Kennon Sheldon

Kennon Sheldon
University of Missouri | Mizzou · Department of Psychological Sciences

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216
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Publications

Publications (216)
Article
To test the prevailing assumption that lawyer ill-being is caused by overwork, i.e., too many work hours. That working long hours is not a problem for lawyers, and is even beneficial, as long as the lawyer has self-determined motivations, positive attitudes for the job, and receives autonomy support from their supervisor(s). A total of 5948 working...
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What keeps regular blood donors coming back, despite the inconvenience and discomfort, thereby maintaining the community's blood supply? We approached 494 people waiting to give blood, 229 Americans and 265 Russians, with a survey that assessed their motivations to donate, their contextual emotions, and their future donation intentions. The Russian...
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widespread lay theory in the United States suggests that the best way to make decisions is to follow who you “really are”, referred to as the “true-self-as-guide” (TSAG) lay theory of decision making. In this paper, we explore whether people from four less-WEIRD (i.e., Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) countries also explicit...
Article
We present a hybrid philosophical/psychological argument in defense of ‘free will.’ The argument builds on the proposals in philosopher Christian List’sbook, Free will is real. We show that List’s psychological account of free will – that it requires the ability to consider alternatives, to make a choice, and to enact that choice – has already been...
Article
Facial expressions of emotion have important communicative functions. It is likely that mask-wearing during pandemics disrupts these functions, especially for expressions defined by activity in the lower half of the face. We tested this by asking participants to rate both Duchenne smiles (DSs; defined by the mouth and eyes) and non-Duchenne or “soc...
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In three studies of U.S. and Taiwanese participants, we tested the common assumption that it is more satisfying to express gratitude face-to-face (FtF) than indirectly (i.e. by text or email). Scenario-based Study 1 assessed lay theories, finding that participants indeed expected more positive emotion but also expected more negative emotion to acco...
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Recent theory suggests that members of interdependent (collectivist) cultures prioritize in-group happiness, whereas members of independent (individualist) cultures prioritize personal happiness (Uchida et al. Journal of Happiness Studies , 5 (3), 223–239 Uchida et al., 2004). Thus, the well-being of friends and family may contribute more to the em...
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Americans are guaranteed the right to ‘pursue happiness’ for themselves. But might they be better off if they pursued happiness for others? In five studies, we compared the two strategies, showing that, ironically, the second pursuit brings more personal happiness than the first. Retrospective study 1 (N = 123) and experimental studies 2 (N = 96) a...
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Chronic positive mood (CPM) has been shown to confer a wide variety of social, functional, and health benefits. Some researchers have argued that humans evolved to feel CPM, which explains why most people report better than neutral mood (the "positivity offset bias") and why particularly happy people have particularly good outcomes. Here, we argue...
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According to Self-determination theory and research, authorities should support subordinates’ autonomy to maximize subordinates’ well-being and performance. The current studies examine the novel effects of supporting one’s own autonomy, via one’s self-talk. In cross-sectional Study 1, rated self-supportiveness predicted subjective well-being to a g...
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Prosocial behavior benefits happiness, making such behavior an important strategy for achieving well-being. The present studies investigate if depriving people of the opportunity to help others lowers happiness. In Study 1 (N = 162), participants were randomly assigned to rate how they would feel if they intended to help someone and were able to he...
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Self-concordant goals are goals which represent a people’s enduring interests and self-defining values (Sheldon, 2002). People pursuing more self-concordant goals evidence higher subjective well-being, as shown in participants from both Western and non-Western cultures (Sheldon et al., 2004). In a different literature, attributional style research...
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In two studies we tested the hypothesis that observers can accurately distinguish between convicted criminals and matched controls, merely by scrutinizing facial photographs. Based on the Eudaimonic Activity Model, we further hypothesized that criminals and non-criminals differ in their apparent emotional positivity. Finally, based on honest signal...
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The Sustainable Happiness Model (SHM) has been influential in positive psychology and well-being science. However, the ‘pie chart’ aspect of the model has received valid critiques. In this article, we start by agreeing with many such critiques, while also explaining the context of the original article and noting that we were speculative but not dog...
