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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.
Everytime I look at your picture James, I wonder if you pieced it out on a scrabble board and took a photo or did something fancy on the pc.

Starting my Motivation and Emotion E-Portfolio[edit]

First week of a brand new semester, my desk is neat and tidy, my books have that new smell and I'm about as sane as I'm ever gonna be. Over the next thirteen weeks my desk will slowly and magically accumulate every scrap piece of paper that somehow ended up in one of my pockets, books or notepads, my books will be dog-eared and note-ridden, and my sanity is likely to represent an incoherent, psychology obsessed nut-job.......bring it on!

Welcome to my e-portfolio for the University of Canberra, Motivation and Emotion unit. All the information here is taken from either the text book or unit lectures and tutorials, unless otherwise specified - see the unit page for details. I've never been good at keeping a journal, so my plan is to cover the main points from each week, throw in a few piccies, maybe add a link if I find something good, and offer my own opinion from time to time.

We start with an introduction to, and brief history of the study of motivation, get a little bit of wiki instruction, and then jump into the heart of the unit with all the interesting topics including the brain, needs, types of motivation, goals, the self, emotions, unconscious motivation and positive psychology. Let's get started shall we?! (NB. Because this isn't a formal essay I've taken the liberty of using abbreviations because it just reads better, please don't mark me down for that!)

Motivation begins with two main questions - What causes behaviour? and Why does behaviour vary in intensity? So what is motivation? Motivation is the combination of energy (intensity) and direction (aim) provided by the following four sources:

  • Needs - biological and psychological needs help to keep us alive, happy and healthy.
  • Cognitions - our thoughts and beliefs underlie our goals and self-concept.
  • Emotions - our reactions are guided by our emotions.
  • External events - consequences, rewards and punishments.

Because we are scientifically studying motivation we want to be able to measure it! How am I going to do that...hmm...maybe you can tell me how motivated you are...that doesn't seem particularly scientific. I guess we'll have to look for indicative signs of motivation through the following avenues:

  • Behaviour - level of attention, extent of focus, amount of effort and level of persistence.
  • Engagement – the intensity of behaviour, emotional quality and personal investment.
  • Physiological – brain activity, hormone levels, heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, pupil dilation etc.
  • Self-Report - subjective interpretations via introspection.

Like other scientific areas, motivation research begins with a hypothesis. That hypothesis is researched to provide data, and with any luck will lead to a theory that can be applied to real life. Motivations vary in saliency and intensity all the time, the dynamic nature helps us to adapt to changes in our environments by influencing the direction of our attention and prioritising our needs and wants. Hopefully I'm about to find out why my 7 year old son is super motivated to play lego and completely unmotivated to brush his teeth. I need to find out why I can't get him to brush his teeth, how I can change the situation and how I can get him to continue brushing once I've left the bathroom!

History's never the most exciting part, but I read it and I listened to the lecture about it so I'm going to summarise it and you're going to read it ok? Was that motivating?! How about I keep it brief then. Descartes kicked off the grand theories with his notion that free will differentiates humans from animals. Lovely idea, but philosophers aren't particularly good at answering questions, they're better at thinking up more questions. James and McDougal dragged motivation over to science with their mechanistic instinct models influenced by Darwin's theory of evolution and natural selection. Instinct theories lost control of motivation research when they started labelling just about everything as an instinct. Freud and Hull stepped up and introduced the Drive theories where motivation directs behaviours that maintain homeostasis. Freud's theory importantly identified that physiological needs must be psychologically recognised before they can lead to behaviour. Some aspects of drive theories are still used today but even these were problematic because not all motivated behaviour supports survival. I'm pretty sure there's no survival value in lego... So, with the Grand Theories not quite grand enough, motivation moved into the era of mini-theories and was divided into smaller areas and specific questions. Modern motivation research has moved from an idea of a passive individual to an inherently active one with fluctuating dynamic motivations, influencing cognitions and higher-order spiritual and growth motivations - sounds much more interesting doesn't it?

