Skip to main content

University of Exeter Business School

Professor Paul O'Keefe

Professor Paul O'Keefe

Associate Professor in Organisational Behaviour


 Streatham Court 82


Streatham Court, University of Exeter, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4PU, UK


Paul A. O’Keefe is an Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the University of Exeter Business School and Director of the Mindsets & Motivation Lab. He earned his undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Duke University. Afterward, he was a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University.

Prof. O’Keefe studies motivation and goal pursuit, focusing on the roles of implicit theories (also known as “mindsets”), interest, and passion.

His research has been published in leading scientific journals, such as Psychological Science, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, the Journal of Organizational Behavior, and the Journal of Educational Psychology. It has also been featured in numerous media outlets including The New York Times, BBC, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, World Economic Forum, and Financial Times. He has also contributed articles to popular outlets such as The New York Times and Harvard Business Review. Moreover, he is the lead editor of The Science of Interest and an Associate Editor at the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. His research has also been supported by various competitive funding agencies including the National Institutes of Health (USA), the Ministry of Education (Singapore), and the Workforce Development Applied Research Fund (Singapore).

Back to top


Research interests

  •  Implicit Theories (“mindsets”)
  •  Goal Pursuit
  •  Motivation
  •  Interest
  •  Passion

In pursuing important goals, people face numerous obstacles, setbacks, and failures that threaten their motivation and success. How do people become intrinsically motivated and maintain that motivation during challenging pursuits? And how can we remove psychological barriers that prevent people from achieving their goals? To answer these questions, Prof. O’Keefe’s research focuses on two areas. The first relates to the roles of interest and passion, as well as the mindsets people hold about the nature of interest (i.e., implicit theories of interest). In another area of work, I examine beliefs about the nature of opportunities (i.e., implicit theories of opportunity). Together, this work sheds light on critical factors that help explain why people may or may not initiate and maintain challenging, long-term goal pursuits. Based on these findings, he also conducts large-scale, randomized controlled social-psychological interventions that promote growth mindsets designed to boost interest, work passion, and achievement.

Back to top

External Engagement and Impact

Editorial responsibilities

  • Associate Editor, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General

Back to top


I teach courses related to motivation science, goal pursuit, mindsets, and psychological interventions that address social injustices.

As a social scientist, I want my students to develop a deep appreciation for the social forces that influence their thoughts, feelings, and actions. This understanding can be profoundly transformative because they help explain the often-invisible reasons people behave the way they do and equips students with knowledge that can help them contribute to society and organisations in meaningful ways. To this end, my teaching focuses on shaping future leaders who can identify, anticipate, and combat social injustices within their organisations and beyond.



Back to top

Edit Profile