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The Motivational Theory of Role Modeling: How Role Models Influence Role Aspirants' Goals

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Role models are often suggested as a way of motivating individuals to set and achieve ambitious goals, especially for members of stigmatized groups in achievement settings. Yet, the literature on role models tends not to draw on the motivational literature to explain how role models may help role aspirants achieve these outcomes. In this paper, we introduce role aspirants and their motivational processes into an understanding of role modeling by drawing on expectancy-value theories of motivation to bring together the disparate literatures on role models to form a cohesive theoretical framework. We first integrate different definitions of role models into a new conceptualization where we propose that role models serve 3 distinct functions in which they influence goals and motivation: acting as behavioral models, representing the possible, and being inspirational. We then build a theoretical framework for understanding not only when, but also how, role models can effectively influence motivation and goals. This new theoretical framework, the Motivational Theory of Role Modeling, highlights ways in which the power of role models can be harnessed to increase role aspirants' motivation, reinforce their existing goals, and facilitate their adoption of new goals. (PsycINFO Database Record
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Review of General Psychology
The Motivational Theory of Role Modeling: How Role Models
Influence Role Aspirants’ Goals
Thekla Morgenroth, Michelle K. Ryan, and Kim Peters
Online First Publication, November 23, 2015.
Morgenroth, T., Ryan, M. K., & Peters, K. (2015, November 23). The Motivational Theory of Role
Modeling: How Role Models Influence Role Aspirants’ Goals. Review of General Psychology.
Advance online publication.
The Motivational Theory of Role Modeling: How Role Models Influence
Role Aspirants’ Goals
Thekla Morgenroth
University of Exeter
Michelle K. Ryan
University of Exeter and University of Groningen
Kim Peters
University of Queensland
Role models are often suggested as a way of motivating individuals to set and achieve ambitious goals,
especially for members of stigmatized groups in achievement settings. Yet, the literature on role models
tends not to draw on the motivational literature to explain how role models may help role aspirants
achieve these outcomes. In this paper, we introduce role aspirants and their motivational processes into
an understanding of role modeling by drawing on expectancy–value theories of motivation to bring
together the disparate literatures on role models to form a cohesive theoretical framework. We first
integrate different definitions of role models into a new conceptualization where we propose that role
models serve 3 distinct functions in which they influence goals and motivation: acting as behavioral
models, representing the possible, and being inspirational. We then build a theoretical framework for
understanding not only when, but also how, role models can effectively influence motivation and goals.
This new theoretical framework, the Motivational Theory of Role Modeling, highlights ways in which
the power of role models can be harnessed to increase role aspirants’ motivation, reinforce their existing
goals, and facilitate their adoption of new goals.
Keywords: goals, inspiration, motivation, role modeling, role models
Role models are often seen as a way of motivating individuals
to perform novel behaviors and inspire them to set ambitious goals.
In educational and occupational settings, this is especially true for
members of underrepresented and stigmatized groups. In these
contexts, role models are often regarded as a panacea for inequal-
ity, by the general public, policymakers, and the academic litera-
ture alike (e.g., Bosma, Hessels, Schutjens, Van Praag, & Verheul,
2012; Dean, 2014; Peacock, 2012; Wright, Wong, & Newill,
1997). For example, many commentators voiced their hope that
Barack Obama would serve as an effective role model for African
Americans when he was elected as the president of the United
States in 2008. ABC News mused “Across the country, educators,
community activists, and students are hopeful that the election of
Obama, whose mother was a white American and father a black
African, will provide much-needed inspiration to black youth”
(Gomstyn, 2008). In line with this idea, the utility of role models
has been examined across a wide range of contexts including how
role models might impart core values for doctors (e.g., Paice,
Heard, & Moss, 2002), address the underrepresentation of women
in science (e.g., Stout, Dasgupta, Hunsinger, & McManus, 2011),
and increase political activism in young people (Campbell &
Wolbrecht, 2006). The extant literature provides us with important
and interesting insights into the various factors that may impact on
the effectiveness of role models such as shared group membership
and similarity between role model and role aspirant, as well as
level of role model success and the attribution of this success by
the role aspirant.
However, despite these informative insights, the role model
literature has a number of limitations. First, it is fragmented and
lacks a clear definitional consensus on what role models are and
what they can do. Irvine (1989) lamented that “the concept of role
model is an ill-defined and imprecise term that begs for more
clarity and debate” (p. 52) and, alas, this statement still holds true
today. Second, although the extant literature provides evidence for
a range of separate factors that influence role model effectiveness,
what is still needed is an integrated theoretical framework in which
to situate, incorporate, and understand these findings. For this,
construct clarity is indispensable (e.g., Suddaby, 2010). Third,
although role models are often seen as those who motivate us to set
more ambitious goals or make the right decisions, the current
understanding of role models does not draw on the motivational
literature in order to understand how role models work. This is
despite the fact that research into motivational processes often
acknowledges that social processes similar to role modeling can
influence goal setting, motivation, and possible selves (e.g., Ban-
dura, 1997; Fishbach & Ferguson, 2007; Markus & Nurius, 1986;
Thekla Morgenroth, Department of Psychology, University of Exeter;
Michelle K. Ryan, Department of Psychology, University of Exeter, and
Department of Economics and Business, University of Groningen; Kim
Peters, Department of Psychology, University of Queensland.
We thank Ken E. Evans and Robert E. Wood for their helpful comments
on earlier drafts of this paper.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Thekla
Morgenroth, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4QG, United Kingdom.
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
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Review of General Psychology © 2015 American Psychological Association
2015, Vol. 19, No. 4, 000 1089-2680/15/$12.00
Oyserman, Bybee, & Terry, 2006) and the fact that the literature on
transformational leaders who are, like role models, inspirational
others, has used expectancy–value models of motivation to explain
their influence on followers (Shamir, House, & Arthur, 1993).
Finally, thus far the role model literature has focused predomi-
nantly on role models, the attributes they need to possess, and the
behaviors they need to express in order to be effective. What tends
to be missing is a focus on how role models can influence ambi-
tions, motivation, choices, and achievements. Although the focus
on role models has clearly led to some interesting and useful
findings—findings that we will draw upon in this study—we
believe that it is time to widen this focus to include those who
emulate and are inspired by role models and the motivational
processes on their side. In this paper we will refer to them as ‘role
aspirants,’ a term which should be understood as an individual who
makes active, although not necessarily always conscious or delib-
erate, choices about in whose footsteps to follow based on their
own values and goals. In other words, just as leaders do not exist
without followers (Haslam, 2004; Haslam, Reicher, & Platow,
2011), role models do not exist without role aspirants. In this way,
role aspirants are those who both create role models and benefit
from them—and therefore including how their own attributes
contribute to the perceptions of role models and the psychological
processes on their side is key to understanding the role modeling
To address these limitations we will provide a targeted review of
the literature on role models, focusing on occupational and edu-
cational settings, and build a much-needed integrated theoretical
framework that not only adds to the general understanding of role
models but can also be used to develop well-informed role model
interventions. We will draw heavily on expectancy–value models
of motivation (e.g., Atkinson, 1957; Eccles, 1983; Eccles & Wig-
field, 2002; Feather, 1982; Vroom, 1964, 1966) and the resulting
framework, the Motivational Theory of Role Modeling, thus
brings together both the role model literature and the motivational
expectancy–value literature. Within this framework, we will ex-
pand the focus from role model attributes to include the motiva-
tional processes of the role aspirant and the ways in which their
perceptions of role models can be influential in these processes.
The Motivational Theory of Role Modeling, which we will
develop throughout this article, is illustrated in Figure 1. As can be
gathered from this figure, we propose that attributes of the role
aspirant as well as the role model contribute to the perception of
the role model by the role aspirant. Examples of these attributes are
similarity between role model and role aspirant, levels of role
model success, and role aspirants’ beliefs about whether abilities
are fixed or malleable. We further propose that the perception of
three role model qualities, namely goal embodiment, attainability,
and desirability, is key to the role model process. The perception
of these qualities in turn influences a number of role modeling
processes such as vicarious learning and identification. Through
these processes, role models change the perception of goals and
goal related behaviors, that is, the expectancies and values role
aspirants’ associate with these goals. Expectancy and value in turn
interact to influence the role modeling outcomes such as the
adoption of new goals and the reinforcement of existing goals.
Figure 1 further illustrates how the role model process is somewhat
cyclical in nature, such that exposure to role models changes
expectancies, values, and goals, which can at the same time be
thought of as role aspirant attributes, and thus influence the per-
ception of role models.
To devise this theoretical framework it is important to first
clarify what we mean by role models as a construct. We will
therefore start by discussing a range of definitions of role models
from the literature to provide an understanding of the functions
they may fulfill. We will argue that role models have three distinct
functions which we discuss in detail below: (a) acting as behav-
ioral models, (b) representing the possible, and (c) being inspira-
tional. Based on these functions, we will then provide our own
definition of role models.
Next, we will give a brief overview of expectancy–value theo-
ries of goals and motivation (Atkinson, 1957; Eccles, 1983; Eccles
& Wigfield, 2002; Feather, 1982; Vroom, 1964, 1966) that form
the structure that the Motivational Theory of Role Modeling is
built upon. We will then discuss how role models, in their three
different functions, might fit into this theoretical framework and
how they can contribute to role aspirants’ expectations of success
Changing self-stereotyping
Changing perceived barriers
Vicarious learning
Admir on
Iden on and Internaliz on
Skill acquisi on
Mo va on
Goal adop on
Goal reinforcement
Role model
Percep on of
role m odel
Percep on of goal
and goal related
Role mo deling processes
Role mo deling
Figure 1. An illustration of the Motivational Theory of Role Modeling.
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(i.e., expectancies) and the desirability (i.e., value) of their
achievement-related goals.
Integrating the extant findings on role models, we will propose
a theoretical framework that outlines the processes that determine
the extent to which role models who embody role aspirants’ goals
and are perceived to be desirable and attainable contributes to the
effectiveness of these role models in their three different functions.
We will discuss how both the attributes of role models and of role
aspirants contribute to these perceptions. Rather than mainly aim
to generate a set of new hypotheses, this framework aims instead
to provide a novel and informative structure to the role model
literature, giving a better understanding of the processes through
which role models effectively influence role aspirants’ goals and
ambitions and highlighting how different role model and role
aspirant attributes might be more or less relevant depending on the
function potential role models are hoped to fulfill. Finally, we will
discuss the practical implications of our perspective with a focus
on underrepresented and negatively stereotyped groups and dis-
cuss future research directions.
What Is a Role Model?
Despite the fact that the term ‘role model’ is widely used today,
it was not until the 1950s that Merton (1957) coined the term to
refer to individuals in specific roles (e.g., surgeons) who serve as
examples of the behavior associated with this role. Since then, the
term ‘role models’ has become widely used both in the general
public and in academia, with over 400,000 scholarly articles using
this term at the time of writing this paper. However, more often
than not, as we will show, contemporary meanings of the term
diverge quite drastically, both from Merton’s original definition
and from one another. This matter is complicated further by the
fact that there are a number of other terms which pertain to similar
constructs and processes, for example “exemplar” and “proxy”
from the social comparison literature (e.g., Wheeler, Martin, &
Suls, 1997). Nevertheless, in this section we will argue that there
are three recurring, and interrelated, themes among existing defi-
nitions of role models: (a) they show us how to perform a skill and
achieve a goal — they are behavioral models; (b) they show us that
a goal is attainable — they are representations of the possible, and
(c) they make a goal desirable — they are inspirations. We will
consider each of these functions in turn.
