The European Journal of Psychiatry

Volitional determinants of self-harm behaviour and suicidal risk in persons with borderline personality disorder.

Blascyk-Shiep, S., Jaworska-Andryszewska, P., Kazén, M., & Kuhl, J.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejpsy.2017.10.003

Purpose: We aimed to look for differential mediators of the risk of suicidal behaviour (suicide attempts) and self-harm behaviour in a group of patients with borderline personality disorder. Materials and methods: Sixty four patients diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (48 women and 16 men) participated. The study included an interview to assess suicidal attempts in the past, the polish adaptation of the childhood trauma questionnaire (CTQ), volitional competences and self-regulation (VCQ), depression (BDI) and self-harm (SH) behaviour. We postulated two different serial multiple mediation models originating in emotional neglect in childhood, one leading to suicide attempts (through threat-related state orientation and depression) and the other leading to self-harm behaviour (through prospective state orientation and demand-related stress). Results: The serial multiple mediation models were confirmed, with the postulated variables serving as partial mediators of suicide attempts and of self-harm behaviour. In addition to emotional neglect, there were two additional predictors: Sexual abuse in childhood (for suicide attempts) and physical abuse in childhood (for self-harm behaviour). Conclusions: The results highlight the critical importance of experiences of emotional neglect and other forms of abuse in childhood for the development of pathology in BPD patients. These early experiences of neglect promote deficits in self-regulation of emotion (state orientation), which together with depression or demanding circumstances, lead to an increase in the risk of suicide, or in self-harm behaviour, respectively.

Why people do the things they do: Building on Julius Kuhl’s contributions to the psychology of motivation and volition

Baumann, N., Kazén, M., Quirin, M.,& Koole, S. L (Eds.)

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1027/00540-000

Learn about the science of motivating people! How can we motivate students, patients, employees, and athletes? What helps us achieve our goals, improve our well-being, and grow as human beings? These issues. which relate to motivation and volition, are familiar to everyone who faces the challenges of everyday life. This comprehensive book by leading international scholars provides integrative perspectives on motivation and volition that build on the work of German will psychologist Julius Kuhl. The first part of the book examines the historical trail of the European and American research traditions of motivation and volition and their integration in Kuhl’s theory of personality systems interactions. The second part of the book considers what moves people to action – how needs, goals, and motives lead people to choose a course of action (motivation). The third part of the book explores how people, once they have committed themselves to a course of action, convert their goals and intentions into action (volition). The fourth part of the book shows what an important role personality plays in our motivation and actions. Finally, the fifth part of the book discusses how integrative theories of motivation and volition may be applied in coaching, training, psychotherapy, and education. This book is essential reading for everyone who is interested in the science of motivating people.

Why people do the things they do: Building on Julius Kuhl's contributions to the psychology of motivation and volition

The integration of motivation and volition in Personality Systems Interaction (PSI) theory.

Kazén, M., & Qurin, M.

This chapter outlines the relationships between motivation and volition and their integration within Personality Systems Interaction (PSI) theory. The original focus on motivation in contemporary times in the USA (Atkinson, McClelland) and in Germany (Heckhausen) shifted towards volitional processes to explain human behavior and experience. We review how this shift was initiated by the work of Julius Kuhl in the 1980s, which led to his theory of action control, including the personality disposition of action and state orientation. PSI theory extended the scope of the work to all personality functioning. This theory postulates seven levels of personality, with increasing phylogenetic and ontogenetic complexity (habits, temperament, affect, coping with stress, motives, cognitive systems, and self-management), each of which has been the focus of influential theories of personality. We first address these levels and then describe the four mental systems of PSI theory (extension memory, intention memory, object recognition, and intuitive behavior control) together with the modulation assumptions (positive and negative affect) which determine the interactions among systems. We illustrate afterwards its integrative power by showing how the Rubicon model and action versus state orientation can be conceptualized within this theory. We finally stress the relevance of PSI theory and of the instruments derived from it in clinical, organizational, and educational contexts.


