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Crystal Clear app kfm home.png This user is a participant in the Motivation and emotion unit, 2010.
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Motivation and Emotion begins!

Motivation and Emotion Scrabble.jpg

For me, this is a particularly poignant class to culminate my time at University. Motivation has always been an aspect of psychology that interests me. I am fascinated at the varying levels of motivation that individuals possess. Why can some people get up at 5am and go to the gym every day, when others struggle to make it out of bed by midday? Hopefully this class provides some answers, and equips me with techniques to improve my own erratic levels of motivation.

Would you like to see the motivation and emotion textbook chapter on Salf Sabotage? Click here!

For a visual summary of that chapter Click Here!

Week One : Introduction[edit]

Two perennial Questions[edit]

Motivational Speaker Tony Robbins

The course began by asking two fundamentally critical questions about motivation:

What causes behaviour?

To understand motivation we have to understand;

  • Why people begin a behaviour?
  • Why they sustain that behaviour?
  • Why the behaviour is directed towards some goals and away from others?
  • Why does behaviour change directions?
  • Why does behaviour stop?

Motives, therefore, are merely an internal process that energises and directs behaviour. These motives can be categorised into four separate catagories:

Needs – Needs are motives that are essential to an individual’s survival. For example, humans need sleep, food, water

Cognitions – Thoughts, beliefs, morals. Any mental process that dictates our behaviour

Emotions – Emotions dictate how we react to important events in our lives

External events – Environmental events are interactions with our social environment that can dictate behaviour

There are four main cannons for quantifying motivation, which allow us to measure the varying levels in motivation between individuals. They are:

Behaviour – Attention, Effort, Persistence, Latency, Persistence etc.

Engagement – Intensity of behaviour, emotion and personal investment.

Brain and Physiology Activations – Hormonal, chemical and neural changes in the body and brain

Self Report – Asking the individual about their anxiety, motivation, enthusiasm

History of motivation[edit]

Motivation is a concept which by scientific standards, may be considered brand new. However, it’s origins trace back throughout history to the earliest philiosophers, such as Socrates, Plato and Decartes. As with most psychological theorem, motivation has been built on throughout the ages, and study on this subject embraced three grand theories; Will, Instinct and Drive. Decartes thought that if he could explain a person’s will, he could explain their motivation. However, will was too difficult to explain and quantify. Charles Darwin then proposed that humans were motivated by biological needs. Darwin’s theory of biological determinism suggested that individuals were essentially animals, and were born with the ability to perform the behaviours that are vital to survive, or instincts. However, this was soon replaced by drive theory, which suggested that humans were motivated to tend to biological imbalances (eat when hungry, sleep when tired). Eventually drive theory was also disregarded, and contemporary psychology is more concerned with smaller theories which don’t seek to explain the phenomena as a whole. This allows input from a broad spectrum of fields to explain particular aspects of motivation, rather than one grand theory to explain everything.


It is interesting to break down motivation into a series of processes. Prior to this class, I was ignorant to think that motivation was purely an aspect of a persons life, which predominantly preceded a behaviour. However, it is clear already that motivation is an ongoing process which continues throughout the behaviour and determines failure and success.

I am also fascinated by Darwin’s theories in motivation. I find it quite humbling to be considered merely an animal, who is trying to survive, stay healthy, and reproduce. It gives every day tasks like eating, sleeping and having sex a broader importance that one might consider.

Week Two - Assessment :[edit]

Wikipedia Checkuser.svg

This week’s content concerns the assessment we have for this class. This certainly appears as though it is going to be a unique experience. It is exciting to be breaking the mould of standard assessments like essays and reports, replacing them with text book chapters, visual diaries and reflective journals, all in the format of a Wikipedia page. It is going to bee an invaluable experience to learn how to use Wikipedia, and I suspect this is an insight into the direction that University assessment will head in the future. Also exciting is the lack of final exam in this class. I find exams to be redundant measures of learning, and I am much happier to spend the extra time preparing assessment pieces which will ultimately add to the public knowledge base within the subject. It seems crazy that more lecturers don’t try this type of assessment, so that the work that we put in can be accessed by the general public, rather than remaining dormant on student’s USB sticks.

