Handbook of Competence and Motivation

Handbook of Competence and Motivation

Handbook of Competence and Motivation

Handbook of Competence and Motivation


This important handbook provides a comprehensive, authoritative review of achievement motivation and establishes the concept of competence as an organizing framework for the field. The editors synthesize diverse perspectives on why and how individuals are motivated in school, work, sports, and other settings. Written by leading investigators, chapters reexamine central constructs in achievement motivation; explore the impact of developmental, contextual, and sociocultural factors; and analyze the role of self-regulatory processes. Focusing on the ways in which achievement is motivated by the desire to experience competence and avoid experiencing incompetence, the volume integrates disparate theories and findings and sets forth a coherent agenda for future research.


The Handbook of Competence and Motivation, edited by Andrew J. Elliot and Carol S. Dweck, is intended as a comprehensive resource for researchers and theoreticians on the broad topic of achievement motivation. The Handbook succeeds admirably in this function. It draws together a wide range of theoretical and empirical topics brought to life by a group of world-renowned contributors. Some topics, such as evaluation anxiety and self-regulated learning, are staples in the achievement motivation tradition, while others, such as government and social policy, although having considerable relevance to this classic literature, have for too long been separated from the mainstream of research. The breadth and reach, as well as the depth of treatment, of all these topics hold special benefits for the reader. The broad encyclopedic nature of the Handbook will allow readers easily to place their own particular interests in this field firmly in a neighborhood of related research topics and kindred issues. This will certainly facilitate the kinds of communication among scholars that Elliot and Dweck hope to encourage. Additionally, the depth of treatment within chapters, particularly the way contributors place their observations in the context of historical trends, provides rich, detailed perspectives from which readers can cast up accounts regarding the strides made in this field over the past half century.

However, beyond being an authoritative compendium, the Handbook is all the more remarkable for the efforts of Elliot and Dweck to infuse the entire enterprise with a conceptual coherence that they rightly observe has been lacking in the achievement motivation literature. They seek to establish competence as the conceptual core of the achievement motivation literature, arguing that competence is an innate, pancultural, psychological need whose recognition can bring an overall coherence to the achievement-related findings from a diversity of disciplines, including, among others, social–personality psychology, industrial– organizational psychology, educational psychology, sport psychology, and developmental perspectives, all of which are well represented in the Handbook.

The contributors, in their turn, have responded exceedingly well to this invitation to view their own work through a conceptual lens of competence. A careful reading of the Handbook from this guiding perspective will provide the reader with a strong sense of the potential, evolving benefits of seeking a unifying, conceptual coherence within which to frame the field and an appreciation for the particularly astute choice of competence as the rallying point. This evaluation is based on several observations.

First, the notion of competence provides the basis for a rapprochement between the needbased traditions of achievement motivation, arising from the earlier work of Atkinson and McClelland a half century ago, and contemporary achievement goal work, with its roots in a cognitive tradition. From a competence perspective, goals can be profitably viewed as conscious, social, and cognitively derived manifestations of underlying needs. Goals organize, control, and direct actions, particularly when they are linked to the satisfaction of basic needs—in this case, according to Elliot and Dweck, the desire to experience competence and to avoid experiencing incompetence.

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