Kennon M. Sheldon

University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, United States

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Publications (153)375.61 Total impact

  • Kennon M. Sheldon · Mike Prentice · Marc Halusic · Julia Schüler
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    ABSTRACT: Some individuals feel strong conviction and interest in pursuing personal goals, and minimal pressure and compulsion (i.e., they feel more “self-concordant” in their goal pursuits). Sheldon and colleagues argue that this is because their goals well match their implicit personalities (Sheldon, Pers Soc Psychol Rev 18:349–365, 2014). We evaluated this claim in a new way by first measuring participants’ implicit and explicit Need for Affiliation and Need for Achievement (using the Picture Story Exercise and the Personality Research Form), then randomly assigning them to list and pursue either Relationship or Competence goals during the semester, then measuring the rated self-concordance of the resultant goals. We tested four goal-type by motive-type interactions as predictors of rated self-concordance, finding good support for three of the interaction hypotheses and suggestive support for the fourth. It appears that the self-concordance measure indeed assesses “fit” between personal goals and both implicit and explicit motives.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2015 · Motivation and Emotion
  • Kennon M. Sheldon
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    ABSTRACT: I applaud Dunlop's goals for personality psychology and his interesting research findings so far. I call attention to research of my own which has pursued these same goals. I also re-state my argument that properly understood, personality has four basic tiers, not three. The 'lowest' tier contains various types of universals, including basic psychological needs common to all humans. The advantage of examining this tier is that it can provide an 'ultimate arbiter' for determining which higher-level personality contents and configurations best promote people's personal growth. Copyright (C) 2015 European Association of Personality Psychology
    No preview · Article · May 2015 · European Journal of Personality
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    Duane Rudy · Kennon M. Sheldon · Yaoran Li · Shanmukh Kamble · Xi Bi · Francisco Palermo
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    ABSTRACT: In previous research, Asian Americans had higher levels of intrinsic motivation than European Americans when their mothers made choices for them. However, European Americans had higher levels of intrinsic motivation than Asian Americans when they made choices for themselves. We attempted to explain this effect by examining cultural differences in social perceptions of the choice situation in two studies. Study 1 found that feelings of closeness with parents and beliefs about who has better long-term foresight mediated the predicted group differences in intrinsic motivation in a parent-choice condition when comparing Indian and Chinese undergraduates with European American undergraduates. However, perceptions of how acceptable it is for the decision maker to make the choice mediated group differences in intrinsic motivation in a personal-choice condition. Although there were some exceptions, Study 2 generally replicated these findings in a comparison of Indian and European American undergraduates, and showed that cultural differences in beliefs about how accurately the decision maker knows and takes into account the participants’ immediate preferences played an additional mediating role in the personal-choice condition, as did personal foresight. These studies suggest that cultural differences in how children construe decision making affect the relationship of such decision making to resultant intrinsic motivation.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
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    Kennon M. Sheldon · Bryan Garton · Rachael Orr · Amy Smith
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    ABSTRACT: Most US institutions of higher education do not assess advisor quality. We report a scale development effort informed by the developmental prescriptions of self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985, 2000). The 15-item Missouri Advisor Quality Survey assesses advisor knowledge, advisor availability, and advisor autonomy supportiveness. Across 3 studies the three factors were distinguishable, and each contributed independently to predicting students’ global satisfaction with their advisor’s performance. Autonomy support was the strongest of the three variables, predicting not only student satisfaction but also the amount of time advisors spend with the student, student cumulative GPA, and student current semester GPA controlling for cumulative GPA.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · Journal of College Student Development
  • Yaoran Li · Kennon M. Sheldon · Rude Liu
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    ABSTRACT: The present research tested the individual difference variable of dialectical thinking style (DT) as a moderator of the relationship between extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation, in situations where rewards have been introduced for an initially enjoyable activity. In Study 1, participants were asked to imagine gaining rewards for doing an enjoyable activity and in Study 2, participants were given real rewards for doing an enjoyable activity, after which subsequent extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation were rated. Both studies revealed a significant interaction effect of DT and self-reported extrinsic motivation in relation to subsequent self-reported intrinsic motivation. The results of Study 3 replicated the general pattern again, using cultural membership (China vs. the U.S.) as a stand-in for DT. Findings indicate that DT mitigates the detrimental effects of extrinsic motivation on intrinsic motivation, identifying an important new individual difference moderator of the "undermining effect" of extrinsic motivation on intrinsic motivation.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2015 · Learning and Individual Differences
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    Kennon M. Sheldon
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    ABSTRACT: After graduating from Duke University in 1981 with a degree in psychology, I moved to Seattle, where I continued to be interested in creativity, genius, and intelligence (and where I also started a rock band). I read everything I could on various religious, meditative, and transpersonal theories and practices for transforming consciousness and achieving personal fulfillment. I wanted to know exactly what the state of “enlightment” (i.e., satori, nirvana, moksha) felt like. Along the way I spent a year in a Master’s program in “existential-phenomenological psychotherapy,” at Seattle University. This part of my life culminated in my taking Werner Erhard’s “est” training, which provided a rather remarkable set of tools and concepts for enacting “Programming and meta-programming within the human bio-computer,” to borrow one of John Lily’s book titles. But I dropped out of that program and soon I was nowhere, professionally -- working in group homes for little pay.Finally I came to two conc ...