Role Models as Behavioral Models
A number of definitions describe role models as those from
whom we learn particular skills and behaviors. For example,
Kemper defines a role model as someone who
demonstrates for the individual how something is done in the techni-
cal sense. . . . [A role model] is concerned with the “how” question.
The essential quality of the role model is that he [or she] possesses
skills and displays techniques which the actor lacks (or thinks he [or
she] lacks), and from whom, by observation and comparison with his
[or her] own performance, the actor can learn. (Kemper, 1968, p. 33)
Similar ideas are reflected in more recent definitions of role
models. For example, Ibarra and Petriglieri (2008) describe role
models as those who are successful in a profession and imitated by
those attempting to assume a professional role (see also Almquist
& Angrist, 1971; BarNir, Watson, & Hutchins, 2011; Bell, 1970;
Bosma et al., 2012; Cheryan, Siy, Vichayapai, Drury, & Kim,
2011; Hoyt, 2013; Javidan, Bemmels, Devine, & Dastmalchian,
1995; Lockwood, 2006; Paice et al., 2002; Sealy & Singh, 2010;
Shapiro, Haseltine, & Rowe, 1978; van Auken, Fry, & Stephens,
2006; Wright et al., 1997).
Such definitions of role models are quite similar to Merton’s
(1957) original definition and focus on the acquisition of skills by
emulation. They are thus also very similar to Bandura’s (1977b)
conceptualization of models in his theory of social learning, a
theory concerned with the acquisition of skills as well as the
motivational consequences of observing another individual. From
this perspective, motivation can be seen as both a prerequisite of
role modeling as well as an outcome. Role aspirants are initially
motivated to pursue a certain goal and role models then demon-
strate how to do achieve this goal. This includes not only the
modeling of behavior, but also cognitive and emotional strategies
that may enhance goal attainment. The relevant outcome here is
often role aspirants’ performance or achievement—and, indeed,
this is often the measure used for role model effectiveness across
the literature (e.g., Ainsworth, 2010; Bagès & Martinot, 2011;
Hoyt, Burnette, & Innella, 2012; Latu, Schmid Mast, Lammers, &
Bombari, 2013).
Role Models as Representations of the Possible
Other definitions focus on role models as representations of
what is possible or achievable. They demonstrate that a potential
goal is attainable. For example, Lockwood (2006) notes: “Role
models are individuals who provide an example of the kind of
success that one may achieve, and often also provide a template of
the behaviors that are needed to achieve such success” (p. 36). This
definition clearly includes an aspect of role models as behavioral
models (they provide a ‘template’), but goes beyond being a mere
behavioral exemplar to representing future opportunities or pros-
pects. Similarly, McIntyre, Paulson, Taylor, Morin, and Lord
(2011) describe role models as “successful members of one’s own
group” (p. 301) and note that “when people find themselves in
threatening situations, they often look to role models for reassur-
ance and inspiration” (p. 301). Although this certainly differs from
Lockwood’s definition, McIntyre and colleagues also focus on the
fact that role models send the message “I can do this, so you can
do this too” to role aspirants (see also Bagès & Martinot, 2011;
BarNir et al., 2011; Buunk, Peiró, & Griffioen, 2007; Dasgupta,
2011; Hoyt, 2013; Huguet & Regner, 2007; Latu et al., 2013; Marx
& Roman, 2002; Sealy & Singh, 2010; Stout et al., 2011). This
second function differs from that of behavioral models in that it is
not concerned with vicarious learning or how to do something.
Rather, it is about learning that something is possible. This may be
a preexisting goal or a new goal the role aspirant had not consid-
ered pursuing before because it felt out of reach. Observing a role
model having achieved a particular goal may, under the right
circumstances, be enough to motivate role aspirants to believe that
they too can reach that goal. As representations of the possible,
role models may thus contribute to the reinforcement of role
aspirants’ already existing goals as well as the adoption of new
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Role Models as Inspirations
A third set of definitions focuses on how role models can
influence what it is role aspirants see as desirable and worth
striving for. In other words, this function is not concerned with
making something that is desirable also appear possible but mak-
ing something new desirable in the first place. Gauntlett (2002),
for example, defines a role model as “someone to look up to and
base your character, values and aspirations on” (p. 211). In other
words, Gauntlett does not describe role models as those we look up
to because they embody our aspirations but rather as someone on
whom we base our evaluation of what makes a desirable character
trait, value, or aspiration. Similarly, Paice and colleagues (2002)
note that “excellent role models will always inspire, teach by
example, and excite admiration and emulation” (p. 707; see also
Almquist & Angrist, 1971; Basow & Howe, 1980; Bell, 1970;
Bosma et al., 2012; Gibson & Cordova, 1999). The role model thus
prompts a process in which the role aspirant is inspired to become
more like the role model and sets his or her goals accordingly. This
function is again different from the two described above. It is
neither concerned with vicarious learning by role aspirants nor
necessarily with making an already desirable goal attainable.
Rather it is about eliciting role aspirant motivation to strive toward
something new or something better than before. Thus, in their
function as inspirations, role models mainly contribute to role
aspirants’ adoption of new goals.
Defining Role Models
Taken together, although there seems to be some consensus that
role models are seen as positive sources of social influence who
can influence role aspirants in a number of ways, there is less of a
consensus about the exact nature of this influence. We propose that
this is attributable to the fact that role models do, in fact, act in
three different functions, mirroring the three distinct, albeit in part
related, themes of how role models have been defined by various
researchers. We argue that these functions differ both in the
outcomes they affect and in the processes by which they do so, a
notion we will develop in detail throughout this paper.
In relation to outcomes, the definitions of role models as be-
havioral models focus on a role aspirant moving toward an already
existing goal— either through enhanced motivation or through
skill acquisition—the definition of role models as inspirations
focus on role aspirants considering and adopting new goals as well
as increasing the motivation to work toward these goals. As
representations of the possible, role models can influence both goal
reinforcement and goal adoption and enhance motivation to strive
toward these goals. However, although these foci are somewhat
differentiated, they cannot be separated completely. For example,
moving toward an already existing goal might spark the adoption
of more ambitious goals. In addition to these motivational conse-
quences, role models can of course also impact upon performance,
either through the acquisition of skills in their function as behav-
ioral models, or through increased motivation in all three of their
functions. Both skills and motivation are thus contributing to
enhanced achievement (Chamorro-Premuzic, Harlaar, Greven, &
Plomin, 2010; Weber, Lu, Shi, & Spinath, 2013).
We argue that each of these outcomes is an important aspect of
the role modeling process because they describe the various ways
in which role models can increase the likelihood of role aspirants
pursuing and reaching particular goals in achievement settings. We
thus define role models as individuals who influence role aspi-
rants’ achievements, motivation, and goals by acting as behavioral
models, representations of the possible, and/or inspirations. This
influence includes the reinforcement of existing goals as well as
the adoption of new goals.
Although motivational processes are key to all three of the role
model functions described above, there has been, to our knowl-
edge, little theorizing directly speaking to the motivational pro-
cesses by which role models may influence role aspirants. In
contrast, the importance of behavioral models for skill acquisition
and performance has been explicated in other work (e.g., Bandura,
1977b; Groenendijk, Janssen, Rijlaarsdam, & van den Bergh,
2013; Zimmerman & Kitsantas, 2002). This lack of attention to the
motivational aspects of role modeling is particularly problematic
because many of the issues around the underrepresentation of
certain, often stigmatized, groups in achievement settings such as
the workplace or education, can be seen to exist at the level of
motivation rather than skills. Despite the fact that there are a
number of barriers that have been shown to impair the perfor-
mance of underrepresented groups, such as stereotype threat
(Steele & Aronson, 1995), poor performance is generally not the
biggest obstacle to overcome. For example, with regard to gender
it has been shown that women and girls do not tend to perform
worse than men and boys in male-dominated areas such as STEM
(e.g., Else-Quest, Hyde, & Linn, 2010; Jacobs, Lanza, Osgood,
Eccles, & Wigfield, 2002; Wang, 2012). Rather, they seem to
show less interest in, and decide against, these fields (Else-Quest
et al., 2010; Wang, 2012)—and thus we can see their underrepre-
sentation as a motivational rather than a performance issue.
On this basis, it seems there would be great value in understand-
ing the processes by which role models can motivate role aspirants.
When do they function as behavioral models, representations of
the possible, and inspirations? And how do these functions trans-
late into role aspirant motivation? To answer such questions we
require a suitable theoretical framework. We therefore turn to the
literature on expectancy–value models of motivation to provide the
scaffolding to allow us to integrate the three definitional functions
of role models. In the next section, we will argue that expectancy–
value theories are ideally suited to explain motivation in achieve-
ment settings and provide the theoretical framework into which we
will then integrate the role model literature.
Motivation, Goals, and Role Modeling
Role aspirant motivation is central to the main outcomes of role
modeling— goal adoption, goal reinforcement, and achievement—
but few researchers have drawn on the motivational literature to
elucidate the role modeling process. We aim to address this lacuna
by proposing a motivational framework of role modeling based on
expectancy–value theories of motivation. These theories argue that
two main factors influence motivation: expectations of success and
the perceived desirability of this success. We focus on these
theories because they are widely used in achievement domains and
are supported by more than 50 years of evidence from a variety of
contexts (e.g., Atkinson, 1957; Brooks & Betz, 1990; Eccles,
1983; Eccles & Wigfield, 2002; Feather, 1982; Maddux, Norton,
& Stoltenberg, 1986; Nagengast et al., 2011; Trautwein et al.,
2012; Vroom, 1964, 1966; Wang & Degol, 2013). What will
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This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
emerge is a theoretical framework which outlines how role models
may act as behavioral models, representations of the possible, and
inspirations, motivating role aspirants to set and achieve their
In the following paragraphs we will first explain what we mean
by motivation and goals. We will then provide an overview of
expectancy–value theories of motivation before situating the three
role model functions within this framework. We will draw on
findings from both the motivational and the role model literatures
to illustrate how and when role models can influence role aspi-
rants’ motivation and goals.
Defining Motivation and Goals
Before we begin outlining our theoretical framework, it is useful
to define what we mean by goals and motivation. In line with
existing conceptualizations (e.g., Fishbach & Ferguson, 2007) we
consider goals to be cognitive structures that represent some
end-point or outcome that is desired, that one is committed to, and
that one works toward reaching. Goals therefore could include a
person’s representation of their desired career (e.g., to be an
academic) or a particular point along a career path (e.g., to secure
a postdoctoral research position). As can be gathered from these
examples, goals therefore also include positive possible selves.
