Motivation and emotion/Book/2013/Reversal theory
Mood flips and reversal theory - how and why do we change from one emotional state to another?
Overview[edit | edit source]
How do we explain motives behind addiction, risk-taking, stress, creativity, leadership, humor, violence and sport (Cottencin, Mullet & Sorum, 2006)? How do we understand how one deals with the world (Cottencin et al., 2006)? How do features of experience relate to each other (Kerr, Fujiyama & Campano, 2002)? All of these questions form the fundamental basis for discussing reversal theory in respect of motivation.
Reversal theory is concerned with the structure of experience and how experience itself changes over time (Kerr et al., 2002). Before the concept of reversal theory is discussed in detail, we must firstly review what motivation is.
Motivation[edit | edit source]
Behaviour has a complex relationship with motivation (Cottencin et al., 2006). Motivational states are seen as the backbone of defining someone’s motivation where it shows in that moment what is important to the person and how the person feels about their experience (Thatcher, Kuroda, Legrand & Thatcher, 2011). Motivation itself provides the framework for behaviour, cognition and perception (Thatcher, Kerr, Amies, & Day, 2007). Many definitions of motivation exist with the most common scientific definition being the psychological processes that cause the arousal, direction and persistence of behaviour (Mitchell, 1982). From this it is also identified that motivational behaviour is also goal-oriented (Mitchell, 1982). Although the definition of motivation itself can be seen as a matter of conjecture, there are three main principles that relate to motivated behaviour (Mitchell, 1982). The first is motivation is individual to the person, where each person is unique and has varying reasons as to why they chose to undertake a particular task at any given time (Mitchell, 1982). The second is that motivation is intentional, meaning that motivation is based on the actions that the individual has chosen to do (Mitchell, 1982). Finally, motivation is considered to be multifaceted where the two main factors include the arousal and the direction of behaviour (Mitchell, 1982). Another important aspect is that motivation is concerned with the internal and external factors that influence one's behaviour (Mitchell, 1982). One such explanation for the internal and external factors that influence behaviour is reversal theory.
Reversal theory[edit | edit source]
Reversal theory is a theoretical model that encompasses motivation, emotion and personality (Kerr, 2009). It is also seen as an innovative approach to understanding what motivates and drives individuals (Kerr & de Kock, 2002). Reversal theory itself poses that a pair of meta-motivational states can account for the relationships between arousal, motivation and emotion (Martin, Kuiper, Olinger & Dobbin, 1987). The term “meta-motivational states” refer to how people interpret their own motives at any given time (Kerr, 2009). This means that there are two different states or modes of information processing which can identify how arousal can be experienced and viewed in opposite ways and that individuals have the ability to switch or reverse between these two states (Martin et al., 1987). Reversal theory holds a concern with understanding the motives individuals have for their actions, rather than just the behaviour itself (Svebak & Murgatroyd, 1985). This theory holds that a single person can perform similar behaviours on a number of different occasions but have different motives for doing such (Svebak & Murgatroyd, 1985). For example, one might park their car in a reverse parallel parking spot as it is the only spot available on one day, when on another day one could park the car in the same manner for the fun of it (Svebak & Murgatroyd, 1985). Reversal theory places emphasis on the complexity, changeability and inconsistency of an individuals behaviour at any given time (Kerr & de Kock, 2002).
Reversal theory is based upon four pairs of meta-motivation states where these pairs appear to be opposites of each other where an individual is either in one state or another at any given time; however, one cannot be in both states at the same time (Potocky, Gerkovich, O’Connell & Cook, 1991).
The pairs of states are:
Telic–Paratelic State[edit | edit source]
The telic state or mode is characterised as being serious-minded, avoids arousal and is goal-oriented (Martin et al., 1987). In this state the goal itself is the objective and one’s focus is on the activity itself (Martin et al., 1987). If arousal is activated during this state the individual tends to feel associated anxiety and tension and the increased arousal is seen to be unpleasant as this appears to interfere with achieving the set goal (Martin et al., 1987). Feelings of relaxation and calmness are felt in this state when there are low levels of arousal (Martin et al., 1987).
