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Discovering Motivation & Emotion

Crystal Clear app kfm home.png This user is a participant in the Motivation and emotion unit, 2010.
See also: Textbook
Writer1.gif This page is an e-portfolio. Also see other participants' pages.


E-Chapter: Self-Concept and Motivation[edit]

Please see link for my e-chapter Happy smiley face.png


(Derived from Reeve, 2009)


Motivation is the underlying force behind the energy and direction of our behaviour. It is shaped and driven by an individual's unique composition of biological, physiological, psychological, cognitive and environmental forces. These forces subsequently define an individual's quality (type) and quantity (amount) of motivation which distinguishes a student's level of study, a dog's engagement in fetching a ball or whether you make your bed in the morning. Specifically, individual differences arise from differing internal motives and external events as detailed below.

Manga emotions.jpg

Internal Motives

  • Needs: physiological, psychological, social e.g. food, water, affiliation
  • Cognitions: thoughts, beliefs, expectations, self-concept e.g. self-esteem, goals, values
  • Emotions: short-lived, subjective expressions e.g. anger, happiness

External events

  • Environment: specific stimuli, events, physical surroundings e.g. lollies, criticism, party
  • Social: parenting style, social setting e.g. public/private school
  • Cultural: cultural norms and customs e.g. role in society, individualistic/collectivistic

Key Themes of Motivation[edit]

  1. Enabling us to adapt to a changing environment e.g. motivation has enabled me to learn technological skills in order to produce an e-portfolio which will allow me to pass the course (hopefully!) and somewhat prepare me for future workplace challenges
  2. Directing our attention e.g. whether I decide to knit or participate in a dance class on a Monday night - and prepares us for action by selecting some behaviours and actions over others e.g. what route I decide to take to the dance school and whether I keep to the speed limit
  3. Fluctuating and influencing behaviour e.g. while sitting through a lecture, I fluctuate through focused attention, hunger drives, day dreaming and smsing (focused attention has the longest duration during the cycle, of course!)
  4. Differing in quality and quantity e.g. one student motivated instrinsically with a high intensity and one student motivated extrinsically with a medium intensity
  5. Approach tendencies e.g. good grades, praise and avoidance tendencies e.g. 5000 word essay, expensive text books - need both push and pull to adapt optimally, i.e. a student needs deterrents like daunting assessment tasks and tutorial attendance to gain academic skills and social interaction/discussions as well as praise and improved grades to maintain motivation and optimally adapt to the university environment
  6. Motivation is part universal because it directs and energises every individual's behaviour, however, it is also part enculturated because the quality and quantity can vary according to one's cultural values and norms. Motivation also contests human nature because there is always a myriad of motivations within someone which fluctuate in importance and interest e.g. I currently have conflicting motivations to check my email, watch tv, ring a friend and complete the first section of this e-portfolio.
  7. Supportive conditions are crucial for motivation to flourish e.g. my parents take an interest in the content of my psychology degree and workload which enables me to remain focused, discuss and clarify content material and prioritise my workload, thus, successfully completing units.
  8. Theories enable solutions to practical problems e.g. how a drug addict becomes addicted and why a particular person exercises

Illustrative Example of how Motivation is Expressed[edit]

  1. Behaviour: the physical representation e.g. setting up computer to construct an e-porfolio assessment
  2. Engagement: deciphering the quantity (amount) of behaviour
    • Behavioural e.g. highly attentive to work, displaying effort in sentence construction and assessment layout, persistence when experiencing difficulties with technology, low latency - refraining from procrastination
    • Emotional e.g. high level of interest in assessment content, enjoyment in constructing web page, mild frustration with technology
    • Cognitive e.g. using sophisticated learning to critically analyse content and problem-solving to relate content to personal experiences
    • Voice e.g. engaging in discussion boards to facilitate learning, making contributions to other e-portfolios
  3. Brain & Physiological Activations: brain activity can determine level of engagement in study, electrodermal activity could decipher stress levels through perspiration, skeletal activity illustrates physical motivation towards work such as typing and focused body posture. Additional expressions of motivation can be through hormonal, cardiovascular or ocular activity
  4. Self-Report: conscious reporting of motivation e.g. I was highly motivated when I first began constructing my e-portfolio, but attention and interest deteriorated as new motivational drives arose, such as hunger!
I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

~Douglas Adams
retrieved from

Historical Context Summary[edit]

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  • Motivation concepts are relatively new, dating back to less than 100 years ago. The seeds of motivation concepts were planted by Ancient Greek Philosophers who promoted a physiological (e.g. hunger), social (e.g. shame) and cognitive (e.g. reason) aspect.

Redirect arrow without text.svg Plato: appetitive, competitive, calculating aspects

Redirect arrow without text.svg Aristotle: nutritive, sensitive, rational aspects

Redirect arrow without text.svg Greeks: passions of the body and reason of the mind

Redirect arrow without text.svg Freud: Id, ego, superego

  • Grand theories dated to the 1960s emerged with an (unsuccessful) attempt to explain all motivated behaviours

Redirect arrow without text.svg Will: ability to choose, strive and resist - however, theory is too abstract

Redirect arrow without text.svg Instinct: biological foundations which emerge through physiological representations - however, too circular

Redirect arrow without text.svg Drive: behaviour is designed to serve bodily needs and maintain homeostasis - however, doesn't account for external motives, learning and unusual cases such as anorexics motivation to not eat

Redirect arrow without text.svg Incentive: illustrates the 'pull' (approach) aspect of motivation e.g. pleasant aroma pulls you towards a restaurant

Redirect arrow without text.svg Arousal: describes how the external environment influences arousal and motivation e.g. an extrovert is optimally aroused by a tutorial which facilitates their learning and engagement

  • Contemporary Era

Redirect arrow without text.svg Move towards mini theories which explain a specific aspect of motivation e.g. intrinsic motivation or goal setting behaviour

Redirect arrow without text.svg Mini theories are less mechanistic in comparison to grand theories - they promote humans as active beings who are constantly engaged in some form of motivated behaviour (even if it is slobbing on the lounge). They provide a detailed and thorough explanation of the causes of behaviour by encompassing biological, physiological, cognitive, psychological and environmental forces. Mini theories also have the ability to address social problems and offer practical solutions

Interesting Research Article[edit]

Should students have a gap year?

This article revolves around the proclaimed benefits of school leavers taking a gap year. The key message that Martin (2010) conveys is that students who need to resolve motivational problems (e.g. uncertainty about future career goals) or have interests in taking a gap year, often benefit from doing so in both personal growth and academic achievement when they recommence study. Specifically, a gap year has been reported to improve self-directedness and maturity, development of skills and increased employability and clarification of career goals. Interestingly, Australia's deferment rates are reported to have increased from 4% in 1974 to 11% in 2004.


A key message I've taken away from the first week of this unit is how motivation is a complex process comprised of numerous interrelated forces. Although the grand theories of motivation have been somewhat invalidated, I found that Hull's drive theory was a good introduction to the process of motivation cycles. For example, a feeling of hunger derives initially from biological urges which presents in the form of physiological deprivation such as hypothalamus activity and lowered blood glucose levels (Hinton et al., 2004). The prolonged deprivation of bodily needs subsequently triggers the psychological state or drive, such as hunger. This drive is the impetus for our motivated behaviour which results in consummatory actions such as going to the shops to buy food. The consummatory behaviour enables drive reduction and a satiated state, thus returning a person to the beginning of a motivation cycle (Russell, 1970).

Furthermore, there are a range of forces which influence this cycle such as external forces (e.g. an individual's cultural environment promotes a certain kind of desirable body image which can influence eating patterns - such as the Western view of the ideal slim figure) and internal forces (e.g. a person's cognitions such as their beliefs about ideal eating habits and thoughts about the types and amounts of foods they consume)(Hinton et al., 2004). Another important feature of Hull's theory was the idea that motivation is experienced in a conscious state. For example, the feeling of hunger doesn't materialize until it reaches a level of deprivation that causes the body to trigger a psychological state or drive.

In regards to the key themes that were discussed for motivation, I found the idea of external events influencing motivation, such as culture, quite interesting. If a large part of our self-concept and motivated behaviour emerges from enculturation, then would people still hold their same values if they were raised in a different setting or were to uproot to a different society with a differing culture? I guess the obvious answer is that people would be different, for example, an individual would behave and become a different person depending on whether they were raised in a strict Christian family or a strict Muslim family. However, if you were to pose this question to people, I would suspect a large proportion of people would argue that they wouldn't change. For instance, I posed this question to my employer who is a doctor and devout Christian. He drew on examples such as a considerable amount of Muslim women who have been raised in this strict environment but nevertheless have converted to Christianity, and thus, overridden their environmental influences. The main question that remains in my mind is that if people could easily be a different person depending on their social, cultural and environmental experiences, how can anyone hold onto their values in life so dearly, if they are indeed so transient?

In summary, this week has motivated me to investigate my e-chapter! I'm looking into a topic surrounding what motivates people to develop and maintain/change their self-concept...

A country without a memory is a country of madmen.

~George Santayana
retrieved from


Hinton, E. C., Parkinson, J. A., Holland, A. J., Arana, F. S., Roberts, A. C., and Owen, A. M. (2004). Neural contributions to the motivational control of appetite in humans. European Journal of Neuroscience, 20, 1411-1418.

Neill, J. (2010). Lecture Recordings. University of Canberra.

Martin, A. J. (2010). Should students have a gap year? Motivation and performance factors relevant to time out after completing school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102, 561-576.

Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding Motivation and Emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Russell, W. A. (1970). Milestones in motivation: Contributions to the psychology of drive and purpose. New York: Applelton-Century Crofts.

--Boubles 02:34, 25 August 2010 (UTC)

Motivation, Emotion and the Brain Summary[edit]

The following section provides a summary of:

  • The key brain structures and their corresponding motivational and emotional experience
  • Key neurotransmitters
  • Key hormones

(Derived from Reeve, 2009)

Brain Structures[edit]

Gehirn, medial - beschriftet lat.svg
Brain Structure Motivational/Emotional Experience
Approach-Oriented Structure
Hypothalamus Pleasure – eat, drink, sex
Septal Area Pleasure - sociability and sexuality
Orbitofrontal Cortex Learning incentive value of events, decision making
Medial Forebrain Bundle Pleasure, reinforcement
Nucleus Accumbens Pleasure – reward, hotspot for liking
Cerebral Cortex (frontal lobes) Plans, goals, intentions
Medial Forebrain Bundle Pleasure, reinforcement
Anterior Cingulate Cortex Mood, volition, decision making
Left Prefrontal Cerebral Cortex Approach motivational/emotional tendencies
Medial Prefrontal Cerebral Cortex Learning response – control beliefs, mastery motivation
Avoidance-Oriented Structures
Right Prefrontal Cerebral Cortex Withdraw motivational/emotional tendencies
Amygdala Detect/Respond to threat and danger (fear/anger/anxiety)
Hippocampus Behavioural inhibition – during unexpected events
Arousal-Oriented Structure
Reticular Formation Arousal


Chemical messengers for the central nervous system

1) Dopamine:

  • Stimulates limbic structure to arouse feelings of pleasure, positive affect etc due to reward
  • Release enhances functioning such as creativity and insightful problem solving
  • Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) releases dopamine to brain sites and the amount determines whether an event or action has produced equal, more or less reward than expected
  • Incentives trigger dopamine release – not the actual event e.g. smell of cookie, not taste
  • It prepares us – motivates us – to perform an action (e.g. erection) or secure the environmental event (e.g. appeal of the theatre promo)
  • Release signals reward and teaches us what is rewarding = reinforcement
  • Unpredicted or unexpected rewards produce more pleasure
  • Dopamine also activates voluntary goal-directed approach responses – partly because good feelings create approach motivation, partly because activation of the motor system releases goal-directed approach behaviour
  • Repeated use of addictive drugs produces hypersensitivity to dopamine stimulation which means the effect is heightened – this can last for years
  • Wanting: motivational state that occurs prior to receiving a reward
  • Liking: motivational state that occurs after reward receipt

2) Serotonin

  • Influences mood and emotion – bad events can deplete our biochemistry resources and leave us vulnerable to depression
  • Exposure to disappointment and uncontrollable stress make demands on the limbic system that gradually robs us of brain serotonin
  • SSRI’s work by preventing the reuptake of serotonin when it is released and thus leaving the neurotransmitter more abundant for usage
  • Depression is also associated with a diminished capacity to experience pleasure and positive feelings due to low dopamine release - some antidepressants work by increasing dopamine receptor responsiveness
  • Antidepressants affect neurogenesis, where serotonin increases new nerve cell growth

3) Norepinephrine

  • Regulates arousal and alertness

4) Endorphin

  • Inhibits pain, anxiety and fear by generating good feelings to counter negative feelings

Hormones in the Body[edit]

  • Cortisol: ‘stress hormone’ – released by HPA system from the adrenal gland when exposed to a stressor e.g. speech or negotiating social status – increased levels are associated with poor intellectual functioning, negative affect and poor health outcomes
  • Testosterone: high sexual motivation, same-sex competition/competing better and mate-seeking behaviour – changes due to situation e.g. less testosterone in married men
  • Oxytocin: ‘bonding hormone’ – source of motivation for women as it stimulates the coping response of seeking counsel, support and nurturance during stress

Interesting Research Article & Reflection[edit]

This article addresses motivation and emotion in regards to PTSD and emerging treatments (Drummond, 2010). Scientists from the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre (Washington DC) are in the initial stages of conducting research into treating PTSD in soldiers via a procedure called stellate ganglion block. Basically, patients are injected with local anesthetic into this area (7th cervical vertebrae - neck) which affects the sympathetic nerve tissue. This mere 10 minute procedure works instantly and has been found to have both considerable and long-lasting effects, to the point where the patient no longer qualifies for a PSTD diagnosis. In regards to the content above, brain scans show that "hot spots" for emotions that are triggered in different brain structures are no longer present after the treatment, i.e. when showed violent images, patients' scans show normal reaction levels. Obviously the research holds limited generalizability and validity at this point in time, but the procedure has produced these positive results in both currently serving soldiers and war veterens.

This type of research will inevitably trigger a debate on ethics. For instance, is it morally acceptable to strip someone of their ability to experience intense emotions, even if they are negative? Where do these emotions go and how will these patients cognitively process the change in emotional states? I think a real danger into research like this is that it's interfering with your biological makeup and creating a somewhat artificial state of being. In my opinion, it would be alarming if a soldier didn't develop a certain level of PTSD symptoms after experiencing such confronting and traumatic events. But by 'blocking' certain emotional states, will this turn soldiers into 'killing machines' or at the very least, reduce their ability to make accurate judgments about life-threatening situations? Furthermore, I think coming to terms with events, decisions, thoughts etc surrounding a soldier's experience in warfare is extremely important for self-awareness and the development of one's self-concept. After all, it must be an enduring cognitive process to be able to justify taking someone else's life.

Alternatively, I can see the benefits of developing such treatments, possibly within different areas of PTSD though. For example, patients suffering PTSD due to circumstances which were 'fixed' (no decision making involved) such as a car accidents or abuse cases. In instances such as the Jaycee Dugard kidnapping trial, a treatment like stellate ganglion block may be their best hope.

Arrows 12x12 e.svg In regards to the tutorial, we revised this material firstly by viewing a cross section of the brain and trying to plot the brain structures from memory. This proved quite difficult, although I found the activity useful because visual representations assist my learning, particularly for abstract concepts. Interestingly, James pointed out that while trying to locate a suitable/clear picture of the brain, he found that many pictures differed in the location of certain brain structures..hmm! We also went through the main functions associated with each structure which I've enjoyed, particularly because our learning over the last three years seems to be coming together over this last semester.

Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability.

~ Sir William Osler
retrieved from


Drummond, K. (2010). Pentagon Scientists Inject Necks to 'Cure' PTSD. Retrived August 30, 2010 from

Neill, J. (2010). Lecture Recordings. University of Canberra.

Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding Motivation and Emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Physiological Needs Summary[edit]

Introduction to Needs[edit]

(Derived from Reeve, 2009)

N2 fruit salad.jpg
  • Needs describe states that are essential for growth, development and well-being
  • Unmet needs result in physiological and psychological damage
  • Thus, to avoid damage, motivation serves as the force behind our actions designed to fulfill these needs
  • Needs can be categorised as physiological, psychological and social in nature
  • Physiological and psychological needs are inherent in everybody, while social needs are influenced by an individual's unique environment
  • A type of need becomes salient in a specific environment, for example, biological needs when you wake up and go to the breakfast table, psychological needs when you think about how well you did in your exam and social needs when you meet up with friends
  • Accordingly, different types of needs motivate different behaviours (making your breakfast, driving to meet friends) and can also be seen as either relieving a deficit (hunger) or promoting growth (affiliation and well-being)

Fundamentals of Regulation and Thirst[edit]

The basic need-drive-behaviour model cycles through the stages listed below. Integrated in this model are the key features of the homeostatic mechanism. The following example draws on the physiological motivation of thirst.