Week Three : Brain and Physiological Needs[edit]

The Brain[edit]

This week’s content relates to the physiological changes that occur in a person’s brain which dictate motivation and behaviour. As Reeve (2009, pp 49) suggests, all motivational and emotional states involve brain participation. Within the brain, there are three areas which guide motivational changes;

Specific brain structures generate specific motivations When stimulated, the different areas in the brain produce different motivational charges. Each part of the brain is responsible for a different part of a persons behaviour, both conscious and sub-conscious. For instance, stimulating a part of the hypothalamus produces an urge to eat. Biochemical agents stimulate specific brain structures This relates to the biological process and chemicals that are released in order to trigger the part of the brain necessary to initiate a behaviour. Included are hormones, neurotransmitters and receptors.

Day to day events stir biochemical agents in to action The events in our social environment which trigger the biological reaction, which in turn promotes motivation. For example, an unexpected pleasant event occurring will trigger the release of dopamine, which stimulates the limbic structures, which arouses pleasure and positive thoughts.


The human brain is a constant source of amazement. By reaching the third and final year of my psychology degree, I am beginning to get an idea into how the brain works. One trick I have discovered which relates to the biological processes in mood regulation in the brain involves the mundane task of cleaning my house. I have discovered through my studies that if I am in a bad mood, I am capable of performing tasks that trigger the release of dopamine, and increase my mood. I find that if I am upset of angry, a good method to alleviate this is to clean my house thoroughly. While this may sound silly, I find that the satisfaction that comes from cleaning, and then the overall reward of having a clean house increases my mood. I would suggest that in biological, I am feeling the satisfaction of cleaning, which releases dopamine, which activates the limbic structures, which inevitably raises my mood.


A need is any condition within a person that is essential and necessary for life, growth, and well-being.” (Reeve, 2009)

Needs are a fundamental aspect of a person’s life. They maintain a level of psychological and physical well being, and promote growth through an individual’s life. It is imperative that these needs are nurtured to protect the well being of an individual, and therefore motivation plays a part in tending to these needs in order to achieve a satisfactory level of well being.

Needs can be broken down into three categories:

Baby's hand.JPG
Physiological Needs Psychological Needs Social Needs
Thirst Autonomy Achievement
Hunger Competence Power
Sex Relatedness Affiliation

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

The theoretical background relating to needs incorporates Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This is an interesting visual representation of Maslow’s opinion on the importance of human needs. Beginning at the bottom are the most basic of needs for survival (food, water, sex). Gradually the pyramid climbs, with each level becoming less important to survival, but more important to achieve self actualisation and happiness. However important, each need triggers a motivational reaction within the person. For instance, if they need water, they will be motivated to get up off the couch and get a drink. This is a basic need, and the motivational reaction to satisfy it. As the levels of the pyrmid increase, seemingly also does the complexity for achieving that need. At the top is ‘spontaneity’, which is more difficult to satisfy that simply drinking a glass of water.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs


I do enjoy Maslow’s concept of the hierarchy of needs. Looking at the simple diagram, I feel as though it makes sense. I have wondered though, does one have to achieve the lower levels in order to try and tackle the higher levels. For instance, the need of employment is on the second level, but family relationships on the third. I would suggest that one doesn’t need a job in order to maintain a strong family relationship. However, I think that this is not the way Maslow designed the theory. I think the levels are just general levels of priority, but not strict guidelines.

Week Four : Personal and Social Needs[edit]

Psychological Needs[edit]

An underlying assumption relating to individuals psychological needs is that people are inherently active. Reeve (2009) states that from an early age people push and pull things, shake, throw, carry, and are constantly asking questions relating to objects in our social environment. Therefore, psychological needs promote an enthusiasm to interact with our social environment so that we can learn and grow as people. Psychological needs fit into three main categories:

Autonomy - This relates to an individual’s right to make decisions for themselves. People generally want the freedom to set the goals for themselves that they perceive as important. Generally people then choose behaviours that relate to their own interests, and it is important to their psychological well being that they are able to make these decisions for themselves.

