Telic Systems Research (TSR) is an independent, UK-based research collective.

When applied to an action or an attitude, the word 'telic' means 'directed towards a definite end or purpose'. The word is derived from the ancient Greek word telos, meaning 'end'.

TSR aims to investigate the role of purpose, and the concept of purpose, in human experience, discourse and behaviour.

Although telic (purpose related) concepts are fundamental to human psychology, and have pervaded official, scholarly and vernacular discourse as far back as the availability of written records allows us to discern, there is little evidence that the effectiveness of human reasoning about purpose has improved significantly or sustainably since the first of these historical documents was created.

Although certain academic psychologists (for example, Elliot & Niesta, 2009) have recently constructed coherent and broadly scoped conceptual models pertaining to the 'psychology of goals', their models have not been widely adopted, even within the sparsely populated networks of scholarly 'goal theorists'. 

And beyond those elite academic and professional circles who stake their careers and reputations upon the ability to reason about purpose, it is safe to say that telic incoherence (that is, confusion about purpose) is rife and rampant.

At a personal level, the recent proliferation of goal oriented 'self help' literature and counsellor mediated services is witness to a widespread aspiration for telic coherence; but the frantic, conflicted and stress filled life styles and life stories addressed by these popular interventions show little sign, as a rule, of becoming any less turbulent or better integrated. The failure of these frequently bland, simplistic and patronising interventions to deliver the promised outcomes indicates the need for more sophisticated and evidence based telic models and methods.

At the global level, we have recently witnessed such telic cataclysms (gross collective failures of purpose) as the chaotic process and feeble outcome of the 2009 UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen. The repetition of such failures to translate urgent and widely shared aspirations into definite political commitments and behavioural changes will have serious adverse consequences not only in regard to the very substantial material threats that such aspirations and initiatives purport to address, but also in regard to our collective self confidence as agents of political, social and environmental change.

We do not imagine that TSR's efforts and initiatives will achieve a rapid or pervasive ameliorating influence upon such personal or collective tragedies, but we do nevertheless hope to provide a point of focus for those who are seriously interested in understanding the endemic issue of telic incoherence, in proposing appropriate remedies, and in constructing effective solutions.

You will find a description of our general approach laid out under the menu item 'Research'; a description of our past and current initiatives under 'Projects'; and a description of the tools and methods that we have derived from this research under 'Applications'.

You will also find a collection of short articles on Telic themes laid out under 'Pamphlets'. These articles are designed to be concise, and readily accessible to a wide range of readers. Some of the pamphlets have been written by members of the TSR collective; others have been written by external contributors who are known to be sympathetic to our approach. Please contact us if you would like submit a pamphlet to add to our collection.


Elliott, A.J. and Niesta, D. (2009). Goals in the context of their underlying sources. In: Moskowitz, G.B. and Grant, H (Eds.), The Psychology of Goals. (pp. 56-76). NY: Guilford Press, 2009.