Motivation and emotion/Book/2016/Leisure motivation

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Leisure motivation:
What motivates us to partake in leisure activities?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. Hiking is one common form of leisure activity which can be completed alone, or as a group activity.

It has reached that point in the year where your workload is compounding, and all you ever think about is how you're going to keep on top of everything. However, you still find yourself taking the time to catch up with friends and watch your favourite television shows. Why?

The focus of this chapter is to discuss what motivates us to partake in leisure activities, and how our involvements in leisure activities affect our psychological well-being.

Leisure is any activity that is not work. As a result, leisure activities can be understood as non-essential tasks that we choose to engage in outside of a work environment (Kelly, 2009). Therefore, leisure motivation is any psychological or physiological factors that drive us to partake in leisure activity (Chen & Pang, 2012).

Understanding how individuals are motivated to partake in leisure activities has both psychological and societal implications (Adams, Leibbrandt, & Moon, 2010; Mahoney & Stattin, 2000). People who engage in more leisure activities have been found to have a higher psychological well-being than those who do not (Adams et al., 2010). In addition, adolescents who partake in more non-essential leisure activities (e.g., extracurricular learning) have been found to be less likely to engage in antisocial behaviour (Mahoney & Stattin, 2000). Accordingly, understanding the underlying motives of leisure can allow researchers to ensure that individuals partake in enough leisure activities to receive the positive psychological and societal benefits.

There are two main leisure motivation theories: Intrinsic (internal) and Extrinsic (external) motivation (Chen & Pang, 2012). Furthermore, literature has considered physiological components believed to influence our leisure motivation, most predominantly the dopaminergic systems (Bromberg-Martin, Matsumoto, & Hikosaka, 2010). This chapter discusses the major underlying motivational theories and research in reference to leisure motivation.

Motivational theories and leisure[edit | edit source]

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Intrinsic motivation in leisure[edit | edit source]

Intrinsic motivation refers to motivation to engage in an activity due to personal enjoyment or gratification that results from that activity (Amato, Lundberg, Ward, Schaalje, & Zabriskie, 2016). Intrinsic motivations are largely responsible for our participation in leisure activities (Chen & Pang, 2012). The most prominent intrinsic motivation theories are Self-Determination Theory and the Theory of Planned Behaviour.

Figure 2. Yoga can be viewed as an autonomous leisure activity, as it allows individuals to be in control of their own bodily movements and cognitive awareness.

Self-Determination theory[edit | edit source]

Self-determination theory was proposed to identify the underlying factors of intrinsic motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000). The theory suggests that intrinsic motivation can be attributed to three psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness (Ryan & Deci, 2000). An individual's desire to fulfill each of these needs is believed to be the underlying drive behind intrinsic motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000). When investigating how we are motivated to participate in a range of leisure activities, we can identify components of these needs that may be fulfilled.

Autonomy refers to the need for an individual to control or direct their own behaviour (Amato et al., 2016). As leisure activities are non-work tasks, a large majority of leisure activities are autonomous in nature (Kelly, 2009). Individuals who are autonomous in their actions have shown positive outcomes in both motivational and psychological aspects of the self (Rocchi, Pelletier, & Lauren Couture, 2013; Ryan & Deci, 2000). As a result, an individual's motivation to partake in self-directed leisure activities (See Figure 2.) may be higher than their motivation to partake in non-leisure tasks (Rocchi et al., 2013).

Competence refers to a person's need to complete a task successfully, or within their own capabilities (Amato et al., 2016). This is important to motivation, as when a person successfully completes an activity, they receive a sense of internal reward (Ryan & Deci, 2000). In turn, this would increase the individual's intrinsic motivation to partake in that leisure activity in the future (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Often, autonomy and competency are viewed as interrelated constructs (Ryan & Deci, 2000). As such, if a person was to undertake an autonomous leisure activity, they would most likely be motivated to partake in an activity that they felt competent in (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Further, Autonomy and Competency may be responsible for our internal drive to partake in self directed-tasks that yield no external reward to the individual (e.g., learning an instrument or reading a book) (Chen & Pang, 2012).