    Preview · Article · Mar 2015 · Applied Research in Quality of Life
  • Kennon M Sheldon · Paul E Jose · Todd B Kashdan · Aaron Jarden
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    ABSTRACT: In a three-wave, year-long, large-sample dataset (N = 755), 10 candidate "personality strengths" (Grit, Gratitude, Curiosity, Savoring, Control Beliefs, Meaning in Life-Presence, Strengths Use, and Engagement, Pleasure, and Meaning-Based Orientations Toward Happiness) were compared as predictors of 6-month increases in goal attainment, and as moderators of goal attainment effects upon boosted subjective well-being (SWB). Seeking internal replication, we tested our models twice, both during T1-T2 and during T2-T3. We also examined whether any Personality × Attainment moderator effects upon change in SWB at T2 still persisted at T3. Grit was the only candidate strength that predicted increased goal attainment from T1 to T2 and from T2 to T3, and Curiosity was the only candidate strength that moderated attainment effects on well-being from T1 to T2 and from T2 to T3. T2 Goal attainment effects on SWB were best sustained at T3 when Meaning Orientation increased from T1 to T2. Implications for identifying keystone constructs in personality (and positive) psychology are discussed. © 2015 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2015 · Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
  • Lawrence S. Krieger · Kennon M. Sheldon
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    ABSTRACT: This is the first theory-guided empirical research seeking to identify the correlates and contributors to the well-being and life satisfaction of lawyers. Data from several thousand lawyers in four states provide insights about diverse factors from law school and one's legal career and personal life. Striking patterns appear repeatedly in the data and raise serious questions about the common priorities on law school campuses and among lawyers. External factors, which are often given the most attention and concern among law students and lawyers (factors oriented towards money and status-such as earnings, partnership in a law firm, law school debt, class rank, law review membership, and U.S. News & World Report's law school rankings), showed nil to small associations with lawyer well-being. Conversely, the kinds of internal and psychological factors shown in previous research to Erode in law school appear in these data to be the most important contributors to lawyers' happiness and satisfaction. These factors constitute the first two of five tiers of well-being factors identified in the data, followed by choices regarding family and personal life. The external money and status factors constitute the fourth tier, and demographic differences were least important. Data on lawyers in different practice types and settings demonstrate the applied importance of the contrasting internal and external factors. Attorneys in large firms and other prestigious positions were not as happy as public service attorneys, despite the far better grades and pay of the former group; and junior partners in law firms were no happier than senior associates, despite the greatly enhanced pay and status of the partners. Overall, the data also demonstrate that lawyers are very much like other people, notwithstanding their specialized cognitive training and the common perception that lawyers are different from others in fundamental ways.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2015 · The George Washington law review
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    ABSTRACT: Happiness seekers tend to focus on changing their life circumstances, such as buying a new house, switching jobs, or getting married. However, people have been found to adapt to both positive and negative life changes, such as marriage, job promotion, disability, and widowhood. This process-known as hedonic adaptation-can serve as a formidable barrier to achieving lasting happiness. The Hedonic Adaptation Prevention model outlines why people adapt to life changes and sheds light on how adaptation to favorable events can be forestalled and how adaptation to unfavorable events can be hastened. In this chapter, we focus on a positive change as the model's starting point, which is associated with an immediate boost in well-being and a gradual decline back to baseline. Individuals adapt to positive life changes due to increasing aspirations and declines in the number of positive events and emotions associated with the change. Fortunately, lasting happiness change is indeed possible, as adaptation can be slowed or arrested in a number of ways, such as feeling greater appreciation for the good things in life and introducing greater variety.