Stilles Mineralwasser.jpg

1) Satiated state (homeostasis)

2) Initial physiological deprivation (Triggered from multiple inputs such as from sweating, eating salty food, time of day etc)

3) Prolonged physiological deprivation (Dehydrated cells in intracellular fluids)

4) Psychological drive develops (Osmometric thirst is activated via signals from intraorganismic mechanisms such as the hypothalamus)

5) Motivated behaviour to satisfy drive (Screen extraorganismic mechanisms and perform motivated behaviour, i.e. seek out water)

6) Consummatory behaviour (Via multiple outputs such ass drink a glass of water or kidney's producing concentrated urine to conserve water)

7) Drive reduction (Thirst deficit is supressed and motivated behaviour ceases once negative feedback is activated)


1) Short-Term Appetite - Short-term hunger cues regulate the ignition of meals, size and termination of meals

- Glucostatic hypothesis: when blood glucose drops, people feel hungry and want to eat

- Cells require glucose to produce energy and thus once they run out they can’t perform their physiological functions

- Liver monitors blood glucose level - when low it sends signal to lateral hypothalamus so psychological state is initiated

- Ventromeidal hypothalamus is responsible for meal termination via information from liver on glucose levels, stomach distensions and gut peptide cholecystokinin release

- Specialised neurons in the laterla hypothalamus respond to the sight and taste of food when hungry and also manufacturers appetite-boosting peptides called orexins

- Hormones stimulate hunger (ghrelin) and satiety (leptin)

- Non-brain cues of appetite include the stomach, mouth, and body temp

Digestive system diagram en.svg

2) Long-Term Energy Balance - Fat (adipose tissue) also produces energy

- Lipostatic hypothesis: when the mass of fat stored drops below its homeostatic balance, adipose tissue secretes hormones (ghrelin) into the bloodstream to promote weight gain motivation that increases food intake and vice versa with leptin

- Smooths out the short-term fluctuations in energy balance from blood glucose levels

- Regulates the balance between food intake, energy expenditure and body weight

- Set-point theory: each individual has a biologically determined body weight that is set by genetics either at birth or shortly thereafter

3) Environmental Influences - Influences including time of day, stress and the sight, smell, appearance and taste of food

- Consume more when around others who are eating

- Consume more when given large portion size

- Consume more when there is a large variety and excess availability

- Eating habits depend on one’s social group norms

  • Restraint Release: dieting and fasting paradoxically causes subsequent bingeing
  • Counter-regulation: the paradoxical pattern displayed by dieters who eat very little when just nibbling but who eat very much after consuming a large, high-calorie “preload”
  • Restraint release can thus be triggered by high-calorie consumption, depression, anxiety, conditions that threaten one’s ego, alcohol
  • Thus, it is difficult to gain conscious control over physiological regulatory processes
  • Instead, obese people should focus on self-regulation, mindfulness and exercise
  • Motivated eating behaviour can be seen more as a settling point rather than a set point as extraorganismic influences constantly alter one’s drive and satiety


1873 Pierre Auguste Cot - Spring.jpg

- In lower animals, sex follows the need-drive-behaviour model previously illustrated

- Human sexual behaviour is influenced, but not determined, by hormones

- Hypothalamus -> adrenal glands -> androgrens/estrogens

- In men, the correlation between physiological arousal and psychological desire is high

- Triphasic sexual response: desire, arousal, orgasm (resolution)

- In women, the correlation between physiological arousal and psychological desire is low

- Intimacy-based model: high emotional intimacy anticipates sexual desire

- Physical attractiveness is the most important external stimulus that affects sexual motivation

- Facial metrics is the study of attractiveness of facial characteristics. People like:

  • Neonatal features: those associated with newborn infants e.g. large eyes and small nose
  • Sexual maturity: postpubescent status e.g. prominent cheekbones, facial hair for men
  • Expressive features: e.g. wide smile/mouth, higher-set eyebrows
  • Youthfulness/agreeableness, strength/status, happiness/openness
  • Seems to be universal

- Sexual Scripts: one’s mental representation of the step-by-step sequence of events that occur during a typical sexual episode – couples need to coordinate their sexual scripts

- Sexual Schemas: cognitive representations of their sexual selves (includes both approach-oriented/sexual desire and avoidance-oriented/sexual inhibition aspects)

- Evolutionary Basis: men want young, attractive mates while women want powerful, high-status mates – however, people who value other qualities such as homeliness over the traditional characteristics, will look for a partner like that instead – people also choose a partner first on necessities and then on luxuries – all aid survival and reproduction

- Self-regulation: when mental states override physiological needs

- People fail at self-regulation due to:

  • Underestimating how powerful a motivational force or biological urge can be, particularly when they are not currently experiencing them e.g. sex
  • People lack standards or they are have inconsistent, conflicting, inappropriate or unrealistic ones e.g. dieting vs enjoying a dinner out
  • They fail to monitor what they are doing as they become distracted, overwhelmed or intoxicated e.g. emotionally exhausted or drunk

- Successful self regulation requires realistic standards and long-term goals


I think the most interesting point I gained from the content this week is the concept of a hierarchy of needs. Physiological needs seem to act as the foundational element for motivation which, when prolonged, triggers psychological and social needs, such as a hunger pain. I found it fascinating that environmental influences can somewhat override our innate, physiological needs through self-regulation. For example, remaining with the hunger example, the size, type, variety and social setting within which you are presented with food can influence consumption. A personal example where this finding is evident occurred on the weekend for Father's Day. Although I wasn't particularly hungry at the time we sat down for lunch, I consumed a lot more than I would even if I was hungry. The influences for this behaviour included the social setting (my extended family gathered together), the presentation, social norms and size of food portions (we served the food in a banquet manner so going back for seconds ~or fourths!~ was encouraged), the appearance of the food (the taste and sight of pavlova was an evil factor in increasing my consumption levels!), and the variety (there was a much larger range of food than what my lunch usually consists of - appetisers, mains, deserts). Thus, the combination of these environmental influences was able to override my physiological need (somewhat satiated) and influence me to over eat.

However, the principle of homeostasis always seems to exert its influence at some point, and this is demonstrated by concepts such as restraint release and unsuccessful self-regulation. Thus, I think an important message to take away from this topic can be expressed in the following light-hearted analogy:

The hierarchy of motivation could be viewed as the relationship between the sun and a beach goer.

  • The sun represents our physiological needs that are the ever-present, innate needs - the sun's rays fluctuate due to the time of day, location and season, as do our physiological needs with changes in hormone levels, brain structure stimulation and neurotransmitter communication
  • The individual beach goer represents the unique environmental influences that also shape their behaviour - the appeal of a beach fluctuates according to water temperature, wave type and other people at the beach, as do our psychological and social needs such as our perceptions of autonomy, competence and relatedness and our feelings of affiliation, power,achievement and intimacy
  • The unique combination of these factors produces individual outcomes - for example, a beach goer may be able to override their physiological need and decide to not put on sunscreen. Although they may successfully engage in self-regulatory behaviour for the first few hours, eventually this innate need exerts its force and the need for homeostasis through sunburn
  • Similarly, approach-oriented motivation may arise for the surfer beach goer who enjoys big waves and an opportunity to satisfy the psychological need of competence and social needs of achievement and power. Conversely, another beach goer may only show approach-oriented motivation and behaviour for playing a game of football with friends as this satisfies their psychological and social needs of relatedness and intimacy
  • Therefore, although beach conditions (psychological and social needs) can exert more influence on occasions and result in self-regulatory behaviour (going in the water, sun baking all day), the sun (physiological need) will always be underlying our stream of ongoing behaviour and enforce balance when necessary (bringing you out of the water when it's too cold to regulate your body temperature or out of the sun when you are burning)

This is a bit of a confusing/little inaccurate analogy, but I'm hoping it somewhat illustrates the points of this chapter!

Life is a see-saw and I am just trying to maintain homeostasis.

~ Unknown
retrieved from


Neill, J. (2010). Lecture Recordings. University of Canberra.

Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding Motivation and Emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

--Boubles 04:02, 6 September 2010 (UTC)

Psychological Needs Summary[edit]

The wonders of the mind...


(Derived from Reeve, 2009)

  • A key distinction between the two types of needs mentioned so far is that satisfied physiological needs produce interest, while satisfied psychological needs produce enjoyment
  • Organismic approach: how organisms initiate interactions with the environment and adapt, change and grow as a function of those environmental transactions
  • Organismic theories highlight the person-environment dialectic and its reciprocal nature
  • A person’s needs are fulfilled by the environment and subsequently this sparks new forms of motivation
  • The person consists of psychological needs, intrinsic motivation, developmental tendencies, interests and goals, curiosity and internalised types of extrinsic motivation
  • The environment consists of environmental events, relationships and community/culture
  • The organismic psychological needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness provide people with a natural motivation for learning, growing and developing – whether they experience this depends on whether the environment supports or frustrates the expression of these needs
  • Mechanistic approach: the environment acts on the persona and the person reacts


Hardcore autonomy!
  • The psychological need to experience self-direction and personal endorsement in the initiation and regulation of one’s behaviour
  • Behaviour is autonomous when our interests/preferences/wants guide our decision-making
  • Volition (how free we feel while doing something, e.g. studying, and while not doing something, e.g. not apologising)
  • Perceived choice over one’s actions (having choices within a course of action e.g. numerous types of sandwiches to choose from)
  • There is a difference between the environmental event of being offered a choice (which essay topic) and the personal experience of true choice (do I actually want to do the essay at all?)
  • It is only when people have a true choice over their actions and when they are offered meaningful choices that they experience a sense of autonomy
  • Autonomy support: external events, environments, social contexts and relationships that support people’s autonomy by nurturing, developing personal growth, empathy etc
  • Autonomy-supportive Motivating Style: taking the other person’s perspective and valuing personal growth opportunities during an activity
  • This style sees listlessness, poor performance and inappropriate behaviour as motivational problems to be solved. They also try to understand and reshape negative affect
  • Explaining the importance of uninteresting tasks can trigger some form of voluntary behaviour
  • Autonomy control: external events, environments, social contexts and relationships that frustrate people’s autonomy by pressure, restricted choice, suffocating environments etc
  • Controlling Motivating Style: one person pressures the other toward a prescribed outcome and uses social influence techniques to achieve the targeted socialisation outcome
  • This style tries to motivate people by threatening to withdraw approval, threatening self-esteem beliefs, cultivating perfectionistic standards and offering conditional regard


Competence in the face of setbacks...
  • Everyone desires to interact effectively with their surroundings and improve their capacities, talents and potential through challenges
  • Again, the environment can involve and satisfy or neglect and frustrate this need
  • Important is an optimal challenge, clear structure, resilience and positive feedback
  • Flow: a state of concentration that involves a holistic absorption and deep involvement in an activity – perfect mix of skill and challenge
  • The worst mix to have is low skill and low challenge as the person does not care at all
  • Works on the premise that, given optimal challenge, any activity can be enjoyed while stimulating motivation and energy to succeed
  • Performance feedback: a person does not experience a true psychological challenge until they begin to perform and receive the first glimpse of feedback
  • Structure: provide info about the pathways to desired outcomes and support/guide people to these pathways
  • Failure Tolerance: the dread of failure can squash the competence need-involving qualities of optimal challenge – if intense, can motivate avoidance behaviours – people function better when they look at failure as a learning curve and ways to improve themselves as well as errors and risks being necessary in the journey to success
  • Positive Feedback: feedback can be derived from the task itself, comparisons of one’s performance with one’s own past performance, comparisons of one’s current performance with the performance of others or evaluations of others
  • The perception of progress is an important signal of competence


Sometimes our needs go unmet...
  • A desire to belong, experience social interaction and have friends
  • Important motivational construct because people function between, are more resilient to stress and report fewer psychological difficulties when their interpersonal relationships support their need for relatedness
  • Interactions with others are the key way to meet this psychological need which is often supported by our environment e.g. preschool, school, uni, jobs, childbirth, romance etc
  • A step further from meeting this need, is to satisfy it, which requires the person to perceive that the other person cares about their welfare and likes them – and more importantly, that the ‘true self’ that has been exposed to them is deemed as important to the other person
  • Having proper relatedness needs satisfied promotes vitality and well-being and lessens loneliness, jealousy, sadness and depression
  • Communal relationships: satisfy the relatedness need e.g. family, partner, friends
  • Exchange relationships: do not satisfy the relatedness need e.g. acquaintances
  • Internalization: the process through which an individual transforms a formerly externally prescribed regulation or value into an internally endorsed one e.g. voluntarily adopting and integrating into the self the value and regulations of other people such as education or the benefits of exercising
  • Internalization occurs when the relatedness need is satisfied and thus people take on the values of those they care about and when there is a clear and convincing rationale for the other’s value


  • The intensity and emotional quality people show when they initiate and carry out activities such as learning in school or practising skills in music or sports – when a person has high engagement they display it in their behaviour, emotion, cognitions and voice

Psychological Need Environmental Condition that Involves the Need Environmental Condition that Satisfies the Need Important Feature for Psychological Well-being
Autonomy Opportunities for self-direction Autonomy support Autonomy support
Competence Optimal challenge Positive feedback Structure
Relatedness Social interaction Communal relationships Involvement


  • I think it is important to recognise that an individual's personality comprises of a stable, core part in addition to an ever-changing, developing part when comprehending psychological needs. For instance, Reeve (2009) asserted that we act accordingly, e.g. we act differently when we are home alone reading a book compared to, say, at a football match with friends. Specifically, in a football game setting, we are likely to conform to those group norms. I think it's important to note that conformity doesn't necessarily need to have a negative connotation or suggest that our any of our 'core' personality is unstable if we adapt our behaviour in certain situations. I think this simply means that a person is fitting in with society, keeping some of their underlying values dormant (e.g. etiquette) and using this outlet as a means to satisfy other needs such as affiliation, intimacy or relatedness. For example, my brother is somewhat introverted and values respectful behaviour, however, his passion for the Tigers is an outlet of exception as he becomes overly enthused, boisterous and somewhat rude as he carries on with the fluctuations in a game. This behaviour is uncharacteristic of his 'core' personality, and although he is in a sense conforming to social norms, his behaviour is still chosen out of will. For instance, if he attended a match that didn't involve his team, he would be far less boisterous. Thus, the point I am trying to convey is that I believe social needs do play a large part in shaping our behaviour, but it by no means overrides our psychological needs and personality 100% of the time
  • Another concept that was mentioned in the text described the two opposing motivations; deficits and growth. I think that these opposing forces can be quite unstable and this can affect an individual's commitment to a task and self-efficacy. Specifically, growth motivation has been linked with behaviours such as taking on challenges and building relationships. But could these activities develop into a bid to reduce deficiencies, rather than as growth motivations? For example, taking on a challenge may initially stimulate growth motivation as you research your essay topic and gain enjoyment out of 'getting a feel' for the topic. However, if you were to run into constant barriers, such as an inability to locate enough sources and difficulty expressing your ideas, this could eventually turn into a deficit motivation. Instead of satisfying your competence need with growth motivation, you are trying to satisfy a deficit and prove to yourself that you are competent and can finish the essay. Therefore, there is a change in emotions from pride and energy to anxiety and frustration. This experience could subsequently shade an individual's approach or avoidance behaviour in future assessments, for example, selecting the easier but possibly less exciting topic. This idea also links into achievement motivation and the development of mastery (intrinsic) or performance (extrinsic) goals.
  • Furthermore, I think that cognitive dissonance could possibly arise from confusing deficiency and growth motivations. For example, an individual who suffers from depression may see building relationships as a deficit motivation, rather than a growth motivation. If they approach social interaction with a negative view from the outset, it is likely to impede their chances of establishing, developing and maintaining healthy relationships, in addition to the negative affect which will create setbacks along the way (e.g. the anxiety provoked from failing to establish a relationship in their first few attempts may be too overwhelming so they refuse to make any further attempts and thus end up in a vicious cycle). Thus, a depressed individual may consciously view building friendships as a growth motivation (because that is what society labels it as), but subconsciously their behaviour stems from a deficiency motivation (they feel socially isolated and are in desperate need of social contact and support). They approach a social interaction opportunity with the mindset that it should be positive and provide growth opportunities, but feel disheartened when their behaviour does not grant the expected rewards (because of underlying deficit motives which manifest in anxiety, lack of eye contact, introversion etc)
  • A final point I found interesting from this week's content is the idea that much of our motivated behaviour isn't triggered by aversive physiological drives, but by seductive external incentives. I made the point previously that the physiological drives are ever-present and seem to have 'the final say', but this chapter illustrates the extent of psychological influences in the intermediary. I found the section on autonomy quite enlightening to my own sense of control. It made me realise that many of my choices are constrained by mediating variables. For example, the ability to choose my essay topic, what I want from the local shops for lunch and what I decide to wear has always given me a sense of autonomy (to an extent). However, reading this topic has heightened my awareness to the idea that my choices are constrained, i.e. I'm choosing a lolly from a box which only contains licorice! Thus, it made me realise that yes, I get to choose my essay topic for social psych but none of the topics particularly sparked my interest. Yes, I get to choose my lunch from the shops but often they are limited to unhealthy foods. And yes, I get to choose what I'd like to wear everyday but it is very much restricted by my budget. This highlights the difference between the environmental event of being offered a choice (which essay topic) and the personal experience of true choice (do i like any of the topics or actually want to do the essay at all?). I guess what I'll take away from this exercise is the importance of recognising what choices I make that are due to availability and what choices I make that are due to 'true' desires. Although self-awareness of how my choices are made on trivial matters is not that important (essay topic, clothes), I think it could make a substantial difference on my 'bigger picture' choices such as career paths, religion, relationships etc. Furthermore, once you recognise how your choices are being shaped and what 'true' choices you desire, I think it is important to actively seek out environments that are going satisfy (or best satisfy) these needs. For example, not settling for a job just because it is convenient or offered to you first but going out and seeking something that will truly satisfy your career needs.