Relatedness refers to an individual's social needs (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Relatedness refers to a person's need to obtain close personal connections with others (Amato et al., 2016). As such, this need is fulfilled through leisure activities that require interaction and socialisation with other people (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Often, individuals will take time out to catch up with friends, or partake in team sports as a part of their leisure time (Chen & Pang, 2012). Moreover, research has demonstrated an increased sense of relatedness in individuals that[grammar?] partake in team sports (Cox, Duncheon, & McDavid, 2009). This research also found that many of the individuals in a team sporting environment reported that this heightened sense of relatedness increased their motivation to continue in future engagement (Cox et al., 2009).

Theory of planned behaviour[edit | edit source]

Figure 3. Conceptual model of the theory of planned behaviour.

Another model that can be used to explain individual’s intrinsic motivations toward a leisure activity is the Theory of Planned Behaviour (Ajzen & Driver, 1992). Introduced by Ajzen in 1991, this theory analyses motivational factors through deconstructing underlying factors of one’s intention to complete an activity. The theory postulates that the stronger a person’s intent is to complete an activity, the more motivated they will be to complete this behaviour (Ajzen, 1991). Three factors were proposed to contribute to intention as a motivational mechanism and were identified as Attitude, Subjective Norms, and Perceived Behavioural Control (Ajzen, 1991).

The first factor identified as contributing to intentions to complete a task is Attitude (Ajzen, 1991). Attitude in the theory of planned behaviour refers to an individual’s personal evaluation of the activity in question (Ajzen, 1991). Depending on whether the attitude towards a task is positive or negative, it will lead to higher or lower intentions to partake in the activity (Ajzen, 1991). For instance, if an individual perceives a leisure activity as fun or engaging, their motivation to partake in that activity would be higher (Ajzen & Driver, 1992). Alternatively, if they deem a task to be boring or dangerous, their motivation partake in that activity would be lower (Ajzen & Driver, 1992).

The second factor in the theory identified to affect intention is referred to as Subjective Norms (Ajzen, 1991). Subjective norms refer to an individual’s perception of social pressures placed upon them to complete a task or activity.  If an individual perceives there is a large amount of social pressure to complete a leisure task, their intention to complete the task will be higher (Ajzen & Driver, 1992). This particular factor can be used to explain the popularity of team based sports as a leisure time activity, as the perceived social pressures to partake each week would be higher than in completing a self-directed task (Gucciardi & Jackson, 2015).

The final factor contributing to intention in the theory of planned behaviour is Perceived Behavioural Control (Ajzen, 1991). As individuals may have engaged in a particular leisure task in the past, a perception of one’s ability to complete the task may already exist (Ajzen, 1991). Perceived behavioural control refers to this assessment of one's prior capabilities when previously partaking in an activity (Ajzen, 1991). If they perceive their past capabilities as higher, they will have higher intentions of completing that task, where as if they perceive their capabilities as lower, they will be less likely to complete the task again (Ajzen, 1991). Furthermore, if an individual has had bad experiences when engaging in new activities in the past, their intentions to partake in new activities may be diminished and the individual may avoid new leisure tasks (Ajzen, 1991). 

Moreover, Ajzen and Driver (1992) studied how five popular leisure activities were influenced by the three factors in the theory of planned behaviour. The results demonstrated that each of the factors identified in the theory of planned behaviour signifacntly positively predicted engagement in the five leisure activities (Ajzen & Driver, 1992). This indicates that the theory of planned behaviour is a strong model in understanding leisure motivation (Ajzen & Driver, 1992). A conceptual model of the theory can be seen in Figure 3. 

Figure 4. Often, partaking in higher education is considered to be extrinsically motivated, as it offers external reward to individuals by broadening their employment opportunities.

Extrinsic motivation in leisure[edit | edit source]

Extrinsic motivation is defined as one's motivation to partake in an activity or task due to external factors (Reiss, 2012). Leisure activities that are undertaken due to extrinsic motives are likely to provide a form of social or monetary reinforcement to the individual (Chen & Pang, 2012). As the predominant drive behind an individual's extrinsic motivation is external reward, this type of motivation is often interrelated with reinforcement and learning theory (Wise, 2009) Ergo, extrinsically motivated leisure activities can be discussed with reference to learning theory, as these theories explain how individuals are motivated by, or respond to external rewards or reinforcement.