    No preview · Chapter · Dec 2014
  • Mike Prentice · Kennon M Sheldon
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    ABSTRACT: ABSTRACT We test whether people with a relatively more intrinsic vs. extrinsic value orientation (RIEVO) are particularly likely to enact cooperative behavior in resource dilemmas when they are primed with relatedness goals. In Study 1, high RIEVO participants primed with relatedness exhibited more restrained fishing behavior in a resource dilemma than their unprimed counterparts or participants low in RIEVO. Study 2 replicated this effect and further showed that the prime must signal the possibility of satisfying a valued goal (relatedness satisfaction) in order to elicit the value-consistent behavior. We discuss these results in the context of recent process models of goal priming, and also discuss how these findings contribute to our understanding of cooperative behavior and the predictive power of value constructs more broadly.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2014 · The Journal of Social Psychology
  • Kennon M. Sheldon · Lawrence S. Krieger
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    ABSTRACT: Prior research on intrinsic versus extrinsic values has focused on the comparative importance subjects assign to the two types of values, showing that relative intrinsic versus extrinsic value orientation (RIEVO) predicts higher or increased well-being. In two studies, we show that rated action taken regarding the two types of values is just as essential to study. Support was found for four hypotheses: (1) there was a significant behavior/importance gap, such that participants “walked” (acted on values) less than they “talked” (endorsed those values); (2) this was especially true for intrinsic values, an interaction suggesting that the intrinsic ideals of personal growth, community, and connection often receive only lip service; (3) the “walk” (behavior ratings) measure of RIEVO subsumed the “talk” (importance ratings) RIEVO measure’s effects on well-being outcomes, suggesting that researchers interested in predicting well-being from values should perhaps focus on rated value enactment, not value importance; and (4) participants with higher meaning in life, lower search for meaning, more self-concordance at work, and greater chronological age evidenced more consistency between their talking and their walking.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2014 · Motivation and Emotion
  • Julia Schüler · Kennon M. Sheldon · Mike Prentice · Marc Halusic
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    ABSTRACT: Objective The present studies examined whether implicit or explicit autonomy dispositions moderate the relationship between felt autonomy and well-being.Method Study 1 (N = 187 undergraduate students) presents an initial test of the moderator hypothesis by predicting flow experience from the interaction of autonomy need-satisfaction and autonomy dispositions. Study 2 (N = 127 physically inactive persons) used vignettes involving an autonomy (un)supportive coach to test a moderated mediation model in which perceived coach autonomy-support leads to well-being through basic need satisfaction. Again, the effects of need satisfaction on well-being were hypothesized to be moderated by an implicit autonomy disposition.ResultsStudy 1 showed that individuals with a strong implicit autonomy (but not power or achievement) motive disposition derived more flow experience from felt autonomy than individuals with a weak implicit autonomy disposition. Study 2 revealed that perceived autonomy-support from sport coaches which we experimentally induced with a vignette method, leads to autonomy-satisfaction, which in turn has positive effects on well-being. This indirect effect held at high and average but not low implicit autonomy disposition.Conclusion The results indicate that the degree to which people benefit from autonomy need-satisfaction depends on their implicit disposition towards autonomy.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2014 · Journal of Personality
  • Kennon M Sheldon
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    ABSTRACT: Pursuing personal goals is an important way that people organize their behavior and mature as individuals. However, because people are typically unaware of their own implicit motivations and potentials, they may pick goals that do not serve them well. This article suggests that "self-concordant" goal selection is a difficult self-perceptual skill, with important ramifications for thriving. Various means of conceptualizing and measuring goal self-concordance are considered. Then, relevant literature is reviewed to show that goal self-concordance, as assessed by a self-determination theory methodology, is predicted by goal/motive fit; that goal self-concordance in turn predicts more persistent goal effort and, thus, better goal attainment over time; and that self-concordant goal selection is enhanced by personality variables and interpersonal contexts that promote accurate self-insight and personal autonomy. Implications for the nature of the self, the causes of personality thriving and growth, and the free will question are considered.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2014 · Personality and Social Psychology Review