Arrows 12x12 e.svg In regards to the tutorial, we completed the General Causality Orientations Scale, 12-vignette version (Deci & Ryan, 1985). The scale was designed to determine our level of autonomy orientation; intrinsic motivation and internal locus of control, control orientation; extrinsic motivation and impersonal orientation; external locus of control. As much as I enjoy completing questionnaires, I think this psych degree has cursed me because I'll constantly think 'Is this a socially desirable answer?' or 'How much of this response is my ideal self and how much is it my actual self?' ! So I find the questionnaires we do amusing because it makes me second guess myself now which makes me wary about studies which utilise purely psych students. But in saying that, my autonomy score doubled the other two orientations and I would like to put this down to critically thinking about the concepts raised in motivation and emotion and my conceited effort to study because of intrinsic motivation. I'm not sure whether it is the content, assessment types, experience or staff - but I am finding these last three units far more rewarding than most of the others I have completed. Perhaps that little light at the end of the tunnel is shining a bit brighter these days too :)

Have no friends not equal to yourself.

~ Confucious
retrieved from


Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). The general causality orientations scale: Self-determination in personality. Journal of Research in Personality, 19, 109-134.

Neill, J. (2010). Lecture Recordings. University of Canberra.

Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding Motivation and Emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, In

Social Needs Summary[edit]


(Derived from Reeve, 2009)

Social needs are acquired states that we learn through our culture and socialisation. Reeve (2009) outlines three key social needs including achievement, power and intimacy/affiliation. Satisfying these needs can be said to feed into our other psychological needs (Neill, 2010). For example, a sense of achievement can serve to fulfil our competence need.

The following table summarises the needs discussed in the unit to-date.

Type of Need Definition
Physiological Biological – necessary for life, growth, well-being e.g. hunger, thirst, sex
Psychological Innate psychological process – desire to seek out interactions with the environment to promote growth and well-being e.g. autonomy, competence, relatedness
Social Acquired psychological process – socialization activates incentive e.g. achievement, affiliation, intimacy, power
Quasi Transient, situationally induced want e.g. umbrella in the rain

- There appears to be only a few parenting elements that affect social needs

  • High achievement need: parents imposed high standards
  • High affiliation need: parents used praise as a socialization technique
  • High power need: parents who were permissive about sex and aggression
Social needs are comprised of achievement, intimacy/affiliation and power...

- Thus, social needs emerge and change over time

- Other factors influence the development of social needs e.g. occupation (a nurse is perceived as stimulating intimacy and affiliation needs while an entrepreneur is perceived more as fulfilling achievement and power needs)

- Emotional and behavioural activation occurs when we encounter an incentive that will satisfy our particular social needs e.g. people with a high intimacy need will experience activation by, say, the opportunity to go on a date, while others who have a different set of social needs may avoid/fear a date

- Social needs lay dormant until something sparks them, i.e. they are reactive

- We seek out environments that will satisfy our social needs

The following table presents an overview of the key social needs and how each can be activated.

Social Need Activating Incentive
Achievement Doing something well to show personal competence
Intimacy Warm, secure relationship
Affiliation Opportunity to please others and gain their approval
Power Having impact on others


  • A desire to make the physical and social world conform to one’s personal image – they want impact (establish), control (maintain) and influence (expand)

Conditions that Involve and Satisfy the Need for Power

  • Leadership and Relationships: high power-need people do whatever they can to gain visibility, like friends/co-workers who like to be led, prefer small groups over dyads
  • Often struggle with relationships and make poor husbands (men only) whereas power-needing women don’t usually try and fulfil these needs in the arena of interpersonal relationships
  • High power leaders often produce poorer results in group situations because they don’t consider all alternatives, less info is exchanged and less cooperation
  • Aggressiveness: aggression can serve to satisfy power needs
  • High power-need men often get in more arguments and participate more in competitive sports. However, because society controls overt aggression, people with high power needs demonstrate impulsive behaviour e.g. traffic rage, insulting clerks etc
  • Further demonstrated as when societal inhibition is removed through alcohol consumption, people become aggressive
  • Also demonstrated by men abusing their partners to satisfy their power, in addition to risk-taking, speeding, abusive language etc
  • Influential Occupations: occupations such as business executives, teachers, psychologists, journalists, international diplomats etc. Allows people to direct the behaviour of other people, give them the ability to provide reward and punishment and collect power symbols such as a car, fancy house etc
  • High power-need people often acquire their goals and outcomes more quickly/easily
  • Leaders often have a high need for power, low need for intimacy/affiliation and high inhibition (self-control/discipline) e.g. military leader


  • Affiliation: the anxious need to establish, maintain and restore interpersonal relations (deficit-oriented)
  • Intimacy: willingness to experience a warm, close and communicative exchange with another person (growth-oriented)

Conditions that Involve the Affiliation and Intimacy Needs

  • Fear and Anxiety: isolation and fear increases our need for affiliation as we need support, coping strategies and clarification to regain a balance e.g. cancer, AA, unwed mothers
  • Establishing Interpersonal Networks: developing relationships is seen as emotionally satisfying for high intimacy people and stifling and trapping for low intimacy people
  • Maintaining Interpersonal Networks: people with high affiliation needs will do all they can to maintain a relationship whereas those with low affiliation needs spend less time – people with high intimacy needs often laughed, smiled more etc and thus were seen as warm

Conditions that Satisfy the Affiliation and Intimacy Needs

  • When satisfied, affiliation brings out relief rather than joy
  • High affiliation needs often means you avoid conflict, are unselfish and cooperative, avoid talking about others in a negative way, resist making imposing demands on others etc
  • Relatedness within a warm, close, reciprocal and enduring relationship constitutes the need-satisfying condition for people high in the need for intimacy


- The desire to do well relative to a standard of excellence e.g. the task, the self or others - Origins include:

  • Socialization influences e.g. Was the home environment rich with stimulation? Has the person had a wide range of experiences? Do they have high-ability self concepts?
  • Cognitive influences e.g. Do they have an optimistic attributional style? Do they approach tasks with a mastery or performance orientation?
  • Developmental influences e.g. What experiences have developed a sense of pride of shame in the person?

Atkinson’s Model

- Behaviour is predicted through a combination of dispositional needs for achievement in addition to probability of success and incentives

  • Achievement behaviour: tendency to approach success
  • Need for achievement: motive to succeed
  • Probability of success: perception of success
  • Incentive for success: incentive value
                                                       Ts = Ms x Ps x Is

- High incentive for difficult tasks

- Low incentive for easy tasks

- Success probability is higher, we approach – when failure probability is high, we avoid

- People also have future achievement orientations where future goals generate less approach than do immediate goals

- However, future achievement increases present motivation e.g. study for good career

- All has to be in balance because optimal challenge provides the best balance and motivation for success

- Thus, he believed that achievement is the struggle between finding a balance between approaching success and avoiding failure

Dynamics-of-action Model

- Achievement behaviour occurs within a stream of ongoing behaviour which is dynamic, rather than static. Three additional variables were described:

  • Instigation: triggers approach tendencies as we seek out stimuli associated with past rewards e.g. treadmill = weight loss
  • Inhibition: triggers avoidance tendencies as we avoid stimuli associated with past punishment e.g. Ferris wheel = nausea
  • Consummation: refers to the fact that performing an activity brings about its own cessation e.g. running, drinking, reading this book

- Latency to begin an achievement depends on motive strength e.g. if the task is high is success you don’t procrastinate, but if it’s high in failure you do procrastinate

- Persistence on an achievement task depends on motive strength e.g. high success and low failure triggers persistence

- Switching to a non-achievement task occurs with rising consumption e.g. watched so much television that you want to study

Conditions that Involve and Satisfy the Need for Achievement

1) Moderately difficult tasks

  • Performance on a moderately difficult task activates in the high achiever a set of positive emotional and cognitive incentives
  • High achiever outperforms low achiever on moderately difficult tasks but not necessarily on easy or difficult

2) Competition

  • Promotes positive emotion, approach behaviour and improved performance in high-need achievers

3) Entrepreneurship

  • High-need achievers prefer an occupation that offers challenge, independent work, personal responsibility and rapid performance feedback

Achievement Goals

Child reading at Brookline Booksmith.jpg

- Often standards of excellence are forced upon us e.g. uni exam, sales quota at work or an opponent at sport – so why does a person show a particular achievement behaviour? Using both Atkinson's model and the Dynamics-of-action model, achievement behaviour can be accounted for in specific settings and varied settings using personality dispositions and situational factors.

1) An individual's achievement behaviour can be better understood through their achievement outlook, either mastery or performance goals. The table below outlines the key differences between these two types of achievement motivation.

Mastery Goals (self-set) Performance Goals (compete with others)
Develop greater competence Demonstrate or prove competence
Make progress Display high ability
Improve the self Outperform others
Overcome challenges through intense persistent effort Succeed with little apparent effort

(Mastery goals have been associated with a greater work ethic, persistence and better performance).

2) An individual's achievement behaviour can also be better understood by assessing their level of avoidance motivation (fear of failure) which negatively affects performance, persistence and emotionality

3) An individual's achievement behaviour can also be better understood by determining their implicit theories of achievement including an entity (believe we have fixed, enduring qualities) or an incremental approach (believe we have malleable, changing qualities). The approach one takes has been found to influence motivation levels, emotions and performance, in addition to the types of goals people pursue (entity - performance, incremental - mastery).


  • One point made by Reeve (2009) which I think is debatable is the concept that humans seek out environments that will satisfy their social needs. For instance, I have a friend who has been talking about his future debut as a millionaire for as long as I've known him. He is extremely career focused and has a vision of the type of work he would like to do and knows the paths he needs to take to get there. Thus, he has a strong acheivement need (and possibly power need but I wouldn't dare mention this!). However, he has little to no motivation to achieve anything beyond a pass at university (which is a requirement for his career path) and therefore is not seeking or fulfilling his achievement need. Another example is people suffering from a mental illness who often have an intimacy or affiliation need and don't seek out envrionments that will satisfy these needs (although, this could partly be influenced by the effects of stigma). Possibly in some circumstances it requires more than a social need to motivate behaviour - e.g. my friend may need a psychological drive such as autonomy or competence to motivate him to make the effort to try satisfy his achievement need.
  • Following on from this point, was the remark from Reeve (2009) that those high in achievement needs are approach-oriented and display positive affect such as hope, pride and anticipation. Again, I may be drawing on a rare exception, but I would class my self in many respects as having a high achievement need. However, in regards to say university work, I am often avoidance-oriented and display more negative emotions such as procrastination and anxiety about deadlines. Furthermore, competition usually makes me feel more pressured than excited.
  • And just on a lighter note, I was able to witness the validity of psychological and social needs through my dad yesterday who was formally a teacher and now works as a consultant with the DET. He came home in an unusually chirpy mood (as he basically deals with cases involving disadvantaged/antisocial students where solutions tend to fall into the gap in the education system), and we proceeded to work out the cause of his positive mood. Amusingly, we identified a competence/achievement aspect (his ability to solve a complex dilemma for a troubled student and their family), a relatedness/intimacy/affiliation aspect (he was able to alleviate the hostility of the parents and work in a collaborative and progressive manner) and an autonomy/power aspect (he decided to give himself a 15 minute early mark!). Thus, this demonstrates the concept of satisfying psychological nutriments to experience a good day.

Arrows 12x12 e.svg In regards to the tutorial, we revised the needs content including physiological, psychological and social. We had a look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs which is a nice theory for understanding the relationship between different needs and how they blend together to energise and direct our behaviour. It was also helpful to point out the weaknesses of the theory which are often omitted during the first few years of uni. Specifically, the idea that we must meet a lower level need before seeking a higher one may not always be true. For instance, I know some people who are overly career-oriented and have no deisre to fulfil love/belonging needs but are desperately trying to seek achievement, competence and self-esteem. A second critique is that the theory may not be applicable cross-culturally. For example, collectivistic cultures may place more importance on security and love/belonging needs as opposed to esteem and self-actualising needs. Several other criticisms are outlined by Boeree (2006) including an unscientific case study approach to developing the concept of self-actualisation, a mere 2% of humankind expected to achieve self-actualisation and examples of people who appear to achieve self-actualisation but have deprived lower level needs. For instance, Van Gogh's work has had considerable influence on modern art, yet he was clearly unstable and suffered from a deprivation of lower level needs.

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint
~Mark Twain
retrieved from
Have a nice day and smiley face bag.jpg


Boeree, C. G. (2006). Personality theories: Abraham Maslow. Retrieved October 3, 2010 from

Neill, J. (2010). Lecture Recordings. University of Canberra.

Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding Motivation and Emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation Summary[edit]


(Derived from Reeve, 2009)

- People perform certain behaviours because they desire to fulfill their needs

- However, people also perform behaviours out of an environmentally created reason to do so-thus to obtain extrinsic offerings e.g. money, a special privilege or the approval of others

- Environmental incentives and consequences promote in us a sense of “want to”

- Thus, people do not always generate their motivation from within – we look to the environment e.g. stickers, praise, threats, pay checks, bonuses, orders, competition

- Any activity can be approached intrinsically or extrinsically

Intrinsic Motivation[edit]

Intrinsic Motivation
The face of intrinsic motivation?

- Intrinsic motivation: the inherent propensity to engage one’s interests and to exercise one’s capacities to seek out and master optimal challenges

- Emerges spontaneously from psychological needs – autonomy, relatedness, competence

Benefits of Intrinsic Motivation:

- Persistence: adherence and greater continuing motivation

- Creativity: most creative when people are primarily motivated by interest, enjoyment, satisfaction and challenge (worst when people are being watched, evaluated or rewarded)

- Conceptual Understanding/High-Quality Learning: flexibility in thinking, active information processing and learning conceptually rather than rote learning

- Optimal Functioning and Well-being: greater self-actualization, higher-quality interpersonal relationships, greater subjective vitality, less anxiety and depression, greater self-esteem, fewer hours watching television and lesser use of drugs

Extrinsic Motivation[edit]

Extrinsic Motivation

- Extrinsic motivation: arises from environmental incentives and consequences such as food, money, praise, attention, privileges, scholarships, certificates, smiles, public recognition etc

- Can be inceptive (get money) or aversive (avoid criticism)

External Regulation of Motivation:

- Operant conditioning: the process by which a person learns how to operate effectively in the environment

- Incentives: an environmental cue which attracts or repels a person toward or away from initiating a particular course of action – always precedes behaviour + motivates behaviour

Socio-cultural factors influence the development of intrinsic or extrinsic motivation..

- Reinforcer: an extrinsic event that increases behaviour e.g. pay cheque

  • Reinforcers decrease drive e.g. food reduces hunger
  • Reinforcers decrease arousal e.g. drug reduces anxiety
  • Reinforcers increase arousal e.g. rock concert stimulates excitement
  • Reinforcers are attractive to the person e.g. money is valued by some
  • Reinforcers produce pleasurable brain stimulation e.g. medial forebrain bundle
  • Reinforcers provide an opportunity to do a high-frequency behaviour e.g. watch TV-h/work

- Reinforcers vary in their quality (e.g. praise over money?)