Wikipedia motivator

Introduction to Wikiversity and Unit Assessments[edit]

Thank goodness this weeks lecture provided instructions on the assessment items for this motivation and emotion unit! When I first looked at the unit outline and read about the textbook chapter, multimedia and e-portfolio I was pretty daunted by the idea, but it's turned out to be a fair bit easier than I thought it would be. Thanks James, I found the lecture and the cheat sheet most helpful :-) I'm pretty chuffed with my textbook chapter topic motivational toxicity. I'm planning to look at the neural structures and processes involved in addiction when motivation turns sour, although I haven't had much luck finding specific info...but I'm confident I can pull it together. The multimedia was probably the part that scared me most, but after the run through in the lecture it seems doable and I'm feeling much more confident about it now. Journal's have never been a strong point for me, too much of a perfectionist, I keep re-writing them to make them neater! But I'm determined to stick this out and put in my weekly entry...I've even added the e-portfolio entry to my weekly study list. I'm a list person, I have lists of lists so I don't forget what that list is about!! Also had the first of six tutorials this week which was interesting. Can't say I'm a fan of the 'getting to know you' activities. Sorry James, but please lose that thumb one in the future! I think it's always interesting to note the group dynamics and hear people's different thoughts and areas of interest. Looking forward to next weeks topic, I'm a fan of the brain!

The human brain in all its glory

Exploring The Human Brain and Sampling Physiological Needs[edit]

Into week 3 and focus is on the complexity of the human brain. We all know this is where the cognitive processing happens, but we probably don't pay as much attention to the motivation and emotion aspects. Cognitions, motivations and emotions all influence each other, eg. the physiological need triggers the psychological experience, which triggers motivated behaviour. Evolution-wise, The human brain has evolved around the animalistic brain, meaning we are influenced both by our primal animalistic instincts and by our higher-order needs and desires. There's 3 main principles of needs, cravings and desires:

  1. Specific motivations are generated by specific brain structures.
  2. Those structures are stimulated by hormones & neurotransmitters.
  3. Environmental stimuli (like tim tams) trigger those biochemical agents.

Motivation arousal and neural structures are split into approach or avoidance related, for instance approach guides us towards tim tams and avoidance steers us away from brussel sprouts. The neural structures of the limbic system, mid-brain and frontal cortex process and relay information related to arousal, incentives, emotions, moods and approach and avoidance motivation.

The four main motivational neurotransmitters are dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and endorphin. Dopamine generates good feelings, anticipates rewards and directs motivated approach behaviours, meaning over-indulging on tim tams may be partially blamed on dopamine. And for more dopamine information flick over to my wiki on motivational toxicity. The three main motivational hormones are the stress hormone cortisol activated by threatening events, sexually motivating testosterone and the tend and befriend oxytocin.

Physiological Needs[edit]

A need is any condition that is essential for life, growth and wellbeing - apparently not tim tams, but I think more research is needed. Physiological needs include, thirst, hunger, sex, breathing, sleep, homeostasis and excretion. These work in a negative feedback loop as follows, a need such as hunger appears through biological mechanisms, triggers the psychological drive to eat, which restores homeostasis, that feeds back to say to stop eating - unless one is subjected to interference by the availability of tim tams... But basically, motivational states drive us to reduce physiological deficits, and negative feedback systems maintain homeostasis. All this put together maintains health and well-being which leaves us feeling satisfied....and probably rather sick after a packet of tim tams.

Tim tams, God's gift to Australia

Thirst is a motivational state that is consciously experienced to get us to rehydrate. Water makes up two thirds of our body and is split between intracellular and extracellular fluid. A mere 2% drop in our fluid levels triggers thirst. The body has multiple negative feedback systems that signal satiety to stop us drinking more than is needed. But we humans are temptable creatures and external factors such as artificially added substances, beer, sweet tastes and drinking buddies are also influential - generally not in any good way.

