Research Background


Alex’s research focuses on Leadership and Organizational Behavior (OB), and has been published in premier Psychology, OB, and Management journals such as Psychological Bulletin, Journal of Applied Psychology, OBHDP, Personnel Psychology, Academy of Management Journal, and Journal of Management. This research generated over 9,000 citations (including one article with over 3,000 cites).

Alex has served on the Editorial Boards of Journal of Applied Psychology, Academy of Management Journal, OBHDP, South African Journal of Human Resource Management, Organizational Dynamics, and the Advisory Council of Harvard Business Review.

Alex received a Gaumnitz Distinguished Research Award in 2007 (UW-Madison), Mabel Chipman Excellence in Teaching in 2005 (UW-Madison) and Excellence in Teaching Award in 1998 (UC-Irvine).

Theoretical Progression 

Early Work: Reinforcement Theory 

Having had an academic advisor with strong scholarly ties to B. F. Skinner and operant conditioning theory, my initial research focused on examining the differential effects of three reinforcers frequently used at work (money, feedback, and social recognition) on performance. In addition, having been an economics major in college, studying the effects of reinforcers seemed believable enough. My early research also pioneered the use of the Hedges and Olkin meta-analytic method in OB research.

Foray into Social Cognition: Self-Efficacy

The one-sided determinism of reinforcement theory left me wondering about the role of cognition in self-regulation of organizational behavior. For example, though reinforcers have significant effects on work performance, having self-doubt about one’s capacities to execute the performance is likely to hinder an employee behavior even toward the most cherished outcomes. Questions regarding the role of cognition in human behavior have been eloquently addressed by social cognitive theory, which has been the conceptual foundation for much of my subsequent research on self-efficacy.

From Self-Efficacy to Core Confidence

Around the turn of the 21st century, Tim Judge had been raising important questions about the role of latent constructs in OB. At that time, I was still mostly immersed into research on self-efficacy. Influenced by Tim’s work on core-self-evaluations in the personality field, and growing out of my self-efficacy research, I developed a core confidence higher-order construct, and offered the beginnings of a related theory in the field of work motivation. Higher-order constructs denote latent commonality influencing the manifest variables and exist at a deeper level of abstraction.

While researching self-efficacy, I often encountered articles on resilience. A step away would be those on optimism. The latter two were usually wrapped into the fold of positive psychology, where the variable of hope was also commonly mentioned. The more I read this literature, the more I was convinced that these variables may represent observable manifestations of a deeper, or core, construct of confidence. I introduced the core confidence higher-order construct in a paper presented at the Academy of Management in 2003, which was submitted to Journal of Applied Psychology the same year, and published in JAP in 2006. My recent research, published in 2015 in OBHDP, empirically validates the theoretical propositions about core-confidence as a higher order construct.

Interaction Between Conscious and Primed Nonconscious Goals

Locke and Latham (2004) encouraged study of nonconscious motivation in OB. Stajkovic and Locke (2004) went a step further and proposed goal priming as new approach to goal research, juxtaposing Bargh’s (1990) automaticity model and goal theory of Locke and Latham. Within these conceptual frameworks, Stajkovic, Locke, and Blair (2006) examined for the first time the interactive effects of conscious and primed goals on task performance when both goals focused on achievement.

The applicability of primed goals to organizational behavior was discussed in a follow-up review by Latham, Stajkovic, and Locke (2010). Several studies followed to further examine the interplay of conscious and primed goals within aspects of work behavior (Ganegoda, Latham, & Folger, 2016; Latham & Piccolo, 2012; Latham, Brcic & Steinhauer, 2017; Shantz & Latham, 2009, 2011).

Building upon this growing stream of goal priming research in OB, my current research examines instances in which self-regulation by conscious goals can be sabotaged by a nonconscious goal.

Conscious goals partly derive their theory standing from an absence of an automated response. In this sense, primed goals are arguably a more basic form of goals, for a goal that is overlearned to the point of being automated, is vital to a person. Practically, if two conscious goals are conflicted, one can ask for help. If conscious and nonconscious goals are conflicted, we are only aware of the former. The key downstream consequence of undetected goal conflict is our inability to deliberately address it. Yet, the mind is still grinding away behind the scenes to allocate cognitive resources to the two conflicted goals. Because this process goes unnoticed, it leads to compromised behaviors inexplicable to oneself.


Ganegoda, D. B., Latham, G. P., & Folger, R. (2015). The effects of a consciously set and a primed goal on fair behavior. Human Resource Management, 55, 789-807.

Latham, G. P., Brcic, J., & Steinhauer, A. (2017). Toward an integration of goal setting theory and the automaticity model. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 66: 25-48.

Latham G. P., Piccolo R. F. (2012). The effect of context specific versus non-specific subconscious goals on employee performance. Human Resource Management, 51, 535-538.

Latham, G. P., Stajkovic, A.D., Locke, E. A. (2010). The relevance and viability of subconscious goals in the workplace. Journal of Management, 36, 234-255.

Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2004). What should we do about motivation theory? Six recommendations for the twenty-first century. Academy of Management Review, 29: 388-403.

Stajkovic, A.D. (2003). Positive psychology and work motivation: Development of a core confidence model. Academy of Management, OB division. Seattle, WA.

Stajkovic, A.D. (2006). Development of a core confidence higher-order construct. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 1208-1224.

Stajkovic, A.D., & Locke, E. A. (2004). Goal priming: A new approach to goal research. Master tutorial. Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Chicago, IL.

Stajkovic, A. D., Locke, E. A., & Blair, E. S. (2006). A first examination of the relationships between primed subconscious goals, assigned conscious goals, and task performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 1172-1180.

Stajkovic, A.D., Lee, D., Greenwald, J. M., & Raffiee, J. (2015). The role of core confidence higher-order construct in self-regulation of performance and attitudes: Evidence from four studies. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 128, 29-48.

Shantz, A., & Latham, G. P. (2009). An exploratory field experiment on the effect of subconscious and conscious goals on employee performance. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Making Processes, 109, 9-17.

Shantz, A., & Latham, G. P. (2011). Effect of primed goals on employee performance: Implications for Human Resource Management. Human Resources Management, 50, 289-299.