Motivation and emotion/Book/2017/Pleasure motivation

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Motivation and pleasure:
What is the relationship between motivation and pleasure?

Overview[edit | edit source]

The role of pleasure as a motivator is intrinsically involved in the processes which govern human behaviour throughout daily life. The methods by which people choose the food they eat, the places they live, who their friends are, and what they do for fun, are all dictated by the reward process controlled by pleasure. Theory and research come together to explain the relationship between pleasure and motivation. Aspects of clinical potential are assessed, and both landmark and modern theories of pleasure are utilised to consider the future. Development in the understanding of both physiological and psychological motivation and pleasure have lead to important advancements in the field of mental health treatments. As such, more accurate and efficient provision of treatment is possible for patients.

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What causes a person to behave the way that they behave? What is the drive behind the actions of humans? What is motivation and how is this influenced by pleasure? Why is it important to understand this relationship and how can it help with bettering people's lives?

Pleasure[edit | edit source]

Case study

The girl entered the bakery, hearing the familiar chime of the bell as the door swung wide. The alluring scent of freshly baked scones, scrolls, eclairs, and donuts filled the air. Her mouth began to salivate and she thought about how long it had been since she had been back to the bakery. Her childhood memories of the little shop flooded back and she smiled. She purchased an apple and cinnamon scroll and sat in one of the old worn booths against the back wall, where she used to sit with her mum every day after school. The first bite of the scroll was so delicious, she savoured the flavours and thought about how happy she was to be back home.

Pleasure is one of the most basic motives and, as such, is an integral aspect of day to day life. Due to this, the importance of pleasure in both mental and physical health is immense. The role of pleasure as a motivating force in behaviour is complex and essential to many relationships that humans hold. Maslow's hierarchy of needs highlights the importance of relationships, as well as esteem needs, to which pleasure is essential. Such needs are largely satisfied by the role of pleasure as a form of motivation (Cabanac, 1971).

Pleasure is received by the human brain both through physical stimuli (i.e., taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight), and through mental and emotional responses to stimuli, such as the emotional experiences that take place during social interactions, and positive experiences such as significant achievements. Such achievements may include receiving a good mark on an assessment, being complimented, or reaching a major milestone in life (e.g., finishing school) (Alba & Williams 2013).

The release of the chemical dopamine from the neurons in the brain is a major part of the process of feeling pleasure. Special dopamine pathways within the brain provide a channel through which increased levels of dopamine may travel, responding to positive or favourable stimuli (Sharot, Shiner, Brown, Fan, & Dolan, 2009). This increase in dopamine is vital in the creation of the ultimate product; pleasure.

Sensory pleasure[edit | edit source]

Sensory pleasure refers to the broad spectrum of pleasure that may be derived from the five senses of the body. As such, the importance of this source of sensation makes up a significant part of human pleasure. Whilst psychological pleasure is strongly related to emotionally and mentally rewarding stimuli, sensory is the physical aspect of pleasure. The external provision of pleasure is reliant on the senses of taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight (Berridge & Kringelbach 2011).

Figure 1. Wine sampling producing pleasure from enjoyment olfactory senses

In the first case study, the female in question experiences immense pleasure, both physically and mentally. The smell of pastries, as well as the taste of an old favourite sweet treat result in increased levels of pleasure, and as such, happiness occurs. This enjoyment of particular foods is an example of experienced pleasure.

The production of dopamine is intrinsically linked to addiction and well as substance use disorder (Bøhling, 2017). The strong links between addiction and substance use disorder are based upon the release of dopamine, and the resulting euphoric pleasure achieved. Although many drugs, such as marijuana, are used for medicinal purposes, the primary use for many people is for pleasure (Bøhling, 2017). When using illicit drugs, such as cannabis, LSD, and MDMA, the common misconception is that the drugs themselves are the only addictive element to these substances. Often, it is the euphoric pleasure which compels the repeated use of illicit substances, rather than the addictive chemicals within the drug compound (Gigengack, 2014).

Case study

"Considering the pleasures of (psychedelic) drugs is important because pleasure is one of the key motivations for the use of AOD and because it is an essential aspect of the experience of psychoactive substances. In other words, if we ignore the notion of pleasure, we severely limit our understanding both of why people engage in drug use and of what happens when they do so." (Bøhling, 2017)

In recent years, however, the role of pleasure-based addiction has grown and developed within societies, and now pertains to an array of pleasure-based addiction. When considering the addictive nature of illicit and dangerous drugs, food would not be something that one might find dangerous. However, addiction to food is a steadily growing issue, and stems from the role of pleasure in eating habits. Addiction to food has shown to produce highly similar neurological effects on the brain's reward systems as is seen with nicotine addiction (Criscitelli & Avena, 2016; Loxton & Tipman 2017). This source of pleasure found in food subconsciously creates the basis for motivation to eat foods which are more pleasing (e.g., sugary foods). This desire to eat foods which are considered to produce pleasure, are a higher order pleasure and as such, go beyond basic survival needs. This desire for food is a learned excess of what is considered a survival pleasure (Marty, Chambaron, Nicklaus & Monnery-Patris, 2017). Research by Criscitelli & Avena (2016) showed that the reward systems activated during the consumption of nicotine and highly palatable foods overlap. The study found that there were significant similarities between the neural activity of a smoker experiencing pleasure from satiating their cravings for nicotine, as with an obese person consuming food which they deemed pleasurable. These findings reflect the understanding that addiction may be formed to various sources of pleasure, and that there not a need for a physical addictive substance for a problem behaviour to develop.

