Directed Motivational Currents: Extending the Theory of L2 Vision

  • Alastair HenryEmail author


This chapter introduces the idea of directed motivational currents (DMCs), and maps out the conceptual antecedents. Explaining how the construct is an extension of Dörnyei’s theory of L2 vision, it describes the components and phenomenology of DMCs. It explains how DMCs differ from peak experiences of optimal functioning conceptualized in Csikszentmihalyi’s theory of flow, how energy is directed by a self-concordant goal coupled with a matching vision of success, and how in a DMC conscious self-regulation is unnecessary. The chapter explains how DMCs can function at individual and group levels. In light of research findings, the validity of the construct is examined. The chapter explains how the DMC construct provides a template for understanding enduring motivation, and a framework for focused interventions in language classrooms.


  1. Aarts, H., & Custers, R. (2012). Unconscious goal pursuit: Nonconscious goal regulations and motivation. In R. M. Ryan (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of human motivation (pp. 232–247). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Adolphs, S., Clark, L., Dörnyei, Z., Glover, T., Henry, A., Muir, C., et al. (2018). Digital innovations in L2 motivation: Harnessing the power of the ideal L2 self. System, 78, 173–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bargh, J. A., Lombardi, W. J., & Higgins, E. T. (1988). Automaticity of chronically accessible constructs in person x situation effects on person perception: It’s just a matter of time. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55(4), 599–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barsade, S. G. (2002). The ripple effect: Emotional contagion and its influence on group behavior. Administrative Science Quarterly, 47(4), 644–675.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Csikszentmihalyi, M. ([1975] 2000). Beyond boredom and anxiety (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  6. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1988). Introduction. In M. Csikszentmihalyi & I. S. Csikszentmihalyi (Eds.), Optimal experience: Psychological studies of flow in consciousness (pp. 3–14). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optional experience. New York, NY: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  8. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life. New York, NY: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  9. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2009). Flow. In S. J. Lopez (Ed.), The encyclopaedia of positive psychology (pp. 394–400). Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  10. Custers, R., & Aarts, H. (2007). Goal-discrepant situations prime goal-directed actions if goals are temporarily or chronically accessible. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33(5), 623–633.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York, NY: Plenum Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dörnyei, Z. (2005). The psychology of the language learner. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Dörnyei, Z. (2018). Towards understanding perseverance in L2 learning: Long-term motivation, motivational currents and vision. Plenary speech given at Psychology of Language Learning Conference, Tokyo, Japan, 9 June.Google Scholar
  14. Dörnyei, Z., & Chan, L. (2013). Motivation and vision: An analysis of future L2 self images, sensory styles, and imagery capacity across two target languages. Language Learning, 63(3), 437–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dörnyei, Z., Henry, A., & Muir, C. (2016). Motivational currents in language learning: Frameworks for focused interventions. New York/Abingdon, UK: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Dörnyei, Z., Ibrahim, Z., & Muir, C. (2015). Directed motivational currents: Regulating complex dynamic systems through motivational surges. In Z. Dörnyei, P. D. MacIntyre, & A. Henry (Eds.), Motivational dynamics in language learning (pp. 95–105). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dörnyei, Z., & Kubanyiova, M. (2014). Motivating learners, motivating teachers: Building vision in the language classroom. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Dörnyei, Z., MacIntyre, P. D., & Henry, A. (2015). Introduction: Applying complex dynamic principles to empirical research on L2 motivation. In Z. Dörnyei, P. D. MacIntyre, & A. Henry (Eds.), Motivational dynamics in language learning (pp. 1–11). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  19. Dörnyei, Z., Muir, C., & Ibrahim, Z. (2014). Directed motivational currents: Energising language learning through creating intense motivational pathways. In D. Lasagabaster, A. Doiz, & J. M. Sierra (Eds.), Motivation and foreign language learning: From theory to practice (pp. 9–29). Amsterdam, the Netherlands: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  20. Fitzsimons, G. M., & Bargh, J. A. (2003). Thinking of you: Nonconscious pursuit of interpersonal goals associated with relationship partners. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(1), 148–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gaggioli, A., Milani, L., Mazzoni, E., & Riva, G. (2011). Networked flow: A framework for understanding the dynamics of creative collaboration in educational and training settings. The Open Education Journal, 4(1), 41–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ghanizadeh, A., & Jahedizadeh, S. (2017). Directed motivational currents: The implementation of the dynamic web-based Persian scale among Iranian EFL learners. Journal of Language Teaching Skills, 36(1), 27–56.Google Scholar
  23. Grant, A. M., & Shin, J. (2012). Work motivation: Directing, energizing, and maintaining effort (and research). In R. M. Ryan (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of human motivation (pp. 505–519). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Henry, A., Davydenko, S., & Dörnyei, Z. (2015). The anatomy of directed motivational currents: Exploring intense and enduring periods of L2 motivation. The Modern Language Journal, 99(2), 329–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Higgins, E. T. (1987). Self-discrepancy: A theory relating self and affect. Psychological Review, 94, 319–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Higgins, E. T., King, G. A., & Mavin, G. H. (1982). Individual construct accessibility and subjective impressions and recall. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43(1), 35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hiver, P., & Al-Hoorie, A. H. (2016). A dynamic ensemble for second language research: Putting complexity theory into practice. The Modern Language Journal, 100(4), 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hockey, R. (2013). The psychology of fatigue: Work, effort and control. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Huta, V., & Waterman, A. S. (2013). Eudaimonia and its distinction from hedonia: Developing a classification and terminology for understanding conceptual and operational definitions. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15(6), 1425–1456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ibrahim, Z. (2016a). Affect in directed motivational currents: Positive emotionality in longterm L2 engagement. In P. MacIntyre, T. Gregersen, & S. Mercer (Eds.), Positive psychology in second language acquisition. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  31. Ibrahim, Z. (2016b). Directed motivational currents: Optimal productivity and long-term sustainability in second language acquisition. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.Google Scholar