- Reinforcers are more effective when given immediately following behaviour

- Consequences: reinforcers or punishers + positive or negative

- Consequences follow behaviour + increase/decrease the persistence of behaviour

  • Positive Reinforcers: presented stimulus increase desired behaviour e.g. pizza, praise
  • Negative Reinforcers: stimulus removed increases desired behaviour e.g. panadol, deadline

-Punishers: environmental stimulus that decreases undesired behaviour e.g. criticism, jail

- Response cost: suppress behaviour by imposing the cost of losing some attractive resource if one engages in the undesirable behaviour e.g. suspended drivers licence, toy taken away

- Punishers are often ineffective, despite their popularity e.g. spanking a child often leads to displays of aggression, antisocial behaviour, poor mental health, difficulty internalising morals, poor child-parent relationship – in adults, aggression, poor mental health, abuse and criminal behaviour

- Rewards: an extrinsic reward is any offering from one person given to another person in exchange for their service or achievement e.g. praise, smile

- All positive reinforcers are rewards, while only some rewards function as positive reinforcers (because not all rewards increase behaviours)

- Dopamine release and the behavioural activation system make us sensitive to extrinsic rewards

- Giving extrinsic rewards to an activity that was initially intrinsically motivated reduces intrinsic motivation – thus, the hidden cost of reward

- Extrinsic rewards can therefore: undermine intrinsic motivation, interfere with the quality and process of learning (eyes and mind on the reward, not the task – take easiest/quickest option to getting the reward) and interfere with the capacity for autonomous self-regulation (difficulty making yourself do anything if it is not rewarded)

- Thus, there is a movement away from fulfilling psychological autonomy to engaging in a task due to the reward

- Important to note that it is the expectance of a reward that reduces intrinsic motivation, not the reward itself e.g. an unexpected reward does not reduce intrinsic motivation

- Additionally, tangible rewards such as money often decrease intrinsic motivation, while verbal rewards such as praise do not

Motivating Others to do Uninteresting Activities[edit]

- Try to encourage intrinsic motivation in doing an uninteresting but worthwhile task

- Create a motivation to engage in the activity that the activity itself cannot generate

Four ways to promote autonomous types of extrinsic motivation:

1) Rationale: explain the importance e.g. Brushing, flossing and rinsing your teeth will prevent fillings and make them white

2) Setting a Goal: e.g. Completing a set amount within a time frame, applying a concept to real life

3) Embedding the Activity within a Fantasy Context e.g. Learning maths through a Space Craft simulation game

4) Adding an Extra Source of Stimulation: e.g. Playing music, working with a friend

Building Interest:

1) Situational Interest: interest is triggered by something from the environment which sparks your interest and results in short-lived, spontaneous engagement e.g. find an old photo album

2) Individual Interest: interest that is more stable and content-specific that develops over time as an enduring personal disposition and forms from one’s developmental history e.g. dance, music, Tigers

How Interest Builds:

- How novel/surprising the activity is, whether it meets your personal goals or needs, prior knowledge in the domain

- Actualised experience of interest = increased attention, learning, knowledge, achievement

Types of Motivation[edit]

- Self-determination Theory: organises amotivation, extrinsic and intrinsic motivation along a continuum of perceived locus of causality. The type of motivation someone posesses affects their feelings, thoughts and actions and how much effort they put forth to achieve something e.g. alcohol treatment program, university studies, career goals

  • Amotivation - locus of control perceived as determined by fate or luck, incompetent, non-valuing
  • Extrinsic - external (compliance), introjected (self-control), identified (personal importance), integrated (congruence)
  • Intrinsic - interest, enjoyment, inherent satisfaction


An interesting example of the impact extrinsic and intrinsic motivation can produce, is the controversial introduction of Montessori schools. The first Montessori centre was established by Dr Maria Montessori in 1907 which promoted a unique learning style based on developing a love of learning, individual-pace and freedom of choice (Montessori Australia, 2010). Thus, these schools aim to develop a sense of intrinsic motivation towards learning in students with perceived benefits including prosocial behaviour, improved self-worth and self-discipline (Montessori Australia, 2010).

Research has shown mixed findings regarding the effectiveness of Montessori learning compared to mainstream learning (e.g. Lopata, wallace & Finn, 2005; Rathunde, 2003). Lillard and Else-Quest (2006) found that Montessori students initially demonstrate higher academic ability in word recognition and mathematics, however, this advantage tapers off at approximately 12 years of age. A more significant finding was the demonstration of higher-order cognitive skills, creativity and prosocial behaviour exhibited by the Montessori students which was also demonstrated beyond 12 years of age. Thus, these students displayed a higher ability to solve complex problems and utilise creative thinking to solve social problems and develop warm, interpersonal relationships. Similarly, other studies have found Montessori students possess greater academic ability, affect, potency and flow experience (e.g. Rathunde & Csikszentmihalyi, 2005; Vance, 2003) and executive functioning skills (Rathunde, 2003), which can be replicated across cultures (e.g. Harris, 2004) and with low socio-economic backgrounds (e.g. Chisnall & Maher, 2007), and provide a sustained positive impact (e.g. Dohrmann, 2003). Conversely, other studies have established no significant difference in academic ability between Montessori and mainstream students (e.g. Lopata et al., 2005), or minor and specific academic advantages (e.g. higher mathematics and science ability; Dorhmann, Nishida, Gartner, Lipsky & Grimm, 2007). Furthermore, these studies often lack internal reliability such as an inability to use random assignment and control for mediating variables such as teacher ability, students' home environments and school culture (Lopata et al., 2005).

I guess the main point I've taken away from this research is that regardless of the extent of academic achievement, society is trying to take a step forward in attemping to instil intrinsic motivation in people. In some regards the program may not be feasible, for example trying to cover a curriculum in a certain timeframe - I definitely know that if I worked at my own pace I would be graduating from a 3 year degree in about 10!). Similarly, I believe academic learning just doesn't gel with some people - they may lack the intellectual ability, attention span or interest to be motivated to engage in such endeavours. Therefore, a Montessori program is not likely to instil a sense of intrinsic motivation for learning and they would probably reap larger benefits from starting a cadetship or something similar. Although, maybe this view stems from listening to my parents (who are both teachers) complain about poorly motivated kids for the last decade!

Nevertheless, the last couple of readings for this unit have developed my support for the value of intrinsic learning. Too many times I find myself looking at the calendar for a deadline assessment date or counting how many pages I have left to read of what seems to be an endless stream of learning theories about operant conditioning!! Being more self-aware of the processes in which I learn has been a somewhat disappointing discovery. I do very much possess an intrinsic motivation for learning but this quality has been slowly ripped away from me throughout the HSC and university! For instance, when I come across an unrelated piece of literature that interests me, I will most often refrain from becoming engrossed in it because it will result in me failing to reach my work goals. I think this has been further exacerbated after seeing friends drop out or fail units at university. I have one friend who is extremely intelligent but has failed unit after unit because they are absent minded and will spend days at a time exploring a topic that is not even related to their degree! And in many ways I envy him because my inner self would much prefer to learn in that style and I think I would be far more knowledgable and grounded because I would be learning conceptually and from intrinsic motivation. However, my acute private and public awareness anchors me firmly to the social needs emanating from Western society such as the importance of recognised achievement. But to finish on a brighter note, I am actively trying to develop an intrinsic motivation in all activities I pursue from university work, to exercise, to reminding myself of the rationale behind brushing, flossing and rinsing my teeth in listerine (which leaves me feeling violated rather than refreshed)! On a serious note, I do believe developing an intrinsic motivation feeds into the optimal fulfilment of human needs, particularly psychological and social ones. For instance, you can satisfy your competence and achievement needs through good grades, but you can optimally fulfil these needs through enjoyment, conceptual processing, approach-orientated behaviours and a hunger for knowledge. Ultimately I think the concept of intrinsic motivation resonates in all aspects of life and comes back to the old adage of enjoying the journey, not just the destination. Anyway, that is probably enough insight for one day!

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive

~Howard Thurman
retrieved from


Chisnall, N. & Maher, M. (2007). Montessori Mathematics in Early Childhood Education. Curriculum Matters 3, 6-28.

Dohrmann, K. R. (2003). Outcomes for students in a montessori program: A longitudinal study of the experience in the Milwaukee public schools. Retreive September 17, 2010 from

Dohrmann, K. R., Nishida, T. K., Gartner, A., Lipsky, D. K., & Grimm, K. J. (2007). High school outcomes for students in a public montessori program. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 22, 205-217.

Harris, E. M. (2004). Evaluation of the reorganization of Northboro Elementary School in Palm Beach County, Florida: A ten-year perspective. Retreived September 17, 2010 from

Lillard, A. & Else-Quest, N. (2006). Evaluating Montessori Education. Science, 313. Retreived September 17, 2010 from

Lopata, C., Wallace, N. V., & Finn, K. V. (2005). Comparison of academic achievement between montessori and traditional education programs. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 20, 5-13.

Montessori Australia (2010). Montessori Approach. Retreived September 17, 2010 from

Neill, J. (2010). Lecture Recordings. University of Canberra.

Rathunde, K. (2003). A comparison of Montessori and traditional middle schools: Motivation, quality of experience, and social context. The NAMTA Journal 28, 12-52.

Rathunde, K., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2005). Middle school students' motivation and quality of experience: A comparison of montessori and traditional school environments. American Journal of Education, 111, 341-371 Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding Motivation and Emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Vance, T. L. (2003). An exploration of the relationship between preschool experience and the acquisition of phonological awareness in kindergarten. Retreived September 17, 2010 from

Goal Setting and Goal Striving Summary[edit]


(Derived from Reeve, 2009)

  • Cognitions are mental events including beliefs, expectations, goals, plans, judgments etc
  • The topic comprises three key areas including plans, goal setting and goal striving
  • Each facet is crucial in the successful accomplishment of a task


- Plans arise from incongruity between a present and ideal state which produces psychological discomfort and subsequently motivates us to formulate and act on a plan of action to remove the incongruity so that the present and ideal state match

- Incongruity (provides energy), plan (provides direction)

- TOTE model: test (hair style) --> operate (comb it) --> test (its ok now) --> exit (ideal state)

- Thus, you are testing the similarity between your present and ideal state

- You keep testing, operating and retesting until you are happy

- It happens for short-term events (reading this chapter) Nuvola apps bookcase.svg and long term events (career path) Exquisite-amorok.png

- However, this model is quite fixed, static and mechanical

- Incongruity between present-ideal states does not automatically instigate behaviour, but rather corrective motivation (activates a decision-making process so you choose the most adaptive option e.g. comb hair, haircut, leave it)

- Corrective Motivation: devise plan (I want nice hair) --> behavioural options (hair dresser, buy products, leave hair) --> (problems – situational constraints e.g. no hair dyer or personal inadequacies e.g. lack skill) --> attempts to translate plans into action --> emotions --> evaluate/revise

Plans formulated in an attempt to reduce incongruity between the nation's present and ideal state..


- Extent of difference between present and ideal state

- It is the discrepancy, rather than the ideal state per se, that has motivational properties

- What can I do to increase motivation? Create a present state-ideal state discrepancy

- Types of discrepancy: discrepancy reduction (the environment signals how closely one’s present and ideal state match e.g. GPA needed to get into honours) and discrepancy creation (a ‘feed forward’ system where a person proactively sets a higher future goal e.g. I will aim to now increase my GPA from 5.5 to 6.0)

- Discrepancy reduction: plan-based corrective motivation, reactive, deficiency overcoming, feedback system

- Discrepancy creation: goal-setting motivation, proactive, growth pursuing, feed forward

Goal Setting[edit]

- A goal is whatever an individual is striving to accomplish

- Goals generate motivation by focusing people’s attention on the discrepancy between present and ideal state (goal-performance discrepancy)

Goal-Performance Discrepancy

  • People with goals outperform those without goals
  • The same person performs better if they set a goal than if they don’t
  • Goal difficulty: easy goals stimulate little effort, medium goals moderate and difficult goals high effort
  • Goal specificity: vague goals are ambiguous but specific goals draw attention to what one needs to do, reduces uncertainty and stabilises performance
  • Only goals that are difficult (energise motivation – effort + persistence) and specific (direct behaviour – attention + strategic planning) enhance performance
  • Performance depends on motivation as well as ability, training, coaching and resources
  • So if you can’t reach your running ideal state with goals, then you may need ability help (instruction, practice, role models, feedback) or resources (money, tutors, equipment etc)
Goal setting creates the energy for motivated behaviour..


  • Feedback is a final crucial variable in making goal setting effective
  • Feedback needs to be timely, inform the person of the progress between present-ideal state
  • Feedback with goals produces emotional importance and involvement in the task
  • Positive feedback means you are reaching your goal and this motivates people to set higher goals (discrepancy creation)
  • Negative feedback means you are not attaining your goals and motivates people to try harder to reduce this goal-performance incongruity (discrepancy reduction)
  • Thus, feedback acts as the determiner of goal progress by informing you whether your performance is on track with your goals

Goal Acceptance

  • A final element for goal setting to be effective is goal acceptance
  • Especially when a goal is set by an external source, only internalised goals improve performance – goal acceptance breeds goal commitment
  • Factors influencing goal acceptance or rejection:

1)Perceived difficulty of the imposed goal: difficult = reject, easy = accept

2)Participation in the goal-setting process: coerced = reject, input = accept

3)Credibility of the person assigning the goal: trustworthy/supportive/expert/liked = accept

4)Extrinsic incentives: reward = accept and can overrule former three factors


EtruscanX-01.svg More about enhancing performance than enhancing motivation per se

EtruscanX-01.svg Works best when tasks are relatively uninteresting and straightforward e.g. adding numbers

EtruscanX-01.svg Goal setting does not enhance performance for interesting tasks e.g. quality of essay

EtruscanX-01.svg Overly challenging goals that exceed capabilities produce stress

EtruscanX-01.svg Difficult and specific goals also provide an opportunity for failure

EtruscanX-01.svg Controlling, difficult and specific goals can also reduce creativity and intrinsic motivation

Long-Term Goal Setting

  • Goal proximity affects persistence and intrinsic motivation
  • Lack of feedback and positive reinforcement can dissolve long-term goals
  • Often it is good to tackle long-term goals with a series of short-term goals
  • Short-term goals increase intrinsic motivation in uninteresting tasks
  • Long-term goals increase intrinsic motivation in interesting tasks
  • Long-term goals often comprise complex cognitive structures

Goal Striving[edit]

- The gap between goal-directed thinking and goal-direction action

Mental Simulations: Focusing on Action

  • Focusing on the content of the goal (speaking fluent French) interferes with goal attainment
  • Focusing on the process of goal striving (attend classes, practise) facilitates goal attainment
  • Once a goal has been set, it does not automatically translate itself into effective performance
  • Visualising fantasies of success (wishful thinking) do not produce productive behaviour
  • Thus, you should focus on planning and problem solving – the process of goal attainment

Implementation Intentions

  • Partly why people fail to achieve goals is because they fail to act on the goals they set for themselves
  • This may be due to distractions when trying to get started, difficulties and setbacks which interfere with persistence and interruptions which prevent resuming the task
  • Must decide on the how, when, where and how long of a goal-directed action – thus, develop specific action plans to counter problems that will occur along the way
  • Developing implementation intentions triggers motivation when a situational cue is salient (e.g. 8am = morning run) which facilitates automatic goal-directed action
  • Implementation intentions can improve procrastination to start and failure to finish a goal

Goal Pursuit: Getting Started

  • Implementation intentions set up associations between an environment and behaviour and result in automatic habits e.g. library/wed/10am – study

Goal Pursuit: Persisting and Finishing

  • Implementation intentions, once set, facilitate persistence by helping people to anticipate forthcoming difficult and subsequent ways to combat problems
  • Implementation intentions encourage people to focus and avoid distractions
  • Implementation intentions help people to finish up uncompleted goals
Goal striving provides the direction for motivated behaviour..


I quite enjoyed reading this chapter as it enabled me to crystallize the concepts behind goal theories, particularly because the content overlapped with many of the management theories I've learned about. I think attaining knowledge has always triggered a surge of motivation in me that always falls flat because I don't exactly know what to do with it. So becoming consciously aware of the necessities of effective goal setting and striving has given me an understanding of past successes and failures, and more importantly, how I will conduct myself in future. For instance, learning about the concepts and benefits behind yoga has always interested me and I've wanted to become proficient 'yogera', but because I never set out any clear goals or implementation intentions, it has only ever been a visualised fantasy (until last week when I was proactive and sought out a venue, time and date to attend and did just that!). Conversely, I've also been fascinated by different cultures and looking back now, I can see how I actively set out goals (I want to do volunteer work at an orphanage in Kenya) and implementation intentions (Booking an appointment with a travel agency, determining how much and the time frame for saving money, locking in a deposit etc) which subsequently enabled me to fulfil that goal. Similarly, in future I will aim to implement these concepts - and just for a change instead of my usual rambling reflections, I thought a concise personal example of a future goal may suffice!

The book I plan to buy on the 1st January 2011 from the coop bookshop at UC AlthepalHappyface.png..!
Sequential Steps within the Goal-Setting Process Example
1. Specify the objective to be accomplished Be able to speak a foreign language
2. Define the goal difficulty (abilities, experience, access to resources) Learn the basic vocabulary and writing of French
3. Clarify the goal specificity Attain basic knowledge within a term
4. Specify the time span when performance will be assessed Take a French test at the end of the term
Sequential Steps within the Goal-Striving Process Example
5. Check on goal acceptance Am I doing this because I want to and with intrinsic motivation?
6. Discuss goal-attainment strategies Enrol in a course, set aside daily practice time, converse in French with a friend
7. Create implementation intentions Monday night course at 8pm
8. Provide performance feedback Tutor feedback

From force of habit, I wanted to finish this chapter summary off with a quote. I stumbled across a quote which made me ponder the purpose of goals and perhaps somebody could provide their insight if the motivation strikes...