Journal of Personality

Feeling better when someone is alike: Poor emotion-regulators profit from prosocial values and priming for similarities with close other

Chatterjee, M.B., Baumann, N. & Koole, S.L.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12292

The dispositional inability to self‐regulate one's own emotions intuitively is described as state orientation and has been associated with numerous psychological impairments. The necessity to search for buffering effects against negative outcomes of state orientation is evident. Research suggests that state‐oriented individuals can benefit from feeling close to others. Yet, there are individual differences in the extent to which supportive relationships are valued. The objective of the present article was to examine whether high importance of relatedness increases the utilization of its situational activation among state‐oriented individuals.
In two studies, we examined whether situational activation of relatedness (by priming for similarities with a close other) is particularly advantageous for state‐oriented individuals who attach high importance to relatedness (i.e., benevolence values). The sample consisted of 170 psychology undergraduates in Study 1 and 177 in Study 2.
In both studies, state‐oriented participants high in benevolence had reduced negative mood after thinking about similarities (vs. differences). State‐oriented participants low in benevolence did not benefit from priming for similarities. In Study 2, physical presence of a close other did not boost priming effects for state‐oriented participants but stimulated action‐oriented participants to attune their self‐regulatory efforts to the context.
The results show that state‐oriented individuals who value benevolence do benefit from a situational activation of relatedness.


Social Psychology

Seven steps towards freedom and two ways to lose it: Overcoming limitations of intentionality through self-confrontational coping with stress.

Kuhl, J., & Quirin, M.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1027/1864-9335/a000045

Psychological approaches often conceptualize "free will" as self-determined decision-making. However, the functional mechanisms potentially underlying volitional freedom or its limitations have barely been elaborated. Starting from a functional definition of volition, we illustrate how personality systems interactions (PSI) theory may contribute to explaining underlying mechanisms of volitional freedom. Specifically, based on neurobiological evidence, this theory postulates that degrees of volitional freedom increase with an increasing involvement of more complex levels of psychological functioning (e.g., from habits and affective impulses toward motives, specific goals, intentions, and more global, personal goals). We will demonstrate how, at a psychological level, demand-related stress limits the pursuit of specific goals, whereas threat-related stress limits self-congruent choice of specific goals. Empirical evidence will be reported that relate to these two possible ways of losing volitional ("top-down") control. In addition, we report on neurobiological findings supporting the present view of volitional freedom and its limitations.


Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Intention memory and achievement motivation: Volitional facilitation and inhibition as a function of affective contents of need-related stimuli.

Kazén, M., & Kuhl, J.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.89.3.426

Replicating findings of J. Kuhl and M. Kazén (1999), reduction or removal of Stroop interference was achieved after short exposure to primes eliciting positive affect. This effect was need specific: Stroop interference removal (volitional facilitation) was found with positive primes related to achievement needs but not with positive primes related to affiliation or power needs. Five studies are reported. College students and unemployed university graduates participated in 2 studies each and branch managers of a large insurance company in 1 study. Whereas Stroop interference reduction or removal was found in all groups after positive-achievement primes, the 2 groups of unemployed persons additionally showed a significant increase of Stroop interference (volitional inhibition) after exposure to primes related to negative achievement episodes. Results are discussed in the context of Kuhl's personality systems interactions theory.


Handbook of experimental existential psychology

Workings of the will: A functional approach.

Kuhl, J., & Koole, S. L.

In this chapter, we focus on the will as a central theme in experimental existential psychology. Specifically, we argue that the will represents an independent psychological concept that lends itself to rigorous scientific analysis. In the following section, we begin by considering some of the most important theoretical objections that previously have been raised against the scientific status of the will. As we show, none of these objections constitutes a compelling argument against a scientific analysis of the will. Next, we discuss a functional approach to the will, an approach that may be useful in guiding the experimental analysis of the will. Finally, we consider some of the existential-psychological implications of our perspective on the workings of the will.


