Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 August 2010
One of the most striking characteristics of human behavior that has fascinated philosophers and writers since antiquity is its purposive, intentional quality. Nearly everything we do is done for a reason. In everyday social life, people are constantly pursuing goals and trying to satisfy their desires and wants. It could even be argued that all social behavior and judgment is motivated behavior and judgment. The objective of this book is to review and integrate some of the most recent developments in research on social motivation. Specifically, our aim is to explore how various motivational mechanisms can influence, and are in turn influenced by, cognitive and affective variables as people pursue their various social goals in everyday social life.
Of course, not all motivated social behavior is necessarily conscious. Indeed, one of the most interesting recent developments in the social psychology of motivation has been the growing recognition that many kinds of social behaviors are performed in an almost automatic, spontaneous fashion, without conscious awareness. Even more intriguing are a growing number of findings suggesting not only that social actors are frequently unaware of the real motivational reasons for their behaviors, but more strikingly, that when questioned they often come up with clearly incorrect or mistaken causal explanations for their actions (Wegner & Gilbert, 2000). Does this mean that the whole notion of intentional, purposive, goal-directed social behavior should be questioned, and imply a need to revise our deepest philosophical assumptions about human beings as conscious, rational, goal-pursuing creatures?