Cooling out as a transformation of occupational motivation


This project focuses on social processes that lead to a transformation of the occupational motivational structure.

In sociological research, notably in education, career, organisation and gender studies, observable discontinuations of educational and occupational aspirations have for some time been interpreted as cooling out. Generally speaking, cooling out indicates a more or less intended process within institutions or organizations that causes a subtle process of disengagement on the level of the subject.

Unlike the original concept of cooling out (Goffman 1952), current use of the term does not only describe deliberate processes of external selection, but also gradual processes of self-selection caused by the subject after experiencing itself as not fitting in the given occupational conditions. Thus cooling out can be seen as a selection phenomenon at the interface of self-selection and external selection. But until now we don’t know what happens within these processes. What exactly ‘cools out’? Are certain persons more susceptible for cooling out than others? What conditions are typical under which cooling out occurs? To shed some light on this topic this project reconstructs biographies of cooled out persons.

Thereby cooling out will be conceptualised as a crisis-like process, during which the subject comes to terms with a mismatsch between professional circumstances and individual expectations, a process that ends with a transformation of the occupational motivational structure. The project’s aim is to generate a differentiated and empirically saturated image of typical constellations of cooling out. Furthermore, the often stated gendering of cooling out-processes will be subject to revision.

The results of the study shall contribute to a conceptual clarification of the selection phenomenon referred to as cooling out and will promote a better understanding of the mechanism of its causes. In cooperation with the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS, E8) the typology generated by the project is expected to be utilisable for quantitative research.