Journal of Experimental Psychology: General

Volitional facilitation of difficult intentions: Joint activation of intention memory and positive affect removes Stroop interference.

Kuhl, J., Kazén M.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1037/0096-3445.128.3.382

Removal of Stroop interference was obtained after exposure to words eliciting positive affect. This effect was predicted by personality systems interactions (PSI) theory, which assumes that (a) an abstract (high-level) representation of a difficult intention is generated in intention memory under certain conditions (e.g., when an action plan contains more than 1 step); (b) positive affect releases the inhibition of the pathway between intention memory and its output system. Interference removal is interpreted in terms of volitional facilitation. This effect posits a challenge to current cognitive models of the Stroop effect. Compared with alternative explanations, PSI theory can explain the data in a broader context: Implications of volitional facilitation and volitional inhibition for the study of prospective memory, alienation, procrastination, and rumination in depression are discussed.


Psychology and Health

Maintaining a healthy diet: Effects of personality and self-reward versus self-punishment on commitment to and enactment of self-chosen and assigned goals.

Fuhrmann, A., & Kuhl, J.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1080/08870449808407423

A theory decomposing volition into four modes of central organization of executive control functions is outlined. These modes include (1) an autonomy-oriented mode (“self-regulation”) which is facilitated by challenging conditions and positive mood, (2) a self-suppressive mode oriented toward external-control (“self-control”) facilitated by negative mood and two modes associated with volitional inhibition (“state orientation”). Two experiments are reported that test predicted interactions between dispositional and situational factors in determining commitment to and actual enactment of self-chosen versus assigned activities directed at changing nutritional behavior. The results confirm the predicted disordinal interactions: The degree of commitment to and enactment of intended behavioral changes depends upon an interaction between personality (volitional styles), type of self-regulatory task (eat more healthy versus avoid unhealthy food), and instructional focus on easy versus difficult steps (Study 1) or self-reward versus self-punishment strategies (Study 2). Practical implications for designing intervention procedures according to individual personality characteristics and situational constraints are discussed.


Psychological Inquiry

Who controls whom when „I control myself“.

Kuhl, J.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327965pli0701_12

Comments that personality systems interactions (PSI) theory explains many of the confusions in R. Baumeister and T. Heatherton's (see record 84-11769) cognitive model of self-regulation, particularly those associated with the concepts of self-regulation, self-control and volition. Recent advances in providing functional explanations of volitional mechanisms and in operationalizing various aspects of volitional inhibition (i.e., self-regulation failure) are described as they contribute to PSI theory. PSI theory specifies the participants and objects of self-control and self-regulation in terms of functional characteristics of the subsystems leading to and modified by a central coordinating system. An activational level of reward and punishment systems determine which subsystem defines the task and which are the object of interventions.


Current advances in psychological science: An international perspective

Motivation and Volition.

Kuhl, J.

Focus on ways in which cognitive and motivational processes differ / compare the 2 areas directly / briefly describe differences between them in terms of their metatheoretical basis / illustrate the state of the art in motivational psychology in terms of typical research topics and the explanatory paradigms employed / propose a new theoretical framework for motivational psychology that may help integrate seemingly contradictory paradigms
research topics [motivation, volition, control beliefs] / explanatory paradigms [hasty habit paradigm, passionate pet paradigm, propositional professors paradigm, hovering homunculi paradigm, self-control, self-regulation] / theoretical framework for the study of motivation [constraints from neuroscience, Personality Subsystems Interaction theory: a framework for motivation and personality, cognition and motivation: an evolutionary perspective]


Heinz Heckhausen: Erinnerungen. Würdigungen, Wirkungen.

Intuition und Logik der Forschung in der Psychologie [Intuition and logic of discovery in psychology].

Kuhl, J.

