Goal-driven cognition and functional behavior: The fundamental-motives framework

Douglas T. Kenrick, Steven L. Neuberg, Vladas Griskevicius, D. Becker, Mark Schaller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

153 Scopus citations


Fundamental motives have direct implications for evolutionary fitness and orchestrate attention, memory, and social inference in functionally specific ways. Motivational states linked to self-protection and mating offer illustrative examples. When self-protective motives are aroused, people show enhanced attention to, and memory for, angry male strangers; they also perceive out-group members as especially dangerous. In contrast, when mating motives are aroused, men show enhanced attention to and memory for attractive members of the opposite sex; mating motives also lead men (but not women) to perceive sexual arousal in attractive members of the opposite sex. There are further functionally specific consequences for social behavior. For example, self-protective motives increase conformity among both men and women, whereas mating motives lead men (but not women) to engage in anticonformist behavior. Other motivational systems trigger different adaptive patterns of cognitive and behavioral responses. This body of research illustrates the highly specific consequences of fitness-relevant motivational states for cognition and behavior, and highlights the value of studying human motivation and cognition within an evolutionary framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-67
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The preparation of this article was facilitated by National Institute of Mental Health Grant MH064734 to Douglas Kenrick and Steven Neuberg; by National Science Foundation Grant BCS-0642873 to D. Vaughn Becker, Douglas Kenrick, and Steven Neuberg; and by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to Mark Schaller.


  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Mating
  • Motivation
  • Social cognition
  • Threat


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