior to playing, all participants completed a measure of prosocial value orientation. Replicating and extending earlier findings (Sheldon and McGregor 2000), our results show that prosocial participants were at a disadvantage within groups. Despite this vulnerability, prosocial participants did no worse overall than asocial participants because a counteracting group-level advantage arose for prosocials, who tended to be concentrated in groups. Implications of this assortative process for the egoism/altruism debate, and for hierarchical selection theory, are discussed.
    Human Nature 04/2012; 11(4):387-404. · 1.96 Impact Factor
  • Kennon M Sheldon, Sonja Lyubomirsky
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    ABSTRACT: The happiness that comes from a particular success or change in fortune abates with time. The Hedonic Adaptation Prevention (HAP) model specifies two routes by which the well-being gains derived from a positive life change are eroded--the first involving bottom-up processes (i.e., declining positive emotions generated by the positive change) and the second involving top-down processes (i.e., increased aspirations for even more positivity). The model also specifies two moderators that can forestall these processes--continued appreciation of the original life change and continued variety in change-related experiences. The authors formally tested the predictions of the HAP model in a 3-month three-wave longitudinal study of 481 students. Temporal path analyses and moderated regression analyses provided good support for the model. Implications for the stability of well-being, the feasibility of "the pursuit of happiness," and the appeal of overconsumption are discussed.
    Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 02/2012; 38(5):670-80. · 2.52 Impact Factor
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    Kennon M. Sheldon, Alexander Gunz, Todd R. Schachtman
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    ABSTRACT: What does it mean to be in or out of touch with oneself? Using undergraduate samples we tested a new conception and measure of self-congruence, based on the social character that people inhabit in their interpersonal lives. The measure quantifies whether the Big Five traits of a person's typical social character are consistent with the traits of his/her unguarded self. Study 1 (N = 135) showed that the non-discrepant character measure predicted subjective well-being (SWB), independently of the traits (i.e., low neuroticism, high extraversion) comprising the measure. The association with SWB was also independent of Goldman and Kernis's (200215. Goldman , B. M. and Kernis , M. H. 2002 . The role of authenticity in healthy psychological functioning and subjective well-being . Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association , 5 ( 6 ) : 18 – 20 . View all references) Likert-based measure of authenticity. Study 2 (N = 170) replicated these effects and also showed that the new measure was associated with self-concept differentiation (SCD; Donahue, Robins, Roberts, & John, 199310. Donahue , E. M. , Robins , R. W. , Roberts , B. W. and John , O. P. 1993 . The divided self: Concurrent and longitudinal effects of psychological adjustment and social roles on self-concept differentiation . Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 64 : 834 – 846 . [CrossRef], [PubMed], [Web of Science ®], [CSA]View all references) and, in fact, accounted for SCD's effects. Study 2 demonstrated that psychological need-satisfaction mediated the link between having a non-discrepant social character and SWB.
    Self and Identity 01/2012; 11(1):51-70. · 1.42 Impact Factor
  • Kennon M Sheldon, Julia Schüler
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    ABSTRACT: Four studies explored the motivational and experiential dynamics of psychological needs, applying both self-determination theory and motive disposition theory. In all 4 studies, motive dispositions toward achievement and affiliation ("wanting" particular experiences) predicted corresponding feelings of competence and relatedness ("having" those experiences). Competence and relatedness in turn predicted well-being, again indicating that these 2 experiences may really be "needed." Illuminating how wanting gets to having, in Studies 2 and 3, participants reported greater self-concordance for motive-congruent goals, which, in longitudinal Study 3, predicted greater attainment of those goals and thus enhanced well-being. Study 4 replicated selected earlier results using an implicit as well as an explicit motive disposition measure. Supporting the presumed universality of competence and relatedness needs, in no studies did motive dispositions moderate the effects of corresponding need-satisfaction on well-being. Discussion focuses on a "sequential process" model of psychological needs that views needs as both motives that instigate and outcomes that reward behavior.
    Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 08/2011; 101(5):1106-23. · 5.08 Impact Factor
  • Kennon M Sheldon
