James Shah

James Shah

Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., Columbia University 1996

  • M.A., Columbia University 1992

  • B.A., University of Pennsylvania 1990


The last two decades have seen the increasing integration of two formerly disparate research traditions in psychology, that of motivation and cognition. Nowhere has the benefit of this new synergy been more evident than in the study of the nature and process of goal pursuit. In defining a future state of affairs to approach or avoid, goals serve as motivational points of reference for the fulfillment of regulatory needs. But goals are also knowledge structures and, as such, follow many of the same principles of acquisition, activation, change, and organization that have been articulated in the extensive research on knowledge representation. Our research examines goals from both perspectives : It notes, for instance, the significance of goals¹ regulatory function and accessibility for determining emotional experience and attainment behavior as well as the nature, determinants, and implications of goal structure. In focusing on both the regulatory and epistemic nature of goal pursuit, we have paid particularly close attention to the impact of these different properties on subjective experience and behavior.We have recently begun to apply this "synergistic" approach to an analysis of interpersonal phenomena, exploring how our interactions and experiences with other individuals and groups may often help us fulfill our own regulatory needs and to define our social reality. Indeed, we have begun to amass compelling evidence suggesting that how we feel about, and behave toward, other individuals and groups may be significantly affected by our needs for accomplishment, security and cognitive closure.Thus, in broad sense, our approach has led us to consider the independent and interactive effects of motivation and cognition and to explore the implications for how we feel and act, both with respect to our own pursuits and to the world around us.


Motivation, goal pursuit, social cognition, self-regulation

vanDellen, Michelle R., et al. “In good company: managing interpersonal resources that support self-regulation.Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, vol. 41, no. 6, June 2015, pp. 869–82. Epmc, doi:10.1177/0146167215580778. Full Text

Leander, N. Pontus, et al. “Indifferent reactions: regulatory responses to the apathy of others.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 107, no. 2, Aug. 2014, pp. 229–47. Epmc, doi:10.1037/a0037073. Full Text

Leander, N. P., and J. Y. Shah. “For whom the goals loom: Context-driven goal contagion.” Social Cognition, vol. 31, no. 2, July 2013, pp. 187–200. Scopus, doi:10.1521/soco.2013.31.2.187. Full Text

Sassenberg, K., et al. “When gender fits self-regulatory preferences: The impact of regulatory fit on gender-based ingroup favoritism.” Social Psychology, vol. 44, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 4–15. Scopus, doi:10.1027/1864-9335/a000095. Full Text

VanDellen, M. R., et al. “Making it Easier on Yourself: Sensitivity to External Support for Self-regulation (Submitted).” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2012.

Leander, N. L., and J. Y. Shah. “Indifferent Reactions: Regulatory Responses to the Apathy of Others. Invited Revision (Submitted).” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2012.

Leander, N. P., et al. “The object of my protection: Shielding fundamental motives from the implicit motivational influence of others.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 47, no. 6, Nov. 2011, pp. 1078–87. Scopus, doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2011.04.016. Full Text

Leander, N. P., et al. “Up close and threatening: Regulatory resistance to the motivational influence of others (Submitted).” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2010.

Leander, N. P., et al. “Contempt under pressures: How reactance motivation shapes indulging in temptations (Submitted).” Journal of Consumer Research, 2010.

Fitzsimons, Gráinne M., and James Y. Shah. “Confusing one instrumental other for another: goal effects on social categorization.Psychological Science, vol. 20, no. 12, Dec. 2009, pp. 1468–72. Epmc, doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02475.x. Full Text


Shah, J. “For what it’s worth: The regulatory pleasure and purpose of a good life.” The Social Psychology of Living Well, 2018, pp. 85–100. Scopus, doi:10.4324/9781351189712. Full Text

Kruglanski, A. W., et al. “To “do the right thing” or to “just do it”: Locomotion and assessment as distinct self-regulatory imperatives.” The Motivated Mind: The Selected Works of Arie Kruglanski, 2018, pp. 299–343. Scopus, doi:10.4324/9781315175867. Full Text

Selected Grants

Self-Regulation Failure: Identifying and Modifying a Risk Phenotype awarded by National Institutes of Health (Co Investigator). 2010 to 2014

Collaborative Research: Goal Systemic Effects in Self Regulation awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2004 to 2009