Motivation and emotion/Book/2017/Depression and study motivation
What is the effect of depression on the motivation to study?
Motivation factors can play a major role in our drive to study and excel in the academic field. However, when depression is present it can alter and diminish a person's motivation in many things including the motivation to study. Research findings support the proposition that the presence of depression can lead to diminished motivation to study (Entwistle, Thomson & Wilson, 1974). Furthermore, it is suggested that not only is motivation affected but overall academic performance is found to be negatively affected as well (Hysenbegasi, Hass & Rowland, 2005).
The Basics: Motivation and depression
What is motivation?
Motivation is made up of both internal and external factors that stimulate desires and energy that gives us a continuous drive and interest to perform everyday responsibilities/tasks or to exert effort to achieve a goal (Colman, 2009). Motivation can be as innate as fulfilling our physiological needs (food, water, rest) and progress to our more complex needs such as self-fulfillment (Colman, 2009). The behaviour that is directed by our motivation can be divided into two sub-types: intrinsic and extrinsic (Wright & Wiediger, 2007). Intrinsic behaviour is a behaviour that an individual will carry out to for themselves to fulfil internal motivators whereas extrinsically motivated behaviour is influenced by outside forces and the need to please others (Wright & Wiediger, 2007).
What is depression?
Depression is a debilitating mental illness that can surface from a number of factors including genetic, biological and environmental influences and is commonly known to co-occur with other mental health illnesses. Depression can cause other psychological problems or even result from one and is known to affect a person's mood, physical health and psychological health, including one’s ability to learn. Colman, (2009) defines depression as a mood portraying feelings of worthlessness or guilt, sadness, despair, shame and pessimistic thoughts. Anhedonia, changes in weight and eating patterns, and changes in sleeping patterns can also accompany these depressive moods (Colman, 2009).
What motivates us to study?
The motivating factors for a person are often external influences such as reward systems, grades, appraisals, or the opinions they worry others may have of them. However, people can just as often be motivated from within, by interests, curiosity, care or enduring values (Deci, Vallerand, Pelletier & Ryan, 1991). Intrinsic motivations such as these are not essentially externally rewarded or reinforced yet can still endure desires, ingenuity and constant efforts. The interaction between external forces and internal motivators on a person is the focus of self-determination theory. When applied to the territory of education, Self-Determination Theory is primarily concerned with stimulating an interest in learning, valuing education and a confidence in one's own capacities and attributes (Deci et, al. 1991). These results are displays of a person who is intrinsically motivated and their values are internally driven. Research findings propose that these processes lead to superior learning, greater understanding of abstract concepts as well as enhanced personal growth and modification (Deci et, al. 1991; Deci & Ryan 2012). Differently to other theories, self-Determination Theory makes a significant distinction that falls within the realm of behaviour which is intentional or motivated. It differentiates between self-determined and controlled forms of deliberate regulation. Motivated actions are self-determined and endorsed by one's self, the regulatory process is choice (Deci & Ryan, 2012) whereas when it’s controlled the regulatory process is compliance or even defiance.
Goal orientations theory of motivation
Goal orientations are cognitive depictions of the goals individuals tend to chase (Wolters, Yu & Pintrich, 1996). As information relating to one's performance on a task is processed, it can alter goal orientations which are active and subject to change. While there can be numerous goal orientations that direct individual’s reasons for engaging in particular activities, the focus of research has been two types of goals; task oriented goals and ego oriented goals.
- Task oriented goals
A task oriented goal’s primary motivation for action is the mastery of the task by applying the appropriate skills required. In mastering a particular task, an individual experiences a motivational component for success which is self-improvement (Wolters, Yu & Pintrich, 1996). There are three key factors that measure whether the task oriented goal was met successfully:
- How well the task was mastered by the individual
- How much self-improvement was experienced by the individual
- How adept the skills and abilities of the individual were
Case study A
Mike is studying medical science at university. He loves the subject and dreams of being a doctor when he graduates. Mike's grades aren't the highest in the class; he has never got top marks on any of his assessments before and has even failed some of them. However, every exam and assessment he is presented with he studies as hard as he can and puts in a lot of hard work to get the best marks he can achieve even though he doesn't expect to be the best in his class.