Hunger is a more complex, dual regulation system that involves the short term blood-glucose system and the long term fat storage system (please be warned that pre-set levels of fat storage are not a good conversation topic around diet obsessed friends). Eating behaviours are also influenced by external and internal factors such as exercise, tim tams, dieting, boredom, friends, tim tams, availability & attractiveness of food. Spending too much time expanding our buttocks in front of the tv with a packet of chippies coupled with over-sized meals and too many sugary snacks leads to obesity via an imbalance between calorie intake and expenditure - no you are not just big-boned!

Variations in sexual motivation are due to multiple influences including hormones, external stimulation and cognitions. Theories suggest that while men are easily aroused and seek out youthful attractive mates in order to take their part in over-populating the world, women are more influenced by intimacy factors and seek mates that provide safety and support (and will pop down the shop at 10pm to get chocolate and wine - or maybe that's just me).

We all try to self-regulate our normal human appetites, take dieting as an example - one spends all that time counting calories, resisting temptation and exercising away flabby bits only to be ungraciously taken down by a slice of cheesecake... The best of intentions can be hampered by underestimating the sheer force of biological urges (and chocolate cravings), having inconsistent or unrealistic standards (I'm never gonna look like Britney Spears) or becoming distracted by tim tams, mmmm tim tams.

Psychological and Social Needs[edit]

Psychological needs come from an internal motivation for personal growth and development through interaction with the environment and other people. Motivation's organismic approach is based in 2 assumptions (1) people are inherently active, and (2) there is a reciprocal relationship between a person and their environment, motivation is both generated by, and acted on within the environment. Certain experiences involve and satisfy particular psychological needs leaving us feeling happy and improving our psychological well-being (running for me). The text focuses on Self Determination Theory and its 3 major psychological needs - autonomy, competence and relatedness. When these 3 needs are satisfied one is apparently strongly engaged, likely to be having a good day and psychologically healthy...although, I think I have those 3 under control and I'm betting there's a few people who'd beg to differ on the state of my psychological health!

Autonomy is our sense of personal control, and the regulation and direction over our thoughts, decisions and behaviours. Autonomous people display healthy motivation, strong engagement, growth, learning, enhanced performance and psychological well-being. But how autonomous we are is not completely up to us, it's also supported in varying degrees by external events within our environments, social contexts and relationships. There are 3 subjective aspects to autonomy:

  • A perceived locus of causality, I am responsible for, rather than a victim of, my actions and outcomes.
  • Volition, freedom to do things just because I want to, not because I have been pressured by others.
  • A choice of opportunities without obligation, however autonomy-promoting choices need to be personally relevant and without strings.
    Diagram outlining the outcomes from various levels of challenge vs skill

Some people can motivate others in autonomy-supporting ways. These people communicate and listen well, promote self-direction, and offer hints, encouragement and praise. How we relate to others demonstrates our motivational style which ranges along a continuum from highly controlling (using social influence and pressure) to highly supportive (valuing personal growth and valuing others perspectives). There are 4 elements to determining motivational styles:

  • Whether one nurtures intrinsic or extrinsic motivation.
  • Whether one helps to solve problems or criticises, bullies and shames.
  • Whether one promotes task value by explaining importance or demands unquestioning obedience.
  • Whether one acknowledges and accepts negative affect or bullies complaining into compliance.

I think I'm somewhere in the middle, I'd like to nurture intrinsic motivation, be supportive and helpful, offer explanations and patiently accept negative moods, but after the tenth time of telling my boy to put on his shoes because now we're REALLY kinda all goes out the window along with my sanity...

Our need for competence is fulfilled when we feel successful and capable enough to seek out optimal challenges that are moderately difficult and match our skill level. These sorts of challenges can instigate flow experiences, completely satisfying and totally engaging events. To feel competent we need a clearly structured task, to know that failure will be seen as an important aspect of learning, and positive performance feedback either from ourselves, the task itself, social comparisons or other people.