Competence - Failure is an unpleasant feeling. People generally want to feel as though they are competent at the tasks that they choose to do. There is a desire to achieve success in relationships, at work, in sports, and so on.

Relatedness - An enduring quality of human life is the desire to belong, and be part of the group. It is psychologically healthy for a person to maintain strong social interactions. Reeve (2009) suggests that relatedness is the psychological need to establish close emotional bonds and attachments with other people, and it reflects the desire to be emotionally connected to and interpersonally involved in warm relationships.


I have often looked at the relationships that my friends form, mostly romantic, and wondered why they bother with their partner of choice. It often seems that the relationship they choose to maintain is more hassle than it is good. However, if you look at it from a motivational perspective, it becomes clear that relatedness is a core psychological need. So while the relationship may involve some anguish, they are still satisfying the core psychological need of relatedness.

It is also interesting to look at psychological needs from a University perspective. I have been in many classes where we have been required to give oral presentations in groups. I can see now that this provides a clash with all of the three main psychological needs, and this may seek to explain why people loathe this form of assessment. Firstly, it removes the autonomy from the task, given that there has to be a level of compromise from all parties to achieve successs. Secondly, it introduces a forum for a person to be publically judged. Standing up and delivering a speech to fellow students is a daunting task, as it seems as though everyone else is constantly judging your work, and may find you incompetent. Thirdly, if that person thinks their work is incompetent, they may feel as thought they will be sub-consciously removed from the class due to inferiority. This breaks the bonds of relatedness.

Thank god this class didn’t have an oral presentation!!

Social Needs[edit]

Social needs are acquired through interactions with our social environment. They are constantly changing, and usually lie dormant until the potentional to realise a social need arises. Reeve (2009) uses an interesting example to explain the differences in social needs by using the analogy of a person getting a job in a company. That person strives to progress through the ranks for different reasons (e.g. to earn more money, to gain power, or even just to acquire knowledge for future ventures), and these motivational variances account for the variances in social needs. Again, social needs can be broken down into three main categories:

Achievement – To successfully complete a task, and as such satisfy the competence psychological need. The emotional benefit of successful achievement of a task motivates a person to attempt a task, and persist until other forces interrupt.

Affiliation – closesly related to relatedness, affiliation deals with the human desire to illicit positive and meaningful relationships with the people in their social environment. Affiliation is deficiency orientated, meaning that the fear of rejection, loneliness and separation increases a person’s desire to be with others and maintain relationships.

Power – Essentially, power is a persons desire to shape their social environment in the form in which they see it should be. They want the ability to manipulate their social environment so it conforms with their view of the world.


Rupert Murdoch

It seems apparent that the priority that people place on these needs varies, which accounts for the differences in motivation between various people. It have often contemplated big business people, like Kerry Packer, Rupert Murdoch, and wondered how much money these people realistically need. It must be impossible to spend the amount of money they have. However, it is obvious that money is only one aspect of a person’s needs. For these sorts of people, they must prioritise power as a social and psychological need. Because of this, they continue to buy and sell companies and businesses in an effort to maximise their power. One must wonder however, given that these people apparently devote their lives to their work, are they neglecting other basic needs - Relatedness for instance?

It seems to be as wealthy and as powerful as these people are, one must sacrifice other needs in their lives. Perhaps this is why the cliché ‘Money doesn’t buy happiness’ is particularly true.

Week Five : Intrinsic/Extrinsic Motivation & Goal Setting[edit]

Intrinsic Motivation[edit]

Reeve (2009) defines intrinsic motivation as the inherent propensity to engage one’s interest and to exercise one’s capacity and, in doing so, seek out and master optimal challenges. In other words, intrinsic motivation is a force from within an individual which pushes them to better themselves, and achieve optimal performance. Intrinsic motivation has many benefits, including a greater likelihood to persist in the face of failure. Given that a person who is intrinsically motivated is attempting a task with the goal of bettering themselves, they are more likely to persist even if it seems as though they are failing, because they know that the overall goal is satisfying the psychological needs of competence, relatedness and autonomy of life.

Extrinsic Motivation[edit]

Extrinsic motivation is a motivational force which arises from interaction with our social environment. Essentially, extrinsic motivation is a result of incentives and consequences which a behaviour receives. Rather than being motivated intrinsically to better themselves, and extrinsically motivated person feeds of praise, attention, approval and credit.