Possible selves were originally defined as “the cognitive manifes-
tation of enduring goals, aspirations, motives, fears and threats”
(Markus & Nurius, 1986), but more recent definitions (e.g., Erik-
son, 2007) emphasize the personalized meaning and agency of
these goals. In other words, while “being an academic” could be
classified as a goal, “me having achieved the goal of becoming an
academic” is the possible self associated with that goal which also
includes the anticipated feeling of being, and behaviors performed
as, an academic. We thus include positive possible selves in our
understanding of goals.
From our definition, we see goals as being directed toward the
future. Motivation, on the other hand, is more grounded in the
present and can thus be considered an energizing force resulting
from existing goals that directs behaviors toward the goal (Lewin,
Dembo, Festinger, & Sears, 1944). Motivation and goals are
further tied together because the extent to which a person finds
particular goal-related activities motivating increases the likeli-
hood of that person adopting a related goal (see Vroom, 1964).
Expectancy–Value Theories of Motivation
To understand how role aspirants set their goals and how, if at
all, role models can influence this process we turn to expectancy–
value theories of motivation (e.g., Atkinson, 1964; Eccles, 1983;
Feather, 1982; Vroom, 1964; for an overview, see Eccles &
Wigfield, 2002). Such theories are widely studied in achievement
domains and supporting evidence comes both from studies in the
laboratory using experimental designs (e.g., Maddux et al., 1986;
Shapira, 1976) as well as in real-world settings (e.g., Eccles,
Barber, & Jozefowicz, 1998; Meece, Wigfield, & Eccles, 1990;
Nagengast et al., 2011; Parsons, Adler, & Meece, 1984; Plante,
O’Keefe, & Théorêt, 2013; Renko, Kroeck, & Bullough, 2012;
Trautwein et al., 2012; Wang, 2012). Expectancy–value theories
have been shown to predict a variety of outcomes relevant to the
role modeling process, such as behavioral intentions (Maddux et
al., 1986; Meece et al., 1990), career and achievement goals
(Nagengast et al., 2011; Plante et al., 2013; Shapira, 1976; Wang,
2012), educational and occupational choices (Eccles et al., 1998),
intended effort (Renko et al., 2012), and performance (Meece et
al., 1990; Plante et al., 2013; Trautwein et al., 2012; Parsons et al.,
Expectancy–value theories of motivation argue that the degree
to which a person is motivated to achieve a particular goal is an
outcome of a person’s subjective goal expectations and their goal
values (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002). Expectancy refers to an indi-
vidual’s perceived subjective likelihood of success in a certain task
or area, for example, the perceived likelihood of passing a difficult
math test (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002). This may very well be quite
different from the actual likelihood of success. Value, on the other
hand, refers to an individual’s perceived desirability of said suc-
cess such as the resulting enjoyment, pride, or financial rewards.
Expectancy and value have been demonstrated to be positively
related to one another (e.g., Bandura, 1997; Eccles, 1983). For
example, Vallerand and Reid (1984) found this positive associa-
tion for a physical task and MacIver, Stipek, and Daniels (1991)
demonstrated that in educational settings, ability perceptions (ex-
pectancy) predict enjoyment (value) of a subject for junior high-
school students. This makes intuitive sense—we generally enjoy
things that we are good at, or believe we are good at, more than we
enjoy those things in which we experience or anticipate failure.
Moreover, expectancy and value interact with one another to
influence individuals’ motivations, achievement, and choices
(Nagengast et al., 2011; Trautwein et al., 2012). For example,
Nagengast and colleagues (2011) asked a large international sam-
ple of 15-year-olds about their science-related ability beliefs (ex-
pectancy) and about their enjoyment of and interest in science
(value). They found that both individuals’ expectancies and their
values predicted involvement in science-related activities as well
as science related career goals. In addition, expectancy and value
interacted such that the effect of value was especially high when
expectancy was also high—and the other way around.
In the following sections we will provide greater detail about the
constructs of both expectancy and value. Our theoretical frame-
work is built on the theories of expectancy, value, and motivation
provided by others as well as empirical evidence. However, as our
focus is specifically on how expectancy–value theories can further
our understanding of role models, we will simplify existing models
in some places and expand them in others. After outlining theories
of expectancy and value we will then discuss how they can help us
understand role models in their different functions.
Expectancy. Expectancy is the subjectively perceived proba-
bility of success, that is, the degree to which an individual sees a
goal or a possible self as attainable. This can refer both to a
specific, short-term goal (e.g., learning an advanced statistical
technique) or broader, long-term goals (e.g., becoming a success-
ful academic). Expectancy can be influenced by internal factors
(i.e., related to the self), such as perceived ability, as well as
external factors, such as perception of discrimination or perceived
goal difficulty.
Expectancy based on perceptions of internal factors. This
aspect of expectancy is one’s subjectively perceived probability of
success based on one’s abilities and traits. It is closely related to,
and includes, self-efficacy as conceptualized by Bandura (1997).
Bandura defines self-efficacy as the confidence that one can suc-
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cessfully perform a specific behavior or broader task. Self-efficacy
is linked to subsequent motivation and performance (Bandura &
Locke, 2003), to the probability of possible selves (Erikson, 2007),
and to the value of a goal (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002). However,
expectancy goes beyond self-efficacy in that it is also influenced
by the perception of other internal factors, namely ability beliefs
based on one’s social identities and their associated stereotypes
(Turner, Oakes, Haslam, & McGarty, 1994). In any given situa-
tion, to the extent that one sees oneself as a member of a specific
group rather than as an individual, expectancy beliefs may be more
influenced by one’s beliefs about the abilities and success of said
group (e.g., “I’m a woman. Women lack leadership abilities.
Therefore, I will never be a good leader”) than by one’s own
This group-based aspect of ability beliefs is closely related to
self-stereotyping (i.e., the extent to which stereotypes about a
one’s group are applied to the self), which has also been shown to
be related to interest, motivation, and goals. For example, Rudman
and Phelan (2010) demonstrated that when primed with traditional
gender roles, women’s implicit self-stereotyping (i.e., the degree to
which they saw themselves as similar to a stereotypical woman)
explained the effect between said priming and decreased interest in
stereotypically masculine occupations such as surgery (see also
Asgari, Dasgupta, & Stout, 2012; Stout et al., 2011). Similarly,
Oyserman and colleagues (2006) demonstrated that changing the
degree to which social identities were associated with academic
achievement affected the degree to which low SES students saw
their positive academic possible selves as plausible (i.e., the ex-
pectancy associated with these possible selves).
Expectancy based on the perception of external factors.
Expectancy can also be based on external factors. For example,
one could believe that being able to successfully perform mana-
gerial tasks will lead to one’s eventual appointment to a senior
leadership position. However, one could also believe that there are
other factors that may impact on the likelihood of one’s appoint-
ment to a senior leadership position such as a sexist organizational
culture or individuals with discriminatory attitudes (e.g., “I am a
woman. Therefore others will think I can never be a good leader
and won’t appoint me to a leadership position”). Here, even if one
had positive beliefs about one’s own abilities (or indeed about the
abilities of one’s group), one might still not expect to reach a goal
due to external barriers and would thus have lower levels of overall
expectancy and, as a result, motivation. This link has been dem-
onstrated in studies providing evidence that external barriers such
as perceived discrimination and prejudice can lower motivation in
achievement settings (Alfaro, Umaña-Taylor, Gonzales-Backen,
Bámaca, & Zeiders, 2009; Foley, Kidder, & Powell, 2002; Foley,
Ngo, & Loi, 2006; Ragins & Cornwell, 2001). For example, Alfaro
and colleagues (2009) conducted a longitudinal study with Latino
and Latina adolescents in an educational setting and found that
perceptions of racial discrimination predicted future reductions in
academic motivation. With regard to occupational settings, Foley
and colleagues (2002) found that female solicitors’ perceptions of
gender discrimination were associated with motivational indicators
such as lower organizational commitment and higher intentions to
quit their jobs.
Value. Value refers to the subjective desirability of a goal and
goal-related behaviors and predicts motivation and goals in addi-
tion to, and in interaction with, expectancy (Nagengast et al., 2011;
Trautwein et al., 2012). Similar to expectancy, there are a combi-
nation of factors that can contribute to the overall value of a goal
(Eccles, 1983). First, value can be based on attributes of the goal
and goal-related activities in themselves such as interest and en-
joyment. Moreover, value can also be based on the perceived
effects that reaching the goal might have.
Value based on internal attributes of the goal. The first
aspect of value refers to both the enjoyment and interest associated
with a goal per se, as well as the degree to which a goal and its
associated activities are included in one’s self-concept. For exam-
ple, being interested in mathematics, enjoying solving mathemat-
ical problems, and a subjective importance of being good in math
are internal value components of the goal of becoming a mathe-
matician. It is thus related to both Eccles’ (1983) conceptions of
intrinsic value (i.e., enjoyment and interest) and attainment value
(i.e., subjective importance), both of which have been linked to
motivation and goals (Harackiewicz, Durik, Barron, Linnenbrink-
Garcia, & Tauer, 2008; Meece et al., 1990; Pang & Sau Ching Ha,
2010; Parkes & Jones, 2012; Xiang, Chen, & Bruene, 2005). For
example, Meece and colleagues (1990) investigated value in the
context of mathematics in high school and found that subjective
importance of maths (i.e., the degree to which it was part of
students’ self-concept) was positively related to the number of
maths classes students were planning to take. Similarly, Parkes and
Jones (2012) found that both subjective importance and intrinsic
enjoyment of teaching and performing predicted undergraduate
music students’ intentions of becoming music teachers or perform-
Value based on consequences of goal attainment. The sec-
ond aspect of a goal’s value encompasses reasons for pursuing a
goal that are linked to the outcomes of the goal rather than
pursuing the goal per se, for example higher order goals or moral
values. In other words, this relates to the usefulness of a goal in
achieving something else. It might include the difference one could
make as a politician, the money one could make as a lawyer, or the
perceived social contribution of being a nurse. What one find
useful is not fixed or objective, but rather is dependent on one’s
attitudes and moral values. For example, the goal of being a
stay-at-home mother and wife may be desirable for some women
with traditional values, but quite the contrary for some feminists.
Evidence demonstrates that value that is based on the conse-
quences of goal attainment does indeed impact on role aspirants’
motivation, goals, and choices in achievement domains (Bøe,
2012; Lin, Shi, Wang, Zhang, & Hui, 2012; Pang & Sau Ching Ha,
2010). For example, Lin and colleagues (2012) demonstrated that
when asking prospective American and Chinese teachers about
their motivations, outcomes associated with a goal such as “mak-
ing a contribution to society” were reported as most important.
Similarly, Pang and Sau Ching Ha (2010) found that schoolchil-
dren’ perceived usefulness of physical activity was predictive of
their engagement in sport.
