Motivation and emotion/Book/2023/Egosystem and ecosystem motivation

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Egosystem and ecosystem motivation:
What are egosystem and ecosystem motivations and what are their consequences?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Case Study: No Pay, No Care?

Figure 1. Conservation volunteers in the UK.

There is an ongoing debate surrounding the motivations for conservation action, and what drives people to make to take this action, (see Figure 1). Often receiving funding and monetary rewards can be a driving motivator, especially when conditions are extreme. In western Uganda, communities were paid in exchange for planting trees for carbon sequestration[factual?]. Despite there being multiple motivations for doing so, such as aesthetic purposes, payments were seen as the core motivator. When payment stopped, often the volunteering did too. Aside from the few who were motivated by the existence values of having trees and the aesthetic benefit of living across from somewhere with a bountiful forest (Fisher, 2012)[grammar?]. This case study asks the thought-provoking question, if there is no pay, is there no care? How does this relate to ego/eco motivation? Explain.

Imagine ... a world where we can understand why people are the way they are, why they form relationships the way they do, and why they do the things they do? Sounds idealistic, right? For years, researchers have attempted to understand what motivates humans to behave in particular ways and understand the real-world impacts these motivations have on the world around them. For example, understanding people's core motivations for partaking, or not partaking in exercise can help health professionals find new ways to inspire people to move, be healthier and live longer.

This chapter explains two motivational frameworks: egosystem and ecosystem motivation. Those who display egosystem motivation and have goals that reflect this mindset, focus their attention inwardly and are concerned with behaviours that will benefit themselves and avoid outcomes that may cause them to feel rejected or disapproved of by others. Individuals who display this form of motivation combine the ideas of their 'true' self with their 'idealised' self and may have a hard time differentiating the two (Foster & Talley, 2020).

Those who display ecosystem motivation focus their attention outwardly and are concerned with behaviours that benefit those around them, in addition to themselves and maintain a central focus on maintaining relationships and being compassionate. They present with a less distorted view of themselves compared with those with egosystem motivation as they do not seek their self-worth based on the opinions of others (Foster & Talley, 2020).

This chapter explores these types of motivations, the consequences these have on one's psychological well-being and relationships, and theories behind motivation.

Having a strong idea of our own personal motivation is crucial in deciding which interventions we should implement to improve our habits, behaviours, ways of thinking and viewing the world.

Focus questions:

  • What are these [what?] forms of motivation?[vague]
  • What are the consequences of having each?
  • What is the relationship between attachment styles and social goals?[say what?]

What are these [what?] forms of motivations?[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Egosystem motivation[edit | edit source]

Egosystem motivation has people focusing on themselves, their own personal needs, wants, and desires and placing themselves as a priority over everyone else (Garcia & Crocker, 2008). Typically, motives are self-serving, self-centered/interested, and associated goals and behaviours that are egotistical. Those who are egosystemically motivated tend to have the belief that the satisfaction of meeting one's needs can come at the expense of others and their needs. This type of motivation will often lead to goals that focus on social image, concerned with how others view the person and if they believe the individual has desirable qualities (Sheldon et al., 2019).

Goals stemming from this motivation are focused on maintaining the individual's self-image and their own needs and desires. They focus their attention inward and pursue outcomes that benefit themselves, like gaining the approval of others. They also avoid outcomes that harm themselves, like being rejected from society. Those with this motivation will blend their “true” self with their “idealised” self and will internalise the evaluations of others as they rely on their feedback to gauge and maintain their self-worth (Foster & Talley, 2020).

Examples of goals with egosystem motives:

"It is my priority to ensure my needs are met in this relationship/friendship."

"My family needs to give me more respect."

(Sheldon et al., 2019)

Ecosystem motivation[edit | edit source]

Ecosystem motivation has people view themselves as a part of a larger whole. They see others' needs, wants, and desires as equal to their own (Garcia & Crocker, 2008). These motives are other-centered and aim to serve others. Those who are ecosystemically motivated tend to hold onto the belief that helping others reaps its own rewards and will benefit the individual as a result (Sheldon et al., 2019).