On the opposite side to the telic state, the paratelic state holds characteristics of spontaneity, playfulness and seeks out arousal (Martin et al., 1987). In this state, one focuses more on the activity they are undertaking rather than the goal they trying to achieve and as such, arousal is interpreted as a pleasant experience of excitement where the enjoyment of the activity is increased (Martin et al., 1987). When arousal is low, feelings of boredom are evoked (Martin et al., 1987). Another explanation of the paratelic state is the feeling of “living in the moment” where one can do so without any fear of consequences (Apter & Desselles, 2012).
Negativistic–Conformist State[edit | edit source]
In the negativistic state individuals have the desire to rebel against rules or conventions (O’Connell, Cook, Gerkovich, Potocky & Swan, 1990). When committing a rebellious act, those in the negativistic state feel pleasure and find the act satisfying where feelings of anger are often identified (O’Connell et al., 1990). In the conformist state, the feelings of anger and rebelliousness are absent and individuals prefer to follow rules and conventions (O’Connell et al., 1990). When one who is in the conformist state undertakes action that is considered to be rebellious they tend to find the action unpleasant and hold feelings of embarrassment and guilt (O’Connell et al., 1990).
Mastery–Sympathy State[edit | edit source]
A person in the mastery state has the tendency to be competitive and dominating; however, in the sympathy state they hold a desire for harmony and unity and demonstrate a tendency to cooperate (Kerr, 2007). Those in the mastery state can also be viewed as wanting power and striving for competition; as opposed to striving for love and affection as in the sympathy state (Sit & Linder, 2006).
Autic–Alloic State[edit | edit source]
An autic state is one who shows egotistical qualities; whereas one in the alloic state is altruistic and shows concern for others (Kerr, 2007). An autic state person can be individual and self-oriented; as opposed to one who demonstrates transcendence and can be seen as other-oriented in the alloic state (Sit & Linder, 2006).
Characteristics of the four pairs of meta-motivational states can be summarised in the following table:
|Future oriented||Present oriented|
|Prefer important activity||Prefer unimportant activity|
|Attempt to complete activity||Attempt to prolong activity|
|Desire to comply with rules||Desire to break rules|
|Willingness to compete||Willingness to cooperate|
|Desire for control||Desire for harmony/unity|
|Focus on toughness strength||Focus on tenderness and sensitivity|
|Concern with self||Concern with other(s)|
|Desire to gain||Desire to give|
|Suffering loss unpleasant||Suffering loss pleasant|
|Not identifying with other(s)||Identifying with other(s|
|Focus on own feelings||Focus on feelings of others|
Source: Kerr, J., Fujiyama, H. & Campano, J. (2002). Emotion and Stress in Serious and Hedonistic Leisure Sport Activities, Journal of Leisure Research, 34(3), 272-289.
As such, reversal theory itself accounts for pleasant and unpleasant states of both high and low arousal (Martin et al., 1987). This theory argues that one alternates between each of these states for differing lengths of time where reversals may occur for a number of reasons (Martin et al., 1987) and are thought to be involuntary (Kerr & de Kock, 2002).
Reversals between states can occur as a result of three different agents: environmental events, frustration at not meeting the required motivational need and being satisfied of the time already spent in one meta-motivational state (Thatcher et al., 2007).
Environmental events[edit | edit source]
Another term used to describe an environmental event is a contingency event (O’Connell, Schwartz, Gerkovich, Bott, & Shiffman, 2004). Examples of such events that occur in one's external environment that can produce reversal are hearing a fire alarm or a joke (O’Connell et al., 2004). Internal environment events that can also provoke a reversal is experiencing pain (O’Connell et al., 2004).Each of the external or internal environmental factors are inconsistent with the motivational state that the individual is currently in (O’Connell et al., 2004). For example, a person who is currently in a playful state may experience something that makes them feel threatened or alert and as a result, they reverse into a state that leaves them more serious minded and cautious (O’Connell et al., 2004). Similarly, an individual who is currently in a serious-minded state may hear a joke which in turn reverses their state into a playful one (O’Connell et al., 2004).
Frustration[edit | edit source]
Frustration reversals tend to occur when an individual no longer feels satisfied in their current state (O’Connell et al., 2004). An example of this would be an individual who is currently in a telic (goal-oriented) meta-motivational state who is having difficulty achieving their set goal; as a result, they reverse into a more playful, paratelic state (O’Connell et al., 2004).