Couple of Bacteria

Relatedness is the need for human relationships, attachments and interactions on various levels, it's satisfied by forming quality relationships and positive social bonds with other people. What constitutes a quality relationship you ask - those where both people feel emotionally satisfied and each recognises that the other person truly values, supports, and cares for them (like owning a dog!). More satisfying relationships have a higher level of relatedness and a higher level of internalization, personally adopting the other person's values and ways (oh I am so not licking my privates or digging for bones).

Social Needs[edit]

Are individual preferences that emerge and change over time. These needs guide our situational reactions and are developed through personal experiences, socialization and development. Quasi needs are temporary, situational needs or wants such as money. They affect how we think and feel but they're more to do with the environment than the person. Quasi needs disappear once they're satisfied and are not needs in the true sense of being essential for growth and well-being.

"Man is not the sum of what he has but the totality of what he does not yet have, of what he might have." Jean-Paul Sartre.

The need for achievement is a balance between approaching success and avoiding failure. Individual standards of excellence are the basis for one's need for achievement, which is then socially, cognitively and developmentally influenced, resulting in the motivation behind our level of competitive success. Children tend to develop a strong need for achievement when they are taught to be self reliant, ignore failure, have high aspirations, have realistic standards of excellence, a perception of high ability and a stimulating environment. Goals can be divided into mastery goals and performance goals (see table). Mastery goals are the more productive option as they allow people to use adaptive strategies that enable them to work harder, persist longer and perform better.

Mastery Goals Performance Goals
Develop competence Prove competence
Make progress Display high ability
Self improvement Outperform others
Growth through effort & persistence Easy success

The Atkinson's theory of achievement behaviour predicts behaviour using a mathematical equation with the need for achievement and the probability of, and incentive for, success. I would think that anyone who spends their time turning things into mathematical equations probably has a high need for achievement themselves, or needs a hobby.
The dynamics-of-action model says behaviour is continuous and achievement behaviour is simply part of that. But of course models are never simple and must have big words. Therefore, behaviour is determined by previously rewarded events (instigation), previously punishing events (inhibition) and the dynamic nature of any activity (consummation).
And the integrated model has mastery goals and 2 types of performance goals - performance approach and performance avoidance. There's also 3 achievement-satisfying conditions identified in the text: moderately difficult tasks, competition to enable self-evaluation, and entrepreneur opportunities. (this must be the longest chapter in the world).

Affiliation is divided into a need for approval and a need for intimacy and based in a fear of rejection, disapproval and loneliness, the need for affiliation becomes greater when one is isolated and/or scared. In those situations, we seek out others as ways of reducing anxiety and receiving emotional support. Ah this is more interesting, people with a low need for intimacy spend less time interacting with others, are less satisfied with developing relationships, feel stifled and trapped by tightening bonds, and make less effort to maintain relationships. People with a high need for power want to control, impact and influence others by taking charge and being a forceful leader. Effective leaders however, have a high need for power along with a low need for affiliation and high inhibition (self control). High power needers want recognition and act in ways that get notice. They also tend to display impulsive aggressive acts, be more argumentative, drink more alcohol and use aggression to create the perception of power.

Oh yes! I've achieved completion of the chapter! I may go and share my sense of competency while I satisfy my social needs and my salient physiological need for a cold beverage *Applause* thankyou, thankyou.

Tutorial 2[edit]

The needs tutorial, we looked at Maslow's hierarchy of needs and the distinction between growth based needs and deficit based needs. We labelled the approach and avoidance motivation structures in the brain, covered neurotransmitters and hormones, physiological, psychological and social needs.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation and Goal Setting[edit]

Motivation does not always come from within, external events use incentives and rewards to generate motivational states, inducing behaviours that will either get the desired reward or avoid a punishing event.

Here's my idea of an incentive....

