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James Shah, Associate Professor

James Shah

Research Summary:
The recent decades have seen an increasing integration of two formerly disparate research traditions in psychology, that of motivation and cognition. Nowhere has the benefit of this new synergy been more evident than in the study of the nature and process of goal pursuit. In defining a future state of affairs to approach or avoid, goals serve as motivational points of reference for the fulfillment of regulatory needs. But goals are also knowledge structures and, as such, follow many of the same principles of acquisition, activation, change, and organization that have been articulated in the extensive research on knowledge representation. My research examines goals from both perspectives: It notes, for instance, the significance of goals' regulatory function and accessibility for determining emotional experience and attainment behavior as well as the nature, determinants, and implications of goal structure. In focusing on both the regulatory and epistemic nature of goal pursuit, I have paid particularly close attention to the impact of these different properties on subjective experience and behavior. I have also applied this "synergistic" approach to an analysis of interpersonal phenomena, exploring how our interactions and experiences with other individuals and groups may often help us fulfill our own regulatory needs and to define our social reality. Indeed, my lab has found compelling evidence that how we feel about, and behave toward, other individuals and groups may be significantly affected by needs for accomplishment, security and cognitive closure. In a general sense then, my research considers the independent and interactive effects of motivation and cognition and their implications for how we feel and act, both with respect to our own pursuits and to the world around us.


Social Psychology

Representative Publications:   (More Publications)   (search)

  1. Shah, J. Y., Brazy, P. B., & Higgins, E. T. (2004). ). Promoting us or preventing them: Regulatory focus and the nature of ingroup bias, 30, 433-446.

Courses (Fall 2015):

  • Psy 104.01, Social psychology Synopsis
    Social sciences 139, WF 08:30 AM-09:45 AM

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