Gable’s research was among the first to examine just how key motivation is within emotion.
Over 60 years of research has suggested that when we are experiencing positive emotions, we are able to take in more information from our surroundings but when we are experiencing negative emotions, such as anger, our focus narrows. When Philip Gable first examined past work investigating emotion-scope interaction, he noticed that research on positive emotion had focused solely on low-intensity positive emotions such as contentment or joy.
In contrast to this past work, Gable correctly predicted that a different class of positive emotions such as desire or enthusiasm would also narrow attentional scope. Gable's research made the distinction that in terms of motivation it is not merely a matter of positive or negative emotion. Rather, it's about intensity. He called this model the Motivational Dimensional Model. Importantly, the model suggests that motivation is key to how emotions influence the way we see and experience the world.
Authorship of this Motivational Dimensional Model is one of Gable's contributions to motivation science and was cited by the Society for the Science of Motivation (SSM) in naming him the winner of the Society's first Early Career Award.
"A highly unexpected bright spot" was how Gable described receiving notice of the award during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. "I'm proud of the research I do, but there is so much excellent work on motivation that I hadn't expected to be chosen for the award."
In his research career, Gable has examined positive and negative affects that vary in a key dimension: motivation, or the impetus to act. Specifically, affective states vary in motivational intensity (strong vs. weak) and motivational direction (approach vs. withdrawal). This work is based on the premise that a narrowed focus on a desired goal may assist in ultimately obtaining the goal because of that very focus.
Gable's research was among the first to examine just how key motivation is within emotion. That some emotions were high or low in motivational intensity is not novel. However, his work demonstrated that this dimension of motivational intensity causes cognitive narrowing or broadening.