Operant conditioning and leisure motivation[edit | edit source]

Operant conditioning has been extensively researched throughout psychological literature. B. F. Skinner initially outlined the theory behind of operant conditioning, stating that any learnt behaviours achieved through means of reward or punishment were a product of operant conditioning (Staddon & Cerutti, 2003). Operant conditioning also recognises that rewards and punishments can be used to both strengthen, or weaken engagement in a behaviour (Staddon & Cerutti, 2003). This is related to extrinsic motivation, whereby external regulators increase individuals motivation to partake in activities in a similar manner to the rewards in operant conditioning (Reiss, 2012; Staddon & Cerutti, 2003). When examining how operant conditioning may increase motivation to undertake leisure activities, we must first analyse the rewards present to the individual (Deci, 1971). Many types of external rewards have been identified to motivate individuals; most commonly monetary rewards (Deci, 1971). Deci (1971), stated that money was such a powerful motivator that it was the primary factor in identifying whether a motivation was classified as intrinsic or extrinsic. As such, he stated that extrinsically motivated activities were those that individuals would not have completed without a monetary reward (Deci, 1971). The speculation that monetary rewards can motivate individuals to partake in leisure activities can be applied to an array of situations, such as elite sporting, or participation in higher academia (Cheng & Pang, 2012; Deci, 1971). Many individuals would not engage in university level education (see Figure 4), or high level sporting activities without some form of monetary reward to motivate them (Chen & Pang, 2012; Deci, 1971). A practical example of how the principles of intrinsic motivation can facilitate leisure activities can be seen in Table 1.

Table 1. Case study of operant conditioning in leisure motivation.

Operant conditioning case study

Jim is a university student who loves popular culture. As a part of his leisure time, Jim participates in a classic film based trivia with his friends at a local bar every Wednesday night. The prize each week is a $250 bar tab to be used on both food and drinks. After placing badly in the first few events, Jim decided to read books about classic films three times in a week, to get an edge over his competition. The following week, Jim's team won the bar tab. As a result, Jim has continued his reading behaviour in his leisure time every week for 3 years.

In this situation, Jim has been operantly conditioned to increase a leisure activity (reading about popular films) in the hopes of receiving an external reward (the $250 bar tab).

Social learning theory[edit | edit source]

Social learning theory can be be used to explain extrinsic motivation. Bandura, D. Ross and C. A. Ross (1961) found that children would model their own behaviour to match aggressive behaviour that had been presented too them. furthermore, it was found that children modelled these behaviours more freely if there was a reward associated with the action (Bandura, 1965). As a result, Bandura (1971) formulated Social learning theory, which explained how individuals learn behaviours through observation, and how reward influenced these learned behaviours. In terms of leisure participation, this theory indicates that individuals may engage in leisure activities due purely to social observation or for the sole purpose of potentially receiving an observed reward (Bandura, 1965; Bandura, 1971). Further, this implies that individuals partaking in leisure due to social learning are motivated to do so to receive observed reward from others, or receive an internal reward they had observed others receiving (Bandura, 1971; Chen & Pang, 2012). An example of how social learning theory can be applied to leisure motivation can be found in Table 2.

Table 2. Case study of social learning as a leisure motivator.

Social learning theory case study

Whilst undergoing an extremely stressful morning at work, Gordon decide to go for a walk. As Gordon wondered down the corridor, he observed a colleague participating in a brief meditation at her desk. Intrigued, Gordon asked his colleague why she was meditating. His colleague replied that it helped her concentrate and stay calm on the stressful days. Gordon then decided to partake in a meditation at his desk to hopefully receive those benefits.

Gordon was motivated by social learning theory, as he had observed an action (meditation) that had yielded a reward (increased concentration and alleviated stress), and modelled the action in the hopes of receiving the same reward.

Dopamine and leisure motivation[edit | edit source]

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Dopaminergic pathways[edit | edit source]

Figure 5. Main dopamine pathways of the brain.

