Research Projects and Research Topics

„Shared Life stories”: Implementation and evaluation of an intergenerational and generativity focused encounter program

PI: J. Hofer & D. Kranz

Elderly people living in nursing homes often lack opportunities to fulfill a core developmental task of their age, namely, imparting life experiences to the next generations. Such a lack of generativity might impair subjective well-being and even cause feelings of alienation and depression. The project “Shared Life Stories” (funded by the German "Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung", BMBF; 2017-2019) is built upon results of biographical, gerontological, and generativity research. It aims at validating an intergenerational and generativity focused encounter program. Based on their life stories, nursing home residents and high school students navigate existential questions. This program might be beneficial for both the elderly (opportunity of generativity) and the young (life orientation, identity formation). It might become a valuable element of gerontological social work.


Implicit motives and identity development

PI: J. Hofer & H. Busch

In developmental psychology, identity formation is understood as a life-long process. Nonetheless, due to developing cognitive capacities and new demands put forth by the social environment it is in adolescence that individuals begin to consciously deal with their own identity. Adolescents seek answers to the question Who am I?, they make their own life-plans, set goals, and look for guiding principles which they can use as orientation for their behavior.

Various theoretical models describe identity formation as a process which is strongly formed by the sociocultural context which the adolescent grows up in. Cultural contexts set different demands for adolescents and grant certain freedoms but also set certain boundaries when it comes to the exploration of and commitment to identity elements. In particular, in modern societies, youths are expected to find their own unique identity without institutional help. Parenting styles, which often reflect dominant socialization goals in a given cultural context, are an additional factor in the process of identity formation. Studies have shown that apart from such external factors, internal factors have an impact on the process and the outcome of the identity crisis in adolescence. In particular, in various studies self-regulation has been identified to be an important resource in this context. The role of implicit motives, however, has not yet been examined in the context of identity formation. This is surprising as implicit motives energize and direct behavior. Moreover, they influence developmental processes across the life-span.

In the present project (funded by the German Research Foundation, DFG; 2016-2019) the research traditions of implicit motives and identity formation which previously have been considered separately are meant to be brought together. Identity formation here is understood as a combination of exploration of and resulting commitment to goals. A central assumption of the project is that implicit motives form the process of identity formation because they function as a sort of weighing disposition, indicating whether an identity element (i.e., goal) under exploration shows a fit with one's inner needs. The multivariate, cross-cultural, and longitudinal design makes it possible to conjointly consider various significant factors that impact identity formation in adolescence, thus promising new insights in a topic that has always fascinated psychologists.


Behavioral and psychological correlates of the implicit power motive in children

PI: J. Hofer & H. Busch

Research on motivation has demonstrated that human behavior is energized and directed by a predominantly unconscious (i.e., implicit) motivational system. A central motive in this tradition is the power motive, defined as the concern for exerting influence on others’ behavior and emotions. In adults the implicit power motive is associated with prosocial as well as antisocial behavior. Despite theorizing about the shaping of implicit motives in prelingual childhood, knowledge on behavioral and psychological concomitants of the implicit power motive in childhood is virtually nonexistent.

To fill this regrettable gap, the research program (funded by the German Research Fund, DFG, 2016-2018) implements a longitudinal multi-method and multi-level design to scrutinize a compelling question in research on implicit motives: How does the implicit power motive shape childhood psychological processes and behavior? To answer this question, the strength of the implicit power motive will be assessed in elementary school children and longitudinally related to conative, affective, and cognitive correlates (attention, learning, and stress phenomena, behavior in interaction sequences and in children’s self-report and parental informant rating). The proposed research opens new horizons by initiating a re-interpretation of childhood behavior from an implicit motive point of view.


Determinants of successful aging in different cultural contexts

PI: J. Hofer

This research project (funded by the German Research Fund, DFG, completed in 2012) aimed to identify personal and social factors for successful aging in Germany, Hong Kong, and Cameroon. Criteria for successful aging include subjective well-being and Erikson’s developmental tasks of adulthood: generativity and ego-integrity. Interview and survey-based data were used to examine the factors that help mastering these developmental tasks. Of particular interest in this process were implicit motives, an issue that has been previously neglected in research concerning old age.

