Theses Doctoral

The Dynamic Nature of Passion: Understanding the Pursuit, Experience, and Perception of Passion

Jachimowicz, Jon Michael

This dissertation explores the dynamic nature of passion. To do so, I theoretically and empirically examine the pursuit, experience, and perception of passion. This dissertation took its initial shape when my review of the passion literature revealed two key gaps. First, there was a proliferating number of definitions of passion; many of them focused on different, but what I deemed to be essential, aspects of passion. Drawing on, integrating, and extending prior conceptualizations of passion, I define passion as a strong feeling toward a personally value/preference that motivates behaviors to express that value/preference. The second gap in the passion literature I noted was that passion was almost always conceptualized as a static, trait-like characteristic, unvarying over time. In contrast, due to its’ affective and behavioral components, I propose that passion has a dynamic nature: it can vary in the short- and long-term and it is subject to social dynamics through how people perceive and respond to the expressions of passion by others. My dissertation includes four chapters, with each one offering new theoretical insights and empirical evidence that highlight the dynamic nature of passion.
In Chapter 1, I explore how people define and conceptualize the pursuit of passion for themselves. I find that employees generally hold one of two lay beliefs about how to follow their passion, believing they should either a) engage in experiences that make them feel good or b) engage in personally important experiences. I then conducted two correlational and one experimental study and find that the differential endorsement of these different lay beliefs influences how likely employees are to attain their desired levels of passion, using a passion attainment scale I developed, and whether they quit their jobs.
Chapter 2 investigates the existence and consequences of short-term variations in passion over time, what I term passion variability. To explore the dynamics of passion variability, I ran a study that asked a sample of 526 full-time employees to respond to 30 daily prompts and three surveys, conducted a week prior to, two weeks following, and two months following the daily survey portion. This data structure also allowed me to investigate the consequences of passion variability, operationalized as the standard deviation of daily levels of passion. Indeed, I find that passion variability is double-edged: while it is associated with worse evaluative outcomes, it also associated with increased motivation.
In Chapter 3, I explore why prior studies linking both passion and grit to performance have been beset by contradictory evidence. Although grit has been defined as the combination of passion and perseverance, I highlight that prior measurements of grit have focused on perseverance but have not adequately captured passion. Across a meta-analysis and two correlational studies, I find that the combination of perseverance (measured through the grit scale) and passion attainment (a construct that explicitly incorporates passion’s dynamic nature) is associated with higher performance.
Chapter 4 extends the dynamic nature of passion to the social world and explores how expressions of passion are interpreted by others. Across six studies, including an archival analysis of entrepreneurial pitches, I find that others confer status on those who express passion, but only when a) those displays of passion are viewed as appropriate to the situation, b) perceivers agree with the target of expresser’s passion, and c) when the context is cooperative.
Taken together, the findings across the four chapters of this dissertation establish the dynamic nature of passion—its pursuit, experience, and perception.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Galinsky, Adam D.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 12, 2019