In summary, we have outlined how the extent to which individ-
uals expect to achieve a given goal and value this goal has an
important impact on their motivation, both in terms of adopting the
goal and being motivated to achieve it. But how does this relate to
role modeling? In the next three sections we will discuss how
expectancy–value theories might be used to better understand the
role modeling process. We will explain how role models can
influence role aspirants’ expectancies and values in their functions
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as behavioral models, representations of the possible, and inspira-
tions. We will argue that a role model’s effectiveness in influenc-
ing these factors will depend on how they are perceived by the role
aspirant and we will outline attributes of the role model as well as
of the role aspirant that predict these perceptions and the potential
mechanisms by which they exercise their influence. We will first
describe how role aspirants’ expectancies can be influenced by
role models as behavioral models, before we turn to role models as
representations of the possible, and finally to role models as
Role Models as Behavioral Models in the
Expectancy–Value Framework
As outlined above, self-efficacy is an important part of goal-
related expectations and, according to Bandura (1977a), one
source of self-efficacy is social modeling which leads to vicarious
learning. In other words, observing someone successfully engag-
ing in a task will increase one’s confidence in being able to
successfully complete the task oneself. For example, observing
other people presenting at an academic conference can help a
student or early career researcher understand how to communicate
their research successfully. Even before actually presenting their
work, they will feel more confident in their ability because they
have a better idea of how to do so. This differs from the function
of role models as representations of the possible in that the focus
is on how to do something, not if something is possible. This path
from vicarious learning to self-efficacy has been demonstrated
many times since it was proposed by Bandura and has been applied
to variety of domains. For example, Law and Hall (2009) con-
ducted a survey with sports novices and demonstrated that self-
reported observational learning of skills and strategies predicted
individuals’ self-efficacy in relation to skills and tactics respec-
tively. Similar results have been found in occupational contexts
(Eden & Kinnar, 1991; Neff, Niessen, Sonnentag, & Unger, 2013),
educational settings, for example, with regards to maths and sta-
tistics (Bartsch, Case, & Meerman, 2012; Lent, Lopez, & Bi-
eschke, 1991) and writing (Zimmerman & Kitsantas, 2002). This
demonstrates how, by learning vicariously from their role models
in their function as behavioral models, role aspirants increase their
self-efficacy and thus their expectancy beliefs, resulting in higher
motivation to pursue the goal in question.
But who is seen as a behavioral model? Manz and Sims (1981)
note that “whether or not a model is attractive, competent, and
successful contributes to the overall probability of that model’s
behavior being imitated by others” (p. 105). In other words, those
who embody a relevant goal serve as behavioral models. Goal
embodiment refers to the degree to which a role model has suc-
cessfully reached the role aspirant’s goal and is thus closely linked
with the capacity to motivate a role aspirant to move toward an
already existing goal. For example, to a medical student who has
the goal of becoming a successful surgeon, any successful surgeon
may embody this goal. However, although goal embodiment in
achievement domains may often be linked to success, goal em-
bodiment goes beyond simple attainment. We would argue that
role aspirants generally have more than one goal related to the
same domain and that the person who best embodies a combina-
tion of these goals will make the most effective role model. For
example, a medical student whose goal is to become a successful
surgeon might also desire a good work-life balance and want to be
respected by both patients and colleagues. Thus, a surgeon who
embodies all three of these goals will be more likely to become this
student’s role model—and, more importantly, become an effective
role model for this student—rather than the most successful sur-
geon who has no work-life balance and is disliked by everyone. On
the other hand, role aspirants can also have more than one role
model. Our hypothetical medical student could thus also learn
vicariously from one surgeon how to achieve success, from an-
other how to achieve a good work-life-balance, and yet another
surgeon might become a behavioral model for bedside manner and
interactions with colleagues.
The role model literature provides evidence for the importance
of goal embodiment for changing expectancy, although it generally
assumes success as the relevant goal in achievement settings (e.g.,
Bagès & Martinot, 2011; Marx & Roman, 2002). For example,
BarNir and colleagues (2011) investigated students in a business
class and the impact of successful role models on self-efficacy in
relation to career intentions. They found that, in general, role
models had a positive effect on career intentions and that this
effect was in part explained by entrepreneurial self-efficacy (see
also Henry, Hill, & Leitch, 2005; Robertson & Collins, 2003).
What is less understood, however, is the way in which role
aspirants’ multiple goals might influence choices of role model
and subsequent expectancies and motivation. Indeed, there is ev-
idence that although success might be an important role model
attribute which contributes to perceptions of goal embodiment, the
extent to which it matters depends on role aspirant attributes and
goals, for example whether role aspirants generally set avoidance
or approach goals (Lockwood, Jordan, & Kunda, 2002; Lockwood,
Sadler, Fyman, & Tuck, 2004; Schokker et al., 2010). A study by
Lockwood and colleagues (2002) illustrates this point. The authors
demonstrate that only those individuals who are promotion fo-
cused (i.e., those who focus on a positive goal they are trying to
achieve, such as success) benefit from a successful role model
while this is not the case for those who are prevention focused (i.e.,
those who focus on the avoidance of a negative outcome such as
failure). Moreover, a study by Weaver, Treviño, and Agle (2005)
demonstrated that business success was often irrelevant when it
came to identifying role models for ethical behavior. When role
aspirants focused on this moral goal, being ethical was the impor-
tant dimension, not general success in the business world.
In summary, role model attributes (e.g., levels of success and
competence in other areas) and role aspirant attributes (i.e., goals
held by the role aspirant) interact and contribute to role aspirants’
perception of goal embodiment. Higher levels of perceived goal
embodiment increase the extent to which role aspirants learn
vicariously from role models and feel more confident in reaching
their goals. In other words, vicarious learning increases self-
efficacy or expectancy based on perceptions of internal attributes.
Higher levels of expectancy in turn increase motivation, reinforce
existing goals, and also lead to the acquisition of new skills. For an
illustration of these processes, see Figure 2. The figure also illus-
trates two points we have made before, namely that expectancy
influences value and that role modeling is a cyclical process. In the
case of role models of behavioral models, this could, for example,
mean that once new skills have been acquired, a role model who
was previously perceived to be high in goal embodiment is no
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longer seen in that way and role aspirants instead seek out new role
models who embody a higher level of skills or success.
Taken together, this leads us to our first proposition:
Proposition 1. Perceived goal embodiment influences expec-
tancy, and in turn motivation and goals, by prompting vicar-
ious learning.
Role Models as Representations of the Possible in the
Expectancy–Value Framework
Role models may also impact on role aspirants’ expectations of
success as representations of the possible, although the mecha-
nisms by which they do so are different from those of role models
who are behavioral models. The way in which role models as
representations of the possible can influence role aspirant expec-
tancy goes beyond increasing self-efficacy in Bandura’s sense. In
the sections below we will outline two distinct ways in which role
models as representations of the possible may influence expec-
tancy, namely changing self-stereotyping and changing the per-
ception of external barriers. Moreover, we believe that role aspi-
rants’ perceptions of goal embodiment and attainability will
influence the extent to which these processes take place. Although
the link between goal embodiment and expectancy has already
been discussed above, below we will present evidence that sug-
gests that it exerts its influence not only through vicarious learning,
but also through changing self-stereotyping. Next, we will propose
that role models as representations of the possible also affect
expectancy through changing the perception of barriers. Again, we
propose that goal embodiment and attainability are key to this
process and discuss evidence highlighting the role of goal embodi-
ment to this process.
The last section on role models as representations of the possible
is dedicated to the role of attainability. Here we present evidence
that attainability is linked to expectancy, suggest role model and
role aspirant attributes that influence perceptions of attainability,
and discuss how attainability is linked to the processes of changing
self-stereotyping and changing perceived barriers.
Representations of the possible and self-stereotyping. One
way in which role models can represent the possible, and thus
increase role aspirant expectancy, is through influencing self-
stereotyping (through either decreasing negative self-stereotyping
or increasing positive self-stereotyping) by evoking a shared social
identity with the role aspirant. This potential link between role
models, self-stereotyping, and expectations of success is supported
from a theoretical perspective by the stereotype inoculation model
(Dasgupta, 2011). This model is designed to explain how, in high
achievement contexts, ingroup experts and peers—in other words,
role models— can help to inoculate minority group members
against negative stereotypes. According to this model, contact with
role models changes how role aspirants perceive the demographic
composition of a domain. This change in perceptions in turn
enhances identification with the domain, which can also be thought
of as decreased negative self-stereotyping, and increases self-
efficacy. These processes in turn lead to a variety of positive
outcomes such as increased effort and performance, better career
goal setting and decision making, and more active engagement.
There is also empirical evidence supporting the stereotype in-
oculation model that demonstrates that role models can have a
positive impact on relevant self-stereotypes and that this does
indeed go hand-in-hand with role aspirants more positive beliefs
about success and aspirations (Asgari et al., 2012; Hoyt & Simon,
2011; Stout et al., 2011). For example, Asgari and colleagues
(2012) presented female participants with information about fe-
male leaders who were thought to function as potential role mod-
els. They found that exposure to these leaders reduced gendered
self-stereotyping such that participants associated themselves more
strongly with agentic traits (e.g., being a leader) rather than ste-
reotypically female nurturing qualities (e.g., supportive). The re-
searchers also found that such changes in self-stereotyping pre-
dicted the degree to which participants saw themselves in
leadership positions in the future (Asgari et al., 2012, Study 3).
However, not all potential role models will act as representa-
tions of the possible and change self-stereotyping. We suggest that
the perception of two role model qualities is key to this process,
namely goal embodiment and attainability. A role model’s attain-
ability refers to the degree to which a role aspirant can see him or
herself being like the role model in the future—the answer to the
question “can I be like this person?” This is closely related to
similarity, but differs in an important aspect. Rather than being
about current similarity, it is about potential future similarity. We
propose that attainability is related both to motivation in relation to
existing goals and the adoption of new goals and works through
influencing role aspirants’ expectations of success when combined
with the embodiment of an existing or new goal. By seeing
someone else reach a goal (goal embodiment) and believing that
one can be like said person (attainability), role aspirants can
imagine themselves in the position of this role model and thus
believe in reaching the goal themselves. In this way, together
Role aspirant a ributes
Pre-exis ng goals
Skill acquis on
Mo va on
Vicarious learning
Role model a ributes
Percepon o f
role mod el
Role mo deling
Percepon o f goal
and go al related
Role mo deling
Figure 2. Role models as behavioral models.
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attainability and goal embodiment can increase group-based self-
These changes are only useful if they are in line with one’s goals
or a potential new goal, and thus goal embodiment is crucial.
example, if a role aspirant aims to become a manager, only those
stereotypes that are relevant to this goal (i.e., the traits and abilities
a manager needs to possess) are important and these stereotypes
are only going to change in the desired direction if the role model
embodies what it means to be a manager. A number of studies
demonstrate that exposure to role models who embody goals
can indeed change role aspirants’ self-stereotypes, their beliefs
about their abilities, their goals, and their ambitions. Such
evidence has been found both using experimental methodolo-
gies in the laboratory (Asgari et al., 2012; Stout et al., 2011,
Studies 1 and 2) and in longitudinal, naturalistic studies (As-
gari, Dasgupta, & Cote, 2010; Stout et al., 2011, Study 3) as
well as in studies testing the effects of interventions which
included the use of role models on possible selves (Oyserman et
al., 2006). Crucial to our argument, the potential role models in
these studies were always successful in a domain relevant to the
role aspirant. For example, they were either successful profes-
sional leaders who changed the role aspirants’ self-stereotypes
with regards to leadership (Asgari et al., 2012), successful peers
in STEM fields who changed role aspirants’ self-stereotypes
with regards to maths (Stout et al., 2011), or professors (and
thus leaders) of the role aspirants’ field of study who affected
leadership-related self-stereotypes (Asgari et al., 2010).