Hofer, J.,Busch, H., Au, A., Poláčková Šolcová, I., Tavel, P., & Tsien Wong, T. (2014). For the benefit of others: Generativity and meaning in life in the elderly in four cultures. Psychology and Aging, 29, 764-775.


The implicit power motive and its significance for inner experience and behavior

PI: J. Hofer

Previous research concerning the fields of affiliation and achievement has shown that congruence of implicit and explicit motives has a positive effect on well-being, but evidence concerning the power motive still remains to be established. Is that due to poor methodology or is it a result of a so far unknown characteristic of the power motive (e.g. does the power motive not contribute to happiness)? The results of this project (funded by the German Research Fund, DFG, 2006-2009), based on German and Chinese samples, showed that congruence between implicit and explicit power motives is positively related to well-being. Furthermore, longitudinal data were collected to clarify the effect of goal attainment in different motivational domains.

Hofer, J., Busch, H., Bond, M.H., Li, M., & Law, R. (2010). Is motive-goal congruence in the power domain beneficial for individual well-being? An investigation in a German and two Chinese samples. Journal of Research in Personality, 44, 610-620.


Studies on identity development

PI: J. Hofer & H. Busch

There is consensus among developmental psychologists that the development of a unique identity is the central developmental task of adolescence - an achieved identity is considered to be the healthiest outcome of identity development. Active exploration of potential identity elements leads to stable commitments about what to integrate into one’s identity concept. Empirical research has shown that the congruence between implicit and explicit motives has an effect on this process. Further investigations were conducted to find out if the ideal of an achieved identity applies as well for non western cultural contexts.

Hofer, J., Busch, H., Chasiotis, A., & Kießling, F. (2006). Motive congruence and interpersonal identity status. Journal of Personality, 74, 511-541.


Implicit motives and life management strategies

PI: A. Chasiotis & J. Hofer

The project (funded by the German Research Fund, 2004-2005) aimed at investigating the consequences of the implicit affiliation and power motive in samples from Costa Rica, Germany, and Cameroon. The research team expected implicit motives to affect how people handled developmental tasks based on the effects of implicit motives on long-term behavioral trends.  Results have shown that a pro-socially oriented power motive is important for resolving the conflict between generativity and stagnation. This applied to all three considered cultures, which allowed McAdams’ and St. Aubin’s (1992) Model of Generativity to be cross-culturally generalised.

Hofer, J., Busch, H., Chasiotis, A., Kärtner, J., & Campos, D. (2008). Concern for generativity and its relation to implicit pro-social power motivation, generative goals, and satisfaction with life: A cross-cultural investigation. Journal of Personality, 76, 1-30.


Measurement of implicit motives

PI: A. Chasiotis & J. Hofer

This project focussed on methodical problems in cross-cultural research on implicit motives. The main aim of the project was the development of a measure of implicit motives, applicable in different cultures. Extended preliminary research produced a stimulus set for the Picture Story Exercise (PSE) to measure implicit affiliation and power in Costa Rica, Germany, and Cameroon. This procedure can be adapted to other stimuli and samples from various other cultural backgrounds; the measure therefore represents a prototype for culturally fair testing of implicit motives.

Hofer, J., Chasiotis, A., Friedlmeier, W., Busch, H., & Campos, D. (2005). The measurement of implicit motives in three cultures: Power and affiliation in Cameroon, Costa Rica, and Germany. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 36, 689-716.

International Cooperations

D.R. Campos
Universidad de Costa Rica
San José, Costa Rica

Bamenda University of Science and Technology (BUST)
Bamenda, North-West Province, Kamerun

A. Au, T. Tsien Wong, M.H. Bond
Polytechnic University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong, China

M. Li
Henan Normal University
Xinxiang, Henan Province, PR China

A. Menon
University of Zambia
Lusaka, Sambia

I. Poláckova Šolcová
Charles University
Prague, Czech Republic

P. Tavel
University of Olomouc
Olomouc, Czech Republic