Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Carol Sansone

Carol Sansone

  • SPN Mentor

We have been investigating the process through which people develop and maintain motivation in day-to-day life. Motivation in everyday life involves feelings of "having to" and of "wanting to." In the short term, feeling that we HAVE to do something may be sufficient to motivate behavior (e.g., an exam tomorrow may motivate my reading the text tonight). However, this may not be sufficient over the long term (e.g., will I continue to read about this subject after the exam, the class, or school, is over?) We suggest that having some interest in what we do (i.e., feeling like you want to do it) is not a luxury. Rather, it is essential for any long-term behavior. This suggests that self-regulation of behavior over time must include the regulation of both kinds of motivation. Our research focus has been to test this hypothesis and explore some of the implications.

If maintaining some interest is important for maintaining performance over time, then one implication is that individuals faced with an uninteresting task should quit the activity. However, what if individuals believed that maintaining performance on this task was important? In that case, they may be motivated to make performance more interesting. In so doing, individuals may come to redefine the task to include these more interesting factors.

For example, someone whose job is to inspect potato chips for regularity of appearance may begin to look for meaningful shapes (e.g., Elvis) in the irregular chips. Even though his or her employer may consider these behaviors "off-task", these behaviors may be essential if he or she is going to maintain performance on the job over time. Our research has tested and found support for this idea about the self-regulation of interest.

We have also examined how individuals of different ages and gender view their everyday life across the life span (this work has been conducted with Dr. Cindy Berg in the developmental psychology area, and was funded by a grant from NICHD and NIA).

We are currently combining knowledge gained in this project about interpersonal goals in achievement settings and our self-regulation of motivation model to examine gender differences in motivation to perform math and science activities. We have also begun to examine the appearance of this self-regulatory process in other domains (e.g., work, online learning). If you are interested in hearing more about our research, you may contact me at the above address. The listed publications will also provide additional information.

Primary Interests:

  • Emotion, Mood, Affect
  • Gender Psychology
  • Internet and Virtual Psychology
  • Interpersonal Processes
  • Motivation, Goal Setting
  • Personality, Individual Differences


Journal Articles:

  • Isaac, J. D., Sansone, C., & Smith, J. L. (1999). Other people as a source of interest in an activity. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 239-265.
  • Sansone, C., & Morgan, C. (1992). Intrinsic motivation and education: Competence in context. Motivation and Emotion, 16, 249-269.
  • Sansone, C., Sachau, D. A., & Weir, C. (1989). Effects of instruction on intrinsic interest: The importance of context. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 819-829.
  • Sansone, C., & Smith, J. L. (2000). The "how" of goal pursuit: Interest and self-regulation. Psychological Inquiry.
  • Sansone, C., Weir, C., Harpster, L., & Morgan, C. (1992). Once a boring task always a boring task?: Interest as a self-regulatory mechanism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 379-390.
  • Sansone, C., Wiebe, D. J., & Morgan, C. (1999). Self-regulating interest: The moderating role of hardiness and conscientiousness. Journal of Personality.
  • Strough, J., Berg, C. A., & Sansone, C. (1996). Goals for everyday problem solving across the life span: Age and gender differences in the salience of interpersonal context. Developmental Psychology, 32, 1106-1115.

Other Publications:

  • Sansone, C. (Ed.). (1999). Special issue on Intrinsic Motivation, Creativity, and Performance: New Perspectives on Old Questions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology [Academic Press].
  • Sansone, C., & Harachiewicz, J. M. (1996). "I don't feel like it": The function of interest in self-regulation. In L. Martin & A. Tesser (Eds.), Striving and feeling: Interactions among goals, affect, and self-regulation (pp. 203-228). Mahweh, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Sansone, C., & Smith, J. L. (2000). Interest and self-regulation: The relation between having to and wanting to. In C. Sansone and J.M. Harackiewicz (Eds.), Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: The Search for Optimal Motivation and Performance. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Carol Sansone
Department of Psychology
University of Utah
380 South 1530 East, Room 502
Salt Lake City, Utah 84112-0251
United States

  • Phone: (801) 581-3667
  • Fax: (801) 581-5841

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