Brown Bag Talk by Dr. Paul O’Keefe on 1 April



Speaker: Dr. Paul O’Keefe

Title: Interest Mindsets: How They Influence Openness to Interests and the Motivation to Pursue Them

Date: 1 April, 12-1pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


People are often told to find their passion as though passions and interests are pre-formed and must simply be discovered. What happens when people buy into this idea? I began by assessing people’s implicit theories of interest—whether they believed that personal interests are inherent and relatively fixed or instead subject to growth and development. It was found that when people were already invested in a particular interest domain, a fixed theory predicted less interest in topics outside that area and, overall, a narrower range of interests (Study 1, 2, and 3). These implicit theories had other key motivational implications. A fixed theory fostered the idea that passions automatically provide limitless motivation, whereas a growth theory fostered the expectation that pursuing a passion could well be difficult at times (Study 4). Indeed, when engaging in an interest became difficult, fixed theorists’ interest flagged significantly, whereas growth theorists’ interest was relatively sustained (Study 5).This research has implications for intervention, such that a growth theory may have particular benefits for long-term goal pursuit.

About the Speaker:

Paul A. O’Keefe, Ph.D. is a social psychologist and Assistant Professor of Psychology at Yale-NUS College. He is also Director of the Mindsets & Motivation Lab, which focuses on research pertaining to goal pursuit with particular attention to motivational factors, including interest, implicit self-theories, and self-regulation.

Prof. O’Keefe earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. Subsequently, he joined the Yale University Center for the Psychology of Abilities, Competencies, and Expertise as a research assistant where he worked with Robert J. Sternberg. In 2009, he completed his doctoral training in social psychology at Duke University, after which he was awarded the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Postdoctoral Fellowship, a position he held at Stanford University where he worked with Carol S. Dweck.

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