Task orientation is as an intrinsically motivated state that creates persistence in an individual when faced with failure, determination when faced with difficult circumstances and attaining a sense of accomplishment and improvement through mastering the task. Achievement of task oriented goals can occur irrespective of whether or not the person has won or lost a game, placed first or last in a race or passed or failed an exam (Elliot, Henry, Shell & Maier 2005). This internally motivated state can be very beneficial for a student as intrinsic motivation is known to be stable and resilient to external pressures such as failure and stress. A study conducted by Baker (2004), found that intrinsically motivated behaviours were associated with lower levels of stress.
The focus of task oriented goals is mastering the goal at hand and performing the task to the best of one’s ability under the circumstances an individual is faced with.
Ego oriented goals Rather than focusing on self-improvement and goal mastery, the main motivation for pursuing ego oriented goals is to be better than others. Basically, what motivates a person to chase and actualize ego oriented goals is competitiveness. Individuals driven by ego oriented goals measure success in terms of one’s performance exceeding the performance of others even if this can be accomplished through utilizing less skill and effort than they possess (Roberts, Treasure & Conroy, 2007; Steinberg, Grieve, & Glass, 2001). Their motivation is directed at being the best in comparison to others rather than doing one’s best and the motivator is to validate their superiority and advanced ability in comparison to others rather than establishing the abilities one has regardless of how it parallels the abilities of others. This form of motivation is not stable as task orientation, it can either benefit or hinder students depending on whether it is a self-enhancing or self-defeating ego orientation. According to Skaalvik (1997) self-defeating ego orientation was associated with high anxiety and negatively related to achievement and self-perception. Self-enhancing ego orientation on the other hand was positively associated with achievement, self-perception and intrinsic motivation (Slaavik, 1997).
Case study B
Tom is studying medical science at university. He loves the subject and dreams of being a doctor when he graduates. Tom's grades aren’t the highest in the class; he has never got top marks on any of his assessments before and has even failed some of them in the past. Whenever he is faced with exams or assessments that he feels he cannot do well or outperform in, he loses the motivation to study or put effort and gives up because he perceives that he will not do better than everyone else.
It is evident that students that are task oriented have a greater likelihood of maintaining high levels of motivation that drive them to continue performing at an optimum level regardless of whether they think they will succeed or fail or outperform everyone else and thus have a greater likelihood of persevering with their greatest effort. On the other hand an ego oriented student will tend to lose motivation if they feel they will not succeed, therefore they have a tendency to give up before completing a task.
Expectancy theory suggests that people behave selectively based on the outcomes they expect as a result of the behaviour. Basically. people choose what to do based on what the expected outcome will be. For a student, it could be that they work extra hard because they expect to receive better grades. Furthermore, this theory also states that behaviour is also influenced by how probable those rewards are perceived to be. For instance, students might be more expected to work harder if they had been guaranteed top marks (and therefore perceive the outcome as highly likely) rather than if they had only presumed to get top marks which in that case would mean that the perceived outcome was possible but not as likely.
Expectancy theory is made up of three components:
- Expectancy: the belief that effort will lead to attaining ones’ anticipated goal. This is based on previous experience, ones’ self-confidence, and the perceived difficulty to achieve the goal.
- Instrumentality: the belief that a person will receive a reward if performance expectations are met.
- Valence: the worth one places on the expected reward.
Based on the ideas put forward by expectancy theory, people are most motivated when a desired reward is expected as a result of hitting an achievable target. Diminished motivation occurs when the reward is not desired by the person or if the person believes that their efforts will not result in a reward.
