Joshua HicksJoshua Hicks, Ph.D. earned his BA from San Francisco State University, MS from Villanova University, and PhD from the University of Missouri. He is currently an assistant professor in the psychology department at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. His research focuses on classic and applied questions related to social and personality psychology. Although the specific question has varied, these lines of investigation are unified by their aim to understand the dynamic interplay of individual differences, situational factors, and cognitive processes in important outcomes such as the experience of meaning in life, self-knowledge, substance abuse, and personality development.  Joshua has published numerous articles on meaning in life, and, with Clay Routledge, recently edited a book on the topic, The Experience of Meaning in Life: Classical Perspectives, Emerging Themes, and Controversies.

Invited Lecture Abstract:

Motivating the academic mind: Thinking about the “why” of goal pursuit influences the perception of meaning, motivation, and goal self-concordance

Many scholars have argued that understanding “why” people do what they do should enhance their motivation and sense of purpose in life.  Building on this perspective, three studies tested whether thinking about “why” (vs. “how) one pursues his or her academic goals actually increases purpose and motivational factors relevant to goal pursuit. Across one exploratory (Study 1) and two confirmatory studies (Studies 2 and 3), writing about why one pursues an important academic goal led participants to think that the provided their life with more purpose (Studies 2 and 3), reported increased motivated to pursue the goal (Studies 2 and 3), and reported being more intrinsically motivated to pursue the goal (Studies 1–3). Implications and future directions are discussed.

Learning Objectives:

1.  To understand the differential influence of thinking about “why” vs. “how” one pursues an important goal on motivational processes associated with that goal pursuit.

2.  To explore whether thinking about why one wants to do well in college enhances the meaningfulness of goals associated academic achievement.