Satiation (or Satisfaction)[edit | edit source]
Satiation reversals are dependent on the time spent in one meta-motivational state (Thatcher et al., 2007). After being in a state for a particular time, one can involuntarily reverse into another state without any other external or internal provocation (O’Connell et al., 2004). The longer a person remains in a meta-motivational state, the more likely it will be that they will reverse into another state (Kerr et al., 2002).
Each one of these states can occur in combination and in conjunction with each other (Kerr, 2009). Somatic emotions such as relaxation, excitement, placidity, provocativeness, anxiety, boredom, anger and sullenness can be felt as either unpleasant or pleasant in the telic-paratelic and negativism-conformity states (Kerr, 2009). Whereas combinations within the mastery-sympathy and autic-alloic states result in transactional emotions such as pride, modesty, gratitude, virtue, humiliation, shame and guilt (Kerr, 2009).
Other aspects of reversal theory[edit | edit source]
The concept of reversal theory has also been extended to explain personality differences (Martin et al., 1987). It can be said that one may choose to prefer one meta-motivational mode over another and become dominant in such state (Martin et al., 1987). As with the relevant characteristics of each state, individuals who are telic-dominant tend to be serious and goal-oriented; whereas those who are paratelic-dominant are playful and spontaneous (Martin et al., 1987).
In some cases, the value of reversal theory can be used to discuss obsessions, colour preferences, humor, and counselling (Svebak & Murgatroyd, 1985). As such, the Telic Dominance Scale (TDS) can be used to measure both telic and paratelic dominance (Svebak & Murgatroyd, 1985). In a study completed by Svebak and Murgatroyd (1985) it was found that persons who were either telic dominant or paratelic dominant appeared to lead very different lifestyles and accounted for these lifestyles in different ways (Svebak & Murgatroyd, 1985). As such, this study confirmed the existence of the meta-motivational distinction in terms of lifestyle choices and biological responses that can explain behaviour (Svebak & Murgatroyd, 1985).
Studies involving the concept of reversal theory have tended to focus on two main aspects that will be discussed. The first involves looking at exercise and sporting behaviours and the second refers to understanding smoking behaviour.
Exercise and sporting behaviour[edit | edit source]
Exercise[edit | edit source]
When looking at reversal theory and exercise it is considered that reversal theory can provide a suitable framework for understanding the psychological response to exercising (Thatcher et al., 2011). According to reversal theory interpretation of any experience, in this case exercise, is considered to be only partially dependent on whatever the person’s current motivational state is. Therefore, completing the same event or behaviour may achieve a different outcome or experience based on the person’s motivational state at the time (Thatcher et al., 2011).
When completing exercise or participating in sport, experiences can be influenced or interpreted by our motivational dominance, meaning that although one may reverse between a pair of motivational states, one may in fact prefer one state over another (Thatcher et al., 2011). For example, in the telic state a pleasant motivational state may be relaxation whereas being anxious would be considered to be unpleasant (Thatcher et al., 2011). Similarly, in the paratelic state, the experience of excitement would be believed to be more pleasant than that of boredom (Thatcher et al., 2011).
Further to this, research has also demonstrated that telic-dominant persons tend to prefer to participate in exercise and sports that are considered to be safe and endurance-based (Thatcher, Kuroda, Thatcher & Legrand, 2010), whereas paratelic individuals have a tendency to participate in sports that are more risky (Thatcher et al., 2010).
When responding to exercise, one may exhibit stress (Thatcher et al., 2011). Reversal theory accounts for two types of stress that originate from two sources, internal and external. The two types of stress are tension and effort stress (Thatcher et al., 2011). Thatcher, Kuroda, Legrand and Thatcher (2011) identified tension stress as occurring when the person’s needs are not met. Effort stress results from attempting to cope with tension stress; however, will attempt to avoid stress altogether (Thatcher et al., 2011).
With regards to exercise, sports performance may decline if there are differences between tension and effort stress, namely, if there is too much or too little tension stress, it may mean that the person is producing either too much or not enough effort stress to cope (Thatcher et al., 2011).
