It is a known fact that commitment is fundamental to most notable human achievements. But how does identity shape and strengthen people’s commitments and provide a framework for attaining future goals? What factors make people’s behaviour predictable and sustainable in the long run, and what are the consequences of commitment? These are the questions that Prof Salomé Human-Vogel aims to answer through her latest research on the factors that drive people to reach their goals, particularly those that play a role in how people regulate their own behaviour.
As a registered educational psychologist with a C3 rating from the NRF, she trains honours and MEd (Educational Psychology) students in familyoriented intervention. She is recognised for her research on positive self-regulation and the antecedents and consequences of commitment in academic and interpersonal contexts.
Prof Human-Vogel said, “I am investigating the role of positive emotions, inspiration, hope and optimism. How do these factors help people in reaching their goals? At this stage of the investigation, I have decided to focus on commitment as the most important condition necessary to reach long-term goals.” According to Prof Human-Vogel, much of the literature on commitment focuses on organisational and interpersonal (romantic) contexts. Therefore she is filling the research gap about commitment within the academic and family contexts and exploring new questions away from the mainstream thoughts in the discipline of educational psychology.
“I interviewed postgraduate students to find out about their commitment to their studies. During these discussions, it became evident that people who are committed have strong identities and a well-differentiated sense of self. That observation led me to realise that the commitment to reaching long-term goals is very strongly linked to a sense of knowing oneself, which is a necessary condition for commitment. Thus, self-knowledge and self-reflection play an important role in commitment. To reach goals successfully, people must have a sense of WHO they are and what is important to them,” Prof. Human-Vogel said.
In the context of academic commitment, Prof Human-Vogel weighed the meaning of a goal against the satisfaction experienced when that goal is reached.
“Working towards accomplishing a long-term goal isn’t always fun or satisfactory at the moment, but the commitment to the goal provides a sense of meaning, which sustains the commitment. I believe that when people choose long-term goals that align with their sense of who they are, they tend to experience their commitments as môre meaningful. Meaningful commitment motivates people to continue working on their goals even when the going gets tough.” Satisfaction alone does not necessarily have this sustaining force in times of difficulty, which may lead people to abandon their goals more easily.”