Ken Sheldon


112 McAlester Hall
(573) 884-1547

Lab: Sheldon Motivation lab

Research Interests

I primarily study goals, motivation, and psychological well-being. I am active in the "positive psychology" movement. Research questions include, "is it possible for people to become happier, and if so, how?" "Why do people pursue overly materialistic goals, and how can they be helped to select more satisfying goals?" "What is the nature of optimal motivation and optimal functioning?"

Selected Publications


Sheldon, K. M., Kashdan, T., & Steger, M. (Eds) (2011). Designing the future of positive psychology: Taking stock and moving forward. Oxford University Press.

Chirkov, V., Ryan, R. M., & Sheldon, K. M. (Eds) (2011). Personal autonomy in cultural contexts: Global perspectives on the psychology of agency, freedom, and people's well-being. Springer.

Sheldon, K. M. (Ed., 2009). Current Directions in Psychological Science: Reader in Motivation and Emotion. Pearson.

Sheldon, K. M. (2004). Optimal human being: An integrated multi-level perspective. New Jersey: Erlbaum.

Sheldon, K. M., Joiner, T., & Williams, G. (2003). Self-Determination Theory in the Clinic: Motivating physical and mental health. Yale University Press.

Schmuck, P. & Sheldon, K.M. (Eds) (2001). Life goals and well-being: Towards a positive psychology of human striving. Seattle, Toronto, Bern, Goettingen: Hogrefe & Huber Publishers.


Sheldon, K. M. (2011). Integrating behavioral-motive and experiential-requirement perspectives on psychological needs: A two process perspective. Psychological Review.

Sheldon, K. M. & Schuler, J. (2011). Needing, wanting, and having: Integrating motive disposition theory and self-determination theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Sheldon, K. M. & Gunz, A. (in press). What does it mean to be in touch with oneself? Testing a social character model of self-congruence. Self and Identity.

Sheldon, K. M., Nichols, C. P., & Kasser, T. (2011). Americans recommend smaller ecological footprints when reminded of traditional American values. Ecopsychology, 3, 97-104.

Lyubomirsky, S., Dickerhoof, R., Boehm, J. K. & Sheldon, K. M. (2011). Becoming happier takes both a will and a proper way: An experimental longitudinal intervention to boost well-being. Emotion, 11, 391-402.

Sheldon, K.M., Abad, N., & Hinsch, C. (2011). A two process view of Facebook use and relatedness need-satisfaction: Disconnectedness drives use and connectedness rewards it. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 766-775.

Sheldon, K. M., Cheng, C., & Hilpert, J. (2011). Understanding well-being and optimal functioning: Applying the Multilevel Personality in Context (MPIC) model. Psychological Inquiry, 22, 1-16.

Sheldon, K. M. (2011). Consilience in the biopsychosocial system. Psychological Inquiry, 22, 52-65.

Sheldon, K. M., Cummins, R., & Khamble, S. (2010). Life-balance and well-being: Testing a two-pronged conceptual and measurement approach. Journal of Personality, 78, 1093-1134.

Sheldon, K. M., Gunz, A., Nichols, C., & Ferguson, Y. (2010). Extrinsic value orientation and affective forecasting: Over-estimating the rewards, under-estimating the costs. Journal of Personality, 78, 149-178.

Schuler, J., Sheldon, K.M., & Frohlich, S. (2010). Implicit need for achievement moderates the relationship between competence need-satisfaction and subsequent motivation. Journal of Research in Personality, 44, 1-12.

Sheldon, K. M. (2009). Providing the scientific background for positive psychology: A multi-level conception of human thriving. Psychological Topics, 18, 267-284.

Sheldon, K. M., & Gunz, A. (2009). Psychological needs as basic motives, not just experiential requirements. Journal of Personality, 77, 1467-1492.

Cozzolino, P. J., Sheldon, K. M., Schachtman, T. R., & Meyers, L. S. (2009). Limited time perspective, values, and greed: Imagining a limited future reduces avarice in extrinsic people. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 399-408.

Sheldon, K. M. & Nichols, C. (2009). Comparing the values of Republicans and Democrats. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 39, 589-623.

Sheldon, K. M. & Filak, V. (2008). Manipulating autonomy, competence, and relatedness in a game-learning context: New evidence that all three needs matter. British Journal of Social Psychology, 47, 267-283.

Filak, V. & Sheldon, K. M. (2008). Teacher support, student motivation, student need satisfaction, and college teacher course evaluations: Testing a sequential path model. Educational Psychology, 28, 711-724.

Sheldon, K. M. & Kasser, T. (2008). Psychological threat and goal striving. Motivation and Emotion, 32, 37-45.

Sheldon, K. M. & Cooper, M. L. (2008). Goal striving within agentic and communal roles: Functionally independent pathways to enhanced well-being. Journal of Personality, 76, 415-447.

O’Gorman, R., Sheldon, K. M., & Sloan-Wilson, D. S. (2008). For the good of the group? Exploring group-level evolutionary adaptations using multilevel selection theory. Group Dynamics, 12, 17-26.