Representations of the possible and external barriers. Role
models in their function as representations of the possible may also
change the way in which external barriers are perceived. For
example, if a woman sees another woman occupying a senior
leadership position, this role model might facilitate expectations of
success in more than one way. First, it may give her an example of
successful behavior she can emulate and change self-stereotyping
as discussed above. In addition to that, however, such a role model
may also demonstrate to the role aspirant that gender does not
constitute an insurmountable obstacle and might thus improve her
expectancies of success based on external factors as well. In other
words, the role model shows that “it can be done.”
We have already discussed how one of these potential barriers
which lower expectancies is the perception of discrimination and
research shows that the presence of role models such as other
ingroup members in similar or higher positions does indeed signal
the absence of discrimination, for example, discrimination based
on ethnicity (Foley et al., 2002) and sexual orientation (Ragins &
Cornwell, 2001). However, we again suggest that different poten-
tial role models might be more or less suitable to change perceived
barriers. To show that barriers are not insurmountable for role
aspirants, role models must have reached the goal and role aspi-
rants must believe that they can be like the role model in the future.
The mechanisms are thus similar to those resulting in changing
Indirect evidence for the importance of goal embodiment in this
process comes, for example, from Buunk and colleagues (2007)
who found more positive effects on planned career-related behav-
ior when final year students were exposed to a recently graduated
role model who was successful rather than an unsuccessful in
securing a job after graduation. We suggest that this is attributable
to changes in expectancy based on external factors such as the
current job market (see also Foley et al., 2002; Ragins & Cornwell,
The role of attainability. We have suggested that attainability
is important both for changing self-stereotyping and for changing
the perception of external barriers. There are a number of studies
that demonstrate that role models as representations of the possible
need to be attainable in order to increase expectancy. Although the
construct of attainability in itself has not been widely investigated
within the role model literature, there are a number of factors,
namely level of the role model’s success, attribution of this suc-
cess, shared group membership, and similarity, that have been
investigated and that speak to attainability.
Role model success and attainability. A study by Lockwood
and Kunda (1997, Study 2) directly manipulated the attainability of
a role models success, and in line with our predictions they
demonstrated that only those role models whose success seemed
attainable positively influenced role aspirants expectations of suc-
cess. Moreover, a study by Hoyt and Simon (2011) demonstrates
that potential role models that are too successful can be detrimental
for role aspirant expectancy. This indicates that the ideal degree of
success follows an inverted U-shaped curve: If an individual is not
seen as successful enough, they are unlikely embody the role
aspirant’s goal in achievement settings. However if the individual
is too successful, they may seem unattainable and a contrast effect
may occur, leaving the role aspirant in an inferior situation than if
they were without this potential role model.
However, the optimal
success of a potential role model is of course dependent on the role
aspirant’s perception of the role model’s success in comparison to
his or her own success as well as their own ability beliefs (Brown,
Novick, Lord, & Richards, 1992; Collins, 1996; Hoyt, 2013;
Wheeler et al., 1997). A doctoral-level student might see a suc-
cessful postdoc as an excellent role model, but the same postdoc’s
effectiveness as a role model for a professor will be very limit-
ed—at least when the goal in question is purely success. Similarly,
whereas a confident doctoral-level student might see the successful
postdoc as attainable, another doctoral-level student with low
self-esteem and low self-efficacy might see her or him as out of
Other studies that speak to the attainability of role models, albeit
indirectly, have examined the way in which the perceived reasons
for a role model’s success impact on role aspirants’ expectancies.
For example, if success is seen to occur by sheer luck or through
nepotism, this is unlikely to be encouraging as it may be seen as
unattainable. Using the terminology from Weiner’s (1979) theory
of attribution, people will be most likely to benefit from a role
model’s success if said success seems stable, controllable, and
internal. Although not all studies use such terminology when
investigating the effects of attribution, they still corroborate this
idea and demonstrate that the attribution of success influences role
Note that goal embodiment in the context of role models as represen-
tations of the possible can refer to either a new or an already existing goal.
In the context of behavioral models, on the other hand, it refers primarily
to already existing goals.
This is also where the distinction between similarity and attainability
becomes important. Similarity itself is at its maximum when level of
success of role aspirant and role model are exactly the same. Attainability,
on the other hand, can still be equally high when the role model is slightly
more successful than the role aspirant as it is evaluated based on the
potential future.
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aspirants’ expectancy (Hoyt et al., 2012; Lockwood & Kunda,
1997) and also illustrate how this attribution depends both on
actual reasons for success on the side of the role model and
attributes of the role aspirant.
For example, some studies have examined the effect of theories
of abilities, that is, the belief that specific abilities such as intelli-
gence or leadership skills are malleable and can be learned or are
fixed and thus cannot be influenced by hard work or practice. The
former could also be described as being controllable, whereas the
latter is uncontrollable. With regard to this, Lockwood and Kunda
(1997, Study 3) assessed students’ theory of intelligence—whether
they believed intelligence was fixed or malleable— before present-
ing them with information about an outstanding student or no
potential role model. They found that for those role aspirants who
believed that intelligence was malleable, the role model did indeed
inspire. They rated their own ability beliefs more highly than those
not exposed to a potential role model. On the other hand, those
who believed that intelligence was fixed did not benefit from the
highly successful student.
Shared group membership and attainability. Another widely
studied role model characteristic that, we would argue, is related to
attainability, is shared group membership. This is in line both with
the social identity approach’s claim that individuals generally
believe that it is easier to become like those who share their social
identities (Turner et al., 1994) and with the literature on upward
comparison which claims that assimilation to an upward target is
facilitated by a shared group membership (Collins, 1996). It is
important to note, however, that everyone belongs to multiple
social groups and that not every shared group membership carries
equal weight. The social identity approach suggests that shared
group membership will only matter to the extent that it relates to
the role aspirant’s salient and meaningful social identities (Turner
et al., 1994). Moreover, in her review on the effects of upward
comparison, Collins (1996) points out that the extent to which
upward comparison targets share an unusual feature or group
membership also affects the extent to which it matters (see also
Brewer & Weber, 1994). It is therefore not surprising that most
studies highlighting the importance of ingroup membership focus
on categories that tend to be salient such as race or gender in
situations in which these are even more visible—namely when said
group is in the minority.
As we have noted earlier, changing role aspirants’ self-
stereotyping is an important mechanism through which role mod-
els can increase external expectancy, and therefore shared group
membership may be one of the most important signals of attain-
ability. Although some may argue that positive ingroup role mod-
els may impact on self-stereotyping through changing the stereo-
types of the group as a whole (and that shared group membership
rather than attainability is what matters). However, we would
argue that the process is likely to be more complex, such that
attainable, counterstereotypical role models demonstrate to role
aspirants that stereotypes may not apply to oneself. Let us assume,
for example, that a woman has the career goal of becoming a
successful computer scientist but she does not believe that she has
what it takes because of her gender. When she is exposed to a
range of successful computer scientists, she makes an attainability
assessment by asking herself whether she could be like said
computer scientists. If her gender identity is salient, a female
computer scientist is more likely to be seen as attainable than a
male computer scientist, which then leads to changes in her self-
stereotypes following the logic of “she has the attributes of a
successful computer scientist such as being analytical. I can be like
her. Thus, I may have the attributes of a successful computer
scientist such as being analytical.” This is supported by evidence
that demonstrates that role models can indeed change role aspirant
self-stereotyping without necessarily changing stereotypes about
the entire group in question (Stout et al., 2011).
Similarity and attainability. More evidence indicating that
perceived attainability is an important factor in the role modeling
process comes from research investigating impact of the degree of
similarity between the role aspirant and the potential role model.
After all, the degree to which one can imagine being like someone
else in the future is most certainly related to the degree of simi-
larity perceived in the present. The idea that similarity is important
for role aspirant expectancy assessment is not new and has been
voiced several times in the social comparison literature (e.g.,
Collins, 1996; Festinger, 1954; Wheeler et al., 1997). For example,
Festinger argues that role aspirants tend to compare themselves to
similar others when assessing their abilities and Wheeler and
colleagues argue in their Proxy Model of Social Comparison that
to evaluate whether one can successfully perform a task, role
aspirants compare themselves to a role models (which they refer to
as proxy), who is similar in prior performance as well as in
attributes related to the task (e.g., similar levels of expertise or
practice). The authors further argue that role aspirants then look at
whether the role model can successfully perform the task in
question—a notion very similar to our proposed interaction be-
tween goal embodiment and attainability.
The examples of related attributes Wheeler and colleagues
(1997) give seem to depend mostly on a role aspirant’s past
experience with the role model and thus suggests that one needs to
know a role model quite well to make such an assessment. How-
ever, we would argue that many attributes thought to be related to
success in achievement settings such as gender or ethnicity require
little prior knowledge of the role model and this is in line with
Wood’s (1989) observation that even similarity on attributes that
are completely unrelated to the ability in question such as sharing
a date of birth (Brown et al., 1992) or being similar in physical
attractiveness when evaluating one’s ability of logical reasoning
(Miller, 1982) promote positive effects when comparing with a
target who is more successful than oneself.
Although neither Festinger (1954) nor Wheeler and colleagues
(1997) suggest that the impact of similarity on expectancy is
explained by attainability, this may be the case because their
theory focuses on present ability rather than future goals. It makes
sense that when evaluating whether one can perform a certain task
in the present (e.g., “Can I at this point in time successfully publish
a paper in GPR?”) one may look to others who are as similar as
possible (e.g., other doctoral-level students who are also in their
final year and similar in other related attributes such as number of
other publications) to see whether they have been successful with
the task at hand. However, when evaluating a broader, more distant
goal (e.g., “Can I be a successful academic?”), attainability (i.e.,
potential future similarity) may be more important.
Similarity is by no means independent of level of success or
shared group membership that we have discussed above, especially
when said group membership is highly salient as it tends to be the
case in the aforementioned studies (Turner et al., 1994). However,
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there is evidence that the effect of perceived similarity on expec-
tations of success goes beyond shared group memberships, even
when it comes to salient categories such as gender (Asgari et al.,
2012; Cheryan et al., 2011; Wohlford, Lochman, & Barry, 2004).
For example, Cheryan and colleagues demonstrated that the degree
to which women rated themselves as similar to a computer scien-
tist role model had a greater impact on their success beliefs than
did the role model’s gender. Moreover, this similarity was primar-
ily influenced by whether or not the role model embodied com-
puter scientist stereotypes such as having very “nerdy” hobbies.
Taking into account these findings, we conclude that perceived
similarity is likely to be another, if not the, key factor in deter-
mining the perceived attainability—and eventually the effective-
ness— of role models in their function as representations of the
possible. Who is seen as similar depends on attributes of both the
role aspirant and the role model. This may include important social
identities such as gender but also fairly arbitrary characteristics
such as a shared date of birth.
To summarize, someone’s perceived goal embodiment and at-
tainability can make them a role model in their function as a
representation of the possible and consequently influence expec-
tancy by changing self-stereotyping and the perception of barriers.