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    ABSTRACT: The present study investigated whether satisfaction and frustration of the psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence, as identified within Basic Psychological Need Theory (BPNT; Deci and Ryan, Psychol Inquiry 11:227-268, 2000; Ryan and Deci, Psychol Inquiry 11:319-338, 2000), contributes to participants' well-being and ill-being, regardless of their cultural background and interpersonal differences in need strength, as indexed by either need valuation (i.e., the stated importance of the need to the person) or need desire (i.e., the desire to get a need met). In Study 1, involving late adolescents from Belgium and China (total N = 685; Mean age = 17 years), autonomy and competence satisfaction had unique associations with well-being and individual differences in need valuation did not moderate these associations. Study 2 involved participants from four culturally diverse nations (Belgium, China, USA, and Peru; total N = 1,051; Mean age = 20 years). Results provided evidence for the measurement equivalence of an adapted scale tapping into both need satisfaction and need frustration. Satisfaction of each of the three needs was found to contribute uniquely to the prediction of well-being, whereas frustration of each of the three needs contributed uniquely to the prediction of ill-being. Consistent with Study 1, the effects of need satisfaction and need frustration were found to be equivalent across the four countries and were not moderated by individual differences in the desire for need satisfaction. These findings underscore BPNT's universality claim, which states that the satisfaction of basic needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence represent essential nutrients for optimal functioning across cultures and across individual differences in need strength.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2014 · Motivation and Emotion
  • Kennon M. Sheldon · Mike Prentice · Marc Halusic
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    ABSTRACT: Mindfulness and flow are both beneficial states of mind, but are they difficult to experience simultaneously? After all, flow involves losing self-awareness within an activity, and mindfulness involves maintaining self-awareness throughout or even despite an activity. In three studies, we examine this potential antagonism, finding negative associations between mindfulness and flow as assessed in a variety of ways and contexts. These associations emerged within Global trait data and diary data concerning daily goal behavior (Study 1), experience-sampling data concerning behavior at the time of signaling (Study 2), and experimental data concerning the experience of playing the flow-conducive computer game, Tetris, after undergoing a mindfulness induction (Study 3). However, these associations only apply to the “absorption” aspect of flow, not the “sense of control” aspect.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2014 · Social Psychological and Personality Science
  • Kennon M. Sheldon · Lawrence S. Krieger
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    ABSTRACT: Giving too much emphasis to extrinsic values and too little emphasis to intrinsic values is known to depress well-being. But is simply working in an extrinsic job also risky, even if that job delivers the money? We compared 1414 'Money' (extrinsic) lawyers, 1145 'Service' (intrinsic) lawyers, and 3415 'Other' lawyers as to their income, values, well-being, and drinking behavior. Although service lawyers had much lower incomes, they also experienced more well-being and less negative affect compared to money lawyers, and drank less and less often. ANCOVAs showed that the intrinsic vs. extrinsic job-type effects were independent of rated intrinsic vs. extrinsic values, current income, years of work experience, and class rank at graduation, suggesting that the job-contexts themselves were operative. We discuss the difficult choice that pre-professional students face, between two versions of the American dream: one emphasizing wealth and status, and the other, service and personal development.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2014 · The Journal of Positive Psychology
  • Mike Prentice · Marc Halusic · Kennon M. Sheldon
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    ABSTRACT: Two conceptions of psychological needs predominate within contemporary motivational science. Motive disposition theory conceives of needs as behavioral motives which direct behavior (needs-as-motives), while self-determination theory conceives of needs as universally required experiences for optimal functioning (needs-as-requirements). Until recently, these perspectives on psychological needs have proceeded without much intersection, despite the fact that they address the same fundamental concept. Here we summarize the Two Process Model of Psychological Needs, which attempts to bridge these two conceptions. We argue that psychological needs are best defined as tendencies to seek out certain basic types of psychosocial experiences, to a somewhat varying extent across individuals, and to feel good and thrive when those basic experiences are obtained, to the same extent across individuals. We suggest that this definition allows a reconciliation of needs-as-motives and needs-as-requirements perspectives and a more consilient science of human motivation. Empirical support for the TPM is also summarized.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2014 · Social and Personality Psychology Compass