Injury rehabilitation[edit | edit source]
In terms of looking at injury rehabilitation, reversal theory is important as over a period of time it is possible that one or more pairs of meta-motivational states may become more important to the individual than other states (Thatcher et al., 2007). This assists in understanding the emotions felt by athletes when they are injured as emotions, such as humility, may not be regularly understood by persons other than the injured athlete (Thatcher et al., 2007). Reversal theory can also be an important framework for sports psychologists when conducting counselling as reversal theory can act as a guide to understanding certain problems and their origins (Kerr, 2007).
Extreme sport[edit | edit source]
In extreme sports such as skydiving, studies using reversal theory have found that the only way that individuals can participate in this sport is if they hold a paratelic frame of mind when partaking in the sport (Kerr, 2007). This frame of mind holds an ability to form a protective frame that can be viewed in terms of a “psychological bubble” which turns the fear of activity into excitement that one gains pleasure from (Kerr, 2007). What has been found, however, is that when an activity such as skydiving goes wrong, for example a person dies, a person’s meta-motivational state can reverse into the telic state where they do not find pleasure in the activity as feelings of excitement are no longer exhibited (Kerr, 2007).
On- and off-field violence[edit | edit source]
When looking at violence, specifically in sport, reversal theory explains that both aggressive and violent behaviour is based on the meta-motivational state combinations, and their associated reversals of telic-paratelic with negativistic and telic-paratelic with mastery (Kerr, 2009). In sport, the reversals between each of these states can lead to forms of violent behaviour such as play violence, anger violence, power violence and thrill violence (Kerr, 2009). Each of these examples of violence can produce a reversal through different meta-motivational states that can lead to unprovoked or provoked outbursts in sporting activities (Kerr, 2009).
Reversal theory can also be used to explain off field violent behaviour displayed by fans or fanatics of certain sporting codes (Kerr & de Kock, 2002). Kerr and de Kock (2002) used the meta-motivational states of reversal theory to explain the actions of sporting fanatics. These persons tend to display proactive negativism where they appear to break rules for fun and are completely aware of what they are doing and why they are doing it (Kerr & de Kock, 2002). Further to this, the state of mastery can also explain the reactions of fans at sporting venues as they strive to achieve mastery over their opponents (Kerr & de Kock, 2002).
Now the concept of smoking with reference to reversal theory will also be reviewed briefly.
Smoking[edit | edit source]
Studies have been conducted where reversal theory has been used to discuss tobacco smoking cessation and the rate of relapse (Potocky et al., 1991). Potocky, Gerkovich, O’Connell and Cook (1991) considered that there were two pairs of meta-motivational states associated with the cessation of smoking; the telic-paratelic state and the negativistic-conformist state (Potocky et al., 1991). O’Connell, Cook, Gerkovich, Potocky and Swan (1990) found that those who relapsed and recommenced smoking were found to be either paratelic or negativistic (O’Connell et al., 1990). This was opposed to persons who were telic or conformist who tended to abstain from smoking behaviour (O’Connell et al., 1990). Therefore, it is considered that reversal theory can be used to explain the behaviours of smoking relapse (Potocky et al., 1991). One of the major findings of research into smoking behaviour and reversal theory is that those who demonstrated that they were in a rebellious behaviour (negativistic) meta-motivational state were more likely to see smoking as an act of rebellion and reactivate their smoking behaviour (O’Connell et al., 2004). It is suggested that when one is in the opposite meta-motivational state they can assist themselves in ceasing smoking if they make obtaining cigarettes harder to obtain for when they reverse into either a partelic or negativistic state (O’Connell et al., 2004).
Summary[edit | edit source]
- Motivation provides the framework for behaviour, cognition and perception. There are three main principles of motivation. The first is that motivation is individualistic; the second is that motivation is intentional; and finally motivation is multifaceted.
- Reversal theory has been identified as being a theoretical model that encompasses motivation, emotion and personality. Reversal theory identifies that a pair of meta-motivational states can account for the relationships between arousal, motivation and emotion. The term “meta-motivational” states refers to how people interpret their own motives at any given time.
- The four pairs of meta-motivational states are telic-paratelic, conformist-negativistic, mastery-sympathetic, and autic-alloic.
- Reversals between states can occur as a result of three different agents: environmental events, frustration at not meeting the required motivational need and being satisfied of the time already spent in one meta-motivational state.
