Efforts are everywhere! We make efforts to lift heavy weights, to concentrate, to stop smoking, to stay calm, to understand others, to win games, etc. But we don't yet know what efforts are, or what their value is, and we lack a general theory of efforts that can be used in the disciplines that study it (psychology, economics, sociology, law, and philosophy). The Effort Project investigates the nature and value of efforts.

The project is funded by the Swiss National Foundation, and led by Olivier Massin at the University of Neuchâtel’s Institute of Philosophy, in Switzerland.


September 2021. We welcome Hannah Altehenger as visiting researcher of the project.

July 2021. The paper "What's inside is all that counts? The contours of everyday thinking about self-control", with Juan Pablo as lead author, was accepted for publication at Review of Philosophy and Psychology.

June 2021. The special issue on Habitual Action, Automaticity, and Control edited by Juan Pablo and Flavia Felletti is out now in Topoi.

May 2021. A coauthored piece by Juan Pablo and others was accepted for publication in Social Neuroscience. The title: "Perceiving utilitarian gradients: Heart rate variability and self-regulatory effort in the moral dilemma task".

More news

Visiting Researcher

We are happy to welcome Hannah Altehenger to our project as visiting researcher for the Fall semester of 2021!

Hannah received her PhD from Humboldt-University Berlin in 2018. Her main area of research is philosophical moral psychology, with a special focus on self-control and moral responsibility (for more information about her work, see her PhilPapers profile). During her stay in the effort project, she will mainly be working on questions concerning the value of effort. From early 2022 on, Hannah will be the PI of the project “The ethical dimensions of self-control”, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), and located at University of Konstanz.

The Project

Effort is a central concept not only of our ordinary psychology and ethics, but also of many sciences: efforts are recurrently invoked in psychology, economics, sociology, law, or philosophy. In spite of its ubiquity in ordinary and scientific thinking, virtually no attempt has been made so far to formulate a general theory of effort amenable to accommodate all varieties of efforts and to explain their values. The Effort Project's goal is to remedy this deficiency by first, trying to identify what all the multifarious kinds of efforts have in common – the nature of effort; and second, by elucidating the main values which accrue to efforts in virtue of their nature. What are efforts, and what are they worth?

These two questions correspond to the two interdependent sub-projects of this project. sub-project A pertains to theoretical philosophy and bears on the nature of effort; sub-project B pertains to practical philosophy and bears on the value(s) of efforts. Assessing the values of effort trivially requires being clear about what efforts are; but the reverse is also true: the way we value efforts provides crucial clues about what we take efforts to be. Accordingly the two sub-projects are led in parallel and close collaboration.

Read the full project here.


Primary Investigator

PhD student

Recent events

Striving and Doing workshop

This international workshop gathers experts across multiple disciplines to make progress in understanding effort and its relations with agency.

The workshop took place online on April 21–23, 2021 (2–5pm CET).

More information here.