  • Lawrence S. Krieger · Kennon M. Sheldon
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    ABSTRACT: Attorney well-being and depression are topics of ongoing concern, but there has been no theory-driven empirical research to guide lawyers and law students seeking well-being. The researchers gathered detailed data from several thousand lawyers in four states, to measure a variety of factors considered likely to impact lawyer well-being. These factors included choices and achievements in law school, legal career, and personal life, and psychological needs and motivations established by Self-Determination Theory. Results are standardized and organized into five tiers of well-being factors. They suggest that the priorities and values of law students, lawyers, law schools, and law firms are often misplaced, with apparent negative impacts on lawyer well-being and, by extension, performance, productivity, and professionalism. Factors typically afforded most attention and concern, those relating to prestige and finances (income, law school debt, class rank, law review, and USNWR law school ranking) showed zero to small correlations with lawyer well-being. Conversely, factors typically marginalized in law school and seen in previous research to erode in law students (psychological needs, internal motivation and intrinsic values) were the very strongest predictors of lawyer happiness and satisfaction. Lawyers were grouped by practice type and setting to further test these findings. Despite markedly lower law school grades and current income, public service lawyers had healthier autonomy, purpose, and values and were happier than lawyers in the most prestigious positions (and who had the highest law school grades and incomes). Additional measures raised concerns: subjects did not broadly agree that judge and lawyer behavior is professional, nor that the legal process reaches fair outcomes. Specific explanations and recommendations for lawyers, law teachers, and legal employers are drawn from the data, and the relationships between well-being, productivity, and professionalism are discussed.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2014 · SSRN Electronic Journal
  • Christian Hinsch · Kennon M. Sheldon
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    ABSTRACT: Organizations are frequently turning to social Internet applications in an effort to form bonds with consumers. However, little research has addressed the impact of social Internet consumption on the individual. Two studies of regular social Internet consumers (i.e., users of Facebook and socially connected online games) examined the effects of prompted usage reduction or cessation upon participants. In both studies, participants benefitted on average during the reduction/cessation period, reporting increased life satisfaction and decreased procrastination. The Facebooker versus gamer factor had remarkably few effects (i.e., results generalized across these two groups). Implications are discussed for both consumers and organizations involved in social Internet activities. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2013 · Journal of Consumer Behaviour
  • Kennon M. Sheldon · Ruixue Zhaoyang · Michael J. Williams
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    ABSTRACT: Objectives: We applied self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000) to examine whether pre-game psychological need-satisfaction predicts the quality of sports performance, and whether performance, in turn, predicts post-game need-satisfaction. Design/method: Undergraduate participants competing in a recreational league basketball season completed autonomy, competence, and relatedness need-satisfaction measures before and after games (N = 150 person-games). For each game, data were collected on the number of one, two, and three point shots taken, as well as shooting percentages for each type of shot. Results: Participants with greater pre-game autonomy performed best overall during games, although this pattern did not emerge within-subjects. Good game performance predicted enhanced post-game relatedness and competence, both between- and within-subjects. Conclusion: Implications for optimal sports performance are considered.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2013 · Psychology of Sport and Exercise

Publication Stats

12k Citations
375.61 Total Impact Points


  • 1997-2015
    • University of Missouri
      • Department of Psychological Sciences
      Columbia, Missouri, United States
  • 2008
    • University of Illinois at Chicago
      Chicago, Illinois, United States
  • 2007
    • Columbia College Missouri
      Columbia, South Carolina, United States
  • 2005
    • University of Ottawa
      • School of Psychology
      Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • 2001
    • Southern Methodist University
      Dallas, Texas, United States
    • Knox College
      • Psychology
      Columbia, South Carolina, United States
  • 1995-1998
    • University of Rochester
      • Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology
      Rochester, New York, United States