Extrinsic motivation is based on the concept that there are three aspects that precede and and proceed it – incentives, consequences and rewards. Incentives help initiate the behaviour, consequences and rewards both come after the behaviour, and can be both positive and negative. For example, a parent might tell their child that if they complete their homework, they will be allowed to play a computer game (incentive). The child completes the homework, and is given the computer game (reward), but upon inspection of the work the parent decides the work is not up to standard, so the game is taken away (consequence).


It is interesting to consider which type of motivation drives me through my studies. I feel as though I began my degree because I felt that I was smart enough to earn one, and as such I deserved one. Throughout my studies, I have considered changing degrees, and dropping out all together. However, I feel as though now I would be letting my parents down. This suggests that I was intrinsically motivated to begin my degree, but that has transferred to a level of extrinsic motivation to complete it.

Another interesting aspect of this week’s content relates to extrinsic motivation, specifically the rewarding of good behaviour. While I have no children of my own, I have often considered what type of parent I will be, and throughout the study of psychology, I think I have learned some valuable behavioural techniques to become a good parents. Interestingly though, my parents, whom never studied Psychology, implemented a system when I was a child, which I can see from my reading this weeks was an example of a token economy. They put a chart on the wall with my name on it, and called it the “star chart”. Then, every time I performed a desired behaviour, I was rewarded with an arbitrary star on the chart. After collecting 10 of them, I was allowed to do an activity (e.g. go to Questacon). It is amazing that this simple technique used by my parents is an heavily considered psychological technique using extrinsic motivation to reward good behaviour.

Goal Setting[edit]

Goal setting involves creating targets for accomplishment. Goals then highlight the difference between the current level of accomplishment and the desired level of accomplishment. Goals can range from simple, easy to achieve tasks, to difficult, almost unattainable tasks. Reeve (2009) suggests that only the difficult and specific goals increase performance, and they energise the person, and give them a specific direction towards a course of action. The example that Reeve (2009) uses is gym related, in that a person who sets a goal of ‘doing their best’ at the gym, won’t do as many pushups as a person who sets the goal of 50 pushups.

Goal Striving[edit]

Once the goal has been set, goal striving comes in to play. It involves the course of action that a person is going to take to achieve the goal they have set for themselves. It is easy enough to set a goal, however it is striving to achieve the goal that many people fail. Reeve (2009) suggests that the key reason people fail to achieve goals is that they lack a clear plan on how they are going to achieve it.


This is my problem!! I set myself many goals, however I very rarely accomplish them. After reading this chapter, I think I have narrowed my flaws down to a few specific problems.

  1. I don’t set realistic goals
  2. I don’t set out a plan to specify how I am going to achieve them
  3. If my goal is to lose weight, I often keep this a secret. That way I won’t appear to be a failure to my friends if I shy away from my diet.

I think instead of saying ‘I want to lose 20kgs’, I am better off saying ‘I want to go for a run 2 times this week.’ Once I have achieved that, I can increase it to three times per week, and so on. These goals are much easier to achieve, and will increase the likelihood of my persistence with exercise..

Week Six : Personal Control & The Self[edit]

Personal Control & The Self

This week’s content deals with expectancies. Essentially and expetency is a prediction of how likely an event is to occur. There are two main types of expectencies;

Type Question Description
Efficacy Expectations "Can I do it? Is the person up to the challenge of performing the task? Is that person going to be able to enact the appropriate behaviours to handle the situation
Outcome Expectations "Will what I do work?" Once the behaviour has been performed, will that behaviour produce the desired positive outcomes?

Self efficacy[edit]

Self efficacy is essentially an individual’s perception on whether or not they will be able to master a situation, and whether or not they think they have the skills to cope. It also deals with the ability of that person to translate and adapt the skills that they already possess to master an unusual situation. Reeve (2009) discusses an example of a person driving a car. The person might rate themselves as a good driver, but if you create a tricky situation involving dodgy roads, unreliable car, terrible weather, does that person think that they can adapt their skills as a good driver to these conditions.