Goals associated with this form of motivation are compassionate and stem from the needs and desires of others. They focus attention outwards and pursue outcomes that benefit others and themselves. This includes strengthening close relationships and avoiding outcomes that harm others. They are less concerned with presenting a distorted version of themselves, as they do not tie their self-worth to the evaluation of others. These goals prompt emotional outcomes like empathy, altruism, and compassion (Foster & Talley, 2020).

Examples of goals with ecosystem motives:

"What can I do to ensure everyone in this friendship has their most important needs met right now?"

"Be more respectful to those around me."

(Sheldon et al., 2019)

Do you believe you are more motivated by ecosystem or egosystem goals?

Why might this be?

Are you happy being motivated this way?

What are the consequences of these forms of motivation?[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Psychological Wellbeing[edit | edit source]

Figure 2. Examples of Depressive Symptoms.

In the context of depression, the ecosystem motivation framework can assist people to switch from their self-focused state and break cycles of rumination and negative self-talk and focus. This is because when someone with depressive symptoms (see Figure 2) focuses on themselves and is highly self-critical, they do not take into consideration the protective environmental factors around them. Therefore the egosystem motivation framework encourages constant worry and rumination of the self, causing depressive symptoms to worsen (Garcia & Crocker, 2008).

Studies into the effects these types of motivation have on those with poor psychological well-being are vital as they provide insight into not only why people may be more susceptible to developing disorders such as depression, but may also provide ideas as to how those diagnosed with such disorders can change their way of viewing themselves, their situation and those around them to hopefully lessen the extent of their symptoms.[factual?]

Studies such as Garcia and Crocker (2008) aimed to discover why people take part in their current hobbies/activities, and how this affects their psychological wellbeing. Their results found that those who performed their activities because they provided value for them (egosystem motives) reported lower levels of psychological well-being compared to those who performed these activities because they believed they held value for others (ecosystem motives).[Provide more detail]

Disclosure of Mental Illness[edit | edit source]

According to Garcia and Crocker (2008), motivation systems have an impact on deciding when and whether to disclose a psychological disorder. This is especially the case in the face of stigma. Those with ecosystem motivations for disclosing such information, will often disclose more and report experiencing better psychological well-being as a result. Those with egosystem goals were reported to not only disclose less but also found their psychological well-being was reduced when they did decide to disclose.

Effect on Relationships[edit | edit source]

Throughout every aspect of our lives, we are forming relationships and attempting to maintain them. Whether these are romantic, familial, friendships, or professional, (see Figure 3)[grammar?]. These can determine our success in reaching our goals for ourselves and our lives. Understanding the motivations for why we form these relationships and the likelihood of these being sustained due to these motivations is integral to furthering our understanding of the human mind and behaviour.

Figure 3. Artistic portrayal of familial and romantic relationships

Egosystem Motivation

Those who seek out relationships with egosystem motives and goals, see potential relationships as means for self-benefit and prosperity. They value and prioritise their own well-being above the other members and strive to ensure their needs and desires are met, even at the expense of others. These relationships can come across as seemingly transactional, with their desire to maximise their gains based on their interactions with those they have a relationship with. The egosystem motivation mindset creates relationships built on control with means such as manipulation, persuasion, and intimidation (Crocker & Canevello, 2015). In these relationships, others only matter if they have the potential to either satisfy or hinder the individual's needs. When entering relationships, they feel like they are at the mercy of the other members and must try to use them to satisfy their desires. As there is an implication of the self, these relationships tend to create feelings of high arousal. When they feel validated and accepted by others, they feel immense pride and boost self-esteem. Whereas negative interactions will create shame and humiliation (Crocker & Canevello, 2015). People in this system view relationships as zero-sum, meaning that positive events that happen for them have negative effects on others in the relationship and vice versa. This viewpoint often elicits feelings of confusion and fear (Crocker & Canevello, 2008. Despite all this, there are instances when those who display this motivational framework do make sacrifices for those they are in a relationship with, albeit mostly as a personal investment with the hope they will receive something in return. This may take the form of giving their partner what they want in one situation so that they can ensure that they will receive what they want in the next situation as a result. These sorts of motivations, intentions, and goals mean that those with this mindset tend not to have long-term relationships as they rarely worry about the consequences of these sorts of behaviours (Crocker & Canevello, 2008). Even though there is the intent of maintaining these relationships if they are still beneficial, often the results are minimal as these intentions are relatively easy to pick up on by partners.