Any person who selects a goal in life which can be fully achieved, has already defined his own limitations

~Cavett Robert
retrieved from

In one sense this quote frustrates me because I feel it implies that fully achieving something is not enough. For example, receiving full marks on an essay would be undesirable because there is always one more point you could have included. Not allowing the allocation of full marks on an essay does seem reasonable in the sense that knowledge is forever evolving and sentence structure/writing fluency etc can never be perfect. However, I think always aiming for something that is beyond your reach can be detrimental. If a student was to fulfil the marking criteria, why not reward them full marks? Why not mark essays out of 95 if reaching 100 is impossible? In the bigger scheme of things, I think unrealistic goals are part of the reason why Western society never seems to have enough or be content with their current situation. People always want something that is out of their reach and when they don't attain the goal, poor psychological well-being is the result. I think fully achieving a goal should be something to relish and celebrate. If you can attain that, by all means set a higher one. Besides, if you are always striving for something that you know you can't fully achieve, won't it be slightly disappointing every time you 'nearly' accomplish something? Anyway...just a thought!


Neill, J. (2010). Lecture Recordings. University of Canberra.

Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding Motivation and Emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Personal Control Beliefs Summary[edit]


(Derived from Reeve, 2009)

  • Our expectancies of what will happen and our coping ability have important motivational implications
  • To an extent, environments are predictable and people are able to exert control over these aspects of the environment
  • People exercise personal control over their environments when they feel they have the ability to influence the environment and the belief that the environment will be favourably responsive
  • Strength of personal control depends on the strengths of one’s expectancies which is determined by past experiences and personal resources to predict what will happen and how well they will cope

Types of Expectancy

1. Efficacy Expectation The behaviour – Can I do it? If I can attend the gym 3 times a week..

2. Outcome Expectation The outcome – Will it work? Then I will become fitter..


Efficacy expectations: can I perform well on this particular task?

  • Self-efficacy: the capacity to use one’s personal resources well under diverse and trying circumstances (ability – what skills you have, self-efficacy – whether you optimally use these skills)
  • The opposite of self-efficacy is doubt and this interferes with effective thinking, planning and decision making to cause anxiety, confusion, arousal, tension and distress that can impair performance e.g. driving performance under difficult conditions
  • Thus, self-efficacy is the motivational force behind optimising one’s abilities
  • Knowing someone’s self-efficacy vs doubt in coping with a task's demands can subsequently predict their motivation to approach or avoid the task e.g. don’t think you have the skills to cope on a date = avoidance motivation

You need both the ability and the efficacy to optimally perform...
Sources of Self-Efficacy

1. Personal Behaviour History: Past experiences/memories of trying to execute that behaviour

  • A strong sense of self-efficacy is difficult to alter – whether it is positive or negative
  • If you lack experience – it is important to approach it confidently as initial experiences have a big impact on future efficacy
  • Most influential source

2. Vicarious Experience: Watching someone perform an action you are about to perform

  • Others performance dictates your own – ‘if they can do it, so can I’ or ‘if they can’t do it, how can I? (particularly if model and you have similar competencies and if the model is a novice)

3. Verbal Persuasion: Pep talks shift a performer’s attention from sources of inefficacy to sources of efficacy

  • Depends on contradictory direct experiences, limitations within the mind and credibility, expertise and trustworthiness of the persuader
  • Verbal pesuasion is a temporary motivational force – ‘one more try’

4. Physiological State: Physiological states can warn the performer that the current task exceeds their capacity to cope

  • These states are more present during inital attempts at a task
  • Efficacy relating to experienced tasks can override physiological states e.g. ‘I’m pumped for this’

Arrows-transfer.pngBut it is the reflective thought, importance of sources and the selected information that one attends to that ultimately is integrated to determine overall efficacy

The effects of low self-efficacy...

Self-Efficacy Effects on Behaviour

For example, a high self-efficacy would affect:

  • Choice of activites –complete assessments, devise study plans, meet deadlines
  • Selection of environments – study efficiently, attend tutorials/lectures, join study groups
  • Effort – put considerable effort into completing quality assessments, participation etc
  • Persistence – persist despite work commitments, bombing out on an initial exam
  • Thinking – retain analytical and efficient thinking during stressful exams
  • Decision-making – make an educated judgment about time limits during an exam
  • Emotionality – visualise the enjoyment/success of constructing an e-portfolio

Weak self-efficacy --> Avoid activities --> Not exposed to activities --> Retarded personal development --> Increases self-doubt --> Not exposed to expert models/instruction --> Vicious cycle


  • Self-efficacy can be acquired and changed through personal behaviour history, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion and physiological states
  • Positive self-efficacy underlies personal empowerment
  • Empowerment: posessing the knowledge, skills and beliefs that allow people to exert control over their lives
  • It enables you to translate knowledge and skills into effective performance and exert control over intrusive negative thoughts
  • Empowerment can be taught through master modeling programs

Mastery Beliefs[edit]

  • The extent of perceived control one has over attaining desirable outcomes and preventing aversive ones
  • Do your actions control the environment? – thus, an internal or external PLOC
Inescapable shocks can trigger learned helplessness...

Ways of Coping

Arrows 12x12 e.svg Approach Vs Avoidance (interact or avoid problem)

Arrows 12x12 e.svg Social Vs Solitary (acting with a team or alone)

Arrows 12x12 e.svg Proactive Vs Reactive (take action before or after problem)

Arrows 12x12 e.svgDirect Vs Indirect (taking action yourself or getting someone else to do it)

Arrows 12x12 e.svgControl Vs Escape (take charge or avoid situation)

Arrows 12x12 e.svgAlloplatic Vs Autoplastic (change the problem or change oneself)

Arrows 12x12 e.svgProblem Focused Vs Emotion Focused (manage the problem or manage your emotions)

Learned Helplessness[edit]

  • Outcome Expectancies: will my behaviour give me the desired outcomes?
  • Learned helplessness: the psychological state that results when an individual expects that life’s outcomes are uncontrollable – one’s voluntary behaviour will not affect desired outcomes
  • Helplessness is learned, not innate – and once learned, it generalises across different situations and time after time

Components of Learned Helplessness


  • The objective relationship between a person’s behaviour and the environment’s outcomes (ranges on a continuum from uncontrollable to controllable)
  • To what extent does a person’s voluntary, strategic behaviour influence outcomes?


  • Coping behaviour exists on a continuum from being very passive to very active


  • The margin of error between objective truth and subjective understanding
  • Biases: illusion of control e.g. I didn’t get the flu because I don’t get sick
  • Attributions: why we do/do not have control e.g. My health is superior
  • Expectancies: past experiences e.g. I haven’t gotten the flu in the past

Effects of Helplessness

1. Motivational Deficits

  • Decreased willingness to try
  • Won’t emit voluntary coping responses

2. Learning

  • A pessimistic frame of mind which prevents people from learning and re-learning new responses and effective coping

3. Emotional Deficits

  • People automaticaly take on mobalized emotion (apathy, depression) once they ‘learn’ that nothing can overcome, escape or counteract the problem

Explanatory Style

Nuvola apps korganizer-NO.png Pessimistic Explanatory Style

  • Stable and uncontrollable attributions
  • Passive, fatalistic coping styles
  • Decreased effort, deteriorating performance, physical illness, social distress, depression etc

Nuvola apps korganizer.pngOptimistic Explanatory Style

  • Unstable and controllable attributions
  • Attribute success internally and failure externally


  • Uncontrollability must coincide with unpredictability to cause learned helplessness
  • People can sometimes be motivated to remain passive in order to avoid worse outcomes which can thus be a strategic coping response in some circumstances
  • It might be a physiological rather than a cognitive phenomenon – a traumatic and inescapable experience results in a significant decline in the neurotransmitter norepinephrine

Reactance Theory

  • Reactance: the psychological and behavioural attempt at re-establishing an eliminated or threatened freedom e.g. not having to do the dishes when asked
  • Reactance enhances performance, helplessness undermines it
  • A reactance response precedes a helplessness response
  • Reactance occurs with perceived control, helplessness is rooted in absence of control

Threatening situation --> Reactance --> Excessive uncontrollability --> Learned helplessness



One interesting point proposed by Reeve (2009) is the idea that depressed individuals are not necessarily more prone to learned helplessness, but that the mentally well sometimes possess more personal control than they actually have. I found this interesting because it raises the question of whether depressive people are more realistic because they have more accurate perceptions of themselves and the world? For instance, does this suggest that depressive people have a greater sense of private/public self-awareness or chronic private/public self-consciousness? Private self-awareness refers to the process of becoming temporarily attuned to personal aspects of the self by, say, recognising physiological states, while private self-consciousness refers to heightened levels of private self-awareness (Crisp & Turner, 2010). This quality enables people to adhere to personal standards of behaviour because they are more in touch with their values and present self. However, possible downfalls include intensified emotional states and responses as an individual is acutely aware of their physiological and behavioural states. Private self-awareness can also clarify knowledge about oneself as you focus in on internal events (Fejfar & Hoyle, 2000).

In regards to a person with depression, sustained private self-awareness would result in constant monitoring and evaluation of the self. Could this mean, for some individuals, that private self-awareness results in them being acutely conscious of their realistic attributes, abilities and achievements in life? For instance, is the person who has just been divorced, the one who missed out on another promotion or the person who repeatedly makes the same mistakes, illustrating learned helplessness and depression or psychological discomfort because they hold a realistic view of themselves that they didn't provide enough in their marriage, don't hold the abilities to reach their dream job or are trying to be something they simply are not? Furthermore, this process could be intensified by public self-awareness and public self-consciousness whereby these individuals are not only affected by self evaluations, but comparisons to others and dissonance if their personal views don't match social norms and desired social images.

It's by no means the most rosy outlook on individual functioning, but I think there are dangers of ignoring the possibility of realism or holding an overly high sense of personal control. At its most extreme, mistaken personal control has been associated with neuroticism (Strand, Reich & Zautra, 2007). Thus, if some depressed individuals are actually projecting negativity due to a realisation of under-desired attributes, abilities and achievements, are some mentally well individuals who utilise coping mechanisms such as self-serving bias, just naive to their actual capabilities? For instance, self-serving bias and self-enhancement aim to enhance self-esteem through focusing on positive qualities and attributing success to internal dispositions and failure to external dispositions (Crisp & Turner, 2010).

Alternatively, I can definitely see the importance of possessing an optimistic explanatory style. Although it is part delusional, optimism and personal control are functional assets because they enable people to distort reality in a direction that enhances self-esteem, maintains self-efficacy and promotes an optimistic view of the future (Reeve, 2009). Particularly in the face of cancer (Burns & Mahalik, 2006), mental illness (Calhoun, Dawes & Lewis, 1972) and old age (Ruthig, Chipperfield, Perry, Newall & Swift, 2007), an optimistic explanatory style is imperative for maintaining psychological well-being.

Unless you are prepared to give up something valuable you will never be able to truly change at all, because you'll be forever in the control of things you can't give up

~Andy Law
retrieved from


Burns, S. M., & Mahalik, J. R. (2006). Physical health, self-reliance, and emotional control as moderators of the relationship between locus of control and mental health among men treated for prostate cancer. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 29, 561- 572. doi: 10.1007/s10865-006-9076-1

Calhoun, L. G., Dawes, A. S., & Lewis, P. M. (1972). Corelates of attitudes towards help-seeking in outpatients. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 38, 153. doi: 10.1037/h0032422

Crisp, R. J., & Turner, R. N. (2010). Essential social psychology (2nd ed.). London; Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.

Fejfar, M. C., & Hoyle, R. H. (2000). Effect of private self-awareness on negative affect and self-referent attribution: A quantitative review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 4, 132-142. doi: 10.1207/S15327957PSPR0402_02

Neill, J. (2010). Lecture Recordings. University of Canberra.

Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding Motivation and Emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Ruthig, J. C., Chipperfield, J. G., Perry, R. P., Newall, N. E., & Swift, A. (2007). Comparative risk and perceived control: Implications for psychological and physical well-being among older adults. The Journal of Social Psychology, 147, 345-369. doi: 10.3200/SOCP.147.4.345-369

Strand, E. B., Reich, J. W., & Zautra, A. J. (2007). Control and causation as factors in the affective value of positive events. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 31, 503-519. doi: 10.1007/s10608-006-9028-7

The Self Summary[edit]

The Self: an individual's unique existence..


(Derived from Reeve, 2009)

As I will be doing 'The Self' for my e-chapter, I will keep this summary short and sweet.

  • Facets of Psychological Well-Being:

1) Self-acceptance: positive evaluations of oneself, accepts multiple aspects of self, accepts good and bad qualities, feels positive about the past

2) Positive Interpersonal Relations: close, warm relationships with others, concerned about the welfare of others, can compromise, shows empathy, affection and intimacy Nuvola apps amor.png

3) Autonomy: self-determination, resists social pressures, regulates behaviour from within, evaluates self by personal standards

4) Environmental Mastery: sense of effectance in mastering circumstances and challenges, controls main external activities, takes opportunities, seeks out right environments

5) Purpose in Life: a sense of meaning and direction in life, content with present and past life, holds meaningful beliefs, has aims and objectives for living

6) Personal Growth: improvement and growth, open to new experiences, self-actualization, changing in ways that reflect self-knowledge and effectiveness

These are all byproducts of other pursuits e.g. self-concept, identity, agency, self-regulation


- Self-Concepts: people’s mental representations of themselves

- Constructed from experiences and from reflections on those experiences

- The self-concept is constructed from feedback received in day-to-day affairs that reveal personal attributes, characteristics and preferences

Representations of the self: van Gogh's self-portrait..

- Self-Schemas: cognitive generalisations about the self that are domain specific and learned from past experiences

- E.g. Being ‘shy’ is both domain specific (relationships with others) and learned from past experiences (during group discussions, field trips and lunchroom conversations)

- The self-concept is a collection of domain-specific self-schemas

- Which self-schemas are involved in the definition of the self-concept are those life domains that are most important to the person

  • Motivational Properties of Self-Schemas:

1) Self-schemas direct behaviour Nuvola apps personal.png – we seek out feedback which provides us with consistent information about ourselves

- We try to preserve self-schemas that have been well-articulated and are subsequently resistant to contradictory information

- E.g. People who are extraverted will behave in an outgoing manner in order to receive social feedback which confirms this self-schema

- We endeavour to seek out consistent feedback because it verifies our self-concept – cognitively (seek to know yourself), epistemic (enables security that the world is predictable and coherent), pragmatic (comfort that people know what to expect from them).

- Conversely, when feedback is inconsistent, it produces motivational tension/emotional discomfort and we must perform some type of action to regain consistency.

2) Self-schemas energise behaviour – we generate motivation to close the gap between the present self and the ideal self

- E.g. A person who is currently a psychology student (present self) but has a desire to be a clinical psychologist (ideal self)

- Possible Selves: represent individuals’ ideas of what they would like to become and also what they are afraid of becoming

- Mostly social in origin as the individual observes the selves modelled by others

- Possible selves are also formed in an attempt to avoid unsuccessful role models

- Our future self energises effort and persistence by directing attention and strategic planning

- If we receive inconsistent feedback about our possible (ideal) self we can either:

  • Reject and abandon the ideal or
  • Develop a possible self to strive for and effective strategies for how to get there

- The presence of a possible self creates a proactive motivation to develop the self in goal-directed ways e.g. I want to be a research psychologist, therefore my motivation directs me towards goal-directed behaviour such as attending all lectures

Mechanisms of cognitive dissonance..

Cognitive Dissonance

- Cognitive Dissonance: when beliefs about who the self is and what the self does are inconsistent (believing one thing, doing another)

- Arises when we feel incompetent, immoral or unreasonable

- If the inconsistency is intense enough, it produces motivational properties and the person seeks ways to eliminate or reduce the psychological discomfort Nuvola apps core.png

- Dissonance-arousing situations:

1. Choice: when people have to make a decision between two difficult alternatives (however, people are often more sure once they have made a decision and will look to support it)

2. Insufficient Justification: how people explain their actions for which they have little or no external prompting e.g. why did I pick up that rubbish – add the belief that I am generous

3. Effort Justification: people have to justify why they put in effort, especially for extreme behaviours e.g. parachuting as part of recruits training, thus develop extreme beliefs. The attractiveness of a task increases as a direct function of the magnitude of effort expended to complete it

4. New Information: Newspaper Cover.svg new information can contradict your beliefs and people react to this by either changing their belief or trying to rationalise and prove their current belief

The influence of one's culture on self development..