Self efficacy can be derived from many sources, including:

  • Personal behaviour history
  • Vicarious experience
  • Verbal persuasion
  • Physiological activity
  • Choice
  • Effort and persistence
  • Thinking/decision making
  • Emotional reactions

Mastery beliefs[edit]

Mastery beliefs are hardy, resilient beliefs which are present when a person believes they they have the necessary skills to achieve a goal. They don’t let prospective failure deter them, rather they use this as a learning experience to enrich their overall achievement. They are fully focused on achieving mastery, and as such will persist in the presence of setbacks.


During the tutorial this week, we all completed the Learned Optimism test (Seligman, 1991). My results are as follows:

Category Score Meaning
Permanence Bad Score 5 moderately pessimistic
Permanence Good Score 3 moderately pessimistic
Pervasiveness Bad Score 4 average
Pervasiveness Good Score 3 moderately pessimistic
Stuff of Hope 9 moderately hopeless
Personalization Bad Score 6 moderately low self-esteem
Personalization Good Score 4 average
Total Bad Score 15 crying out for change
Total Good Score 10 great pessimism
Good minus Bad Score -5 very pessimistic


It is obvious from the results of the learned optimism test, that I am a fairly pessismistic person, and that I have moderately low self-esteem. I think I have always known this to be the case. I have never been a particularly confident person, and I think this is reflected in the results I gained in this test. However, I think that if I had taken this test 10 years ago, it would have been even more stacked towards pessimism and low self esteem. I think that as time goes on, I am becoming aware of my own abilities, and I am seeking to achieve things because I want to achieve them and become a better person. Because of this, I realise I have my self to blame for failures. I would be interested to do this test again in another 10 years.

Week Nine : Nature of Emotion[edit]

I would define emotions as personal reactions to situations that arise in our social environment. Emotions then dictate our behaviour and cause us to act in ways which may not be congruent with our normal behaviour.

Emotion is based on the five perennial questions

  1. What is emotion?
  2. What causes and emotion?
  3. How many emotions are there?
  4. What good are the emotions?
  5. What is the difference between emotions and mood?

While considering what an emotion was, it was difficult to define it in words. I know what an emotion is – everyone does. Though how do you describe it? Reeve (2009) suggest this trouble in definition is because emotions are in fact more complex than one might think. They are multidimensional, biological, physical, and necessary. They involve feelings, bodily arousal, sense of purpose and social expressiveness (i.e. facial expressions).

Emotions are usually triggered by significant life events. This life event triggers cognitive processes and biological processes, which in turn stimulates feelings, sense of purpose, bodily arousal and social expressiveness.

The basic emotions are:

  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Disgust
  • Sadness
  • Joy
  • Interest

Emotions are a coping mechanism, designed to help people cope with the many stressful situations that arise in our lives. Furthermore, they allow us to display our feelings to others. For example, if a person is upset at the passing of a loved one, they will appear to be sad. This then allows others around to notice that the person is upset, and offer a helping hand.

Emotions differ from mood in that they usually arise from significant life events. Moods are every day feelings that generally only affect our cognitions, rather than affecting our behaviour directly. Emotions tend to be reactions to short term events, maybe only minutes long. Whereas moods are usually the result of an extended period of time.


This introduction to emotion is fairly straight forward. It is interesting to acknowledge the difference between moods and emotions. Previously, I may have had trouble distinguishing between the two.

It was also tricky trying to define emotions. It’s amazing how something which we experience every day, and that we understand fully what they are, can be so difficult to define in words. I guess this is the enduring aspect of psychology that interests me. It’s great when you can relate these theories into practical examples in our lives.

Week Ten : Aspects of Emotion[edit]

Emotion can be broken down into three main aspects; Biological, cognitive and socio-cultural.


The biological aspect of emotion is simply that, the biological reaction our body experiences when we feel an emotion. The resounding theory of biological reactions to emotion was coined by James Lange, who suggested that we feel an emotion, and quickly that emotion is followed by a physiological change in the body. For example, if we hear a police car while driving, we feel fear, which quickly makes our heart rates speed up, and perhaps even creates sweat.

