The motivational theory of role modeling: How role models influence role aspirants' goals

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Abstract

Role models are often suggested as a way of motivating individuals to set and achieve ambitious goals, especially for members of stigmatized groups in achievement settings. Yet, the literature on role models tends not to draw on the motivational literature to explain how role models may help role aspirants achieve these outcomes. In this paper, we introduce role aspirants and their motivational processes into an understanding of role modeling by drawing on expectancy-value theories of motivation to bring together the disparate literatures on role models to form a cohesive theoretical framework. We first integrate different definitions of role models into a new conceptualization where we propose that role models serve 3 distinct functions in which they influence goals and motivation: acting as behavioral models, representing the possible, and being inspirational. We then build a theoretical framework for understanding not only when, but also how, role models can effectively influence motivation and goals. This new theoretical framework, the Motivational Theory of Role Modeling, highlights ways in which the power of role models can be harnessed to increase role aspirants' motivation, reinforce their existing goals, and facilitate their adoption of new goals.

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Morgenroth, T., Ryan, M. K., & Peters, K. (2015). The motivational theory of role modeling: How role models influence role aspirants’ goals. Review of General Psychology, 19(4), 465–483. https://doi.org/10.1037/gpr0000059

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