Motivation and volition in the course of action

Anja Achtziger, Peter M. Gollwitzer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Characteristics of the Action Perspective For Kurt Lewin (cf. Lewin, Dembo, Festinger,&Sears, 1944), there was never any doubt that motivational phenomena can only be properly understood and analyzed from an action perspective. Indeed, as he pointed out in support of this claim, processes of goal setting and goal striving are governed by distinct psychological principles. These insights went unheeded for several decades, however, probably for the simple reason that goal setting research based on the expectancy-value paradigm proved so successful (Festinger, 1942; Atkinson, 1957) and captured the full attention of motivation psychologists. It was not until the emergence of the psychology of goals (starting with Klinger's current concerns, 1977, and Wicklund's and Gollwitzer's self-definitional goals, 1982) and the psychology of action control (based on Kuhl's analysis of state vs. action orientation, 1983; see Chapter 12) that the processes and potential strategies of goal striving began to receive the attention that Kurt Lewin had already felt they deserved back in the 1940s (Oettingen&Gollwitzer, 2001). In contrast to the behaviorist approach, an action perspective on human behavior means extending the scope of analysis beyond simple stimulus-response bonds and the execution of learned habits. The concept of action is seen in opposition to such learned habits and automatic responses; it is restricted to those human behaviors that have what Max Weber (1921) termed “Sinn” (“meaning” or “sense”). In Weber's conceptualization, “action” is all human behavior that the actor deems to have “meaning.”

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMotivation and Action
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9780511499821
ISBN (Print)9780521852593
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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