Learned helplessness theory
In an attempt to expand on the research of Pavlov (experiments where dogs were conditioned to salivate when they heard a bell ring) scientist Martin Seligman wanted to take his research in another direction, when he rang his bell instead of following with food he would zap the dogs with electricity. Once conditioned the dog was then placed into a box that was divided into two halves by a little fence where they predicted that if they rang the bell the dog would jump over the fence to the other side to try and escape the electric shock (Maier & Seligman, 1976). This however was not the case, instead the dog would just sit there and brace itself, even when the dogs were shocked after the bell they still just sat there and took it. A dog which had never been shocked before was then placed in the box and given the same test, when they attempted to zap it immediately jumped the fence (Maier & Seligman, 1976).
Just like the dogs in the experiment people can also learn to be helpless when faced with overwhelming situations (Nemade, Reiss & Dombeck, 2007). If a person experiences crushing defeat or severe abuse or loss of control over the course of their life, over time they learn that there is no escape, and even if the option to escape is presented to them, they will not act or take it. The person becomes a pessimist who believes in futility rather than optimism (Sherman, 2016). This helplessness can often affect students negatively making them feel as though no matter their efforts they are doomed to fail, which in turn can worsen depressive symptoms and diminish one's motivation severely. Much like the dogs receiving the shocks, clinically depressed students who experience a pattern of failure show a decrease in study motivation. Learned Helplessness Theory suggests that those students always expect a bad result and do not seek to improve their result by putting in more effort as they anticipate a fail regardless (Ozment & Lester, 1998).
Attribution theory aims to explain how meanings are attached to the behaviour of ourselves and others and there are numerous theories surrounding attribution. The Three-Dimensional Model of Attribution developed by Bernard Weiner proposes that people attempt to define why we behave the way we do (Weiner, 1985). Weiner states that the reasons people associate with their behaviour can influence their behaviour in the future (Weiner 1985). For example, a student that fails an exam may associate this failure to multiple factors and it is that attribution that will impact their motivation in the future.
According to Weiner, specific attributions such as bad luck and not studying hard enough are regarded as less important than the characteristics of that attribution. Weiner (1985) puts forward three main characteristics of attribution that can impact future motivation. A different study conducted by Forsyth & McMillan (1981) supports and affirms Weiner's theory.
- Stability: how stable is the attribution? i.e. if a student feels their failure of an exam was due to them not being smart enough, this is a stable factor. An unstable factor is something that is less permanent, such as being ill. Stable attributions for successful accomplishments, such as passing an exam, can result in positive expectations, and therefore higher levels of motivation which in turn will lead to success in the future. In contrast, negative situations such as failing an exam, these stable attributions can result in lower expectations in the future (Wiener, 1985).
- Locus of Control: was the event caused by an internal or external factor?
If a student feels as though failing the exam was their own fault as they are inherently not sufficiently intelligent (an internal cause), they could be less motivated in the future. If an external factor was believed to be the cause, such as poor teaching, they may not experience such a decrease in motivation (Weiner, 1985).
- Controllability: how controllable was the situation?
If a person feels as though they were capable of performing better, they may have less motivation to reattempt the event or situation in the future as opposed to a person who feels as though they failed due to factors beyond their control (Weiner, 1985).