Both perceived goal embodiment and perceived attainability are
influenced by a number of attributes of the role model as well as
the role aspirant (see Figure 3). This process is again cyclical in
nature. For example, once a role model has changed self-
stereotyping and thus increased ability beliefs, a range of new role
models might become attainable.
Based on what we have argued above, we thus propose:
Proposition 2. Perceived goal embodiment and perceived at-
tainability interact to influences expectancy, and in turn mo-
tivation and goals, by changing self-stereotyping.
Proposition 3. Perceived goal embodiment and perceived at-
tainability interact to influence expectancy, and in turn moti-
vation and goals, by changing perceived external barriers.
We now turn away from the effects role models may have on
expectancy and instead focus on how they can influence value in
their function as inspirations.
Role Models as Inspirations in the
Expectancy–Value Framework
Before we go into more detail about how role models as inspira-
tions integrate into the expectancy–value framework, it is useful to
discuss what we mean by inspiration. Thrash and Elliot (2004) pro-
pose that inspiration can be divided into two different processes—
being inspired by and being inspired to. The first, being “inspired by,”
directly relates to role models as they are mentioned by the authors
as one of the sources that can inspire role aspirants. For example,
one might be inspired by one’s professor to pursue a career in
academia. Thus, inspiration is one of the concepts that connects
role models to role aspirant motivation and goal adoption. The
authors also demonstrate that inspiration has three core qualities:
Transcendence, evocation, and motivation. Transcendence refers
to the way in which inspiration leads individuals to adopt new or
better goals or to think in new or better ways—in other words,
inspiration makes new goals desirable. Evocation recognizes that
inspiration is generally evoked by something outside of one’s own
will—for example, a role model. Finally, motivation describes the
way in which inspiration leads one to want to strive toward these
new goals. These three qualities are exactly what we, and others,
argue role models do in their function as inspirations for role
aspirants. Thus, these insights not only clarify that role models
may indeed cause role aspirants to be inspired but also that this
inspiration leads to role aspirants seeing new goals desirable and
having increased motivation.
As we have outlined earlier, value is an important predictor of
motivation, goals, and choices and in line with Thrash and Elliot’s
(2004) conceptualization of inspiration we would argue that role
models in this function can influence the perceived value of a goal.
The fact that others can influence our value judgments has been
va on
Goal Adop on
Changing self-stereotyping
Changing perceived barriers
Role aspirant a ributes
Pre-exis ng goals
Level of success
Theories of abili es
Role model a ributes
Level of success
Reasons for success
Shared a ributes
Shared group
Percep on of
role mod el
Role mode ling
Percep on of go al
and g oal related
Role mode ling
Figure 3. Role models as representations of the possible.
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noted before. For example, the triadic model of opinion compar-
ison (Suls, Martin, & Wheeler, 2000) suggests that when predict-
ing whether one will like a certain task or activity (i.e., whether
one will intrinsically value it), role aspirants look to others and
their reactions to that task. However, these approaches do not
discuss inspiration. In particular, the aspect of transcendence is
missing from these analyses.
Our conceptualization of how role models can influence value is
closer to the processes of identification and internalization de-
scribed in the context of transformational leadership by both
Shamir and colleagues (1993) and by Kelman (1958) in the context
of attitude change based on social influence. Moreover, we suggest
that role models also influence value through the emotional pro-
cess of admiration as described by Schindler and colleagues
Identification, in this case, means personal identification, which
refers to a process in which an individual (in this case the role
aspirant) attempts to be like another person (in this case the role
model) based on “the desire to emulate or vicariously gain the
qualities of the other” (Shamir et al., 1993, p. 586). This desire is
based on the attractiveness of the role model and the extent to
which she or he represents desirable attributes or embodies im-
portant values (Kelman, 1958; Shamir et al., 1993). According to
Kelman, identification results in satisfaction based on being like
the identification target rather than the utility for any other goals.
Thus, it results in an increase of what we refer to as value based on
the internal attributes of a goal (i.e., enjoyment, interest, interest,
and subjective importance as part of a role aspirant’s self-concept).
This is different from internalization, which refers to a process
by which a person exposed to the source of social influence
adopts the induced behavior because it is congruent with his [or her]
value system. He [or she] may consider it useful for the solution of a
problem or find it congenial to his [or her] needs. Behavior adopted in
this fashion tends to be integrated with the individual’s existing
values. (Kelman, 1958, p. 53)
We would argue that internalization is therefore more likely to
affect the value based on the consequences of goal attainment or
behavior. According to Kelman this form of social influence is
based primarily on the credibility of the source—an attribute
which shares many similarities with competence and success.
A recent study by Schindler and colleagues (2013) suggests
another potential route through which role models might influence
the value role aspirants associate with the consequences of goal
attainment: admiration, a concept very closely related to inspira-
tion. According to the authors, admiration is an emotion that is
associated with the internalization of ideals and values embodied
by an outstanding role model, although the authors do not discuss
what exactly makes a role model outstanding. Unfortunately, the
authors do not name the attributes a role model needs to possess to
inspire but we suggest that role models need to be perceived as
Desirability refers to the degree to which a role aspirant per-
ceives a role model in a positive light, and such desirability is
likely to make a role aspirant want to be like the role model.
Indeed, there is evidence that demonstrates that career choices are
often influenced by the desire to be like someone such as a role
model (Quimby & DeSantis, 2006) and this effect of desirability is
in addition to effects of self-efficacy (and thus expectancy). More-
over, research has demonstrated that the degree to which a leaders’
own behavior can change followers’ behavior depends on the
degree to which they are seen as “worthy role models”—in other
words, as desirable (Yaffe & Kark, 2011). This study further
shows that the path between leader behavior and follower behavior
is indeed explained, at least in part, by value. In other words, when
leaders who were seen as desirable behaved in a certain way,
followers valued this behavior more and in turn displayed such
behaviors to a greater extent themselves.
However, the question remains: who do we see as desirable?
Who can elicit identification, internalization, and admiration?
When asking these questions, it is useful to first clarify how our
concept of desirability differs from admiration. We agree with
Schindler and colleagues’ (2013) definition of admiration as an
emotion and suggest that desirability is what elicits this emotion.
In addition, however, we suggest that desirability can also prompt
identification or internalization, which could be seen as less “emo-
tional” routes to changing value. Desirability is therefore an um-
brella term which includes admirability, but also goes beyond it.
What predicts desirability? The literature on admiration (e.g.,
Sweetman, Spears, Livingstone, & Manstead, 2013) and impres-
sion formation and social judgment (e.g., Brambilla, Rusconi,
Sacchi, & Cherubini, 2011; Brambilla, Sacchi, Rusconi, Cheru-
bini, & Yzerbyt, 2012) suggest that there are three important
factors that contribute to desirability: sociability, morality, and
competence (which in this case does not refer to goal-related
competence but to general attributes such as intelligence or skill).
The notions of morality and competence are also in line with
Kelman’s (1958) predictors for identification (embodying moral
values) and internalization (credibility) respectively.
The stereotype content model (Fiske, Cuddy, Glick, & Xu,
2002) would further suggest that the importance of these attributes
varies depending on the target’s group membership. Evidence
from the role model literature on this issue is scarce and mixed.
Calvert and colleagues (2001) demonstrated that the sociability
and likability of a heroine from a TV show were related to the
degree to which participants perceived her as a role model. How-
ever, this does not directly speak to whether perceiving her as a
role model changed participants’ goals and motivation in any way.
Indeed, a study by Parks-Stamm, Heilman, and Hearns’ (2008)
demonstrates that information that a potential female role model
was sociable had a negative influence on women’s ratings of their
own competence when combined with information about manage-
rial competence. One potential explanation for these findings
might be the fact that the role model’s likability in combination
with the high levels of success made her appear unattainable. This
seems a likely explanation especially in the light of a second study
where the effect disappeared when participants were given fake
positive feedback about their own managerial skills—thus making
them more similar to the role model. However, this study does not
shed light on whether or not women thought being a manager was
more desirable. Nevertheless this study illustrates the complexity
of the role modeling process and how some information can be
positive in some respects but negative in others.
In line with Shamir and colleagues (1993), we would argue that
another important factor influencing desirability is shared group
membership. As we have already discussed, the social identity
approach suggests that we generally want to be like those in our
ingroup (Turner et al., 1994), and thus ingroup members can
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function as inspirations and influence how we value different goals
(Turner, 1991). Evidence for this claim comes from studies that
explicitly investigate how positive associations with an area on an
explicit level (e.g., asking participants to rate how much they like
maths) and implicit level (e.g., by pairing “good” and “bad” with
maths and English) change when role aspirants are exposed to
ingroup role models. These studies demonstrate that ingroup role
models can influence the valence of a domain (Stout at al., 2011)
although they do not always find changes in explicit measures (in
line with the stereotype inoculation model discussed above). As we
would suggest, the implicit measures they record are, however,
often also related to changes in goals (Dasgupta, 2011; Stout et al.,
Related to, but distinct from, shared group membership, is
similarity, another factor that we suggest as a predictor for desir-
ability. It has long been established that we generally like those
who are similar to ourselves more than those who are dissimilar
(Byrne, 1997) and while desirability goes beyond likability, they
are certainly related. After all, why would we want to be like
someone we dislike? Similarity has been found to predict likability
in a number of contexts, ranging from romantic attraction (Byrne,
1997; Montoya, Horton, & Kirchner, 2008) to formal mentor-
mentee relationships (Lankau, Riordan, & Thomas, 2005). Find-
ings from the role model literature support the idea that this
similarity is linked to interest and thus value. For example,
Cheryan, Drury, and Vichayapai (2013) found that interacting with
a similar or dissimilar computer science student had lasting effects
on the interest in computer science that female students showed.
The relationships outlined above can be seen in Figure 4, which
once more illustrates the cyclical nature of this process. For ex-
ample, once a new goal has been adopted, different role models
will be seen as desirable. Moreover, it should be noted that
although we have included morality as a role model attribute, this
is of course not an objective quality to possess. Rather, different
behaviors which can be seen as moral or amoral displayed by the
role model will interact with values held by the role aspirant to
influence their perceptions of whether or not the role model is
desirable. Taken together, we thus propose the following:
Proposition 4. Perceived desirability influences value, and in
turn motivation and the adoption of new goals by prompting
the related processes of personal identification, internaliza-
tion, and admiration.
On the previous pages, we have summarized a range of defini-
tions of role model and from these definitions derived three dis-
tinct functions that role models serve. They can act as behavioral
models, as representations of the possible, and they can act as
inspirations. Bringing these functions together we have recom-
mended a definition of role modeling that focuses on motivational
outcomes for role aspirants and have proposed that role models
influence motivation and goals by increasing the associated ex-
pectancy and value that role aspirants attach to goals. Moreover,
we have outlined the mechanisms by which the role modeling
process may occur and variables which are important in these
processes which are summarized in Table 1.