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We investigated the links between grandiose narcissism (agentic and communal) and social motives (social egosystem vs. social ecosystem). In Study 1, agentic narcissism was positively associated with egosystem (self-serving) motives, and was negatively associated with ecosystem (prosocial) motives, as assessed by explicit and more behavioral means....
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Interest in the experience of well-being, as both a research topic and as a policy goal, has significantly increased in recent decades. Although subjective well-being (SWB)—composed of positive affect, low negative affect, and life satisfaction—is the most commonly used measure of well-being, many experts have argued that another important dimensio...
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The present research sought to integrate self-determination theory and the achievement goal approach to achievement motivation by examining achievement goals as mediators of the link between psychological need support and both intrinsic and external motivation. We found support for our proposed integration, as mastery-approach and performance-appro...
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Three studies examined whether Democrats and Republicans expressed favoritism toward an ingroup political candidate, even when the candidates were presented as positive and bipartisan. Participants rated electability and traits, after reading party consistent (Passage 1) and positive, bipartisan information (Passage 2). Conservatism (Studies 1–3),...
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We considered the interplay of intrinsic and external career motivation by comparing two relevant vocational groups: artists and businesspersons. In Study 1 business students, relative to art students, reported more external and less intrinsic motivations for their current majors, and aspired more to money, status, and appearance in the future. How...
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We used a new methodology for assessing change motivation (Hudson and Fraley 2015, 2016) to test the hypothesis that striving to improve one’s hedonic well-being fails in its aim, whereas striving to improve one’s eudaimonic functioning succeeds. In three studies, participant goals to increase subjective well-being (SWB) were negatively correlated...
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We studied how people “cross the Rubicon” when making personal goal selections. In Studies 1 and 2 participants rated the self-concordance of four candidate goals, two with intrinsic and two with extrinsic content, before selecting two goals to actually pursue. Intrinsic goal content predicted higher self-concordance, as did matching between goal c...
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John Holland’s theory of career orientations advises people to select careers that are congruent with their personalities. Similarly, self-concordance theory, based in self-determination theory, advises people to select personal goals that match their autonomous interests and identifications. We compared the predictive efficacy of the two theories...
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Much research has shown that how people explain events affects subjective well-being (SWB), in particular when they explain positive events as being due to internal, stable, and global factors, and negative events as being due to external, unstable, and local factors. In the current research, we asked: how do people explain their SWB itself, and ho...
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Positive psychology insists that understanding what works in people’s lives is just as important as understanding the things that can go wrong. Whereas traditional approaches in psychology have tended to focus on the alleviation of stress, struggle, and other negative symptoms, positive psychology is instead concerned with the sources of human thri...
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Objective: This theoretical article discusses the relevance of self-determination theory (SDT) for narcissism, a classic topic in self-theory. Method and Results: The trait of narcissism reflects a self-aggrandizing, dominant, and manipulative interpersonal orientation that feeds on exaggerated perceptions of agency, but not communion. The article...
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We created a life-goal assessment drawing from self-determination theory and achievement goal literature, examining its predictive power regarding immoral behavior and subjective well-being. Our source items assessed direction and energization of motivation, via the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic aims and between intrinsic and extrinsi...
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Self-referent performance beliefs can influence people’s decision making related to long-term goals. Current measures of such beliefs, however, do not explicitly focus on the long-term aspects of goal achievement. We introduce a new concept, Long-Term Prospects (LTP), which is defined as the self-perception that one can maintain the continuous effo...
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This study aims to investigate the relationship between social dominance orientation (SDO) and subjective well-being among Chinese adolescents (N = 4246), and to examine the mediating role of prosocial behaviour in this relationship. The structural equation model's results showed that SDO was negatively associated with prosocial behaviour and subje...
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In three cross-cultural studies we tested the premise that psychological freedom (aka autonomy) and personal responsibility are complementary rather than conflicting, and the further premise that freedom causes responsibility, rather than vice versa. In all studies, (a) supporting autonomy in an experimental context increased responsibility-taking...
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In this introductory article we first describe the impetus for this special issue. What made us think that Self-Determination Theory (SDT) might provide a sort of foundation for the rest of personality psychology? For readers unfamiliar with SDT, we then provide a historical overview which covers the evolution of the six “mini-theories” that curren...