The most researched physiological phenomena in motivational psychology is the dopaminergic pathways (Bromberg et al., 2010). Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is released in response to pleasant experiences, and plays a role in both motivation and motor functioning (Bressan & Crippa, 2005). There are two major systems of the brain involved in the dopaminergic regulation of motivation: the Nigrostriatal system, which involves the Substantia Nigra; and the Mesolimbic system, which involves the Ventral Tegmental Area and Nucleus Accumbens (see Figure 5) (Bressan & Crippa, 2005; Wise, 2009). These two dopaminergic systems provide the biggest physiological contribution to our motivated states due to their role in the regulation of our perceptions of rewards and positive reinforcement (Bressan & Crippa, 2005; Wise, 2009).

Dopamine as a motivator[edit | edit source]

The dopamine pathways play a crucial role in the positive reinforcement of tasks, objects or activities (Wise, 2009). This is largely due to the activation of the dopaminergic systems when an individual perceives a particular object or activity as rewarding (Schultz, 2009; Wise, 2009). As a result, individuals may seek out stimuli or activities – such as leisure activities – that activate these reward responses of the brain (Schultz, 2009). This can be somewhat comparable to the principles of operant conditioning, however engagement in a leisure activity is reinforced by a neurochemical reward (the release of dopamine), rather than a physical reward (Rossi et al., 2013).

Rossi and colleagues (2013) found that the use of neurochemical rewards were more powerful than the use external rewards in mice. When provided with the opportunity to stimulate the dopamine pathways of the substantia nigra, the mice did not cease stimulation until the opportunity was removed (Rossi, et al., 2013). This was opposed when the mice were provided with food, as when they had eaten a sufficient amount, they stopped pressing the lever (Rossi et al., 2013). This would indicate that leisure motivation driven by a dopamine reward (intrinsic reward) which would be more powerful than leisure motivation driven by extrinsic reward (Deci, 1971; Rossi et al., 2013).

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Leisure motivation is what drives us to take part in leisure activities (Kelly, 2009). Understanding leisure motivation has both psychological and societal implications, by increasing positive affect in most individuals, and reducing antisocial behaviours among youth (Adams et al., 2010; Mahoney & Stattin, 2000). Intrinsic components of leisure motivation include the aspects of self-determination theory and the theory of planned behaviour (Ajzen & Driver, 1992; Amato et al., 2016; Chen & Pang, 2012). Self-determination theory been used to describe leisure motivation through our need for autonomy, competency and relatedness (Amato et al., 2016; Chen & Pang, 2012). The theory of planned behaviour emphasises the role of Attittudes, Social Norms, and Perceived Behavioural Control in motivating leisure activities. In addition, extrinsic motivators also contribute to our participation in leisure activities (Chen & Pang, 2012). The major extrinsic motivators believed to contribute to leisure motivation are operant conditioning and social learning theory (Cheng & Pang, 2012; Deci, 1971). Both of these theories outline the importance of external rewards in motivating individuals to partake in the leisure activities, where some individuals may not have completed those activities without the external reward (Bandura, 1971; Chen & Pang, 2012; Deci, 1971).

The influence of physiological systems on motivation is also relevant. Dopamine plays an important role in leisure motivation. The release of dopamine allows us to experience events, objects, or activities as rewarding, and acts as a nuerochemical[spelling?] operant reward (Bressan & Crippa, 2005; Wise, 2009; Deci, 1971; Rossi et al., 2013). Thus, the release of dopamine increases our likelihood of engaging in that leisure activity in the future (Deci, 1971; Rossi et al., 2013; Wise, 2009).

Test your knowledge[edit | edit source]


1 Which type of leisure activity is most likely motivated by the need for Autonomy?

Cooking dinner for a guest.
Joining a friends soccer team because they're short on players.
Writing a short story.
Attending university to obtain a higher salary.

2 Activation of which of the following brain area/s could motivate someone to partake in a leisure activity:

Nucleus Accumbens
Motor Cortex
Ventral Tegmental Area

3 Phoebe is 41 years old. She decides to play on a casual soccer team with her friends in her spare time. When her family asked her why she joined the team, she told them that the last time she played, she felt great for many hours afterwards. Which factor/s could have contributed to her decision to join the team?

