How Role Models Affect Role Aspirants’ Motivation and Goals
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Role models are often suggested as a means of motivating people to set and reach ambitious goals, especially for members of stigmatised groups in achievement settings. Yet, findings in relation to the effectiveness of role model are mixed and the literature on role models suffers from a number of limitations: (1) it lacks a clear definitional consensus of role models, (2) there is a lack of an integrated theoretical framework around role modelling, (3) very little of our current understanding of role models draws on the motivational literature to explain how role models can influence motivation and goals, and (4) the focus of the extant role model literature has been mainly on the attributes that make role models effective at the expense of understanding how this occurs. In this thesis, we first review the literature on role models (Chapter 1) and present two studies highlighting the limitations of the extant understanding of role modelling (Chapter 2). We then address these limitations by developing a theoretical framework of role modelling where we integrate different definitions of role models into a new conceptualisation in which we propose that role models influence goals and motivation in three distinct ways: by acting as behavioural models, by representing the possible, and by being inspirational. We then draw on expectancy-value theories of motivation to build a theoretical framework for understanding not only when but also how role models can effectively influence motivation and goals in these three functions (Chapter 3). This new theoretical framework, the Motivational Theory of Role Modelling, highlights how the power of role models can be harnessed to increase role aspirants’ motivation, reinforce their existing goals, and facilitate their adoption of new goals. We present four empirical studies supporting the ideas put forward in this theoretical framework, namely that role models in their three functions increase expectancy and value and, in turn, motivation and goals (Chapters 4,5, and 6). Finally, we integrate and summarise our findings and discuss theoretical and practical implications (Chapter 7).
PhD in Psychology