Critics of James Lange’s theory suggested however that these physiological reactions were simply part of a general fight or flight response, and did not vary between emotions.

The contemporary perspective on the subject is that while other theories better explain the biological reaction to emotion, some research does suggest there are distinguishable patterns of reactions for specific emotions. That means that perhaps Lange was right, and that the body reacted to the felt emotion.

Cognitive aspects of emotion

The cognitive perspective of emotion is again, based very much around the concept of a rigid computer program. The cognitive view states that at first, there is a life event. This is then appraised by the individual as good or bad, which creates an emotion (like or dislike). As a result of this sequence, there is an action performed at the culmination (withdraw or approach).

Socio-cultural aspects of emotion

Social psychologists argue that emotional reactions are not a personal thing, and are instead influenced by our social and cultural environment. This theory suggests that people are inclined to mimic those people around them, and that this interaction can cause emotions to stir.


Once again I find myself aligned to the theoretical perpective of cognitive psychology. I’m not sure if my backround as a software developer has something to do with it, but I always find that cognitive views seem to make the most sense. They are clear and concise views of behaviour. Though with the view of emotion, I do see the merit in the biological perspective. I feel as though emotions are necessary for our psychological well being, and as such have evolved over millions of years into the product we see today.

One example I can think of is that on occasion, I find myself getting upset for no reason. Suddenly I will feel overwhelmed with what I’m doing. Often these aren’t caused by a specific life event that I have appraised, and then become upset about. I usually attribute this to being overly tired. In this situation, it would make sense that my body recognises that I’m tired, and is trying something to get me to withdraw from what I’m doing (this assignment), and have a rest. It appears to me that this is a mechanism to achieve sleep, rather than an emotional response to a significant life event.

Week Eleven : Personality and Emotion[edit]


This weeks lecture was focussed on identifying the personality differences that lead to different people experiencing different emotions within the same situation. The main explanation for the differences has to do with personality trait differences. Of course we all know the big 5 personality traits:

  • Neuroticism
  • Extraversion
  • Openness
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness

Essentially, a persons rating on each of these traits has some bearing on they emotional reaction to a situation. A person who has a high neuroticism score will most likely react differently to a situation than a person who scores low on neuroticism.


Arousal is the cumulative effect of several systems working simultaneously. These systems are the brain, skeletal muscular system and autonomic nervous system, and are explained by four key principles:

A person’s arousal level is mostly a function of how stimulating the environment is

People engage in behaviour to increase or decrease their level of arousal

When underaroused, people seek out opportunities to increase their arousal levels, because increases in environmental stimulation are pleasureable and enhance performance, whereas decreases are aversive and undermine performance

When overaroused, people seek out oppoertunities to decrease their level of arousal, because increase in environmental stimulation are aversive and undermine performance whereas decreases are pleasurable and enhance performance.

This phenomonen is demonstrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Inverted U


I had never considered excessive arousal a positive thing. I always thought that anxiety due to the stress of an exam or an assignment was a bad thing. I considered it unhealthy, and inhibiting. Having considered the theory of arousal, and the inverted U, I now see the benefit of arousal, stress, anxiety.

I had always wondered why these things exist. Why haven’t these apparently negative emotions evolved out of our psyche? It is obvious now that arousal is vital to achieve optimal performance. If it wasn’t for the stress of an upcoming assignment, I would be unlikely to sit down and to the necessary research. The stress involved with this increases performance, and enables us to achieve our potential.

It is interesting to think about this in a sporting context. I had always marvelled at how athletes can perform personal best achievements on international stages like Olympic games. How can professional Rugby players play at their best with such massive crowds and such intense pressure? Obviously this pressure is vital to the athlete to enable them to perform at their best. I remember a study from social psychology that showed that mice were able to navigate through the maze more quickly if there were other rats watching. I guess these two aspects of motivation are closely related. The audience raises arousal levels which increases performance. Obviously however, only to a point.

Week Twelve : Unconscious Motivation[edit]

Sigmund Freud

Freud’s psychoanalytic view on motivation was a stepping stone towards the contemporary view of motivation we have today. Psychoanalysis opposes a humanstic view of motivation, and states that the ultimate cause of motivation stems from biological and socially acquired impulses that determine our desires, thoughts, feelings and behaviours (Reeve, 2009).