Intrinsic motivation internally drives us to do things just for fun or out of personal interest. Intrinsically motivated behaviours stem from psychological needs and lead to personal growth through optimal challenges. These engaging and satisfying activities tend to be more persistent and creative, and leave us feeling capable and competent within ourselves. Intrinsic motivation facilitates learning and flexible thinking, and increases happiness, well-being and a sense of purpose. Extrinsically motivated behaviours are influenced by environmental consequences and operant conditioning. External incentives encourage us to behave in reward-seeking or punishment avoiding ways. Amotivation literally means without motivation.

Positive and negative incentives are learned predictive cues. An incentive precedes a behaviour to direct approach and avoidance actions. For instance, the smell of baking is a positive incentive that tells me something yummy is available and attracts me to the kitchen so I may indulge myself! Consequences can be positive or negative, and reinforcers or punishments. Reinforcers will increase a particular behaviour while punishments will decrease it. Positive reinforcers and punishers add something, eg. rewarding good behaviour with praise, punishing bad behaviour with a smack. Negative reinforcers and punishers remove something, eg. avoiding a hangover by having another drink negatively reinforces alcohol consumption, or taking away a desired toy negatively punishes bad behaviour. Punishers may quickly achieve a desired outcome but aren't particularly effective at motivating others, they tend to damage relationships, model negative behaviour and generate side effects such as anxiety.

File:Cadbury Dairy Milk 2006.jpg
This is a commonly used reinforcer in my home, in fact, I think I need some reinforcement right now...
This is more of a long term goal of mine, being a student this goal may actually be more of a pipe-dream...
Getting my degree is a long-term goal that is regularly reinforced by assessment and unit marks.

Rewards are different to reinforcers, they are given in exchange for achievement but may not increase a behaviour. Rewards may even undermine intrinsically motivated behaviours by gradually increasing an external locus of control which interferes with autonomy and self regulation. Rewards may also interfere with learning by distracting attention and resulting in reward-dependent behaviours. In particular, expected rather than unexpected rewards, and tangible (bribes) rather than verbal (praise) rewards, tend to decrease intrinsic motivation.
But rewards have their useful aspects too, they're handy tools for increasing low-interest behaviours such as getting kids to clean their room. Hence, rewards can work to increase desirable behaviours and to congratulate a job well done, thereby increasing feelings of competence and autonomy and increasing intrinsic motivation.

Cognitive Evaluation Theory states that rewards can be used either to control behaviours influencing autonomy, or to provide information influencing competence. Cognitive evaluation theory predicts the effects of extrinsic events on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation by their influence on competency and autonomy needs. (What a mouthful!)

  • Rewards that encourage an external locus of control will decrease intrinsic motivation, whereas those that encourage an internal locus of control will increase intrinsic motivation.
  • Rewards that increase feelings of competence will also increase intrinsic motivation.
  • If a reward provides information to increase competence it will enhance intrinsic motivation; but if it controls behaviour it will promote extrinsic motivation, undermining autonomy, competence and intrinsic motivation.

Motivating others to do boring tasks can be supported by breaking it down into smaller goals, being creative with the task or using imagination, playing music the person likes, or performing the task with company. Explaining why a boring task is important may help increase the other person's level of effort and engagement, explanations identify task value and provide the opportunity to internalise that value. I explain to my kids until I'm blue in the face that if they don't brush their teeth their breath will smell as foul as the cats breath does....they don't care. Rewarding them with lollies would work, but would also defeat the purpose..

Goal Setting and Goal Striving[edit]

Goal achievement takes us into the cognitive sources of motivation, or the cognitive processes behind the actions. We know how things are right now (present state) and how we want them to be (ideal state), when our present state and our ideal state don't match we have a discrepancy. That discrepancy motivates us to reduce the gap between the states, usually starting with a plan and the TOTE model - test, operate, test, exit, or compare, act, compare again, exit when happy. There's 2 types of discrepancy motivation, reducing an existing gap between present and ideal states (Oh god I'm so fat, I have to lose 20 kg's or I swear I'll just die!), or creating a new one by setting future goals (like graduating with a degree).