- Persons can become dominant in one meta-motivational state when one chooses one state over another.
- Reversal theory can provide a suitable framework for understanding the psychological response to exercising. Therefore, completing the same event or behaviour may achieve a different outcome or experience based on the person’s motivational state at the time.
- Research has demonstrated that telic dominant persons tend to prefer to participate in exercise and sports that are considered to be safe and endurance-based and paratelic individuals have a tendency to participate in sports that are more risky.
- In extreme sports such as skydiving, studies using reversal theory have found that the only way that individuals can participate in this sport is if they hold a paratelic frame of mind when partaking in the sport.
- When looking at sporting violence, reversal theory explains that both aggressive and violent behaviour is base on the meta-motivational state combinations, and their associated reversals of telic-paratelic with negativistic and telic-paratelic with mastery.
- The meta-motivational states associated with the cessation of smoking are the telic-paratelic state and the negativistic-conformist state. One of the major findings of research into smoking behaviour and reversal theory is that those who demonstrated that they were in a rebellious behaviour (negativistic) meta-motivational state were more likely to see smoking as an act of rebellion and reactivate their smoking behaviour.
References[edit | edit source]
Cottencin, A., Mullet, E. & Sorum, P. (2006). Consulting a Complementary and Alternative Medical Practitioner: A Systematic Investory of Motives Among French Patients, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 12(8), 791-978.
Kerr, J. (2009). Analysis of Recent Incidents of On-Field Violence in Sport: Legal Decisions and Additional Considerations From Psychology, Aggressive Behavior, 35(1), 41-48.
Kerr, J. (2007). Sudden Withdrawal from Skydiving: A Case Study Informed by Reversal Theory’s Concept of Protective Frames, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 19(3), 337-351.
Kerr, J. & de Kock, H. (2002). Aggression, Violence, and the Death of a Dutch Soccer Hooligan: A Reversal Theory Explanation, Aggressive Behaviour, 28(1), 1-10.
Kerr, J., Fujiyama, H. & Campano, J. (2002). Emotion and Stress in Serious and Hedonistic Leisure Sport Activities, Journal of Leisure Research, 34(3), 272-289.
Martin, R., Kuiper, N., Olinger, L. & Dobbin, J. (1987). Is Stress Always Bad? Telic Versus Paratelic Dominance as a Stress-Moderating Variable, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53(5), 970-982.
Mitchell, T. (1982). Motivation: New Directions for Theory, Research and Practice, Academy of Management Review, 7(1), 80-88.
O’Connell, K. Cook, M., Gerkovich, M., Potocky, M. & Swan, G. (1990). Reversal Theory and Smoking: A State-Based Approach to Ex-Smokers’ Highly Tempting Situations, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 58(4), 489-494.
O’Connell, K. Schwartz, J. Gerkovich, M. Bott, M. & Shiffman, S. (2004). Playful and Rebellious States vs. Negative Affect in Explaining the Occurrence of Temptations and Lapses During Smoking Cessation, Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 6(4), 661-674.
Potocky, M. Gerkovich, M. O’Connell, K. & Cook, M. (1991). State-Oriented Consistency in Smoking Relapse Crises: A Reversal Theory Approach, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 59(2), 351-353.
Sit, C. & Linder, K. (2006). Situational State Balances and Participation Motivation in Youth Sport: A Reversal Theory Perspective, British Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, 369-384.
Svebak, S. & Murgatroyd, S. (1985). Metamotivational Dominance: A Multimethod Validation of Reversal Theory Constructs, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48(1), 107-116.
Thatcher, J., Kerr, J., Amies, K. & Day, M. (2007). A Reversal Theory Analysis of Psychological Responses During Sports Injury Rehabilitation, Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 16, 343-362.
Thatcher, J. Kuroda, Y., Legrand, F. & Thatcher, R. (2011). Stress Responses During Aerobic Exercise in Relation to Motivational Dominance and State, Journal of Sports Sciences, 29(3), 299-306.
Thatcher, J., Kuroda, Y., Thatcher, R. & Legrand, F. (2010). Perceptual and Cognitive Responses During Exercise: Relationships With Metamotivational State and Dominance. European Journal of Sport Science, 10(3), 199-207.