Research on Callings

Learn more about Shasa’s Research on Callings and Access Measures of Calling

Why Callings?

Inspired by her own involvement in the professional music world as a bassoonist, Shasa became captivated by the question of why people go into career paths, like professional music, where their chances of ever making it are so low. Exploring this phenomenon has been the central focus of her research for more than two decades. Specifically, from a psychological perspective, what is going on in the minds of young musicians that enables them to enter a job market like this? In this context, she proposes that a particular psychological orientation—a sense of calling, defined as a “consuming, meaningful passion experienced toward a domain” (Dobrow & Tosti-Kharas, 2011)—plays a pivotal role in propelling people into this sort of seemingly irrational career path, perhaps even at great cost to themselves.

As she began researching calling’s role in the lives of young musicians, Shasa realized that studying the career progression of these individuals over time was essential to answer her questions. Looking cross-sectionally at either music students or musicians already in the early stages of their professional careers, which would have been a more typical approach, would not address her core interests in understanding how people selected into this profession in the first place and who subsequently “made it.” Therefore, in 2001, at the end of her first year of graduate school, she launched a large-scale longitudinal survey study of several hundred accomplished adolescent musicians. This study involved collecting data from this same cohort of people repeatedly over time to track the role of callings in their careers and lives. 

Starting in her dissertation (Dobrow, 2006), Shasa has aimed to address four core questions about the nature and impact of callings. These questions form the foundation of her ongoing research program, as shown below.

Overarching Research Agenda on Calling


What are the origins and evolutions of calling?

View Research


What is a calling?
How can we measure calling?


What is the impact of calling in our careers and lives?

Measures of Calling

Calling Scale

Shasa and co-author Jen Tosti-Kharas published a 12-item scale to measure people’s degree of calling toward a specific domain (Dobrow & Tosti-Kharas, 2011). This scale can be used or adapted for research purposes. Please cite Dobrow & Tosti-Kharas 2011 in all work that draws on this scale.

These 12 items, here written toward the domain of “work” (but can be adapted to any domain), should be rated on a 7-point scale (1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree) and averaged to create a composite calling score:

Calling Self-Assessment

A self-assessment to measure your degree of calling toward work in general and toward a domain you choose is available here.

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