Approach and avoidance motivation are fundamental and basic to human functioning, and the approach-avoidance perspective is a highly generative and informative lens through which to examine social, personality, and developmental processes. Accordingly, our research group investigates a variety of different topics across diverse disciplines of psychology, using a multitude of research methodologies (laboratory experiments, longitudinal studies, prospective studies, and archival analyses).

  • Achievement goal structure and process: Examining the different ways in which individuals approach success and avoid failure in their goal pursuits, and the implications of differential goal pursuit for affect, cognition, and behavior.
  • Approach and avoidance social goals: Examining the structure of social goals, as well as the antecedents and consequences of pursuing different types of approach-and avoidance-focused social goals.
  • Competition and motivation:¬†Examining how competition in all its forms (trait, perceived, structural) influences psychological processes and outcomes.
  • Inequality and motivation. Examining the influence of income – and race – based inequality on perceived competitiveness, approach-avoidance motivation, and downstream outcomes (e.g., health, wellbeing).
  • Meta-motivation and motivation perception: Examining the accuracy of our knowledge about our own motivation and others’ motivation.

Our lab is comprised of graduate students in social-personality psychology, as well as post-docs and visiting professors, often from countries outside the US. We have ongoing collaborations with a number of other labs around the country and world. We can be reached by contacting Dr. Andrew Elliot at

For an overview of Dr. Elliot’s area of research see his “Handbook of Competence and Motivation, 2nd Edition: Theory and Application (Guilford Press)”