Self-regulation & Goal pursuit

self-reg-origOur lab has a long-standing interest in goal pursuit: How people harness their resources and direct them in pursuit of important goals. We integrate two complementary perspectives on self-regulation, acknowledging that there is a skill involved—some people are simply better at self-discipline or have a greater capacity to work hard—while also emphasizing the role of motivation: No matter how much self-discipline you have, you will only exercise it if you care enough to do so.

We have applied this perspective to understanding how society drives self-regulation differently for people with higher versus lower social class, to how religion can influence self-regulation processes, and to how broad concepts like justice and order can affect how well people pursue their goals.

More recently, we have begun to investigate the social side of self-regulation: How other people around us influence what goals we choose to pursue and how well we do so. We are also working on a model linking self-regulation to rationalization.

*Not much current research in the lab focuses on this topic, except as it relates to social class and / or rationalization*


Laurin, K., & Engstrom, H. R. (in press). The context of low socioeconomic status can undermine people’s motivation for financial success. Current Opinion in Psychology.

Laurin, K., Kay, A. C., & Landau, M. J. (in press). ML2 Commentary: Structure and goal pursuit: Individual and cultural differences. Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science.

Laurin, K., Engstrom, H., & Alic, A. (2019). Motivational accounts of the vicious cycle of social status: An integrative framework using the United States as a case study. Perspectives in Psychological Science, 14, 107-137.

Khenfer, J., Laurin, K., Tafani, E., Roux, E., & Kay, A. C. (2017). Interventionist external agents make specific advice less demotivating. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 73, 189-196.

Khenfer, J., Roux, E., Tafani, E., & Laurin, K. (2017). When God’s (not) needed: Spotlight on how belief in divine control influences goal commitmentJournal of Experimental Social Psychology, 70, 117-123.

Laurin, K. (2016). Interpersonal influences on goals: Current and future directions for goal contagion research. Social Psychology and Personality Compass, 10, 668-678.

Belmi, P., & Laurin, K. (2016). Who wants to get to the top? Class and lay theories about power. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 111, 505-529.

Laurin, K., Fitzsimons, G. M., Finkel, E J., Carswell, K. L., vanDellen, M. R., Hofmann, W., Lambert, N. M. Eastwick, P. W., Fincham, F. D., & Brown, P. C. (2016). Power and the pursuit of a partner’s goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 110, 840-868.

Laurin, K., & Kay, A. C. (2016). Religion and self-regulation. In K. D. Vohs, R. F. Baumeister (Eds.), Handbook of Self-Regulation: Research, Theory, & Applications. New York: The Guilford Press.

Kay, A. C., Laurin, K., Fitzsimons, G. M, & Landau, M. J. (2014). A functional basis for structure-seeking: Exposure to structure promotes willingness to engage in motivated action. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143, 486-491.

Laurin, K., Kay, A. C., & Fitzsimons, G. M. (2012). Divergent effects of activating thoughts of god on self-regulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 4-21.

Laurin, K., Fitzsimons, G. M., & Kay, A. C. (2011). Social Disadvantage and the Self-Regulatory Function of Justice Beliefs. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 149-171.