- The way the self relates to society and who one is within a cultural context + social groups

-Identity roles motivate behaviour by approaching identity-confirming behaviour and avoiding identity-disconfirming behaviour e.g. how to behave as a mother

- Roles: cultural/social expectations for behaviour in a particular setting

- Whenever people participate socially, their first task is to define the roles for the self and for others - Social interaction can then proceed when all people agree on their identities within the situation

- Identity-Confirming behaviours: identities direct behaviour and behaviours maintain and confirm identity

- Although we possess a wide range of potential behaviours, we tend to exhibit predictable and appropriate behaviours depending on the situation and identity

- Thus, to motivate a type of behaviour, a coach could put a particular athlete in the role of team captain or coach for the day to make them take on that identity and the subsequent qualities

- Identity-Restoring behaviours: when people act in identity-inconsistent ways (mother scolds child) they can restore their identity through restorative behaviours or emotional displays (nurture)

- People exhibit strategic emotional displays to try restore their identity, especially when in front of people e.g. people who have done a bad thing but want to appear good will go out of their way to look really remorseful so their image isn’t tainted


- Action and development from intrinsic motivation

- We are born with rudimentary, non-language-based self that is characterized by inherent needs, developmental processes, preferences and capacities for interacting with the environment

- We eventually go from being dependent on others to autonomous to fully functioning

- Thus, our intrinsic motivation and psychological needs propel us to pursue our interests, seek out environmental challenges, exercise our skills and develop our talents

- Differentiation: expands and elaborates the self into an ever-increasing complexity e.g. when you take an interest in your hobby such as dance

- Integration: synthesized that emerging complexity into a coherent whole to form a single self e.g. when you integrate self-schemas, identities, interests etc

- Self-concordant goals are goals which are concordant with their core self – they emanate from the core self’s needs, interest and preferences

- Self-concordant goals generate and sustain greater effort and agency than self-discordant goals which are based on extrinsic values such as money, popularity or fame Featured Article Star.svg

Self-Regulation: Forethought: goal setting and strategic planning + Self-reflection: self-monitoring (quality of performance) and self-evaluating (judgement on progress) based on performance, obstacles, distractions and interruptions


Neill, J. (2010). Lecture Recordings. University of Canberra.

Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding Motivation and Emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Nature of Emotion Summary[edit]

Emotions trigger feelings, motivational states and behavioural reactions..

What is an Emotion[edit]

(Derived from Reeve, 2009)

  • Emotions trigger feelings, motivational states and behavioural reactions
  • Part subjective feelings such as anger which is rooted in cognition
  • Part biological reactions which trigger energy-mobilising responses to prepare you to react
  • Part purposive because they energise and direct behaviour and are necessary for successful functioning
  • Part social phenomena because emotions convey the quality and intensity of what we are experiencing
  • Emotions are short-lived, feeling-arousal-purposive-expressive phenomena that help us adapt to the opportunities and challenges we face during important life events
  • It is a coordinated, synchronized process involving these four components
  • Emotions are one type of motive
  • Emotions also serve as a monitor for how well or poorly personal adaptation is going
  • Emotions reflect our current status in life – whether we are satisfied or frustrated
  • Positive emotions drive motivated action Blue check.svgwhile negative emotions inhibit further motivated action X Red.svg
Basic emotions are argued to originate from a biological influence such as fear displayed by this cat..

What causes an emotion?[edit]

  • Significant life events trigger cognitive and biological processes which stimulate the four components
  • Cognitive Argument: individuals cannot respond emotionally unless they first cognitively appraise the meaning and personal significance of an event

e.g. nothing triggers emotions unless you attribute certain meaning to an event including good/bad, ability to cope with event and moral/immoral

e.g. attribution theory

  • Biological Argument: bodily mechanisms trigger emotions such as subcortical neural activity or spontaneous facial expressions

e.g. baby expresses automatic anger in response to pain despite cognitive abilities

e.g. feeling sad before reasoning why you feel like that

e.g. emotional states are often hard to verbalise because they come from a non-cognitive origin

e.g. emotional states can be induced by non-cognitive procedures such as facial musculature

e.g. emotional states can occur in both infants and animals who lack cognitive abilities

  • Two-systems view: we have two synchronous systems that activate and regulate emotion – one is an innate, spontaneous, physiological system that reacts involuntarily to emotional stimuli – the other is an experience-based cognitive system that reacts interpretively and socially
Finer emotions are argued to originate from a cognitive-socio-cultural influence such as the cone of shame!!

How many emotions are there?[edit]

1) Biological Perspective

- 2 emotions: opponent-process theory e.g. fear vs euphoria

- 3 emotions: BAS, flight/fight, BIS systems e.g. joy, anger/fear, anxiety

- 4 emotions: neuroanatomical pathways in the limbic system e.g. fear, rage, panic, expectancy

- 4 emotions: attainment, loss, obstruction, uncertainty e.g. happiness, sadness, anger, fear

- 6 emotions: distinct patterns of neural firing e.g. interest, fear, surprise, anger, distress, joy

- 6 emotions: universal facial expressions e.g. fear, anger, sadness, disgust, enjoyment, contempt

- 8 emotions: each corresponds to emotion-behaviour syndrome e.g. anger, disgust, sadness, surprise, fear, acceptance, joy, anticipation

- 10 emotions: differential emotions theory e.g. anger, fear, distress, joy, disgust, surprise, shame, guilt, interest, contempt

- Basic Emotions: anger, fear, disgust, sadness, enjoyment

- Each then consists within a family of related emotions

2) Cognitive Perspective

- A physiological reaction can produce different emotions depending on appraisal, language, personal knowledge, socialisation history and cultural expectations

- Believe that the number of emotions possible is limitless because people differ in how they interpret arousal (context, self, socialisation), impact on their well-being, the meaning and memories of situation they face and how they perceive the outcomes

- Emotional experience also vary widely due to language, socially constructed ways of acting and social roles

- Basic Emotions: anger, fear, sadness, joy, love

- People then learn finer distinctions within these emotions

Basic Emotions

  • Innate and universal
  • Occur in all people irrespective of age, gender and culture
  • Expressed uniquely and distinctively
  • Distinctive physiological patterned response

1) Fear

- Emotion related to danger and a threat to one’s well-being

- Physical or psychological

- Primes the fight or flight response

- Motivates coping behaviour and learning of adaptive responses

Fear has big eyes.jpg

2) Disgust

- Getting rid of or away from a contaminated, deteriorated or spoiled object

- Can be bodily, interpersonal or moral
A woman with a look of disgust.jpg

- Disgust functions as rejection

- Motivates us to avoid aversion and learn coping behaviours

3) Anger

- Arises from the belief that the restraint, interference or criticism is illegitimate
Angry tiger.jpg

- Most passionate and dangerous emotion

- Can clarify relationship problems, political agendas, positive cultural movements

- Can motivate productivity or violence

4) Sadness

- Most negative, aversive emotion

- Arises from separation or failure
Sad monkey.jpg

- Motivates behaviour which will alleviate the distress-provoking circumstances or withdrawal and helplessness

- Indirectly facilitates the cohesiveness of social groups and maintains productive behaviour

5) Joy

- Arise from desirable outcomes

- Makes us enthusiastic and outgoing
Supreme happiness.jpg

- Motivates us to engage in social interactions, counterbalances negative emotions and facilitates psychological well-being

6) Interest

- Most prevalent emotion in day-to-day functioning

- Interest flows between different thoughts, events and actions but is always present
Leopard walking.jpg

- Motivates us to pay attention to things that facilitate our needs or well-being. Also motivates exploration and attention to novelty, uncertainty, complexity, challenge, creativity, achievement

  • Negative emotions are triggered through threat and harm
  • Positive emotions are triggered through involvement and satisfaction

What is the difference between emotion and mood?[edit]

1) Different antecedents

- Emotions arise from life events and how we appraise these situations

- Moods arise from ill-defined and often unknown processes


2) Different action-specificity

- Emotions mostly influence behaviour and what actions we take

- Moods mostly influence cognition and our thoughts

3) Different time course

- Emotions are short-lived

- Moods are enduring

- Moods are the day-to-day feelings we experience which exist as an aftereffect of a previous emotion

- Positive and negative affect exist as independent dimensions – thus, you can experience both simultaneously

- Positive affect varies according to the sleep-wake cycle

- Positive affect: dopaminergic pathways, reward-driven + approach motivation

- Negative affect: serotonergic and noradrenergic pathways, punishment-driven + avoidance motivation

- Negative and positive affect do not impact on each other

- Positive affect often occurs subconsciously at a low-level and general feeling good state

- Moods don’t affect attention or behaviour because they are not as intense as emotions

- Moods affect information-processing flow e.g. decisions and thoughts

- Positive events usually trigger a positive mood e.g. act of kindness, receiving a lolly

- Benefits of a positive mood include increased likelihood of helping others, sociability, generosity, risk-taking, solve problems in creative ways, intrinsic motivation and effective decision-making

- Positive affect influences the contents of working memory by focusing on specific and positive memories, judgements and problem-solving strategies


Additional questions were posed in the lecture including:

* How can emotion be measured?

- I think emotion would be extremely difficult to accurately measure. It would be subjective in regards to the instrument or person conducting the experiment. For instance, individual perceptions of what constitutes a certain emotion, particularly complex emotions, is debatable (Baum & Nowicki, 1998). The expression of being astonished or astounded would be difficult to distinguish in addition to categorically different emotions such as anxiety, guilt or sadness which still share similar facial features. Furthermore, the intensity of the emotion would be difficult to determine. Emotion measurement may also be subjective due to the participant's response of behavioural demonstration. For example, humans have the ability to ignore or supress emotions due to conscious or unconscious processes. This could subsequently affect how they respond to emotion questionnaires or the observations of an experimenter (Robbins & Vandree, 2009).

- One instrument claimed to measure affective encoding and decoding of basic emotions is the Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy (DANVA2-AP) test. Participants are required to distinguish between happy, sad, angry and fearful emotions via posture, gestures, facial expressions and prosody. The DANVA2-AP claims convergent, discriminant and construct validity for both child and adult participants (Baum & Nowicki, 1998).

* How do emotions of animals & humans vary?

- The key difference between emotions is animals and humans is the type of emotions displayed and the effects of cognitive attributions (Rasmussen, Rajecki & Craft, 1993). Specifically, animals appear to be limited to simple or basic emotions, while humans develop complex emotions through socialisation and cultural context. Furthermore, humans can change or modify the intensity of an emotion depending on how they cognitively attend to the emotion. For instance, perceiving an emotion as bad could subsequently intensify negative affect.


* What are the consequences of emotions?

Coping Functions

- They help us deal with fundamental life tasks e.g. survival, reproduction, provide caregiving

- Provide us with automatic and engrained ways of effective responding

- All emotions are beneficial in some respect

- Emotions direct attention and channel behaviour to where it is needed

- Emotions however are flexible

- Emotions are therefore positive functional, purposive and adaptive

Social Functions

- Communicate our feelings to others – ‘this is how I feel’

- Influence how others interact with us – ‘this is what I am about to do’

- Invite and facilitate social interaction – ‘this is what I want you to do’

- Create, maintain and dissolve relationships

- Emotions can be functional and dysfunctional

- Thus, they need to be regulated and controlled to be used optimally

Detrimental Aspects

- Can motivate erratic, unproductive behaviour such as aggressive actions when angry

- If unmonitored, can influence positive or negative mood such as people who aren't fully aware of a prolonged sad state

- Cognitive attributions of emotions can intensify negative emotions such as assuming jealousy is an undesirable and unacceptable emotion when in fact it can be quite constructive

* How can emotion be changed?

- One technique to change emotions is through the use of metacognitive emotion regulation. It involves the utilisation of strategies such as deliberately changing thoughts or goals to reduce negative emotions (Davis, Levine, Lench & Quas, 2010). For instance, a person experiencing the emotion of anger may develop strategies such as systematically determining the cause of the emotion, outcomes which would reduce or eliminate the emotion and ways to prevent the emotion reoccurring in future. A person may then realise that they become angered by a particular work colleague's rude attitude. Subsequently, they may reduce the emotion by calmly confronting the colleague and expressing their distaste and eliminate future anger by ignoring or avoiding the colleague.

Papa Bear Angry.png DAZ Baby Bear.png Papa bear background cloths.png Baby Bear Happy.png DAZ Bear sleepy.png Baby Bear Sad.png

Feelings are much like waves, we can't stop them from coming but we can choose which one to surf

~Jonatan Mårtensso~
retrieved from


Baum, K. M., & Nowicki, S. Jr. (1998). Perception of emotion: Measuring decoding accuracy of adult prosodic cues varying in intensity. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 22, 89-107. doi: 10.1023/A:1022954014365

Davis, E. L., Levine, L. J., Lench, H. C., & Quas, J A. (2010). Metacognitive emotion regulation: Children's awareness that changing thoughts and goals can alleviate negative emotions. Emotion, 10, 498-510. doi: 10.1037/a0018428

Neill, J. (2010). Lecture Recordings. University of Canberra.

Rasmussen, J. L., Rajecki, D. W., & Craft, H. D. (1993). Humans' perceptions of animal mentality: Ascriptions of thinking.. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 107, 283-290. doi: 10.1037/0735-7035-7036.107.3.283

Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding Motivation and Emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Robbins, B. D., & Vandree, K. (2009). The self-regulation of humor expression: A mixed method, phenomenological investigation of suppressed laughter. The Humanistic Psychologist, 37, 49-78. doi: 10.1080/08873260802394533

Aspects of Emotion Summary[edit]

The following section provides a summary of:

  • Biological aspects of emotion
  • Cognitive aspects of emotion
  • Social and cultural aspects of emotion

(Derived from Reeve, 2009)

Biological Aspects Cognitive, Social and Cultural Aspects
1. Autonomic nervous system 1. Appraisals
2. Endocrine system 2. Knowledge
3. Neural brain circuits 3. Attributions
4. Rate of neural firing 4. Socialisation history
5. Facial feedback 5. Cultural identities

Biological Aspects of Emotion[edit]

Eustachi nervous system.jpg
  • James-Lange Theory

- Argues that bodily changes cause emotional experience

- Stimulus --> Bodily Reaction --> Emotion

- Assumptions: the body reacts uniquely to different emotional events and the body does not react to non-emotional events

- Criticisms: bodily reactions don't vary between emotions, emotional experience is quicker to take place than physiological reactions and thus, the role of physiological reactions is relatively minor and supplemental

  • Contemporary Perspective

- Has been guided by the James-Lange Theory

- Specific heart rate and skin temperature patterns have been found for anger, fear, sadness, joy and disgust

- Distinctive autonomic nervous system activity has also been found for anger, fear, disgust and sadness which enables motivation for adaptive behaviour

- Specific neural circuits have been proposed including Gray's BAS, BIS and fight or flight systems

- Specific brain areas have been argued to form the basis of particular emotions, such as the left prefrontal cortex being linked with joy and positive affect

- The rate of neural firing has also been associated with specific emotions, such as a slight increase triggering interest

- Physiological reactions do not directly cause emotions but facilitate and regulate them to enable adaptive behaviours

  • Differential Emotions Theory

- Claims there are 10 basic emotions which have unique feelings, expression, neural activity and motivational purposes

- Includes 2 positive emotions: interest and joy

- Includes 1 neutral emotion: surprise

- Includes 7 negative emotions: fear, anger, disgust, distress, contempt, shame, guilt

- Doesn't include emotions which are not basic or better describe moods, attitudes, personality traits, disorders or behaviour

  • Facial Feedback Hypothesis
ArtMechanic Rotation.gif

- Changes in facial musculature, facial temperature and glandular activity can trigger the subjective aspect of emotion

- Emotion can be activated via physical processes, such as scrunching the nose which indicates disgust and prevents substances from entering the nose - thus, an adaptive behaviour

- The weak version of the facial feedback hypothesis is mostly supported which suggests that facial feedback modifies the intensity of the emotion, for example, smiling when you are happy will exacerbate that emotion

- Basic emotion appears to be cross-cultural

- We can't really control the onset of an emotion, but we can control the duration and intensity of it

Cognitive Aspects of Emotion[edit]

Stuttgart Friedrichsbau Denkpartner.jpg
Congo Refugee.jpg
  • Appraisal

- How we appraise a significant life event implicates emotion

- How we appraise the emotion we are feelings motivates our behaviour - approach vs withdrawal

- For example, seeing a physical fight --> negative appraisal --> disliking emotions --> withdrawal actions

- People differ in appraisal depending on whether they see an event as relevant to their well-being, self-esteem, personal goals, personal threat, coping abilities etc

- Thus, complex appraisal involve the process of distinguishing between the primary appraisal of type of benefit (which lead to positive emotions such as having faith in a desired goal and hope) and secondary appraisal of the type of harm (which leads to negative emotions, such as immoral actions and guilt) or the type of threat (which leads to negative emotions, such as immediate danger and anxiety)

- Expectancy, responsibility for the event, legitimacy or fairness of the event and morality all play a role in the cognitive appraisal and consequential emotional experience

  • Emotion Knowledge

- What you know about your emotions

- The learning of finer, more complex emotions

- Comes about through socialisation and experience

- Specifically defines the number of emotions that a person can distinguish

- We create mental maps of these emotions and create associations between them and situations that produce them

  • Attributions

- People want to be able to explain life events to ensure stability and predictability

- An attribution is therefore how we explain a particular situation

- Different attributions trigger different emotions

- Primary emotions tell us whether the event was positive or negative and secondary emotions produce specific emotional states, for example, attributing a positive event to an internal disposition often triggers pride

- Thus, we appriase pre-outcomes (whether an event has potential benefits, harms or threats), outcomes (primary and secondary emotions) and post-outcomes (why a life outcome turned out the way it did)

Social and Cultural Aspects of Emotion[edit]


- The impact of our sociocultural context on emotion

- Researchers in this area argue that if your sociocultural circumstances changed, then so would your emotional repertoire

- For instance, Chinese culture sees love as a negative sad emotion - this is because arranged marriage is common and is designed to bind families together. Thus, if a family member was to experience romantic love for someone external to the parents' social network, the family would be losing their child in a sense

- Different environments also influence emotion, for example, your emotion and behaviour at a sporting event compared to an interpersonal argument with your partner

- Thus, people are socialised into appropriate emotion displays for different circumstances, such as social etiquette in Western society

- Emotions are often more present when we interact socially because they often create, maintain and dissolve relationships

- People can even influence our emotions indirectly via emotional contagion, such as feeling sad when you are comforting an upset friend

- We can also relive emotions through the social sharing of emotion, such as reminiscing about a happy time

- We are taught about emotions from a young age through emotional socialisation - thus, people's emotions are socially constructed via enculturation processes which inform us of the causes of emotions, how we express feelings and the labelling of feelings and behaviours

- The key learning areas include emotion knowledge (anger is a negative emotion characterised by tension, heated bodily reactions and betrayal of unfairness), expression management (boys should not cry in public because it is not masculine) and emotion control (you can contain your anger in a fight by taking deep breaths or looking at the situation from their perspective)

- Western culture socialises people into controlling their emotions in a public setting to behave in scripted and socially desirable ways. For example, many occupations require emotional control such as flight attendants and inpatient passengers, doctors and emotion-arousing patients.