A need for Relatedness.
The chance of monetary reward.
An unexpected release of dopamine.
She wanted to be better at soccer than all of her friends.

References[edit | edit source]

Adams, K. B., Leibbrandt, S., & Moon, H. (2010). A critical review of the literature on social and leisure activity and wellbeing in later life. Ageing and Society, 31(4), 1-30. doi:10.1017/S0144686X10001091

Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational behavior and human decision processes, 50(2), 179-211.

Ajzen, I., & Driver, B. (1992). Application of the theory of planned behavior to leisure choice. Journal of Leisure Research, 24(3), 207-224.

Amato, M. P., Lundberg, N., Ward, P. J., Schaalje, B. G., & Zabriskie, R. (2016). The mediating effects of autonomy, competence, and relatedness during couple leisure on the relationship between total couple leisure satisfaction and marital satisfaction. Journal of Leisure Research, 48(5), 349. doi:10.18666/JLR-2016-V48-I5-7026

Bandura, A. (1965). Influence of models' reinforcement contingencies on the acquisition of imitative responses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1(6), 589-595. doi:10.1037/h0022070

Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S. A. (1961). Transmission of aggression through imitation of aggressive models. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63(3), 575-582. doi:10.1037/h0045925

Bandura, A. (1971). Social Learning Theory. New York: General Learning Press.

Bressan, R. A., & Crippa, J. A. (2005). The role of dopamine in reward and pleasure behaviour–review of data from preclinical research. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 111(427), 14-21. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0447.2005.00540.x

Bromberg-Martin, E. S., Matsumoto, M., & Hikosaka, O. (2010). Dopamine in motivational control: Rewarding, aversive, and alerting. Neuron, 68(5), 815-834. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2010.11.022

Chen, M., & Pang, X. (2012). Leisure motivation: An integrative review. Social Behavior and Personality, 40(7), 1075-1082. doi:10.2224/sbp.2012.40.7.1075

Cox, A., Duncheon, N., & McDavid, L. (2009). Peers and teachers as sources of relatedness perceptions, motivation, and affective responses in physical education. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 80(4), 765-773. doi:10.1080/02701367.2009.10599618

Deci, E. L. (1971). Effects of externally mediated rewards on intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 18(1), 105-115. doi:10.1037/h0030644

Gucciardi, D., & Jackson, B. (2015). Understanding sport continuation: An integration of the theories of planned behaviour and basic psychological needs. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 18(1), 31-36. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2013.11.011

Kelly, J. R. (2009). Work and leisure: A simplified paradigm. Journal of Leisure Research, 41(3), 439-451.

Mahoney, J. L., & Stattin, H. (2000). Leisure activities and adolescent antisocial behavior: The role of structure and social context. Journal of adolescence, 23(2), 113-127. doi:10.1006/jado.2000.0302

Reiss, S. (2012). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Teaching of Psychology, 39(2), 152-156. doi:10.1177/0098628312437704

Rocchi, M. A., Pelletier, L. G., & Lauren Couture, A. (2013). Determinants of coach motivation and autonomy supportive coaching behaviours. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 14(6), 852-859. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2013.07.002

Rossi, M. A., Sukharnikova, T., Hayrapetyan, V. Y., Yang, L., & Yin, H. H. (2013). Operant self-stimulation of dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra. Plos One, 8(6), e65799. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065799

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.68=

Schultz, W. (2007). Behavioral dopamine signals. Trends in Neurosciences, 30(5), 203-210. doi:10.1016/j.tins.2007.03.007

Staddon, J. E. R., & Cerutti, D. T. (2003). Operant conditioning. Annual Review of Psychology, 54(1), 115-144. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.54.101601.145124

Wise, R. A. (2009). Roles for nigrostriatal—not just mesocorticolimbic—dopamine in reward and addiction. Trends in Neurosciences, 32(10), 517-524. doi:10.1016/j.tins.2009.06.004

See also[edit | edit source]

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

Self-Determination Theory (Wikipedia)

Operant Conditioning Wikipedia

Bandura and Social Learning Theory

Dopaminergic Pathways (Wikipedia)