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Case study

Matt is sitting at home, watching TV. He is bored, having already seen the movie before, and is feeling upset. Matt was fired from his job earlier in the week, and wants to think about something else. He goes to the kitchen and retrieves his favourite ice cream. Sitting back on the couch, he spoons it out of the ice cream tub, smiling and sighing happily as he eats the first mouthful. He's glad he keeps emergency tubs in the bottom draw because his favourite ice cream never fails to brighten his mood. Matt finishes the tub and begins to focus on the TV again. He begins to feel sad, remembering that this movie actually has a terrible ending. Matt returns to the freezer for more ice cream, feeling that this will fix his mood.

Psychological pleasure[edit | edit source]

Pleasure centers, also known as hedonic hotspots, are the areas of the brain's reward center which register and process the reward aspects of pleasurable stimuli (Berridge & Kringelbach 2013). These areas mainly consist of the nucleus accumbens, ventral pallidum, and parabrachial nucleus parts of the brain (Berridge & Kringelbach 2015). Pleasure is considered to be a considerable component of emotion, though pleasure itself is not considered an emotion. Pleasure is an affect, which is the experience of emotion (Kringelbach 2009).

Figure 2. A woman paints the landscape for her higher order pleasure

Pleasure is often categorised into two different orders

Fundamental pleasures:

  • These are pleasures associated with survival
  • Examples include food, sex, and social standing or relationships
  • Standard organism goals

Higher order pleasures:

  • Pleasures based on the individual's interests
  • Examples include painting, music, politics
  • An evolution of primal survival pleasures

Pleasure and pain[edit | edit source]

Understanding of pleasure has developed to include the theory of pleasure and pain which states that the two exist on a continuum, or scale [factual?]. The [what?] theory purports that the two systems are a part of a reward-punishment perception system. Both of the systems serve as a method of motivation, with both rewards and punishment being used as tools for the acquisition or extinction of behaviours (Higgins, 1997). The application of pleasure-pain reward-punishment systems have been commonly employed in the development of conditioning programs, such as operant conditioning (Berridge & Kringelbach, 2011). This method of conditioning uses the principles of punishment and reward to modify behaviours, commonly those which [missing something?] undesirable, such as smoking. For example, a person is struggling with a smoking addiction, and sheer willpower has not worked in curbing his habits. The client applies a method of punishment, whereby every time he experiences a craving for a cigarette (source of pleasure) he snaps an elastic band on his wrist. If performed correctly, this sequence will associate the pain (elastic band) with the desire for the addicted pleasure (cigarette). In this way, the pleasure and pain continuum may be employed to adjust human behaviours for better quality of life.

The commonly used metaphor of the carrot and stick refers to this principle of using the options of punishment or reward to modify behaviour. When considering this well known phrase, the prevalence of these motivators are realised within society.

Early forms of the pleasure pain theory were developed by Sigmund Freud in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The Pleasure principle, initially referred to as the "unpleasure principle", theorised that behaviour is dictated by the desire to achieve pleasure. This principle stated that the id controlled behaviour, and was based upon the attainment of immediate gratification (Higgins 2011). This thirst for physical and psychological reward could be satiated by sex, food, and the quenching of thirst. Freud proposed that maturity corresponded with the development of these desires to accept deffered[spelling?] gratification, rather than immediate. The theory proposed that this was the presence of the ego prompting a more rational and realistic acceptance of desires (Higgins, 2011).

The motivational triad[edit | edit source]

The motivational triad refers to a recently developed theory by Dr. Douglas J. Lisle and Dr. Alan Goldhamer [when?] which purports that there are three main constituents to motivation:

  • Pleasure seeking
  • Pain avoidance
  • Energy efficiency - related to survival instincts

This theory highlights the importance of the relationship between pleasure and pain, and the degree to which it influences behaviour. This theory signifies the modern and ongoing advancements to the understanding of human motivation. The book, "The Pleasure Trap" [factual?], encapsulates the relevance of pleasure and motivation to the psychological basis for unhealthy eating habits. Addiction to food and the feedback loops involved in food consumption by humans illustrates the intricate role of psychology and behaviour (Lisle & Goldhamer (2007).

Motivation[edit | edit source]

Motivation is the driving force behind the choices and actions that humans commit throughout their lives. To make these decisions, motivators are employed. Motivators come in many shapes and forms, from psychological, social, physical, and emotional. There are multiple elements to human motivation, which is orchestrated} by a mix of physical and psychological factors and processes.