Depression and Study Motivation
Effects of anxiety and depression on our ability to study
Finding the motivation to study when you're depressed can be very difficult. Though there are many reasons for someone to experience lack of motivation, finding it challenging to concentrate and lack of motivation may also be a sign of depression . Anhedonia is a symptom of depression and results in changes to how rewards such as pleasure are processed, resulting in a lack of motivation for these rewards (Treadway et. al. 2009). Studies conducted by Treadway et. al. (2009) suggests that there is a significant relationship between decreased motivation and the presence of anhedonia. Patients suffering from anhedonia reportedly showed a reduced ability to efficiently use applicable information about cost and reward values of a specific task to direct their decision (Treadway, Bossaller, Shelton & Zald 2012). A person's ability to think critically and clearly, even remembering what you read and learn becomes more difficult when suffering depression . Depression can also cause significant sleep disturbances such as insomnia and hypersomnia which can then result in students missing classes and not being able to find the time to study efficiently (Eisenberg, Golberstein & Hunt, 2009). This can add to the sense of being overwhelmed by the academic requirements already placed on student and worsen their depression and anxiety . A person's cognitive functioning is known to be impaired by this disorder which also interferes with the thought process as well as concentration and the ability to make decisions . According to (Leuchter, Cook, Uijtdehaage, Dunkin, Lufkin, Anderson-Hanley, Abrams, Rosenberg-Thomson, O’Hara, Simon, Osato, & Babaie, 1997) those suffering from depression are known to frequently experience issues with their memories and find it difficult to remember events or details. This leads to the person being left unable to complete tasks requiring both high-motor and cognitive abilities. These mental deficiencies are particularly detrimental to children and students who are still in the process of learning vital essential skills and can drastically impair one's ability to study.
Academic Stress induced depression
Enduring prolonged periods of stress without consistent periods of rest, stress can not only compromise our physical health but may also take an emotional toll (Le, 2013) Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that severe anxiety can be linked to uncontrolled and erratic stress levels. College/University students have been found to be highly prone to suffer these prolonged periods of stress due to the high demands of their studies when also taking into account other responsibilities placed on these students (work, rent, etc.). A national survey conducted by the ADAA in 2011 found that more than 62% of the students who withdrew from college with mental health issues did so due to an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders usually occur with other mental disorders particularly Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) for example. College students have self-reported struggles with anxiety and depression and how these disorders have affected their academic careers in many ways. The American College Health Association conducted a nationwide survey of college students in 2011 and found that approx 30% of students admitted to feeling overwhelmed by depression to the point they found it difficult to function (ACHA). A study conducted by Le (2013) looked at depression caused by stress and concluded that stress-induced depression had a negative effect on academic performance. Not only does anxiety and depression affect our academic ability and motivation to study but the stress of academic responsibilities can also create or worsen depression .. The
Depression and academic performance
Depression is estimated to affect nearly 50% of the college student population (Furr, Westefeld, McConnell, & Jenkins, 2001). There are many variables that could add to students' depressive symptoms such as academic performance, social stressors, financial problems, and the adjustment characteristic to the changeover from a family situation to a college setting (DeRoma, Leach & Leverett 2009). Several studies confirm that the prevalence of depression among college students is now extremely common and widespread. Research conducted by Hysenbegasi, Hass & Rowland (2005) confirmed a negative relationship between depression and grades. The study found diagnosed depression was linked to a decrease in student GPA. Another study conducted by Heiligenstein, Guenther, Hsu & Herman (1996) looked specifically at college students and found depression to impair their academic performance.
It was reported by students suffering depression that their depressive symptoms were interfering with their academic performance (Hysenbegasi, Hass & Rowland, 2005). Another study conducted by Le (2013) found that the higher the rate of depression present among college students the harder it was for them to learn, remember and concentrate which in turn resulted in decreased levels of academic performance .
Depression and educational attainment
A common misconception is that college is solely a positive experience. However, according to Weber, Metha, and Nelson (1997) college students displaying symptoms of depression frequently mention college-related stress as a key contributing factor. College students are, in a lot of instances, abruptly exposed to wide variety of new academic related stressors, such as tight time restrictions, increased writing loads, and organization of several deadlines. Along with adjusting to the challenges of college life, students are expected to simultaneously take on demanding and difficult academic tasks. This unsurprisingly creates a circular relationship through which academic pressures and depression may strengthen one another (Heiligenstein & Guenther, 1996). These factors can make study very difficult and in some instances can even lead to students dropping out or not even pursuing further education. A study conducted by Fletcher (2009) found there to be a negative relationship between depressive symptoms and years of schooling. This relationship seems to be focused largely through increasing the chances of dropping out but may also have slight influences on the probability of college attendance (Fletcher, 2009).
What can you do?