Unfortunately our Q-sort pictures appear to be missing from wikimedia commons, but these pictures provide a similar portrayal of our ideas

Arrows 12x12 e.svg The tutorial this week firstly introduced us to the Q-sort, a research method used to study people's viewpoints. Within our groups we were required to sort, discuss and agree on a model of emotion families. The task proved quite confusing and complex from the very first word we addressed to the pile of words by the end of the process labelled 'too hard'! It was difficult to even know where to begin, for example, we started firstly by dividing words into emotion (e.g. joy) and non-emotion (e.g. insightful). However, we started coming across borderline words such as 'boredom' which seems more like a state but could also incorporate emotions such as drained or agitated. For instance, I often claim I am bored when the underlying emotion is frustration because I'm not used to being able to enjoy doing nothing or feel guilty for not doing something productive.

Emotion Q-sort Group 1 (2).jpg

Arrows 12x12 e.svg We also looked at breaking the words into positive and negative dimensions, but this also seemed to present some problems. For example, often one's sociocultural background determines whether emotions are viewed as positive or negative (Haga, Kraft & Corby, 2009). In Western society, I believe there is a social norm which classifies emotions like anger, jealousy and guilt with purely negative connotations. However, I think any emotion can always provide some positive function depending on how it is appraised and dealt with. For example, a partner who suspects infidelity in their partner is often classed as jealous and an overly protective person. Alternatively, the emotion of jealousy could positively indicate that the person cares for their partner dearly and, if possible, would prefer to address relational issues before a moral transgression takes place. Similarly, an anger outburst is often socially seen as personal weakness and an undesirable display of behaviour. Conversely, anger often triggers a breakthrough in reasoning and communication between two people if dealt with appropriately (Friedman, Anderson, Brett, Olekalns, Goates & Lisco, 2004).

Emotion Q-sort (5).jpg

Arrows 12x12 e.svg I also found the foreign words very interesting - the fact that the English language omits words with particular meanings is quite indicative of my point that emotion understanding is socially constructed and experienced within boundaries and limitations. For instance, the German word schadenfreude is the pleasure derived from others pain and misfortune (Leach, Spears, Branscombe & Doosje, 2003). I think Western ideals would frown upon such an emotion and subsequently may explain why it ceases to exist in the English language. Regardless, is avoiding 'negative' emotions or socialising people to suppress such feelings healthy? And could it possibly exacerbate the occurrence of such emotions? What are the consequences of appraising an emotion you are experiencing as socially unacceptable? Could this stimulate mental disorders? Could people who have an aggression problem be 'acting out' their label? For example, a child who is labelled as 'naughty' may subsequently demonstrate displays of aggression because that is how society sees naughty children.

Emotion Q-sort (6).jpg

Arrows 12x12 e.svg We ended up focusing on a blend of theories to determine our basic emotions which included fear, sadness, anger, disgust, surprise, interest and joy. It wasn't so much a well-thought out structure, but a gradual process as we progressed through the words. We didin't have time to construct a hierarchy of how closely each word was associated with the basic emotion, but we were able to see this process within other groups who created branches of related emotions. Other group models also highlighted additional basic emotions or dimensions including love or cognitive elements. Thus, emotion models appear to be determined by the boundaries that guide them.

Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you

~Roger Ebert quotes
retrieved from

  • Do emotions ever lie?
  • Can cognitions override your 'true' emotions to make you feel a certain way? For example, if you were jealous that a class mate beat you in a test, would a feeling of jealousy be your true emotion? Or could your cognitive appraisal that the standard cultural response is to be jealous dictate your emotion, thus making it somewhat contrived?
  • Alternatively, could it be that emotions don't lie but it's how we deal with them that determines our behavioural response? For instance, we could lust after someone but if we intellectually realise the person is incompatible it may allow us to dissolve the emotions. This leads to another question of which is stronger - intellect or emotions?


Friedman, R., Anderson, C., Brett, J., Olekalns, M., Goates, N., & Lisco, C. C. (2004). The positive and negative effects of anger on dispute resolution: Evidence from electronically mediated disputes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89, 369-376. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.89.2.369

Haga, S. M., Kraft, P., & Corby, E. K. (2009). Emotion regulation: Antecedents and well-being outcomes of cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression in cross-cultural samples. Journal of Happiness Studies, 10, 271-297. doi: 10.1007/s10902-007-9080-3

Leach, C. W., Spears, R., Branscombe, N. R., & Doosje, B. (2003). Malicious pleasure: Schadenfreude at the suffering of another group. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 932-943. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.84.5.932

Neill, J. (2010). Lecture Recordings. University of Canberra.

Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding Motivation and Emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Personality Characteristics Summary[edit]


(Derived from Reeve, 2009)

- Personality characteristics, such as extraversion or neuroticism, affect how we respond to situations and our levels of happiness, arousal and control

- Personality characteristics can provide one explanation for why people experience different emotions and motivations during the same situation

- Important to remember that most people don't fall within the extreme of any personality characteristic - i.e. most people are extraverted at times and introverted at other times


  • Humans are generally happy, regardless of situational factors
  • Humans seem to have a happy and unhappy 'set point' so eventually you return to the same positive or negative affect
  • Happiness is said to be as much in our genes and personality as it is in the events in our lives
  • Happiness linked to one's level of extraversion (sociability, assertiveness and venturesomeness) - this is because they are more sensitive to positive feelings and therefore approach and enjoy rewarding situations - they also possess a greater ability to experience positive emotions via the BAS system
  • Unhappiness linked to one's level of neuroticism - they have a greater capacity to experience negative emotions and troubling thoughts due to a sensitive BIS system - they are motivated to withdraw and avoid a range of situations
  • Two types of happiness: hedonic (a pleasant life, totality of enjoyable experiences) and eudaimonic (self-realisation, personal authenticity and growth, living one's true self)
The extraverted and the neurotic onion!


File:Blake Adams Entertainment Personality.jpg
This image stereotypically suggests high sensation seeking...
  • Incorporates processes that regulate alertness, wakefulness and activation
  • Includes cortical (brain), skeletal muscular (behavioural) and autonomic (ANS) motivation
  • Arousal is triggered by a stimulating environment
  • People engage in behaviour to increase or decrease arousal levels
  • People seek out environmental stimulation when they are underaroused
  • People try to avoid environmental stimulation when they are overaroused
  • Inverted-U Hypothesis:

- Optimal performance: moderate arousal

- Low arousal: boredom

- Moderate arousal: pleasure

- High arousal: stress

- Criticisms: descriptive but not explanatory and not applicable to every-day situations

- Sensation seekers is related to a high arousal need and positive reactivity when exposed to stimulating environments - they seek out new, exciting situations and accept the cost of risks to experience the perceived benefits - the biological component of this personality trait appears to be a low level of MAO which prevent the breakdown of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin

- Affect intensity: capacity to become aroused emotionally - can be generally intense or stable


  • Core elements include perceived control (beliefs about possessing the abilities to produce positive outcomes) and desire for control (level of personal decision-making, trying to influence others, leadership roles, overly prepared situations)
  • Perceived control requires the individual to be capable of obtaining the desired outcome and the situation needs to be somewhat predictable and responsive
  • Even when environments are somewhat predictable and responsive, individual differences in effort and action can relate back to perceived control
  • High perceived control: exert effort, persistence, concentration etc
  • Low perceived control: seeks out easy tasks, vague goals, few strategies, little feedback etc
  • Continued low perceived control can lead to learned helplessness
  • Perceived control is an antecedent for perceived competence, efficacy and ability
  • Perceived control can be derived from any capacity e.g. other people, luck, religious beliefs, the self etc
  • Perceived control affects engagement (effort exerted to gain perceived control - high engagement: persistent effort and positive emotion - low engagement: passive and negative emotion), emotion, coping and challenge-seeking
  • Desire for control also falls on a continuum - high levels indicate preference for personal decision-making, assuming leadership roles, disliking dependence etc, while low levels indicate avoidance of responsibilities
  • High levels are beneficial for challenging the self, maintaining effort, persisitence, self-enhancing bias and completing difficult tasks
  • High levels are detrimental because they create self-serving bias, goals may be too difficult, over-investment of effort, the development of an illusion of control and a higher risk of learned helplessness and depression when control is lost
  • It differs from perceived control because individuals want control over their fate irrespective of any control they currently hold
Perceived control and desire for control are often minimal during a visit to the dentist..
You must stop this interview now as I have come to end of my personality..

~Quentin Crisp~
retrieved from


Arrows 12x12 e.svg The tutorial this week involved a multiple choice quiz and an insight into our personality dispositions, namely, the extent of our sensation seeking desire. I found the quiz productive because the unit lacks an ongoing assessment of knowledge as there are no exams or quizzes (not that I am complaining). So I think this was important to give people an idea of how much information that have actually conceptually absorbed. The only surprise I found within the quiz was that rigidly monotonous environments can lead people to hallucinate! I think it's amazing that the brain can conjure up imaginary sensory input to defend against boredom. I never thought of boredom as an intensely aversive state but clearly boredom is an undisireable and unproductive feeling.

Arrows 12x12 e.svg The second part of the tutorial introduced us to the sensation seeking scale. It comprised a forced choice questionnaire with 40 questions designed to assess the level of stimulation an individual desires or lack of stimulation an individual can stand. For example, "I like wild uninhibited parties" or "I prefer quiet parties with good conversation". The scale asserts that four factors are illuminated from the questionnaire including thrill and adventure seeking, experience seeking, disinhibition and boredom susceptibility. Our class averages showned a reasonable spread of scores which provides some face validity for the scale. Within the scales I scored 9 for thrill seeking and adventure (I highly desire activities with danger and risk), 4 for experience seeking (I somewhat avoid new experiences), 5 for disinhibition (I show a moderate desire to disinhibit behaviour in social situations such as drinking or seeking a variety of sexual partners!), and 2 for boredom susceptibility (I'm comfortable with routine and dull people).

Arrows 12x12 e.svg I think these scores are somewhat reflective of myself, however, the scale appears flawed in numerous areas. For instance, each question consists of a forced choice answer - do you like wild or quiet parties? The questions offer the extremes of situations and therefore responses don't necessarily accurately reflect an individual's views. Many class members often stated that there was a time for wild parties and a time for quiet ones, both equally enjoyable. Furthermore, the connotations attached to the questions may sway responses. For example, what constitutes a wild party for one person (e.g. heavy alcohol and drug use) may not constitute a wild party for a more conservative person (e.g. crowded party).

Arrows 12x12 e.svg The questionnaire also asks participants to choose the response which best describes their 'likes or feelings'. I think this very much differs from one's behaviour (as we have learned in social psych, attitudes do not always predict behaviour). For example, I enjoy skiing and selected the "I think I would enjoy the sensations of skiing very fast down a high mountain slope", however, in reality I would probably not perform this behaviour despite the desire to do so. Finally, I think an individual's scores are context bound. For example, if I happened to be a heavy stimulant user, I would not be comfortable selecting this response in the questionnaire due to the influence of social desirability. Similarly, at times when I am feeling stressed or going through a difficult time, I would prefer friends who are reliable and predictable. Conversely, during periods of hedonic happiness and youthfulness, I often prefer excitingly unpredictable people. I think responses also vary throughout the lifespan, for example, I think I've become less sensation seeking in my mere 22 years and will continue in that direction as I age. However, in certain aspects I may progress in the other direction, for instance, I have begun to like experimenting with new foods when I have always in the past been a bland eater.


Neill, J. (2010). Lecture Recordings. University of Canberra.

Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding Motivation and Emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Unconscious Motivation Summary[edit]

Levels of Consciousness: The id is argued to energise behaviour, while the ego directs behaviour..

Psychodynamic Perspective[edit]

(Derived from Reeve, 2009)

  • Motivation can arise outside of conscious awareness and volitional intent
  • Psychoanalytic: strictly traditionally Freudian principles - Psychodynamic: unconscious mental processes but not constrained by all Freudian principles
  • Dual Instinct Theory: asserts motivation is regulated by impulse-driven biological factors. Two key factors included instincts for life (survival, self-preservation, pleasure seeking) and instincts for death (rest, inactivity, energy conservation). Thus, our id energises motivation while our ego directs motivation towards fulfilling socialised and biological needs. Contemporary thought argues that the theory is more psychologically, rather than physiologically, based and motivates behaviour due to actual-ideal discrepancies.
  • Psychodynamic approach: rather deterministic (biological + social urges cause motivation) and pessimistic (focuses on unfavourable human vulnerabilities) view of human nature. Four key postulates:

1) The Unconscious; much of mental life is unconscious

2) Psychodynamics; mental processes operate in parallel with one another e.g. want and fear the same thing

3) Ego Development; moving from an immature, socially dependent personality to one that is mature and interdependent

4) Object Relations Theory; mental representations of self and others guide an individual's social motivations and relationships

Sigmund Freud: founder of the psychoanalytic perspective..

The Unconscious[edit]

  • The unconscious is hidden from both private consciousness and public observation
  • Freud studied it via hypnosis, free association, dream analysis, humour, projective tests, errors and slips of the tongue

Freudian Unconscious

- Conscious: things you are currently aware of e.g. I am typing about the unconscious on the computer

- Preconscious: things you know but are not currently aware of e.g. I know my name is Rachel but I am not specifically aware of thinking about it

- Unconscious: inaccessible instinctual impulses, repressed experiences, infant memories, unfulfilled desires e.g. dreams

Adaptive Unconscious

- Enables an individual to perform well-known tasks on 'automatic pilot' but also absorb new information to perform spontaneous and accurate processes

Implicit Motivation

- Motivational processes that are indirect, implied or not well understood

- Linked to emotional experiences and measured indirectly - we automatically attend to environmental events that have emotional associations

- This commonly occurs when the environment offers opportunities to fulfil social needs such as achievement, power, affiliation and intimacy

- The conscious and unconscious can work in harmonious, productive ways when an individual is mindful of their unconscious emotions, thoughts and behaviours

Subliminal Motivation

- Subliminal messages can be recognised and understood in the unconscious, but they have no influence on subsequent thoughts or behaviour

File:Freud has an explanation.gif
Repression is argued to stem from unacceptable impulses from the id..


- Psychodynamics refers to the counter forces which result in internal struggles e.g. sexual attraction vs guilt or excitation vs inhibition

- Id: unconscious, impulses which demand instant gratification

- Ego: part conscious, part unconscious defences aimed at delaying gratification

- Repression: the process of forgetting information or an experience by ways that are unconscious, unintentional and automatic. The information forgotten includes the impulses and urges of the id which are often seen as contradictory of self-views and public desirability and thus are repressed

- Suppression: the process of removing a thought through conscious, intentional and deliberate ways. However, suppression is rarely successful and often results in thought obsession (rebound effect)

Ego Psychology[edit]

- Neo-Freudians saw ego as developing from learning and experience which enabled complex abilities (such as language, memory, intentions) and enabled it to restrain the id and adapt to the realities, demands and constraints of the world. Thus, the ego was autonomous from the id because it could learn, adapt and grow

- The ego is defined by its developmental properties including symbiotic (infancy: overruled by id), impulsive (early childhood: external forces, such as parental rules, control id), self-protective (middle childhood: anticipating rules and consequences guides behaviour), conformist (adolescence: conforming to group norms), conscientious (adulthood: an internalised set of rules curbs behaviour), and autonomous (motivation comes from within the ego and removed from id/societal pressures)

- Ego defends against anxiety and therefore comprises the motivational property of developing defence mechanisms to deal with id impulses (neurotic anxiety), superego demands (moral anxiety) and environmental dangers (realistic anxiety)

- There are 14 key defence mechanisms which range from immature and maladaptive to mature and adaptive. Denial and fantasy fall at the lower end or the spectrum whilst humour and sublimation (transforming impulses into productive energy) are the most adaptive strategies

- Studies show that individuals who exhibit immature and maladaptive defence mechanisms are likely to experience depression when they are faced with life stressors. Convesely, those who possess mature and adaptive defence mechanisms tend to avoid depression and negative affect in the face of life stressors

- Ego effectance: competence in dealing with environmental challenges, demands and opportunities. The ego therefore comprises motivational properties which enable an individual to interact more effectively and proactively with its surroundings

- Ego effectance energises motivation to fulfil social needs and continually seek out new and challenging interactions with the environment, particularly after successful previous interactions

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Ego development illustrates how motivation progresses from being influenced by id impulses, parental rules, predicted consequences, social norms and internalised values, to eventually acting from inward direction..