A goal is anything that you want to accomplish. Setting goals is a great way to generate motivation and energy, direct attention, and help work through boring tasks. The most effective goals are moderately easy to achieve, have potential personal benefits, and are self-set, negotiated, or set by someone we trust. Goals that are too hard to achieve can increase stress and the likelihood of failure, this can ultimately lead to emotional distress and undermine intrinsic motivation. Both short-term and long-term goals are likely to improve performance. But short-term goals have an added advantage, they're quicker to successfully achieve, and they get more feedback and reinforcement. Setting effective goals is a 2-step process, first you need to set a specific, relatively difficult, but achievable goal with an estimated time span. Then you need to make sure the goal is right, plan a strategy with specific details, and make sure you will get regular feedback and reinforcements to keep you motivated and on track.

It's one thing to set a goal, but another thing completely to actually accomplish it. Successfully achieving goals makes us feel competent, proud, satisfied, and motivates us to set harder goals in the future, thereby encouraging personal growth. However, successful goal-achievement needs planning. Goal-achievement strategies help us figure out where and how to start, how to persist through problems and boring bits, and how to resume goal-behaviors after distraction. Effective goals are specific, we need to have a clear idea of what the goal is, what it will encompass, how difficult it's likely to be, and how long it's likely to take. Feedback is essential, it helps define performance requirements, provides instruction and can act as a reinforcer - but be careful, feedback can be positive or negative.

Control Beliefs and the Self[edit]

How much we try to control our environments depends on how much effect we think we'll have, and how well we'll cope.

The assumptions underlying personal control are:

Click here to visit to
check out some free personality tests
  • People want to have control over their environments to maximise positive outcomes and minimise negative ones.
  • Personal control depends on whether or not we believe that we can affect our environment.
  • How strongly we try to control our environment depends on our expectancies.

We have 2 kinds of expectancies. How capable we think we are and how well we think we can cope are our efficacy expectancies,
whether our actions will produce the desired result is our outcome expectancy.

One's level of self efficacy is a measure of how well he believes he can cope with, and appropriately manage a difficult or challenging situation, taking into account the circumstances and personal skills. Our self-efficacy develops through prior experiences, observational learning, encouragement and physical reactions. In challenging situations, self-efficacy influences our reactions, effort, persistence and cognitive quality.

Being empowered means knowing you have the necessary skills, knowledge and abilities to take control of a particular situation. Sometimes we avoid things that we're scared of as we don't feel confident in our coping ability. At these times Mastery Modeling Programs can help by offering observational learning, practice, encouragement, and support, through the following steps:

  • Identifying necessary skills and measuring the level of each skill.
  • Modeling each skill for observational learning.
  • Providing feedback on attempts at the skills.
  • Integrating the separate skills into a practiced performance.
  • Providing encouragement, help, and supported practice opportunities.
  • Testing the learned skills in a safe environment with help and feedback.
  • Demonstrating confidence and arousal-regulating techniques.
Mastery Beliefs & Learned Helplessness[edit]

The more strongly we believe we can control an experience, the more strongly we believe that our actions have the potential to affect outcomes. Having a mastery motivational orientation means seeing failure as an opportunity for learning, having a flexible approach to challenges, and being persistent in our efforts even through difficulties.
If I give up trying because I believe nothing I do will affect a situational outcome, I am demonstrating learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is an adaptive response to an uncontrollable situation, it develops in relation to the actual controllability of the environment in general, our personal understanding of the environmental contingency, and our particular coping style. Once it's occurred I'm likely to put less effort into coping, get depressed, form pessimistic outcome expectancies, and stop trying new or different strategies. I thought this was an interesting point, it's not that depressed people are more prone to learned helplessness, they are in fact, more realistic about situations. Non-depressed people on the other hand, are more likely to overestimate their level of control. Does that mean that non-depressed people are really the ones that have lost some touch with reality?