Ecosystem Motivation

Those with ecosystem motivation care about those they are in a relationship with and their well-being, and believe that for the most part, others care for their well-being too. There is the trust that their own needs will be met when collaborating and integrating with those in their social groups, not because of an exchange of benefits but rather because of this care of well-being (Crocker & Canevello, 2015). They believe that their needs will be met when working with those in their social environment without the need to manipulate others. They enter relationships with the assumption that "success" for one does not take away the success for others and that caring for those around them will not be detrimental to their personal desires and needs. It also goes further and there is a belief that solely satisfying personal needs and desires, is not only selfish but also will come at a cost to the system and themselves (Crocker & Canevello, 2015). People who adopt this motivational framework tend to feel like the starting point or source in their relationships, most likely resulting from the fact that they feel responsible for creating mutually beneficial relationships and consider the impact their behaviours have on those they spend time with. Relationships formed with these goals and motivations elicit feelings of peace and calm and are less likely to feel pride, shame and humiliation. In stark comparison to those with egosystem motivation, people with ecosystem motivation have a long-term view of relationships and strive to ensure they are healthy and sustainable (Crocker & Canevello, 2008). People in this system view relationships as non-zero-sum, meaning that any positive events that happen for the individual are not seen to have negative effects on others in the relationship and vice versa. This allows for all those in the relationship to feel aligned and valued, rather than in competition with each other (Crocker & Canevello, 2008). Despite how it might come across, those in this relationship are not complexly selfless and self-sacrificing. Being able to sustain these relationships is not extreme altruism but contributions that are mutually beneficial. Selflessness is not sustainable over long periods of time and can have negative impacts on individuals and those around them as it can create feelings of being indebted and demonstrating that they are indispensable. A healthy balance must be found (Crocker & Canevello, 2015).

Narcissism[edit | edit source]

Figure 4. Caravaggio depiction of Narcissus seeing his reflection and falling in love with himself (1594-96).

Narcissism is a personality trait whose concepts have been around for centuries (see Figure 4). Those with narcissism are often described as being conceited, callous, and have excessive levels of self-concern. They crave attention and seek constant validation that they are unique and special. They hold low positive regard for even their closest family and friends, preferring relational partners over those whom they can share intimacy with (Park & Colvin, 2014). This belief that they are unique and need social recognition, is likely the driver for them to pursue any social goals, which are often more extreme than those with less narcissistic traits (Sedikides & Campbell, 2017).

Two studies conducted by Sheldon et al. (2019) aimed to determine if narcissism was linked to specific social motives and goals. Their studies found that narcissism was positively associated with egosystem motives, and negatively associated with ecosystem motives. They assessed this in interpersonal behavioural contexts, specifically testing participants' tendencies to either support or hinder the psychological needs of others[Provide more detail]. They concluded that as personal goals shape people’s behaviours, pursuing goals that are more egosystem driven or narcissistic may increase their likelihood of hindering other’s needs, reducing their tendency to work for and satisfy other’s needs.

Choose your answers and click "Submit":

1 Those with ecosystem motivation tend to view relationships as:

Mutually beneficial
Short-term investments

2 Why might those with egosystem motivation be selfless:

To help their partner achieve their goals.
To ensure their relationship doesn't end prematurely

Confronting mortalities[edit | edit source]

Terror management theory states that when faced with mortality and the terror of death awareness, they adopt two defence mechanisms, worldview validation, and self-esteem enhancement. Traits of those who use each defence mechanism can be linked to traits with ecosystem and egosystem motivation.[factual?]