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In prior literature, intergroup contact has been associated with better attitudes toward outgroups, but intergroup anxiety mediates this relationship. Higher anxiety is associated with less-favorable outgroup attitudes. We hypothesized that this meditational association would be moderated by frequency of mindfulness and contemplative practices. Stu...
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Study abroad programs are becoming increasingly popular, yet leaving home to live in a foreign country can be very stressful. We tested the idea that self-determined motivation to study abroad can prevent students from experiencing culture shock and support their subjective well-being, using a sample of 131 international students studying in the Un...
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We conducted a theoretical and psychometric evaluation of Self-Determination Theory’s “relative autonomy continuum” (RAC), an important aspect of the theory whose validity has recently been questioned. We first derived a Comprehensive Relative Autonomy Index (C-RAI) containing six subscales and 24 items, by conducting a paired paraphrase content an...
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Individual differences that might moderate processes of value shifting during and after deliberating one's own death remain largely unexplored. Two studies measured participants' openness and relative intrinsic to extrinsic value orientation (RIEVO) before randomly assigning them to conditions in which they wrote about their own death or dental pai...
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Cultural stereotypes and considerable psychological research suggest that Russians are less happy and more stoic than Americans and Westerners. However, a second possibility is simply that cultural norms deter Russians from displaying happiness that they actually feel. To test this second possibility, three studies compared the emotional inhibition...
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The present cross-cultural study utilized contemporary statistical techniques to explore the associations among conditional regard, ideal and actual self-concept, and relational authenticity, constructs with deep roots in the Rogerian and humanistic traditions. In three countries (China, Russia, and the United States), the experience of conditional...
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What keeps environmental activists motivated and committed to their activism, despite the frustrations and uncertain outcomes of their work? To answer this question, we compared measures derived from self-determination theory (SDT) and functional motives theory (FMT), hypothesizing that SDT's internal motivation measures would best predict environm...
Chapter
This chapter critiques the concept of “eudaemonic well-being,” arguing that the term has confused and misled the field by collapsing two different conceptual categories into one. Eudaemonia is a way of acting within the world, involving the selection and enactment of behavior and values. Well-being is an evaluation-based feeling, involving biologic...
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According to Maslow’s (Psychol Rev 50:370–396, 1943) hierarchical theory of needs, people do not become sensitized to “higher” level needs until they have satisfied their “lower” level needs (a moderator hypothesis); until then, they are unprepared to benefit from higher-level satisfactions. But according to the self-determination theory (SDT) mode...
Presentation
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We aimed to conduct a psychometric evaluation of the relative autonomy continuum, whose validity has recently been questioned, and to develop a universal questionnaire applicable in different situations. We examined all of the items we could find in published and unpublished scales operationalizing the autonomy continuum and extracted the core form...
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An important goal for psychology is advancing knowledge about how to help people increase their levels of happiness, positive mental health, and personal thriving. This chapter briefly outlines the evidence both for and against the “intentional happiness” proposition. Recent theory and research both persuasively suggest that increasing happiness is...
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Some individuals feel strong conviction and interest in pursuing personal goals, and minimal pressure and compulsion (i.e., they feel more “self-concordant” in their goal pursuits). Sheldon and colleagues argue that this is because their goals well match their implicit personalities (Sheldon, Pers Soc Psychol Rev 18:349–365, 2014). We evaluated thi...
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Integrating early social psychological theory and data with evolutionary theory proved difficult due to an apparent paradox: Humans are deeply cooperative in everyday situations, but how can this be so if Darwinian imperatives necessitate competition? In this chapter, we review research and theory that combines evolutionary ideas with observations...
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I applaud Dunlop's goals for personality psychology and his interesting research findings so far. I call attention to research of my own which has pursued these same goals. I also re-state my argument that properly understood, personality has four basic tiers, not three. The 'lowest' tier contains various types of universals, including basic psycho...
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In previous research, Asian Americans had higher levels of intrinsic motivation than European Americans when their mothers made choices for them. However, European Americans had higher levels of intrinsic motivation than Asian Americans when they made choices for themselves. We attempted to explain this effect by examining cultural differences in s...