Individuals with an optimistic explanatory style explain negative events with unstable and controllable attributions, 'this was a one-off and now I know what to do if it happens again'. In its extreme form this style is seen in narcissism (exaggerated self-importance). Optimistic people believe they have more control over situations than they actually have, which buffers them from negativity by distorting reality and providing excuses, denial and self-deception. As such, they tend to take the credit for success but avoid the blame for failure.

Individuals with a pessimistic explanatory style explain negative events with stable and uncontrollable attributions, 'it's always this way and there's nothing I can do about it'. When pessimistic people encounter difficulty or failure they exert less effort and give up quickly. Pessimistic explanatory styles are associated with illness, distress, poorer performance, and depression. I'm optimistic and realistic in my view of the world, so I end up scoring on the pessimistic side. Does this mean one can't be both optimistic and realistic?

Reactance is a response to threats against personal freedom. Reactance theory, like learned helplessness, describes reactions to a loss of control or uncontrollable situation. Contrary to learned helplessness however, the responses in reactance theory are active and sometimes aggressive. While we believe we have the power to affect outcomes, we behave reactively and may even perform better. Therefore, reactance theory may explain initial stronger responses to uncontrollable events. However, if this fails to change the situation and we begin to believe that we have no control, then reactance may transform into learned helplessness.

When one is confident in their ability to strategise and successfully complete a task, that person has hope. High-hope people tend to be strongly focused on intrinsically motivated, specific, short-term mastery goals. Determination encourages them to persevere through difficulties using flexible and adaptable approaches because their goals are valued and personally meaningful.

The Self[edit]

Once our lower level physiological needs have been satisfied we're able to focus on developing our personal sense of self. There are 4 concepts to the development of the self.

  1. Creation and definition of the self as an individual, giving consideration to who we are, how others see us and how similar/different we are to other people.
  2. The self in relation to others, our social responsibilities, our developing sense of belonging and our position as a valuable member of society.
  3. The discovery and development of our personal potential, our interests, talents, values, goals and our orientation towards growth and personal development.
  4. Self management and regulation, monitoring how well we are coping, what our capacities are, making adjustments to help fine-tune our development.

Our self-esteem is a measure of how much personal value we ascribe ourselves. High levels are related to happiness and good psychological health, but over-inflated self-esteem leads to narcissism and aggression. Low levels create vulnerability to anxiety and depression. Our level of self-esteem is the result of our accumulated successes and failures, it's an indicator of how well we are doing and how happy we are. Self-esteem is a one-way process - the happier and more effective we are, the higher our self-esteem - but self-esteem itself does not affect our functioning or our achievements. Self-efficacy refers to how capable we believe we are at performing specific skills and handling certain challenging situations. Our level of self-confidence is a combination of our self-esteem and our self-efficacy, our believed personal worth and our perceived likelihood of success. All of these and more, combine to create our self-concept, everything we know and believe about ourselves rolled up into a mental representation. Our social role within a cultural context is our identity. Once we have adopted an identity, we become restricted to identity-confirming behaviours and avoiding identity-disconfirming behaviours.

Self-schemas are our generalised, contextual self-beliefs that we have learned through past experiences, eg I'm shy in social situations or I'm good at school. All of our relevant individual self-schemas come together to form our self-concept. Self-schemas motivate us to behave in ways that confirm their accuracy and make us feel comfortable, essentially preserving a consistent sense of self. When we behave in ways that are inconsistent with our self-schemas we experience a feeling of unease that also motivates us to prove our self-schema right and restore consistency. This consistency is further maintained by how we represent ourselves to the world through our external appearance, behaviours, relationships and possessions. Unless we have some level of uncertainty around who we are, our self-schemas are relatively stable. Having a strong and clear idea of a desired future self can motivate us to deliberately change through personal growth and development, similar to the motivation produced by long-term goals.

Our particular self-beliefs represent how we see ourselves, when our behaviour is inconsistent with that image we experience a form of psychological distress known as cognitive dissonance. The extent of the dissonance is proportionate to the level of inconsistency. Strong dissonance will eventually motivate us to behave in ways that will decrease the emotional discomfort, such as justifying our actions or adapting our beliefs.