Routledge, C., Arndt, J., Vess, M., & Sheldon, K. (2008). The life and death of creativity: The effects of self vs. other-oriented behavior on creative expression after mortality salience. Motivation and Emotion, 32, 331 - 338.

Nichols, C., Sheldon, K.M., & Sheldon, M.S. (2008). Evolution and personality: What should a comprehensive theory address, and how? Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2, 968-984.

Sheldon, K. M. (2007). Gender differences in preferences for singles ads that proclaim extrinsic versus intrinsic values. Sex Roles, 57, 119-129.

Sheldon, K. M. & Lyubomirsky, S. (2007). Is it possible to become happier? (And if so, how?) Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 1, 129-145.

Sheldon, K. M. & Tan, H. (2007). The multiple determination of well-being: Independent effects of positive needs, traits, goals, selves, social supports, and cultural contexts. Journal of Happiness Studies, 8, 565-592.

Sheldon, K. M., King, L. A., Houser-Marko, L., Osbaldiston, R., & Gunz, A. (2007). Comparing IAT and TAT measures of power versus intimacy motivation. European Journal of Personality, 21, 236-280.

Sheldon, K. M. & Krieger, L. K. (2007). Understanding the negative effects of legal education on law students: A longitudinal test of self-determination theory. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 883-897.

Sheldon, K. M. & Schachtman, T. R. (2007). Obligations, motivational internalization, and excuse-making: Testing and extending the triangle model of responsibility. Journal of Personality, 75, 359-382.

Sheldon, K. M., & Niemiec, C. (2006). Its not just the amount that counts: Balanced need-satisfaction also affects well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 331-341.

Sheldon, K. M. (2006). Catholic guilt? Comparing Catholics' and Protestants' religious motivations. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 16, 209-224.

Sheldon, K. M. & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006). Achieving sustainable happiness: Change your actions, not your circumstances. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7, 55-86.

Sheldon, K. M. & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006). How to increase and sustain positive emotion: The benefits of expressing gratitude and visualizing best possible selves. Journal of Positive Psychology, 1, 73-82.

Sheldon, K. M., Houser-Marko, L., & Kasser, T. (2006). Does autonomy increase with age? Comparing the motivation and well-being of college students and their parents. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 168-178.

Vansteenkiste, M. & Sheldon, K. M. (2006). There is nothing so practical as a good theory: Integrating self-determination theory and motivational interviewing theory. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45, 63-82.

Sheldon, K. M., Kasser, T., Houser-Marko, L., Jones, T., & Turban, D. (2005). Doing one’s duty: Chronological age, felt autonomy, and subjective well-being. European Journal of Personality, 19, 97-115.

Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9, 111-131.

Sheldon, K. M. (2005). Positive value change during college: Normative trends and individual differences. Journal of Research in Personality, 39, 209-223.

Arndt, J., Routledge, C., Greenberg, J., & Sheldon, K. M. (2005). Illuminating the dark side of creative expression: Assimilation needs and the consequences of creative action following mortality salience. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 1327-1339.

Grouzet, F., Kasser, T., Ahuvia, A., Dols, J., Kim, Y., Lau, S., Ryan, R., Saunders, S., Schmuck, P., & Sheldon, K. M. (2005). The structure of goal contents across 15 cultures. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 89, 800-816.

Sheldon, K. M. (2004). The benefits of a sidelong approach to self-esteem need-satisfaction: A comment on Crocker and Park (2004). Psychological Bulletin, 130, 421-424.

Sheldon, K. M. & Krieger, L. (2004). Does law school undermine law students? Examining changes in goals, values, and well-being. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 22, 261-286.

Sheldon, K. M., Ryan, R., Deci, E., & Kasser, T. (2004). The independent effects of goal contents and motives on well-being: It's both what you pursue and why you pursue it. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 475-486.

Sheldon, K. M., Elliot, A. J., Ryan, R. M., Chirkov, V., Kim, Y., Wu, C., Demir, M., & Sun, Z. (2004). Self-concordance and subjective well-being in four cultures. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 35, 209-233.

Vansteenkiste, M., Simons, J., Lens, W., Sheldon, K.M., & Deci, E. (2004). Motivating processing, performance, and persistence: The synergistic role of intrinsic goal content and autonomy-supportive context. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 246-260.

Arndt, J., Solomon, S., Kasser, T., & Sheldon, K. (2004). The urge to splurge: A terror management account of materialism and consumer behavior. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 14, 198-212.

Sheldon, K.M., Arndt, J., & Houser-Marko, L. (2003). In search of the organismic valuing process: The human tendency to move towards beneficial goal choices. Journal of Personality, 71, 835-869.

Filak, V. & Sheldon, K.M. (2003). Student psychological need-satisfaction and college teacher-course evaluations. Educational Psychology, 23, 235-247.

Kasser, T. & Sheldon, K. M. (2002). What makes for a Merry Christmas? Journal of Happiness Studies, 3, 313-329.

