Our Quest to Feel Significant And How It Affects Our Behavior | Arie Kruglanski PhD

We all want to feel significant. This drive for significance ultimately fuels our cognition, emotions, and actions. Distinguished psychologist Arie Kruglanski discusses motivation, cognition, goal systems, radicalization, and his recent work on the ubiquitous quest for significance.

Dr. Arie W. Kruglanski PhD is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Maryland. He directs a lab that studies human motivation as it affects thinking, feeling, and behavior.  He is one of the leading voices in social psychology, being instrumental in understanding the motivation of uncertainty, goals,  radicalization and most recently on our quest for significance. Arie has over 500 research papers and articles and has won numerous awards for his work.

Arie explains to us that all human behavior is propelled by motivation, with motivation being the driving force behind cognition, emotions, and actions. He discusses how goals are represented cognitively but serve motivational needs. The conversation also touches on how intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are not truly distinct, with all motivation coming from within but having different relationships to means and ends.

A fascinating part of Arie’s work is his research on radicalization. Having devised The 3 N Model of Radicalization, he expertly illustrates how our quest for significance can be misdirected into violent or suicidal behavior. But there is optimism in addressing radicalization through education and alternative significance pathways.



(4:34) Welcome to Arie and speed round questions.

(6:06) The underlying thread through all of Arie’s work.

(12:21) Why people seek significance through violence.

(15:51) How can individuals be radicalized to become suicide bombers?

(19:40) The difference between basic needs and psychological needs.

(25:30) All our goals go back to addressing our basic needs.

(27:17) Why money is tied to significance (sometimes).

(30:45) The means to the end is more important than the goal.

(32:26) So does extrinsic motivation even exist?

(34:13) The dichotomy between motivation and cognition.

(37:23) The false assumption that attitudes predict behavior.

(41:45) The 3 N Model of Radicalization.

(45:08) How the internet has facilitated radicalization.

(49:04) So how can people attain significance through positive means.

(51:05) What music would Arie take to a desert island?

(55:04) Grooving Session on the quest for significance.


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AIRDATE: September 3, 2023 EPISODE 372

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Our Quest to Feel Significant And How It Affects Our Behavior | Arie Kruglanski PhD

Featured Guest

Arie Kruglanski PhD