To function as behavioral models, potential role models need to
embody a role aspirant’s already existing goals. In achievement
settings, this is likely to be linked to high levels of success or
goal-related competence. Through vicarious learning experiences
the role aspirant’s self-efficacy, an important part of expectancy,
increases. This increases motivation to work toward an already
existing goal. As one generally also enjoys the things one is good
at (or believes one is good at), this is also likely to increase the
value role aspirants associate with the goal in question. Moreover,
vicarious learning is also likely to lead to skill acquisition. It
should also be noted that changes in motivation, goals, and skills
is in turn likely to influence goal embodiment— once goals have
changed, it might well be that a new role model is needed, a
behavioral model who embodies these new goals (see Figure 2).
Moreover, role models can function as representations of the
possible. Here, they need to be perceived by the role aspirant as
attainable and embody an already existing or new goal to increase
motivation to move toward an existing or adopt a new goal
respectively. A role model’s attainability is in turn influenced by a
number of factors including, but not necessarily limited to, shared
group membership, similarity, level of role model and role aspirant
success and attribution of this success. These factors are of course
likely to be related to one another. For example, if someone shares
one’s group membership, they are also likely to be perceived as
Mo va on
Goal Adop on
Iden ca on
Internaliza on
Role aspirant a ributes
Role model a ributes
Shared a ributes
Shared group
Admira on
Percepon of
role mode l
Role mo deling
Percepon of g oal
and go al related
Role mo deling
Figure 4. Role models as inspirations.
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more similar. Goal embodiment and attainability interact and in-
fluences the expectancy component of motivation by changing role
aspirants’ self-stereotyping and perceived barriers. As already
noted when discussing role models as behavioral models, the
process is likely to be cyclical— once a new goal has been adopted
or an old one has been reinforced, the perceived attainability and
goal embodiment of available role models may change, which in
turn changes motivation and goals (see Figure 3).
Finally, role models can function as inspirations. For this to
occur, they need to be perceived as desirable by the role aspirant,
resulting in identification, internalization, and admiration. Shared
group membership, similarity, perceived morality, sociability, and
competence of the role model as well as values held by the role
aspirant are likely to influence this quality. Although we believe
that role modeling is a general process that is not restricted to any
certain group, some of these factors might play different roles
based on group membership. For example, as a result of prescrip-
tive gender stereotypes, sociability might play more into the de-
sirability of women, whereas general competence might be more
important for male role models. Desirability can then positively
influence the value a role aspirant places on a goal. We propose
that as inspirational figures, role models mostly contribute to role
aspirants adopting new goals. The adoption of a new goal, in turn,
is likely to influence who we see as desirable (see Figure 4).
It is important to note that these three functions are by no means
independent of each other. As discussed above, and as illustrated
in Figures 2 to 4, there is an overlap between the different func-
tions. For example, goal embodiment is important for role models
as behavioral models as well as for role models as representations
of the possible. On the other hand, fulfilling one function might
also hinder fulfilling another. A role model who functions as an
inspiration may make a goal desirable, but at the same time
negatively influence role aspirants’ expectations of success when
attainability is low.
Future Research
We have provided a framework that brings together various
strands of the literature. Thus, there is considerable evidence from
these strands of literature that speaks to the potential relationships
proposed in our theoretical framework. Nevertheless, they need to
be tested empirically, both individually and in combination with
one another. Although there is strong empirical evidence for parts
of the framework (e.g., the link between vicarious learning and
self-efficacy), other aspects of the framework are derived primarily
from theoretical analyses and specific interpretation of certain
findings (e.g., the link between desirability, admiration, and value)
and thus need to be examined in more detail.
Our theoretical framework introduces three new constructs for
the understanding of role model effectiveness: goal embodiment,
attainability, and desirability. These constructs and their predictors
have not, to our knowledge, been investigated directly or system-
atically, especially not in relation to one another. Future research
should fill this lacuna and develop reliable psychometric measures
for these new constructs. Similarly, the impact of role models in
general on expectancy and values needs to be examined directly.
The Motivational Theory of Role Modeling provides a framework
from which to do so. However, this can only be a first step in
bringing the role model literature together in a theoretically
grounded way.
The bulk of the motivational literature and the role model
literature have focused on educational and occupational contexts
and we developed our theory with achievement settings in mind.
However, it is very much the case that role modeling takes place
outside of these settings. For example, one could also be motivated
to be a good romantic partner or to behave in altruistic ways and
this could likewise be influenced by role models. Whether the
same relationships hold in nonachievement settings is, however,
unclear, and needs to be empirically tested.
Practical Implications
An emphasis on motivational processes is not only relevant for
furthering our theoretical understanding of role models but also
has important practical implications. Role models are often
claimed as a solution to the underrepresentation of stigmatized
groups, yet real life role model interventions often do not yield the
desired effects (e.g., Armour & Duncombe, 2012). By gaining a
Table 1
Role Model Functions and Associated Variables
Role aspirant
Role model
Role model
qualities Mechanisms
variables Outcomes
Behavioral models Pre-existing goals Level of role model
Goal embodiment Vicarious learning Expectancy Skill acquisition
Representations of
the possible
Level of role
aspirant success
Reasons for role
model success
Attainability Changing self-stereotypes Value Motivation
Inspirations Ability beliefs Competence Desirability Changing perception of
external barriers
Goal reinforcement
Theories of abilities Sociability Identification Goal adoption
Self-esteem Morality Internalization
Values Admiration
Similarity between role model and role
Shared group membership of role model
and role aspirant
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better understanding of role models, role aspirants, and the process
of role modeling we can develop better and more effective role
model interventions.
Our theoretical framework indicates that the type of intervention
that is likely to be effective will depend on whether it aims at
motivating role aspirants toward an already existing goal or toward
the adoption of a new goal. For example, when trying to motivate
girls and women to go into STEM fields, it is important to make
the goal both attainable and desirable (i.e., increase both expec-
tancy and value). For this, role models who can act as represen-
tations of the possible and inspirations are needed and it therefore
makes sense to present role models that are both desirable and
attainable. Interventions aiming at retaining women in STEM
fields, on the other hand, need to enhance expectations of success
as success itself is likely to be already highly valued. Thus,
potential role models should be chosen based on whether they can
act as behavioral models and show how to succeed in STEM as
well as whether they can act as representations of the possible and
show that success is attainable. Our theoretical framework sug-
gests that goal embodiment and attainability are likely to be the
most important factors in this case.
It is also important to keep the interplay of desirability and
attainability in mind. Indeed, some factors that may increase
desirability may at the same time decrease attainability. For ex-
ample, someone like Mother Teresa might seem extremely moral
and inspirational, and role aspirants may admire her a great deal,
but at the same time this level of morality is likely to seem out of
reach to most of us. The same can be said for other attributes that
positively influence desirability such as level of success and so-
ciability, as discussed earlier (Hoyt & Simon, 2011; Parks-Stamm
et al., 2008). A shared group membership, on the other hand,
influences both attainability and desirability positively and is
therefore likely to be a good mechanism through which to enhance
both qualities. It has to be kept in mind, however, that role
aspirants are always members of many groups and shared group
membership on one dimension might not be enough. For example,
women of color or women with a working-class background may
not benefit from a White female role model from an upper-class
These practical implications are especially relevant in the con-
text of underrepresented and stigmatized groups. First, these
groups face unique obstacles which can impact on both their
motivation and achievement, obstacles that other groups do not
encounter, such as lacking a sense of belonging, experiencing
stereotype threat, or facing discrimination. It is therefore pivotal to
find ways to motivate these groups and role models in all three
functions can be important tools in this quest.
Moreover, we have highlighted the effects of stereotypes and
perceived discrimination on motivation throughout this study, and
both of these factors are of particular relevance for those who are
negatively stereotyped and discriminated against in a given do-
main. In their function as representations of the possible, role
models can influence both the application of these stereotypes to
the self and the levels of perceived discrimination. This also helps
explains why role models often have considerably smaller effects
on majority groups (e.g., Bagès & Martinot, 2011; BarNir et al.,
2011)—these groups are often positively stereotyped (e.g., men are
perceived to be good at math regardless of their performance and
math is often already part of their self-concept) and thus their
expectations of success are already high.
Lastly, we have discussed how shared group membership is
important for the role modeling process when role models act as
representations of the possible and as inspirations and pointed out
that this might particularly be the case when both the role model
and the role aspirant are part of salient minority groups. Therefore,
designing role model interventions which present a diverse range
of potential role models is key to their effectiveness.
This paper provides a novel and integrated theoretical frame-
work from which to examine the way in which role models
motivate role aspirants. It contributes to the role model litera-
ture in several ways. First, it helps to bring the literature
together and give it meaning that goes beyond the impact of the
individual papers. Moreover, it takes a step toward understand-
ing the processes through which role models may influence the
goals and motivations of role aspirants. Role modeling cannot
be understood without an examination of role aspirants them-
selves and the motivational processes taking place within them.
By furthering the understanding of the role model process, we
have also highlighted practical implications for those develop-
ing role model interventions as well as for those who may act
as role models.
We began by recognizing that role models are seen a panacea
for the underrepresentation of stigmatized groups: do we think this
is the case? We certainly believe that role models have great
potential in making a difference on role aspirants’ lives (otherwise
we would hardly have gone through the effort of writing this
article). However, on the basis of the Motivational Theory of Role
Modeling, we do not believe in a one-size-fits-all approach when
it comes to role modeling. Role aspirants all have different goals,
belong to different groups, and find different attributes desirable
and attainable.
Returning to our initial example of Barrack Obama as a role
model for African Americans, we would argue that he can cer-
tainly have a positive effect by acting as a representation of the
possible and as an inspiration for African Americans, but this may
not always be the case. African American girls may see him as
unattainable because of his gender, whereas others may not agree
with his political views and thus see him as undesirable. For those
who do not strive for the same kind of success, he may not embody
relevant goals. Taken together, we believe that there is no such
thing as a perfect role model for all people. There will never be a
person who will be seen as attainable and desirable by all and
embody everyone’s goals and nobody can fulfill all role model
functions for all potential role aspirants. On a more positive note,
however, we would argue that role models do not need to be
outstanding to be effective. Many “ordinary Joes” and “ordinary
Janes” can be role models to someone. Rather than focusing on a
few exceptional individuals and assuming that they will motivate
all women or all African American students, we need to provide a
range of diverse people who role aspirants can make their personal
role models—we need to start seeing role models through the eye
of the beholder.
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Received February 10, 2015
Revision received October 20, 2015
Accepted October 22, 2015
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... Rather than motivating youth to try to make positive changes in their own or others' lives, studying extraordinary individuals can sometimes prompt feelings of inadequacy and resentment, inhibiting action and the chance for transformation. For this reason, scholars increasingly point to the importance of fit between the inspirational figure and the young person (Han et al., 2017;Lockwood & Kunda, 1997;Lockwood et al., 2002;Morgenroth et al., 2015). For example, in an experimental setting, Han et al. (2017) found that college students were less likely to report participating in volunteer activities after being presented with stories of unattainable exemplars who volunteered for 15 hours a week. ...
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... Explicitly comparing themselves to a role model acted to create greater similarity between youth and their selected role models. As supported by Morgenroth et al. (2015), perceiving a role model as similar to themselves is crucial in helping youth believe they can become like their role model. Recent work by Liauw et al. (2018) sheds additional light on how making connections with teachers and coaches can support positive youth development. ...