Psychological theories[edit | edit source]

Psychological theories provide strong explanations for the development of motivation, and well as the processes which maintain it. It [what?] can be understood as a process which runs similar to a positive feedback loop. Thoughts become behaviours, behaviours become performance, and performance becomes reinforced thoughts.

Intrinsic motivation:

Intrinsic motivation is motivation for the emotional and mental benefit if the individual.

  • Based on internal goals and development
  • Characterised by a desire for personal development, such as mastering a new topic, rather than the reward of receiving a good grade for the topic.

Extrinsic motivation:

Extrinsic motivation is an action which is performed with the desire of obtaining an external result or reward.

  • Opposite of intrinsic motivation
  • May lead to a reduction of intrinsic motivation
  • Is characterised by the desire for rewards such as trophies, rather than the feeling of success

A study by Leigh and Morris (2016) found that reward responsiveness was strongly correlated with addictive behaviours, particularly overeating. The study reviewed the evidence supporting the behaviours of binge eating and food addiction, concluding that the similarities lie strongly within the realm of pleasure seeking. As the study associates this addictive behaviour with drug addiction, the relationship between the overwhelming urge to experience pleasure, and the motivation to repeat behaviours is evident.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs[edit | edit source]

Figure 3. Maslow's hierarchy of needs demonstrates both the fundamental and higher order need for pleasure

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is an important concept in psychology, outlining a theory of priority essentials for mental health. Within these needs lies a strong influence of pleasure, and the need for it to be satisfied within a person's life. This theory encompasses both of the aspects of pleasure, fundamental, and higher order. Belonging, safety, and physiological needs relate to the primary aspects of fundamental pleasure; that of survival. Maslow's upper tiers correspond with the higher order pleasures, of enjoyment, intrinsic pleasure, and personal development.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Understanding the importance of the motivational role of pleasure is a key element to developing more accurate and applicable methods of understanding human behaviour. Ultimately, every choice a person makes is in part attributed to the pleasure that the person receives as a result of that action. In this way, pleasure forms a major constituent of the subconscious process of decision making.

This chapter addressed the issues of addiction, levels of pleasure seeking, the theory which supports the observed behaviour, and the research which has developed new theories in recent years[vague]. The understanding that pleasure can be used to develop and extinguish problems behaviours demonstrates its capacity for use within clinical psychology, and importance in mental health treatment[explain?]. With the theory and research viewed in full, the relationship between pleasure and motivation is understood to be a complex and ubiquitous element of human behaviour[vague].

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Alba, J., & Williams, E. (2013). Pleasure principles: A review of research on hedonic consumption. Journal Of Consumer Psychology, 23(1), 2-18.

Berridge, K. C., & Kringelbach, M. (2011). Building a neuroscience of pleasure and well-being. Psychology Of Well-Being: Theory, Research And Practice, (1).

Berridge, K. C., & Kringelbach, M. L. (2013). Neuroscience of affect: brain mechanisms of pleasure and displeasure. Current opinion in neurobiology, 23(3), 294-303.

Berridge, K. C., & Kringelbach, M. (2015). Pleasure Systems in the Brain. Neuron, 86(3), 646-664.

Bøhling, F. (2017). Psychedelic pleasures: An affective understanding of the joys of tripping. International Journal Of Drug Policy.

Cabanac, M. (1971). Physiological Role of Pleasure. Science, 173(4002), 1103-1139.

Criscitelli, K., & Avena, N. (2016). The neurobiological and behavioral overlaps of nicotine and food addiction. Preventive Medicine, 92, 82-89.

Gigengack, R. (2014). “My body breaks. I take solution.” Inhalant use in Delhi as pleasure seeking at a cost. International Journal Of Drug Policy, 25(4), 810-818.

Higgins, E. T. (1997). Beyond pleasure and pain. American psychologist, 52(12), 1280.

Higgins, E. T. (2011). Beyond pleasure and pain: How motivation works. Oxford University Press.

Kringelbach, M. L. (2009). The pleasure center: trust your animal instincts. Oxford University Press.

Leigh, S. J., & Morris, M. J. (2016). The role of reward circuitry and food addiction in the obesity epidemic: An update. Biological psychology.

Lisle, D. J., & Goldhamer, A. (2007). The Pleasure Trap: Mastering the Force that Undermines Health & Happiness. Book Publishing Company.

Loxton, N., & Tipman, R. (2017). Reward sensitivity and food addiction in women. Appetite, 115, 28-35.

Marty, L., Chambaron, S., Nicklaus, S., & Monnery-Patris, S. (2017). Learned pleasure from eating: An opportunity to promote healthy eating in children?. Appetite, 120, 265-274.

Sharot, T., Shiner, T., Brown, A., Fan, J., & Dolan, R. (2009). Dopamine Enhances Expectation of Pleasure in Humans. Current Biology, 19(24), 2077-2080.

External links[edit | edit source]