  32. Larsen-Freeman, D., & Cameron, L. (2008). Complex systems and applied linguistics. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Lenton, A. P., Bruder, M., Slabu, L., & Sedikides, C. (2013). How does “being real” feel? The experience of state authenticity. Journal of Personality, 8(3), 276–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lenton, A. P., Slabu, L., Sedikides, C., & Power, K. (2013). I feel good, therefore I am real: Testing the causal influence of mood on state authenticity. Cognition and Emotion, 27(7), 1202–1224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. MacIntyre, P., & Gregersen, T. (2012). Emotions that facilitate language learning: The positive-broadening power of the imagination. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 2(2), 193–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Markus, H., & Kunda, Z. (1986). Stability and malleability of the self-concept. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(4), 858–866.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Markus, H., & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves. American Psychologist, 41(9), 954–969.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Markus, H., & Ruvolo, A. (1989). Possible selves: Personalized representations of goals. In L. A. Pervin (Ed.), Goal concepts in personality and social psychology (pp. 211–241). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  39. Miller, R. B., & Brickman, S. B. (2004). A model of future-oriented motivation and self-regulation. Educational Psychology Review, 16(1), 9–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Muir, C. (2016). The dynamics of intense long-term motivation in language learning: Directed motivational currents in theory and practice. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.Google Scholar
  41. Muir, C., & Dörnyei, Z. (2013). Directed motivational currents: Using vision to create effective motivational pathways. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 3(3), 357–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Robinson, M. M., & Morsella, E. (2014). The subjective effort of everyday mental tasks: Attending, assessing, and choosing. Motivation and Emotion, 38(6), 832–843.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Safdari, S., & Maftoon, P. (2017). The rise and fall of directed motivational currents: A case study. The Journal of Language Teaching and Learning, 7(1), 43–54.Google Scholar
  44. Sawyer, R. K. (2006). Group creativity: Musical performance and collaboration. Psychology of Music, 34(2), 148–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schmidt, A. M., Beck, J. W., & Gillespie, J. Z. (2013). Motivation. In I. B. Weiner, N. W. Schmitt, & S. Highhouse (Eds.), Handbook of psychology (Vol. 12, 2nd ed., pp. 311–340). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  46. Segal, H. G. (2006). Possible selves, fantasy distortion, and the anticipated life history: Exploring the role of the imagination in social cognition. In C. Dunkel & S. Kerpelman (Eds.), Possible selves: Theory, research and applications (pp. 79–96). New York, NY: Nova Science Publishers.Google Scholar
  47. Selcuk, Ö., & Erten, H. (2017). A display of patterns of change in learners’ motivation: Dynamics perspective. Novitas-ROYAL (Research on Youth and Language), 11(2), 128–141.Google Scholar
  48. Shah, J. Y., Friedman, R. S., & Kruglanski, A. W. (2002). Forgetting all else: On the antecedents and consequences of goal shielding. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(6), 1261–1280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sheldon, K. M., & Elliot, A. J. (1998). Not all personal goals are personal: Comparing autonomous and controlled reasons for goals as predictors of effort and attainment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24(5), 546–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sheldon, K. M., & Elliot, A. J. (1999). Goal striving, need satisfaction, and longitudinal wellbeing: The self-concordance model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76(3), 482–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sheldon, K. M., & Houser-Marko, L. (2001). Self-concordance, goal attainment, and the pursuit of happiness: Can there be an upward spiral? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80(1), 152–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sheldon, K. M., Ryan, R. M., Rawsthorne, L. J., & Ilardi, B. (1997). Trait self and true self: Cross-role variation in the Big-Five personality traits and its relations with psychological authenticity and subjective well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(6), 1380–1393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Shernoff, D. J. (2013). Optimal learning environments to promote student engagement. New York, NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Shernoff, D. J., Abdi, B., Anderson, B., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Flow in schools revisited: Cultivating engaged learners and optimal learning environments. In J. Furlong, R. Gilman, & E. Scott Hubener (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology in schools (pp. 211–226). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  55. Taylor, S. E., Pham, L. B., Rivkin, I. D., & Armor, D. A. (1998). Harnessing the imagination: Mental stimulation, self-regulation, and coping. American Psychologist, 53(4), 429–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Vannini, P. (2006). Dead poets’ society: Teaching, publish-or-perish, and professors’ experiences of authenticity. Symbolic Interaction, 29(2), 235–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Vannini, P., & Burgess, S. (2009). Authenticity as motivation and aesthetic experience. In P. Vannini & J. P. Williams (Eds.), Authenticity in culture, self, and society (pp. 103–119). Burlington, VT: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  58. Waterman, A. S. (1993). Two conceptions of happiness: Contrasts of personal expressiveness (eudaimonia) and hedonic enjoyment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64(4), 678–691.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Watkins, J. (2016). Planning a curriculum to stimulate directed motivational currents (DMCs). Research Yearbook of the Language Education Research Centre. Kwansei Gakuin University.Google Scholar
  60. Zarrinabadi, N., & Tavakoli, M. (2017). Exploring motivational surges among Iranian EFL teacher trainees: Directed motivational currents in focus. TESOL Quarterly, 51(1), 155–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social and Behavioural Studies, University WestTrollhättanSweden

Personalised recommendations