When terror-infused awareness of death occurs, some engage in acts motivated by selfishness and greed. Others are motivated by love and all-giving compassion (Fehr et al., 2009). When those with self-protective (egosystem) views face mortality, they connect with like-minded people and show hostility to out groups. Being confronted with mortality can lead individuals who have more self-serving values (egosystem), to take on more prosocial values (ecosystem). Grant and Wade-Benzoni (2009), found that when confronted with mortality through ageing, individuals were more likely to make this transition. When prosocial values are triggered, individuals demonstrate high levels of generative behaviours which include mentoring, helping, and engaging in initiative tasks. These findings suggest that mortality awareness threatens short-term feelings of meaning and secureness but can strengthen them in the long-term (Grant & Wade-Benzoni, 2009).

What is the relationship between attachment styles and social goals?[edit | edit source]

Attachment theory is a combination of information processing, ethology, developmental psychology, and psychoanalysts and describes the relationships between humans. It is based on the premise that children need to develop a relationship with a primary caregiver relatively quickly and the strength of this relationship affects the children's social and emotional development. Research suggests that there is a correlation between attachment styles and motivation (Bretherton, 1992). See Table 1 for an explanation of each attachment style.

Levy et al. (2011) found that those with compassionate goals and ecosystem motivation have higher levels of spiritual transcendence, believe that all life is interconnected and tend to have a secure attachment style. They have low entitlement, high agreeableness, extraversion and higher self-compassion. This belief of interconnectedness means they believe success for one person does not threaten others and that failure is a natural human experience and should be encouraged and viewed with compassion. This same study also found that those with avoidant and anxious attachment styles were associated with having egosystem motivation. This consisted of self-image goals, lower self-compassion, high self-consciousness, increased attachment insecurity and greater entitlement. People with this attachment style have an egosystem motivational perspective of the self in relation to those around them and feel a need to compete with them for power, resources, and control.

Table 1

Explanation of attachment styles.

Name Explanation
Anxious Those with an anxious attachment style have a preoccupation with how responsive and available others are to them, are hyper-vigilant to potential threats and have high levels of negative experiences. They are highly insecure and crave proximity (Smyth et al., 2015).
Secure Secure individuals do not find stressful events typically threatening and have optimistic expectations regarding their abilities to cope with these events and causes of distress. This does not mean they do not experience painful memories/feelings but they are not riddled with fear when facing them (Belsky, 2002).
Avoidant Attachment-avoidant individuals feel they are comfortable despite not having close personal relationships and are indifferent to how others think of them. They lack the drive and motivation to seek and maintain social connections (Carvallo & Gabriel, 2006).

Suggested further research[edit | edit source]

Motivational systems theory was developed by Martin Ford and aimed to move beyond Maslow's hierarchy of needs and establish a more solidified model for understanding the relationship between goals and emotions (Ford, 1992). It goes further by examining the value individuals place on these 24 goals and the emotions associated with each. The goals are divided into two categories, desired within-person consequences and desired person-environment consequences. Desired within-person goals involve the individual and their own subjective experience. Those whose goals align with the person-environment typically are goals that relate to experiences involving the person and something outside themselves (Ford, 1992).

There is limited research regarding the goals and emotions described in this theory and the role one's social goals, ecosystem, and egosystem motivation have on these goals. Further research into finding any possible relationship between these concepts may help behavioural and organisational psychologists improve workplace motivation.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Motivation affects every aspect of our daily lives. It decides what behaviours we perform, when we perform these behaviours, and to what standard these behaviours are performed at. Due to this high prevalence of motivation in our daily lives, it is important to understand specifically what motivation mindset a person has. Having this understanding can allow us to see why a person is behaving in a particular way, which in turn can help us either foster this behaviour and allow it to continue, or help us adapt this behaviour into something more productive and less harmful.[vague]