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... 40 According to Motivational Theory of Role Modeling, nursing role models could inspire and motivate nursing students to achieve professional identification and internalization. 41 Second, stress/resource complex was positively associated with SoC and professional identity, which was consistent with previous research. 42,43 Thus, H2 was verified. ...
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Purpose: Sense of coherence is significant to mental health and professional development in nursing students. However, the association among stress/resource complex, sense of coherence, and professional identity is less explored in nursing students. This study was designed to identify latent subtypes of stress/resource complex and to evaluate the mediating role of sense of coherence between stress/resource complex types and professional identity in nursing students. Participants and methods: A total of 595 nursing students were recruited from Be Resilient to Nursing Career (BRNC) between October and December 2021 and administered with 10-item Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale, General Self-efficacy Scale, 10-item Chinese Perceived Stress Scale, 13-item Sense of Coherence Scale, and Professional Identity Questionnaire for Undergraduate Students. Latent profile analysis and mediation analysis were performed. Results: Three latent subtypes of stress/resource complex were identified: Flexibility (14.8%), Ordinary (44.2%), and Maladjustment (41.0%). Nursing students with role model were prone to Ordinary (OR = 1.48, 95% CI 1.03-2.13, p = 0.035) and Flexibility (OR = 1.92, 95% CI 1.17-3.16, p = 0.011). The association between stress/resource complex types and professional identity was mediated by sense of coherence (P < 0.05). Conclusion: There exists heterogeneity in nursing students' stress/resource complex. The association between stress/resource complex subtypes and professional identity was mediated by sense of coherence.
... Trust in this context means having a strong belief, either in something positive or negative; while self-efficacy is about having a strong positive belief that you have the capacity and skills to achieve goals. Self-confidence can increase entrepreneurial intentions through individual cognitive and emotional processes (Morgenroth et al., 2015). The women's predicament was noticed by their male colleagues who commented on the lack of confidence of women in engineering classes. ...
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Considering the social psychological, social cognitive, and economic factors, this paper aims to examine how gender equality can be bridged in the workplace through the empowerment of women workers’ ability to craft and narrate personal branding and self-confidence to gain better condition in the workplace. A total of 200 questionnaires are distributed to 200 woman employees working in 10 manufacturing industries in 5 regions in West Java, Indonesia. The independent variable of the personal branding scale is adopted from Peter and Montoya, the self-confidence scale is that of Frendika, and the dependent variable scale of gender equality is taken from McKinsey Global Institute's (MGI's) Power of Parity. A five point-Likert rating scale (1=lowest – 5=highest) is applied for each item; SPSS v 25 is also employed to analyze the data collected using AMOS v 25. The result shows that personal branding which includes relevance, consistency, and visibility has a positive and significantly has more dominant effect than self-confidence to bridge gender equality in the workplace.
... Female role models are another important element to allow young women to imagine a future in which both professional aspirations and family planning can be realistically combined (24). Many veterinary schools are offering mentoring programmes where students can meet senior colleagues from different sectors to discuss career options. ...
... team, is consistent with the power of female role models as a potential mechanism. Indeed, role models are often suggested as a motivational tool for individuals in their setting and achieving ambitious goals, especially if individuals belong to stigmatized groups in achievement settings ( Lockwood, 2006 ;Morgenroth et al., 2015 ). For example, in the academic context, Solanki and Xu, 2018 find that female students, on average, are less likely to successfully complete a STEM gateway course than male students, but such gender achievement gap narrows when the instructor is a woman. ...
We ran a field experiment to investigate whether individual performance in teams was affected by the gender of the leader. About 430 students from an Italian University took an intermediate exam that was partly evaluated on the basis of teamwork. Students were randomly matched in teams of three and, in each team, we randomly chose a leader entrusted with the task of coordinating the work of the team. We find a positive and significant effect of female leadership on team performance. This effect is driven by the higher performance of team members in female-led teams rather than by an improvement in leader performance. In spite of the higher performance of female-led teams, male members tended to evaluate female leaders as less effective, whereas female members have provided more favorable judgments. Our results are consistent with stereotypically feminine personality traits influencing leadership style and the decision on the amount of effort to exert in a task where females are contravening stereotypical behavior and their traditional societal role.
In public good provision and other collective action problems, people are uncertain about how to balance self-interest and prosociality. Actions of others may inform this decision. We conduct an experiment to test the effect of watching private citizens and public officials acting in ways that either increase or decrease the spread of the coronavirus. For private role models, positive examples lead to a 34% increase in donations to the CDC Emergency Fund and a 20% increase in learning about COVID-19-related volunteering compared to negative examples. For public role models these effects are reversed. Negative examples lead to a 29% and 53% increase in donations and volunteering, respectively, compared to positive examples.
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We live in a time that requires attention to trauma. Educators and students are learning how to move forward in this precarious time, which in many ways has amplified preexisting health, racial, economic, and educational inequalities. The pandemic has shaped us in ways we have yet to understand fully, but we know we must adapt and heal together. It is imperative that K-College educators not only consider trauma-informed teaching, but also healing-centered teaching practices. As we think through ways to support the most harmed people in our teaching and learning communities, we will move closer to a more equitable and just healing-centered profession. This first volume of Special Issues: Trauma-Informed Teaching gathers some of the most compelling and practical recent articles across NCTE journals, addressing the importance of trauma-informed teaching and its recent developments in the field. Editor Sakeena Everett has curated this collection to show how to help K-College teachers integrate the most up-to-date approaches to trauma-informed teaching into their particular classroom environments. In this volume, you will find valuable insights, diverse perspectives, innovative and exciting pedagogies, as well as thought-provoking research methodologies that engage micro- and macro-level supports you need to get started today.
Despite scholarly debate on the topic of success, how women define career success remains unclear. For many decades, research on the concept of success has largely used quantitative methods to assess the external aspects of success in a male-dominated culture. Using a total of 18 articles from 1999 to 2020, this qualitative meta-synthesis aims to gain detailed insights into women’s definitions of career success and to capture their perspectives on the barriers they face. A systematic search was conducted across four databases: Sociological Abstracts, SocINDEX, SCOPUS, and Google Scholar. This study is novel in that it is the first synthesized research that qualitatively studies the concept of career success. From this review, three distinct themes regarding women’s definition of career success emerged: (1) having support, (2) having accomplishments, and (3) feeling belonging. This article also establishes three themes regarding the obstacles to women’s career path toward success: (1) work–family/work–life imbalance, (2) gender bias/gender discrimination, and (3) the lack of mentors and role models. In contrast to previous research, the findings of this qualitative meta-synthesis indicate that while women define career success individually, they acknowledge that the professional objective aspects of success are important or even central to them in their life. The limitations of the study are noted, and the implications and future research directions are discussed.
In 3 studies, the authors demonstrated that individuals are motivated by role models who encourage strategies that fit their regulatory concerns: Promotion-focused individuals, who favor a strategy of pursuing desirable outcomes, are most inspired by positive role models, who highlight strategies for achieving success; prevention-focused individuals, who favor a strategy of avoiding undesirable outcomes, are most motivated by negative role models, who highlight strategies for avoiding failure. In Studies 1 and 2, the authors primed promotion and prevention goals and then examined the impact of role models on motivation. Participants' academic motivation was increased by goal-congruent role models but decreased by goal-incongruent role models. In Study 3, participants were more likely to generate real-life role models that matched their chronic goals.
Stereotype research emphasizes systematic processes over seemingly arbitrary contents, but content also may prove systematic. On the basis of stereotypes' intergroup functions, the stereotype content model hypothesizes that (a) 2 primary dimensions are competence and warmth, (b) frequent mixed clusters combine high warmth with low competence (paternalistic) or high competence with low warmth (envious), and (c) distinct emotions (pity, envy, admiration, contempt) differentiate the 4 competence-warmth combinations. Stereotypically, (d) status predicts high competence, and competition predicts low warmth. Nine varied samples rated gender, ethnicity, race, class, age, and disability out-groups. Contrary to antipathy models, 2 dimensions mattered, and many stereotypes were mixed, either pitying (low competence, high warmth subordinates) or envying (high competence, low warmth competitors). Stereotypically, status predicted competence, and competition predicted low warmth.
Presents an integrative theoretical framework to explain and to predict psychological changes achieved by different modes of treatment. This theory states that psychological procedures, whatever their form, alter the level and strength of self-efficacy. It is hypothesized that expectations of personal efficacy determine whether coping behavior will be initiated, how much effort will be expended, and how long it will be sustained in the face of obstacles and aversive experiences. Persistence in activities that are subjectively threatening but in fact relatively safe produces, through experiences of mastery, further enhancement of self-efficacy and corresponding reductions in defensive behavior. In the proposed model, expectations of personal efficacy are derived from 4 principal sources of information: performance accomplishments, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and physiological states. Factors influencing the cognitive processing of efficacy information arise from enactive, vicarious, exhortative, and emotive sources. The differential power of diverse therapeutic procedures is analyzed in terms of the postulated cognitive mechanism of operation. Findings are reported from microanalyses of enactive, vicarious, and emotive modes of treatment that support the hypothesized relationship between perceived self-efficacy and behavioral changes. (21/2 p ref)
In this study we examined the interrelationship among extrinsic rewards and achievement goals (including a work-avoidance goal), competence beliefs, and task values associated with health-enhancing running tasks over a school year. A group of elementary school students ( n = 119) from a program that promoted running for running’s sake and another ( n = 88) from a program that promoted running through games provided pre- and post-year data on students’ achievement goals, competence beliefs, task values, achievement in running tests, and future intention to continue running as a health-enhancing activity. Results showed that students in the running-for-games program demonstrated significant growth in task-involved achievement goals. The regression analyses showed that extrinsic-reward and selected intrinsic-motivation constructs played a small role in predicting running-test scores. Interest, however, emerged as the most important intrinsic-motivation construct for predicting future motivation for running. Interest seemed to override the effects not only of extrinsic reward but also of other intrinsic motivation sources. This finding suggests that interest-based motivation sources might have a strong and prolonged effect on learner motivation.
This study of 368 female undergraduates examined self-efficacy and role model influence as predictors of career choice across J. L. Holland's (1997) 6 RIASEC (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, Conventional) types. Findings showed that levels of self-efficacy and role model influence differed across Holland types. Multiple regression analyses indicated that self-efficacy and role model influence accounted for significant variance in career choice for all 6 RIASEC types. Role model influence added to the prediction of career choice over and above the contribution of self-efficacy in all but 1 of the RIASEC types. The importance of attention to role models in career counseling is discussed.
Alex Haslam has thoroughly revised and updated his ground-breaking original text with this new edition. While still retaining the highly readable and engaging style of the best-selling First Edition, the author presents extensive reviews and critiques of major topics in organizational psychology - including leadership, motivation, communication, decision making, negotiation, power, productivity and collective action - in this thoroughly revised edition. New to the Second Edition: An entirely new chapter on organizational stress which deals with highly topical issues of stress appraisal, social support, coping and burnout.; New, wider textbook format and design making the entire book much more accessible for students.; A wide range of pedagogical features are included - suggestions for further reading at the end of each chapter and comprehensive glossaries of social identity, social psychological and organizational terms