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    ABSTRACT: Psychological need theories offer much explanatory potential for behavioral scientists, but there is considerable disagreement and confusion about what needs are and how they work. A 2-process model of psychological needs is outlined, viewing needs as evolved functional systems that provide both (a) innate psychosocial motives that tend to impel adaptive behavior and (b) innate experiential requirements that when met reinforce adaptive behavior and promote mental health. The literature is reviewed to find support for 8 hypotheses derived from this model: that certain basic psychosocial motives are present at birth; that successful enactment of these motives supports the functioning and wellness of all humans; that individual differences in these motives develop in childhood; that these strong motive dispositions tend to produce the satisfying experiences they seek; that motive dispositions do not moderate the effect of motive-corresponding need satisfaction on well-being but do moderate the effect of assigned goal-type on rated self-concordance for those goals; that need dissatisfaction and need satisfaction correspond to the separable behavioral-motive and experiential-reward aspects of needs; and that motives and needs can become decoupled when chronic dissatisfaction of particular requirements warps or depresses the corresponding motives, such that the adaptive process fails in its function. Implications for self-determination theory and motive disposition theory are considered.
    Psychological Review 07/2011; 118(4):552-69. · 9.80 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Research has shown that both achievement goal theory and self-determination theory (SDT) are quite useful in explaining student motivation and success in academic contexts. However, little is known about how the two theories relate to each other. The current research used SDT as a framework to understand why students enter classes with particular achievement goal profiles, and also, how those profiles may change over time. One hundred and eighty-four undergraduate preservice teachers in a required domain course agreed to participate in the study. Data were collected at three time points during the semester, and both path modelling and multi-level longitudinal modelling techniques were used. Path modelling techniques with 169 students, results indicated that students' autonomy and relatedness need satisfaction in life predict their initial self-determined class motivation, which in turn predicts initial mastery-approach and -avoidance goals. Multi-level longitudinal modelling with 108 students found that perceived teacher autonomy support buffered against the general decline in students' mastery-approach goals over the course of the semester. Data provide a promising integration of SDT and achievement goal theory, posing a host of potentially fruitful future research questions regarding goal adoption and trajectories.
    British Journal of Educational Psychology 06/2011; 81(Pt 2):223-43. · 1.42 Impact Factor
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    Kennon M Sheldon, Charles P Nichols, Tim Kasser
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    ABSTRACT: Extrinsic values for money, image, and status are known to be as-sociated with less sustainable ecological attitudes and to be relatively high among American citizens. But America also has a long history of prioritizing the intrinsic values of self-expression, family, and helping the world to be a better place, aims which past studies show promote more sustainable environmental behaviors. We therefore tested whether activating these types of American identities, com-pared to various control conditions, would affect U.S. college stu-dents' policy recommendations about the size of Ecological Footprints (EFs) Americans should have. Results showed that par-ticipants primed with an intrinsic American identity recommended significantly lower EFs than did participants primed with an ex-trinsic American identity, an unqualified American identity, or two control identities (i.e., human and University of Missouri student). Results were stronger for the housing and travel components of the EF than for the food component. Findings suggest that communi-cators and educators might do well to attempt to activate the aspects of the American national character connected with intrinsic values in their attempts to promote acceptance of policies that support environmental sustainability.
    Ecopsychology 06/2011; 3(2).

Publication Stats

7k Citations
317.96 Total Impact Points


  • 1999–2014
    • University of Missouri
      • Department of Psychological Sciences
      Columbia, Missouri, United States
  • 2011
    • Knox College
      • Psychology
      GBG, Illinois, United States
    • University of California, Riverside
      • Department of Psychology
      Riverside, CA, United States
  • 2008
    • University of Illinois at Chicago
      Chicago, Illinois, United States
  • 2007
    • Columbia College Missouri
      Columbia, South Carolina, United States
  • 2006
    • University of Leuven
      • Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences
      Louvain, Flanders, Belgium
  • 2005
    • University of Ottawa
      • School of Psychology
      Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • 2001
    • Southern Methodist University
      Dallas, Texas, United States
  • 1995–1998
    • University of Rochester
      • Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology
      Rochester, New York, United States