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Research interests

I was born in Kos, Greece (many years ago!). I received my PhD in Medical Sciences from the University of Exeter (UK) in 1999. My longest period of employment (2001-2014) has been at the University of Birmingham, one of the top universities (member of the Russel Group) in the UK. In 2014 I joined the School of Psychology at Curtin University (Australia) as a “Distinguished Professor of Psychology” where I established the highly successful Physical Activity and Well-Being group. In July 2021, I joined the Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) as a Professor of Motivation Science. I am also an Affiliate Professor at the Department of Psychology at the same university, and part-time professor at the universities of NIH (Norway) and Halmstad (Sweden), as well as adjunct professor at Curtin University. At SDU, I am the Director of the Danish Centre for Motivation and Behaviour Change (DRIVEN): https://www.sdu.dk/en/om_sdu/institutter_centre/driven

 

I am interested in personal and contextual factors that promote motivation for sustained behaviour change and result in psychological well-being. Areas of particular interest are physical activity promotion in different community settings, self-regulation of life goals, motivation in the classroom and in workplaces, and psychology of sport, with emphasis on applications of contemporary theories of motivation. Some of my publications appear on ResearchGate.  An overview of my research can be found on my ORCID page. My research has created strong impact outside academia, informing policy and/or practice with various industry and professional organisations (e.g., Les Mills International, Australian Anti-Doping Agency, Australian Heart Foundation, Primary Health Care Trusts in the UK). Below, I give examples of how my work has helped research fields to refine focus and help them move forward in tangible ways.

            In terms of field intervention work, I have led several randomised controlled trials, drawing from contemporary theories of motivation and health behaviour change, which have been delivered in community as well as healthcare settings (e.g., back care, cardiac rehabilitation, rheumatoid arthritis clinics, obesity referral schemes). These interventions aimed to modify the interpersonal communication style between the “instructor” and the “learner” (e.g., healthcare professional-patient). Also, a variety of behaviour change techniques (e.g., self-monitoring, planning, goal setting) were taught. As a second line of research, I have developed laboratory and field experiment methods to test how individuals regulate their goal strivings. I am particularly interested in individuals’ responses (cognitive, affective, and behavioural) to increasingly difficult or unattainable goals. My research (funded by the ESRC in the UK and ARC) has combined creatively self-determination and self-regulation theories, challenging long-held assumptions about goal striving and the deeply-entrenched value of “never giving up,” and substantiating the performance and health benefits of strategic goal disengagement. Published findings from this work were recognised by the 2014 International Society for Self and Identity (ISSI) Best Paper Award, and have led to an agenda-setting theoretical paper in 2018 in Current Directions of Psychological Science, which provides a new conceptual framework for understanding and facilitating strategic goal pursuit.  As a third example of my work, I have pioneered ground-breaking research on the “dark side” of motivation, within the self-determination theory literature. I was the first researcher worldwide to argue for and develop measures to assess how significant others can thwart individuals’ psychological needs. Using diverse and sophisticated methodologies (diary studies, field experiments, psychological/biological markers of ill-being), I demonstrated how need-thwarting behaviours can predict poor behavioural outcomes and psychological and physical ill-health. My research in this area was originally conducted in sport (and published in a prestigious social psychology journal, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin; it currently features on the Web of Science's “Top Papers by Research Field”). Subsequently, it has been embraced by various researchers and applied to diverse life domains (e.g., education, work, parenting, romantic relationships), indicating its broad academic impact.

            To date, I have written two books on statistics that were published by Routledge in 2001 and by Wiley in 2016. I have also published over 260 peer reviewed articles and 29 book chapters; my research has attracted over 40,000 citations (average cites/paper:78.6) on Google Scholar (h index=95; Scopus h index=68). According to Scopus, the citations for my research are from 14 subject disciplines showing its broad academic impact. Five of my papers are listed in the Web of Science's “Top Papers by Research Field”. In a seminal review by John Ioannidis of top scientists (https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3000918 ) , my "composite score" (a composite of 6 citation indices) was  above the 99% percentile cut-off for "Social Psychology", "Clinical Medicine-Sports Science". I ranked No1 in the world in the field of Sport Science AND any type of Psychology. A SciVal report of the last 10 years shows that 30.3 % of my publications are in 10% most cited worldwide, 80.1% are in quartile 1 journals, I am the senior (first or last) author in 47% of them, and 82.3% of those include international collaborators. SciVal also shows that the number of the citations per publication of mine are much higher than the norms in Applied Psychology, Social Psychology, and Psychology (Miscellaneous).

            My research has been published in various journals  (e.g., Annual Review of Psychology, Perspectives on Psychological Science, Current Directions in Psychological Science, Journal of Educational Psychology; Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Sports Medicine, British Journal of Sports Medicine, Health Psychology), and has been supported by funding (over $13.5m in AUD; 68m in DKK) from major research councils in Denmark (Novo Nordisk Foundation), the UK (ESRC, MRC), the Australian Research Council, the Australian Heart Foundation, the European Union, the International Olympic Committee, Healthway, Cancer Council WA, UK charities, UK local health authorities, Australian Army, and the industry.

            My research has received awards from various academic and professional organisations (e.g., BPS, ISSI, NASPSPA, AASP, ECSS). In 2014 I was awarded a fellowship by the UK’s Academy of Social Sciences for exceptional research. The Fellowship recognised academics who made “a substantial contribution to wider social science in the UK” and were “leading social scientists”. In 2015 I was awarded a fellowship from the British Psychological Society (BPS). According to BPS, “A Fellowship is recognition of a significant contribution to the advancement or communication of psychological knowledge or practice, and represents the highest designation that the Society can bestow”. In 2016 I was awarded the John Curtin Distinguished Professor title by Curtin University. In 2019 I was awarded the Distinguished Scholar Award by the US Association of Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). In 2022, I was elected a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (Division 38): “Fellow status is an honor bestowed upon APA members who have shown evidence of unusual and outstanding contributions or performance in the field of psychology”. In 2022, I was also elected a Fellow of the Society of Behavioral Medicine (US) “Fellow status is a distinction conferred by SBM on full members in recognition of outstanding contributions to the advancement of the science and practice of behavioral medicine”.

            I have been invited to deliver 15 keynote lectures at international prestigious conferences. Since 2011 I have been the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise (official publication of the European Society of Sport and Exercise Psychology) and have served on the editorial board of many other journals (e.g., Journal of Educational Psychology, Annals of Behavioural Medicine, Motivation Science, Motivation and Emotion). From 2019-2021, I was a member of the Panel for Psychology, Pedagogy, Didactics and Social Work, of the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO), a Belgian research council, based in Brussels. I have provided consultancy services to Sport England, Nike, and Sports Coach UK for various physical activity campaigns. In 2014 I was invited to write two chapters for the European Health and Fitness Association (2014) report: “Plan for Growth: Europe Active 2025".

 

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