Sheldon, K.M. & Bettencourt, B. A. (2002). Psychological needs and subjective well-being in social groups. British Journal of Social Psychology, 41, 25-38.

Sheldon, K.M., Kasser, T., Smith, K., & Share, T. (2002). Personal goals and psychological growth: Testing an intervention to enhance goal-attainment and personality integration. Journal of Personality, 70, 5-31.

Elliot, A.J., Chirkov, V., Kim, Y, & Sheldon, K.M. (2001). A cross-cultural analysis of avoidance (relative to approach) personal goals. Psychological Science, 12, 505-510.

Sheldon, K.M. & Kasser, T. (2001). Getting older, getting better? Personal strivings and personality development across the life-course. Developmental Psychology, 37, 491-501.

Bettencourt, B. & Sheldon, K. M. (2001). Social roles as vehicles for psychological need satisfaction within groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 1131-1143.

Sheldon, K.M. & King, L.K. (2001). Why positive psychology is necessary. American Psychologist, 56, 216-217.

Sheldon, K.M., Elliot, A.J., Kim, Y., & Kasser, T. (2001). What's satisfying about satisfying events? Comparing ten candidate psychological needs. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 325-339.

Sheldon, K.M. & Houser-Marko, L. (2001). Self-concordance, goal-attainment, and the pursuit of happiness: Can there be an upward spiral? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 152-165.

Sheldon, K. M. & Kasser, T. (2001). Goals, congruence, and positive well- being: New empirical validation for humanistic ideas. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 41, 30-50.

Sheldon, K.M., Sheldon, M.S., & Osbaldiston, R. (2000). Prosocial values and group-assortation within an N-person prisoner's dilemma. Human Nature, 11, 387-404.

Sheldon, K.M., Schmuck, P., & Kasser, T. (2000). Is value-free science possible? (commentary). American Psychologist, 10, 1152-1153.

Kasser, T. & Sheldon, K.M (2000). Of wealth and death: Materialism, mortality salience, and consumption behavior. Psychological Science, 11, 348- 351.

Sheldon, K.M. & McGregor, H. (2000). Extrinsic value orientation and the "tragedy of the commons." Journal of Personality, 68, 383-411.

Sheldon, K.M. & Elliot, A.J. (2000). Personal goals in social roles: Divergences and convergences across roles and levels of analysis. Journal of Personality, 68, 51-84.

Sheldon, K.M. (1999). Learning the lessons of tit-for-tat: Even competitors can get the message. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 1245-1253.

Sheldon, K.M. & Elliot, A.J. (1999). Goal striving, need-satisfaction, and longitudinal well-being: The self-concordance model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 482-497.

Ryan, R.M., Chirkov, V., Little, T., Sheldon, K.M., Timoshina, E., & Deci, E. (1999). The American dream in Russia: Extrinsic aspirations in two cultures. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 1509-1524.

Sheldon, K.M. & Kasser, T. (1998). Pursuing personal goals: Skills enable progress, but not all progress is beneficial. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24, 1319-1331.

Sheldon, K.M. & Elliot, A.J. (1998). Not all personal goals are personal: Comparing autonomous and controlled reasons as predictors of effort and attainment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24, 546-557.

Sheldon, K.M. & Biddle, B.J. (1998). Standards, accountability, and school reform: Perils and pitfalls. Teachers College Record, 100, 164-180.

Elliot, A.J. & Sheldon, K.M. (1998). Avoidance personal goals and the personality-illness relationship. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 1282-1299.

Sheldon, K.M., Ryan, R.M., Rawsthorne, L., & Ilardi, B. (1997). "True" self and "trait" self: Cross role variation in the big five traits and its relations with authenticity and well being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 1380-1393.

Elliot, A.J., Sheldon, K.M., & Church, M. (1997). Avoidance personal goals and subjective well being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 915-927.

Sheldon, K.M., Ryan, R.M., & Reis, H.R. (1996). What makes for a good day? Competence and autonomy in the day and in the person. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 1270-1279.

Sheldon, K.M. (1996). The Social Awareness Inventory: Development and applications. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22, 620-634.

Elliot, A.J. & Sheldon, K.M. (1996). Avoidance achievement motivation: A personal goals analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 171-185.

Sheldon, K.M., & Kasser, T. (1995). Coherence and congruence: Two aspects of personality integration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 531-543.

Sheldon, K.M., & Emmons, R.A. (1995). Comparing differentiation and integration within personal goal systems. Personality and Individual Differences, 18, 39-46.

Sheldon, K.M. (1995). Creativity and goal conflict. Creativity Research Journal, 8, 299- 306.

Sheldon, K.M. (1995). Creativity and self determination in personality. Creativity Research Journal, 8, 61-72.

Sheldon, K.M. (1994). Emotionality differences between artists and scientists. Journal of Research in Personality, 28, 481 491.

Sheldon, K.M., & Johnson, J.T. (1993). Forms of social awareness: Their frequency and correlates. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 19, 320-330.