Contemporary psychodynamics is based on four core priciples:

The Unconscious[edit]

The modern view on the unconscious has undergone years of rigorous debate. While many were keen to dispel Freud’s pessimistic views, it is widely regarded that there we are in fact motivated by forces which are beyond our every day awareness.

Freud’s view on dreaming is particularly interesting. He postulated that dreams were an unconscious venting of daily stresses. Because of this, he thought that there was particular truth to dreams, as it was pure unconscious thought.

Ego Psychology[edit]

Reeve (2009) states that according to neo-Freudians, the ego is virtually nonexistent at birth. The ego is a result of the process of maturity, growth and adjustment. During it’s infancy, it is constantly overwhelmed by impulses. However, as it develops, it begins to defend against these impulses, such as anxiety and depression.

Object Relations Theory[edit]

Object relations Theory is an interesting theory focused on the nature and development of mental representation of one’s self (Reeve, 2009). The theory explains why children raised in troublesome households may encounter problems in life. In essence, the theory suggests that a child is a blank canvas, and they base the development of them selves on their caregivers. So if a child is raised by a mother who is affected by drugs, or in a house with frequent domestic violence, the child unconsciously learns this, and takes these values into the world, which can cause tumultuous relationships of their own.


While Freud’s theories are by and large disregarded, it is such a fascinating way to think about the world. If we were to believe what he theorised, the world would be a much more interesting place. If in fact there was legitimacy to claim that dreams were in fact a representation of truth, it would give us insight into our deep desires. If sudden accidental outbursts were a glimpse of the truth, it would make social gatherings much more interesting.

I think some people would like to believe that dreams are a slice of truth, and a glimpse into our unconscious. I think that would explain dreams, and help people reconcile their apparent lack of sense. However, there are other theories of dreams which I consider more likely to be truthful..

Week Thirteen : Growth and Positive Psychology[edit]

Smiley head happy.svg

Holism and positive psychology are a completely different way of looking at psychology. Modern psychology tends to be focused on a “bottom up” approach to explaining behaviour. That is, focusing on the specific, individual motives, one at a time, and in isolation from one another (Reeve, 2009).

Holism and positive psychology shy away from that, and stress a “top down” approach.


“Holism” is derived from the word “whole”, and gives some insight into the broad, all encompassing perspective that it describes. Holism focuses on discovered the human potential, and encourages the development of that potential .

Positive Psychology[edit]

Positive psychology is relatively new in the study of psychology. Essentially, positive psychology looks at individuals and asks “what could be?”. It is focussed on the positive aspects of a persons life, and is proactive in creating strong personal strengths.

Self Actualization[edit]

Self actualization is a developmental process that people go on to achieve happiness. This again draws back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which arranges the various needs in a person’s life according to their strength and priority. It starts down the bottom with basic survival needs of food and water, before gradually progressing up though the less important, but more fulfilling needs.

The Problem of Evil[edit]

There are two fundamental questions related to the evil aspects of positive psychology, they are:

  1. How much of human nature is inherently evil?
  2. Why do some people enjoy inflicting suffering on others?

The humanistic view of these questions suggests that evil is not an inherent quality of human nature. It is in fact a product of negative experiences and the damage those experiences do.


I was once watching a television program set in a court room, and they introduced the concept of Schadenfreude. This to me, is a fascinating insight into humanistic psychology. From the readings in Reeve (2009), we are lead to believe that people are inherently good, and that evil is merely a result of experiences which have damaged the person. However, it is interesting that according to the concept of Schadenfreude, people take pleasure in witnessing the misfortune of others. That means, perhaps we actually enjoy watching people in the news get locked up and go to jail. I have to admit, that watching events like Schappelle Corby go to jail for life was something I found somewhat pleasurable. I remember thinking ‘well, if you’re that stupid…’. Is this an evil thing to think? If it was someone I knew, I’m sure I wouldn’t feel as ambivalent.

I like the ideas of positive psychology, however I have to doubt it’s validity. It just seems all too perfect.

Week Fourteen : Summary[edit]