N Pontus Leander

N Pontus Leander

Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Groningen

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Research in the Media

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Research Statement

Unconscious motivation is one of the most longstanding mysteries in psychology. More than a century of research and theory has yet to fully explain what it is, how it works, and whether it is something human beings can ever control. If anything, the role of unconscious motivation seems to be getting bigger—shaping our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and behavior in ways not previously imagined. In my research, I try to understand the extent to which nonconscious motivational process can explain the human experience, particularly those phenomena that may otherwise be written off as unexplainable or too profound for words. In years past, I focused on motivational contagion and various types of implicit influence. I have, for instance, tested the implicit motivational influence of pro-drug peers: relationship schemas are stored in memory and in particular moments of weakness, mere activation of these schemas can trigger increased motivation to pursue or rationalize drug use. I have also tested the implicit influence of perceived indifference—the spreading of apathy—and what it takes to overcome such influence. Apparently, exposure to others who represent the absence of a particular motivation can sink one’s own goal-directed motivation if one already has doubts about the goal. Accordingly, I also explore the factors that help people overcome unwanted implicit influences; it appears people can shield their fundamental motivations from implicit interpersonal influences that may threaten them.

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