The energetics of motivated cognition: A force-field analysis

Arie W. Kruglanski, Jocelyn J. Bélanger, Xiaoyan Chen, Catalina Köpetz, Antonio Pierro, Lucia Mannetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A force-field theory of motivated cognition is presented and applied to a broad variety of phenomena in social judgment and self-regulation. Purposeful cognitive activity is assumed to be propelled by a driving force and opposed by a restraining force. Potential driving force represents the maximal amount of energy an individual is prepared to invest in a cognitive activity. Effective driving force corresponds to the amount of energy he or she actually invests in attempt to match the restraining force. Magnitude of the potential driving force derives from a combination of goal importance and the pool of available mental resources, whereas magnitude of the restraining force derives from an individual's inclination to conserve resources, current task demands, and competing goals. The present analysis has implications for choice of means to achieve one's cognitive goals as well as for successful goal attainment under specific force-field constellations. Empirical evidence for these effects is considered, and the underlying theory's integrative potential is highlighted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalPsychological Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2012


  • Cognitive energetics theory
  • Driving force
  • Motivated cognition
  • Restraining force

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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