Applying the motivational theories
Motivation has been studied by social scientists for decades in hopes of uncovering what motivates our behaviour, how it occurs and why. There have been many theories of Motivation proposed over the years, below are 2 popular theories that can shed some light on how academic productivity can be increased. All of these techniques have helped in increasing my own motivation, however there are numerous methods a person can apply the key is to find what works best for each individual.
Expectancy Theory - How to apply it
Setting achievable goals for students is key, and providing a rewards program where the rewards are desired by the person. Rewards don’t only have to come in the form of high grades, simply praising them and providing opportunities for growth/progression and awarding certificates to acknowledge and commemorate effort and achievement can all go a long way in motivating students. Rewarding yourself is also very effective, rewards as simple as a chocolate bar, doing something you find enjoyable or buying yourself something you've had your eye on. It is vital that the reward is meaningful, fair and relevant to the person its intended for, which is subjective (Chyung & Berg, 2010) and don't allow yourself the reward until you have completed your goal.
Three-Dimensional Theory of Attribution - How to apply it
Give students specific feedback letting them know you believe that they can improve and what they need to do to go about it. This, in theory will steer them away from attributing their failure to an innate lack of ability and perceive their success as controllable and possible if they work hard and implement different strategies. Also praising students for improvement regardless of whether the outcome still wasn’t correct. A good example of this is praising someone for utilising correct procedure/approach even though the desired results were not necessarily achieved. Through this, students are encouraged to attribute failure to factors they can control, which can then be improved on in the future.
Increase your motivation to study
A great way to increase productivity and motivation is to make goals and sub-goals. Goals can not only boost self-confidence as they are completed, they can also help focus a person's attention and concentration (Burton & Raedeke, 2008). When setting goals it is crucial to set realistic ones, if they are unattainable the person won't acquire the mental benefits of completing them and it can even have the reverse effect and demotivate the individual (Burton & Raedeke, 2008). Setting sub-goals of "I want to get this first section of the essay today and the second by the end of tomorrow etc" rather than having one big goal of "I want to have this essay completed by Monday" are a lot more effective. As the individual reaches each sub-goal their motivation to complete the desired goal will grow.
Change Up Your Routine
Having a set routine can be very helpful in many aspects of life such as sleep or housework, however for work and study, constantly repeating the same things can get very boring. Having a dull unchanging routine can negatively impact well-being (Feather, 1990) and it can become tedious for even the most enthusiastic student (Ramsland, 1992). Taking regular breaks, changing up routines, and doing different things can reignite a persons' interest and motivation.
The strategies listed below are proposed by the Headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundationand should help with depression as well as stress and anxiety .
=Get enough sleep
Your brain and body both benefit from a good sleep. You feel energised, are able to maintain focus and protect your mental health.
Your mood, energy levels and general health and wellbeing can be improved through healthy, nutritious eating. Eating a lot of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains as well as drinking lots of water will provide your body and brain all the strength it needs to function well.
A fun way to boost confidence is to learn new things and set desired goals. Reading a book, taking a class you're interested in, learning a new language and learning a new skill could be a few ideas.
Physical activity and keeping fit are known to help with anxiety and depression. It can help you sleep better, manage stress and boost your mood. Walking or taking the stairs when you can is a good idea; also, doing some morning stretches/yoga, taking up a sport you enjoy and rather than taking public transport ride a bike.
People are social beings, a crucial part of being human is feeling connected to others. Spending time with family, friends, people in your community and even pets can strengthen mental health and well-being.
- Enduring and resilient motivational states come from intrinsic motivation.
- Extrinsic motivation is not as stable or as powerful a motivator
- Depression can interfere with and hinder motivation severely and create a disinterest in following through with our studies
- Depression affects learning abilities and diminishes the interest in pursuing previously desired outcomes/activites
- Depression has been shown to negatively affect academic performance, motivation to study as well as leading to students dropping out of school
- There are numerous techniques that can be implemented to re-motivate ones self and push through the symptoms of depression
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