Goal Pursuit and the Pursuit of Social Networks
An abstract of a dissertation that examines the motivational foundations of social networks. Five studies using diverse methods examine goal pursuit as an antecedent to social network structure, finding that self-oriented and affiliation-oriented goal pursuit evoke unique patterns of interpersonal perception and motivation which lead to the development of sparser and denser social networks, respectively. Study 1 serves as an empirical summary of our theorizing: individuals primed with dense networks feel more efficacious pursuing affiliation-oriented goals versus self-oriented goals, and individuals primed with sparse networks feel more efficacious pursuing self-oriented goals than individuals primed with dense networks. Study 2finds a correlation between personal goals and network structure. Studies 3 and 4 experimentally demonstrate that reminders of self versus affiliation-oriented goals lead to different cognitively-activated network structures. Study 5 finds that individuals entering a new social network with strong career goals (self-oriented goals) develop significantly sparser local networks and attain more central network positions; the opposite pattern emerges for individuals pursuing strong social goals (affiliation-oriented goals). Individuals strongly motivated to pursue both goals lose the network structure benefits of having a strong career goal. Findings support the hypothesis linking personal goal pursuit to network structure, a novel approach to integrating psychology and networks research.
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