Mit Heinz Heckhausen haben wir nicht nur einen der bedeutendsten deutschen Psychologen der Nachkriegszeit, sondern auch eine Forscherpersönlichkeit verloren, die uns eine besondere Art vorgelebt hat, sein Leben einem der komplexesten Forschungsgegenstände überhaupt zu widmen, dem Verhalten des Menschen. Heckhausens vielfältige Beiträge zur Entwicklungs-, Motivations- und Volitionspsychologie sowie sein forschungspolitisches Engagement sind inzwischen vielerorts gewürdigt worden. Ich möchte einen Aspekt seiner Forscherpersönlichkeit lebendig werden lassen, der auf eine implizite wissenschaftstheoretische Position hinweist, die für die Psychologie und ganz besonders für die Motivations- und Volitionspsychologie ganz neue Impulse ermöglicht. Obwohl ich hoffe, zeigen zu können, wie sehr meine wissenschaftstheoretischen Reflexionen auf den Einfluβ Heinz Heckhausens zurückgehen, bin ich für die spezifische Gestalt, die sie in meinem Entwurf erhalten, natürlich allein verantwortlich.


Volitional action: Conation and control

Volition and self-regulation: Memory mechanisms mediating the maintenance of intentions.

Kuhl, J., & Kazén-Saad, M.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0166-4115(08)61921-4

This chapter discusses theory and various recent experiments specifying the mechanisms underlying the maintenance of intentional representations in memory. Volition or self-regulation is a mechanism that supports the maintenance of information related to the current intention and resolves conflicts between cognitive and motivational preference hierarchies. This maintenance function protects the current intention (i.e., a cognitive preference) against competing action tendencies supported by tempting emotional preferences. The three basic mechanisms, differing in their level of complexity and flexibility, as being responsible for the management of information overload, multiple-goal handling, and goal maintenance are (1) the eliciting condition, (2) the direction of control, and (3) the complexity of control. The most basic, control mechanism is lateral inhibition, which is a simple mechanism triggered by an external stimulus source. It proceeds in a bottom-up way and once it is active, competing stimuli has a lower probability of gaining control over the system. Volitional control requires the development of a particular set of metagoals specialized on the detection and resolution of conflicts between cognitive and emotional or executional/preferences.


Cognitive perspectives on emotion and motivation

A motivational approach to volition: Activation and deactivation of memory representations related to uncompleted intentions.

Kuhl, J., & Kazén-Saad, M.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-009-2792-6_3

For several decades volitional concepts have been widely neglected in psychology. Today, we have reasons to believe that the philosophical objections against their use do not justify that theoretical abstinence (Kuhl, 1984). Modern conceptions of volition emerging in various subfields of psychology demonstrate that the criticisms concerning introspectionistic, mentalistic, and moralistic connotations of classical concepts of volition can be overcome without removing those concepts altogether. In this article, we will summarize our own approach to volition, which developed from a motivational perspective, compare it to some current cognitive approaches to volition, and present the results of several experiments that illustrate the commonalities and differences between motivational and cognitive approaches.


Progress in experimental personality research

Volitional aspects of achievement motivation and learned helplessness: Toward a comprehensive theory of action control.

Kuhl, J.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-541413-5.50007-3

This chapter provides an overview on the development of a theoretical framework for research on action control. It discusses that a person may have all the cognitive abilities that are necessary to solve a given anagram task and he or she may be sufficiently motivated to find the solution, and he or she may still fail to perform the necessary cognitive activities because he or she is unable to shield the task-oriented intention against competing action tendencies, for example, thinking about the self-evaluative implications of past failures to solve some other task. Likewise, persistence has been regarded as a pure motivational phenomenon. The duration of the time period a person persists on a task is not only a function of the strength of his or her motivation to solve the task as compared to the motivation to engage in some alternative activity, but also a function of the ability to protect the task-oriented action tendency against the interfering effect of competing action tendencies. The chapter discusses several historical reasons for the neglect of volitional processes in theories of action and it also presents several approaches in various subfields of psychology that are related to the problem of action control.

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