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Most US institutions of higher education do not assess advisor quality. We report a scale development effort informed by the developmental prescriptions of self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985, 2000). The 15-item Missouri Advisor Quality Survey assesses advisor knowledge, advisor availability, and advisor autonomy supportiveness. Across 3 s...
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The present research tested the individual difference variable of dialectical thinking style (DT) as a moderator of the relationship between extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation, in situations where rewards have been introduced for an initially enjoyable activity. In Study 1, participants were asked to imagine gaining rewards for doing an...
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After graduating from Duke University in 1981 with a degree in psychology, I moved to Seattle, where I continued to be interested in creativity, genius, and intelligence (and where I also started a rock band). I read everything I could on various religious, meditative, and transpersonal theories and practices for transforming consciousness and achi...
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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 moder...
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This is the first theory-guided empirical research seeking to identify the correlates and contributors to the well-being and life satisfaction of lawyers. Data from several thousand lawyers in four states provide insights about diverse factors from law school and one's legal career and personal life. Striking patterns appear repeatedly in the data...
Chapter
Subjective well-being-a construct that is known more colloquially as "happiness"-is a characteristic that reflects a person's subjective evaluation of his or her life as a whole. Although the construct is based on a person's own perspective, it is thought to reflect something about the actual conditions of people's lives. These conditions include b...
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Happiness seekers tend to focus on changing their life circumstances, such as buying a new house, switching jobs, or getting married. However, people have been found to adapt to both positive and negative life changes, such as marriage, job promotion, disability, and widowhood. This process-known as hedonic adaptation-can serve as a formidable barr...
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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...
Article
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 ess...
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This multinational study simultaneously tested three prominent hypotheses—universal disposition, cultural relativity, and livability—that explained differences in subjective well-being across nations. We performed multilevel structural equation modeling to examine the hypothesized relationships at both individual and cultural levels in 33 nations....
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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 di...
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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,...
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The present study investigated whether satisfaction and frustration of the psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence, as identified within Basic Psychological Need Theory (BPNT; Deci and Ryan, Psychol Inquiry 11:227-268, 2000; Ryan and Deci, Psychol Inquiry 11:319-338, 2000), contributes to participants' well-being and ill-being...
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Mindfulness and flow are both beneficial states of mind, but are they difficult to experience simultaneously? After all, flow involves losing self-awareness within an activity, and mindfulness involves maintaining self-awareness throughout or even despite an activity. In three studies, we examine this potential antagonism, finding negative associat...
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Giving too much emphasis to extrinsic values and too little emphasis to intrinsic values is known to depress well-being. But is simply working in an extrinsic job also risky, even if that job delivers the money? We compared 1414 'Money' (extrinsic) lawyers, 1145 'Service' (intrinsic) lawyers, and 3415 'Other' lawyers as to their income, values, wel...
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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 recent...
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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 facto...
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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 pro...
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Objectives: We applied self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000) to examine whether pre-game psychological need-satisfaction predicts the quality of sports performance, and whether performance, in turn, predicts post-game need-satisfaction. Design/method: Undergraduate participants competing in a recreational league basketball season completed...
Chapter
This chapter discusses self-determination theory (SDT) and its applications to personal goal-setting. SDT is a well-supported theory of optimal motivation, based on the assumption that human beings are inherently growth oriented. I will argue that SDT constitutes the best body of empirical support for PCA and Rogerian concepts. The chapter explores...
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We assembled National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball player performance data from recent years, tracking 3 year periods in players’ careers: pre-contract year (baseline), contract year (CY; salient external incentive present), and post-contract year (salient external incentive removed). In both sports, we examined both individual...
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Does the explicit attempt to be happier facilitate or obstruct the actual experience of happiness? Two experiments investigated this question using listening to positive music as a happiness-inducing activity. Study 1 showed that participants assigned to try to boost their mood while listening to 12?min of music reported higher positive mood compar...
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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). I...
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Why it may be Impossible to Increase a Person's Happiness LevelWhy it may be Possible to Increase a Person's happiness level after allA New Conceptual Model of HappinessTesting the ModelHappiness-inducing InterventionsFuture Research and Recommendations for