Response to focus questions
  1. Those with egosystem motivation tend to be more self-centred and perform behaviours or tasks that they believe will benefit themselves and boost their needs wants and desires, regardless of any impact these may have on those around them. Those with ecosystem motivation have the belief that simply by helping those around them reach their needs and desires, they in turn will have their needs met. Goals fostered from this motivation are typically compassionate and aim to serve the greater good.
  2. There are many consequences of having either form of motivation. Ranging from its impact on one's psychological well-being, especially depression[grammar?]. As well as the likelihood of disclosure and the satisfaction that comes from this[grammar?]. There is a significant impact on individuals' relationships; why they form specific bonds, what they look for in each, how long they tend to last, and their interactions with others. There is also a significant correlation between which motivational system one follows and their narcissistic tendencies.
  3. Research suggests that there is a meaningful relationship between one's attachment style, and their motivational system. However, more research needs to be conducted to determine whether this is due to the bond formed with the primary caregiver.

How will you use this knowledge of your motivation system in society moving forward? Will you stop and think about the consequences of your behaviours more?

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Belsky, J. (2002). Developmental origins of attachment styles. Attachment & Human Development, 4(2), 166–170.

Bretherton, I. (1992). The origins of attachment theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. Developmental Psychology, 28(5), 759–775.

Carvallo, M., & Gabriel, S. (2006). No man is an island: The need to belong and dismissing avoidant attachment style. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32(5), 697–709.

Crocker, J., & Canevello, A. (2008). Creating and undermining social support in communal relationships: The role of compassionate and self-image goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(3), 555–575.

Crocker, J., & Canevello, A. (2015). Relationships and the self: Egosystem and ecosystem. APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology, Volume 3: Interpersonal Relations., 93–116.

Fehr, B., Sprecher, S., & Underwood, L. G. (2009). The science of compassionate love: Theory, research, and applications. Wiley-Blackwell.

Fisher, J. (2012). No pay, no care? A case study exploring motivations for participation in payments for ecosystem services in Uganda. Oryx, 46(1), 45–54.

Ford, M. E. (1992). Motivating humans: Goals, emotions and personal agency beliefs. Sage.

Foster, A. M., & Talley, A. E. (2020). Egosystem and ecosystem goals: Implications for concealable stigma disclosure. Self and Identity, 1–21.

Garcia, J. A., & Crocker, J. (2008). Reasons for disclosing depression matter: The consequences of having egosystem and ecosystem goals. Social Science & Medicine, 67(3), 453–462.

Grant, A. M., & Wade-Benzoni, K. A. (2009). The hot and cool of death awareness at work: Mortality cues, aging, and self-protective and prosocial motivations. The Academy of Management Review, 34(4), 600–622.

Levy, K. N., Ellison, W. D., Scott, L. N., & Bernecker, S. L. (2011). Attachment style. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 67(2), 193–203.

Luo, J., & Zheng, J. (2018). The impact of servant leadership on proactive behaviors: A study based on cognitive evaluation theory. Psychology, 09(05), 1228–1244.

Park, S. W., & Colvin, C. R. (2014). Narcissism and other-derogation in the absence of ego threat. Journal of Personality, 83(3), 334–345.

Sedikides, C., & Campbell, W. K. (2017). Narcissistic force meets systemic resistance: The energy clash model. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(3), 400–421.

Sheldon, K. M., & Prentice, M. (2019). Self-determination theory as a foundation for personality researchers. Journal of Personality, 87(1), 5–14.

Sheldon, K. M., Sedikides, C., Ntoumanis, N., Corcoran, M., & Titova, L. (2019). Narcissism and social motives: Successful pursuit of egosystem goals boosts narcissism. Self and Identity, 1–22.

Smyth, N., Thorn, L., Oskis, A., Hucklebridge, F., Evans, P., & Clow, A. (2015). Anxious attachment style predicts an enhanced cortisol response to group psychosocial tress. Stress, 18(2), 143–148.

Van Lange, P. A. M. (2012). What we should expect from theories in social psychology. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 17(1), 40–55.

External links[edit | edit source]