Object Relations Theory[edit]

- Mental representations of self and others guide an individual's social motivations and relationships

- 'Object' refers to what an individual desires to enable gratification. Often this involves attachment behaviour in infancy and the relatedness psychological need

- Therefore, the theory seeks to study how people satisfy their need for relatedness through their mental representations of, and actual attachments to, social and sexual objects

- It is proposed that a child's interactions with their parents can predict later attitudes and behaviour towards relatedness. Specifically, a caring, warm, responsive caretaker encourages secure and affectionate relationships whereas an unresponsive, neglectful and abusive caretaker promotes insecure and anxiety-ridden relations

- Mental representations are often classed within three dimensions: unconscious tone (benevolent vs malevolent), capacity for emotional involvement (selfishness/narcissisim vs mutual concern) and mutuality of autonomy with others


- Many of the concepts are not scientifically testable and therefore must be thought of as invalid until proven valid

- It doesn't hold much predictive power and therefore is difficult to illustrate applicability and productiveness in real life


For this reflection I thought I would detail some of the ego defence mechanisms outlined by Freud, as shown in Table 1.1

Table 1.1. Ego Defence Mechanisms

Strategy Example
1. Denial; ignore unpleasant external realities Some Jewish citizens are claimed to have adopted denial mechanisms because they remained in their homes despite the publicised extermination intentions (Freud, 1999)
2. Fantasy; using the imagination to counter frustrated desires Survivors of the holocaust were also claimed to have utilised fantasy, particularly in the concentration camps, to divert attention from their horrendous reality (Freud, 1999)
3. Projection; attributing one's own unacceptable desire onto someone else Miceli and Castelfranchi (2003) emphasise the social nature of projection as the user attempts to disown their undesirable motives, attitudes or emotions. A common example of projection can be seen when people frustrated with their self-concept project their emotions onto a third party, such as their partner, children, friends, work colleagues or pets.
4. Regression; reverting to an early stage of development when anxious or stressed Kilborne (1998) outlines how anxiety and stress often provokes child-like behaviour including baby talk, pleading innocence, striving for the sympathy vote or emotional displays.
5. Rationalisation; using logical reasoning to justify an unacceptable thought Utsey and Gernat's (2002) study demonstrated that counsellor trainees were more likely to revert to primitive ego defence mechanisms such as denial when they were faced with racially provocative patient situations. Conversely, experienced counsellors used more developed defence mechanisms such as rationalisation where they reasoned that automatic racial discrimination and anxiety with these patients was embedded in social phenomena such as ingroup bias or aversive racism.
6. Sublimation; transforming a socially unacceptable anxiety into a source of energy which is socially acceptable Interestingly, Baumeister, Dale and Sommer (1998) claim there is little support for sublimation. For example, they found no support for inappropriate sexual impulses being transformed into sources of energy such as creative or intellectual endeavours. Importantly, they note that this may be due to changing social norms in contemporary Western society where sexual exploration is not seen as unacceptable as compared to the culture Freud was exposed to.
America is a mistake, a giant mistake.

~Sigmund Freud~
retrieved from


Baumeister, R. F., Dale, K., & Sommer, K. L (1998). Freudian defense mechanisms and empirical findings in modern social psychology: Reaction formation, projection, displacement, undoing, isolation, sublimation and denial. Journal of Personality, 66, 1081-1124. doi: 10.1111/1467-6494.00043

Freud, S. (1999). Hilde O. Bluhm: 'How did they survive? Mechanisms of defense in Nazi concentration camps'. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 53, 123-125. Retreived November 18, 2010 from

Kilborne, B. (1998). Ferenczi, regression and shame. International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 7, 225-228. doi: 10.1080/080370698436718

Miceli, M., Castelfranchi, C. (2003). The plausibility of defense projection: A cognitive analysis. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 33, 279-301. doi: 10.1111/1468-5914.00218

Neill, J. (2010). Lecture Recordings. University of Canberra.

Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding Motivation and Emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Utsey, S. O., & Gernat, C> A. (2002). White racial identity attitudes ad the ego defense mechanisms used by White counselor trainees in racially provocative counseling situations. Journal of Counseling & Development, 80, 475-483. Retreived November 18, 2010 from

Growth Motivation and Positive Psychology Summary[edit]

Positive Psychology: Developing strengths, reducing weaknesses..

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(Derived from Reeve, 2009)

- Individuals have a natural tendency to be introverted or extraverted

- As individuals age, they are faced with biological influences and social pressures to be a certain type of person – often extraversion is favoured in Western societies

- Trying to defy biological temperaments (introversion) to conform to social norms (extraversion) often results in maladjustment

- Thus, if the essential core is frustrated, denied or suppressed, sickness results. Conversely, if the essential core is nurtured, appreciated and supported, health results

Holism and Positive Psychology[edit]

- Holism: asserts that a human being is best understood as an integrated, organised whole rather than as a series of differentiated parts – any event that affects one system, affects the entire person

- Therefore, motivation arises from the individual as a whole

- Stresses ‘top down’ motives which focus on general, all-encompassing motives which subsequently trigger specific motives

- Emphasises growth and self-realization

- Positive psychology aims to identify what contributes to well-being, optimism and resilience and nurturing communities


- Inherent developmental striving towards realising one’s talents, capacities and potentialities

- Characterised by autonomy (self-regulation) and openness (mindfulness)

- As illustrated by Figure 1.1, Maslow identifies five key needs; physiological (e.g. food, air, water), safety and security (e.g. free from immediate danger, adequate living standards), love and belongingness (e.g. social acceptance, relatedness), esteem (e.g. confidence, social status) and self-actualization (fully functioning individual)

- The first four needs describe deficiency needs as they are required for growth and development. Self-actualization is a growth need which provides the motivation to become what one is capable of becoming

- The needs run in a hierarchy, with the lowest levels (e.g. physiological) being the most urgent

- Individuals experience higher levels with increasing age

- Needs must be fulfilled sequentially from lowest to highest

- However, there is little empirical support and research suggests the most valid point in the theory is the dual-level hierarchy (deficiency and growth needs)

- Maslow estimates that less than 1% of the population ever reach self-actualization

- This may be because of unfavourable internal (e.g. back pain) or external (e.g. poverty) environments

- Alternatively, it may be our own fault as each of us fears our own potential (Jonah complex). This is because to possess true freedom and personal growth, one must face their insecurities and accept personal responsibility

Figure 1.1 Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Actualizing Tendency

- The collective purpose of maintaining, enhancing and actualizing the person. Behaviours which encourage self-actualization are listed in Table 1.1.

- An innate tendency which quietly guides behaviour toward potentials, particularly in the face of struggles

- The organismic valuation process is an innate capability for judging whether a specific experience promotes or reverses growth

- Thus, our actualizing tendency energies behaviour, while the organismic valuation process directs behaviour

- Self-actualization is a branch of the actualizing tendency – they are not synonymous

- People move away from their organismic valuation when they internalise conditions of worth and experience incongruence (denying or rejecting one’s full range of personal characteristics, abilities, desires and beliefs)

- To counteract this, Rogers emphasised the importance of unconditional positive regard – love and acceptance for who one is

Causality Orientations

- Autonomy causality orientation: individuals who rely on internal guides (e.g. interests, needs) to regulate motivation and behaviour – actions stem from a full sense of volition and internal locus of causality

- Control causality orientation: individuals who rely on external guides (e.g. social cues, norms) to regulate motivation and behaviour – actions stem from perceived incentives, rewards, social expectations and social concerns

- This links to self-determination theory where autonomy causality orientation is correlated with intrinsic motivation, identified regulation and positive functioning (e.g. self-actualization, ego development, acceptance, attitude-behaviour congruency)

Table 1.1. Behaviours which Encourage Self-Actualization

Strategy Example
1. Make choices which stimulate personal growth Choose challenging rather than easy tasks
2. Be honest Get in touch with your innate, true self
3. Position yourself for peak experiences Choose activities, occupations, hobbies that truly interest you and devote your time to them
4. Give up defensiveness Rid defence mechanisms which guard you from reality and instead become your ideal self
5. Let the self emerge Block out social influences and listen to your innate impulse voice as to what you strive for
6. Be open to experience Take in experiences with total absorption and excitement
Validation Seeking: Motivation for Quasi needs such as Family Standards, Peer Likeability & Competence
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Growth-Seeking Versus Validation-Seeking

- People subsequently often strive for either growth tendencies (learning, improving and reaching personal potential) or validation-seeking tendencies (meeting quasi needs such as personal worth, competence and likeability based on social interactions)

- Self-esteem often follows personal growth while mental health difficulties often develop from desperately trying to attain a high self-esteem – thus, it is better to focus on growth opportunities which will subsequently improve self-esteem

How Relationships Support the Actualizing Tendency

- Controlling relationships hinder the actualizing tendency while supportive relationships (warmth, genuineness, empathy, interpersonal acceptance and encouraging self-determination) promote the actualizing tendency

- The actualizing tendency thrives on ‘helping’ where interpersonal relationships enable a more mature, integrated and open self

- For optimal development, individuals still need to genuinely value relatedness to others and a true desire to respect, cooperate and improve society

- Learning should stem from self-discovery and interest, rather than being forced upon by a teacher

- Individuals need to be careful that they strive for self-definition more than social definition

Positive Psychology and Growth[edit]

- Positive psychology seeks to build people’s strengths and competencies through asking the question “what could be?”

- Thus, it falls on the assumption that good mental health is not merely the absence of mental illness but the possession of strengths, resilience and well-being

- Optimism: positivity – often neither realistic nor accurate but research shows it leads to a more worthwhile life with better psychological health, physical health and personal functioning – this is because it gives people a sense of hope and motivation to grow – it can be taught through positive thinking and cognitive strategies – overall provides a better way to cope and perform in life than pessimism

- Meaning: having purpose in life and integration with the world – meaning in life grows out of three motivational needs including purpose (linking activities to goals), values (internalising good values) and efficacy (sense of personal control/competency to believe we make a difference) – creating meaning from negatively perceived events is important to prevent mental illness

- Eudaimonic Well-Being: the experience of seeking out challenges, exerting effort, being fully engaged and experiencing flow in what one is doing, acting out of true values, feeling alive etc – motivational processes which lead to this well-being include self-actualization, psychological need satisfaction , positive self-functioning etc – important that an individual avoids over investment in wealth and materialism, focuses on secure attachments and health relationships and pursues self-concordant goals

- Therapy: yet to develop a structure intervention technique but includes methods of improving happiness. For example, writing a thank-you letter to a friend to show gratitude, writing down three things that went well in one’s day and the cause of each, deciphering the personal resources you possessed when you were functioning at your best and identifying and utilising your personal strengths

The Problem of Evil[edit]

- Humanistic psychology argues differing points of views about evil:

  • Firstly, that human nature is inherently good and that evilness is the byproduct of bad experiences, often during childhood
  • That human nature is both benevolent and malevolent and the reigning state is dependent upon an individual's value system and organismic valuation process

- Evil is claimed to arise form a person’s grandiosity and damaged self-concept which is often via the influence of poor cultural values

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- Classifying human nature as intrinsically good could be seen as narrow-minded because hatred, crime, prejudice and war have all persisted throughout history

- Many of the constructs lack operational definitions and are therefore difficult to research and validate

- It is difficult to determine what an individual really wants or needs by the actualizing tendency and also to distinguish personal values from social influences


An important application of positive psychology can be seen in the practice of solution focused therapy which was founded by Steve de Shazer. Solution focused therapy has demonstrated effectiveness in many domains from psychological disorders such as drug or alcohol abuse to everyday stressors such as career stagnation or relationship problems (Burwell & Chen, 2006). Seedall (2009) asserts that the therapy aims to fulfil the following criteria:

  • Identify the problem
  • Select attainable goals and strategies to achieve them
  • Aim to accomplish small goals at a time, rather than one big goal
  • Reassess and reevaluate goals to ensure success
  • Develop a positive thinking style and intrinsic abilities to counter setbacks

The therapy therefore aims to reduce psychological discomfort in patients by directly addressing the problems in their lives, ways to counter these problems and the development of a positive thinking style to buffer setback disappointment. The therapy is often brief, with some patients gaining substantial progress in only a few session, and is claimed to have a high success rate overall (Ferraz & Wellman, 2009).

Important aspects of the therapy include the development of a healthy, trusting therapist-patient relationship as this provides the foundations for goal setting and thinking mindsets. Furthermore, the therapist must be able to effectively display empathy, encouragement towards goals, a focus on developing patient competencies and realistic implementation, reevaluation and persistence towards goal attainment (Beyebach, 2009). One criticism of solution-focused therapy is the lack of attention toward the role that emotions play in developing positive thinking and goal attainment. However, current treatments now aim to incorporate the influence of emotions on individual treatment interventions (Miller & de Shazer, 2000).

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort..

~Herm Albright~
retrieved from


Beyebach, M (2009). Integrative brief solution-focused therapy: A provisional roadmap. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 28, 18-35. doi: 10.1521/jsyt.2009.28.3.18

Burwell, R., & Chen, C. P. (2006). Applying the principles and techniques of solution-focused therapy to career counselling. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 19, 189-203. doi: 10.1080/09515070600917761

Ferraz, H., & Wellman, N. (2009). Fostering a culture of engagement: An evaluation of a 2-day training in solution-focused brief therapy for mental health workers. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 16, 326-334. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2850.2008.01374.x

Miller, G., & de Shazer, S. (2000). Emotions in solution-focused: A re-examination. Family Process, 39, 5-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.2000.39103.x

Neill, J. (2010). Lecture Recordings. University of Canberra.

Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding Motivation and Emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Seedall, R. B. (2009). Enhancing change process in solution-focused brief therapy by utilizing couple enactments. American Journal of Family Therapy, 37, 99-113. doi: 10.1080/01926180802132356



My Motivation & Emotion Journey

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I have thoroughly enjoyed completing this learning activity and value the concepts I will take away. However, I think this picture sums up the frantic researching and wiki mishaps that I encountered along the way!

1. Why do we do what we do?

- We use many motivational theories to explain why motivation arises, persists and declines and the influence of contextual, social and cultural factors

- For example, why does someone study at uni? It may be due to intrinsic motivation (enjoyment, interest in subject), relatedness (social interaction), possible self (wanting to achieve a particular career), achievement strivings (desiring a certain level of intelligence/knowledge), external regulation (parental pressure) or extrinsic motivation (scholarship) among other things

- Furthermore, additional factors will affect our motivation to study including contextual factors (added pressure of maintaining a job), social factors (whether our parents studied, the type of peer group we belong to) and cultural factors (expectations for particular occupations can influence the motivation we exert to attain these goals)

2. Predicting Motivation: Identifying Antecedents

- Motivational theories outline how antecedents affect motivation

- For example, an individual’s motivation toward exercise could change due to antecedents such as environmental (home or public gym session), interpersonal (exposure to a highly competent gym goer/role model), intrapsychic (intrinsic motivation, level of self-efficacy) and physiological (illness, anxiety, food/water deprivation)

3. Applying Motivation: How do you motivate the self and others?

- Encouraging strengths through nurturing, supporting and developing motivational resources to improve functioning

- Reducing weaknesses by reversing motivational deficits which are hindering positive functioning

Some of the key points I've taken away include:

  • Motivation underlies all our thoughts, emotions and behavious
  • Motivation comprises both universal aspects (e.g. physiological or biological influences) and enculturated aspects (e.g. sociocultural, emotional or cognitive influences)
  • The quality of one's motivation (e.g. intrinsic vs extrinsic) matters just as much as the quantity (e.g. high or low motivation)
  • There are many fallacies about improving motivation, for example improving self-esteem (which is more an accompaniment rather than a causal factor), envisioning the outcome (rather than the process of attaining the outcome), trying to go against biological tendencies (such as introverts attempting to become extraverted) or trying to cure weaknesses (rather than encouraging strengths and personal growth)
  • Motivation is an intensely complex process which involves a unique blend of factors which produce individual thoughts, emotions and behaviours


Neill, J. (2010). Lecture Recordings. University of Canberra.

Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding Motivation and Emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.