Agency is a reference to the inborn developmental processes, needs, preferences, capacities and intrinsic motivation that spontaneously energise us to initiate actions that drive our physical, social and emotional development. The internal drive behind individual distinctiveness is differentiation. This is what directs the development of our personal likes and dislikes, follows our specific talents into particular areas, and makes us unique individuals. All of these differentiated aspects of the self are then organised into one whole, functioning individual through the process of integration. On top of the processes of agency is the need to effectively interact with the social world. Through the process of internalization we incorporate the values, behaviours and emotions of the people around us, allowing us to relate to others and form meaningful relationships.

The pursuit of personally valued goals that are congruent with one's core self, contrasts with goals due to social obligation or out of desire for praise or reward. Individuals exert more effort on their self-concordant goals as they satisfy psychological needs creating satisfaction and happiness. The general collective of one's self-concordant goals is directed by their personal strivings, the overall path they wish to follow in that area of life. Self-regulation is the process of self-monitoring and continuous evaluation of how well we are doing at achieving our goals by comparing our pre-planning to goal-behaviour feedback. Self-regulation is learned over time, through social processes. Watching, imitating, and internalizing others behaviours directs development through self-control to self-regulation.

My tutorial groups conception of disgust-related emotions
My tutorial groups conception of interest-related emotions
My tutorial groups conception of fear-related emotions
My tutorial groups conception of anger-related emotions
My tutorial groups conception of confusion-related emotions
My tutorial groups conception of love-related emotions

Welcome to the Wonderfully Confusing World of Emotion[edit]

Emotions are personal reactions to life events. Emotions produce our feelings and facial expressions, and trigger arousal and motivation. Emotions are adaptive, they prioritise, energise and direct the behaviour required in relation to the current circumstance. Emotions trigger automatic coping mechanisms to help us in the areas of protection, destruction, reproduction, reunion, affiliation, rejection, exploration and orientation. Emotions are also social facilitators, they enable communication, influence styles of interacting, and initiate, support and terminate relationships. Emotions allow us to verbally and non-verbally express what we need, how we are feeling, how we are likely to respond and how we want others to respond. But emotions need to be regulated and controlled if they are to be effective.

Emotions are a combination of subjective feelings, biological reactions, motivational responses and means of personal communication. Emotions can be broken down into 4 aspects: (1) The cognitive processes of feelings that provide the intensity and quality of a personally meaningful, subjective experience; (2) The biological processes of arousal including the autonomic and hormonal systems; (3) The motivational and purposive aspects that drive actions; (4) The communication of our private experiences through public expression via facial & bodily gestures and speech. Emotions are therefore the psychological construct that encompasses all of these interrelated processes.

So how many emotions are there? Biological supporters say between 2 and 10 primary emotions. Each researcher has their own elaborate theory to back up their claim, including Solomon's opponent-process theory where one emotion counter-balances the other, and Gray's BIS/BAS theory of approach (joy), avoidance (anxiety) and fight or flight (anger/fear). The cognitive perspective counters that a variety of potential emotions can be produced by one biological event. This is because they view emotions as responses to the personal meaning of the event, therefore differences in personal interpretations underlie personal attributions which enable a multitude of possible emotions.

Rather than asking how many emotions there are, it seems more appropriate to identify the primary emotions that headline particular clusters. Basic emotions are said to be those that are innate, general across people and particular events, are universally expressed, and have a distinct physiological response. Anger, fear, sadness, joy and love have been suggested as the five basic emotions, so if anger is a primary emotion then its family would include rage, irritation, resentment etc. (This is exactly what we attempted to do in our tutorial, as you can see by the piccies. Although it was easier said than done as each of us had our own 'personal interpretation' of which family some of the secondary emotions belonged to.)

The negative basic emotions of fear, anger, disgust and sadness allow us to respond to perceived threat and potential harm. Fear is the emotional reaction to physical and psychological danger and personal threats. Fear acts as a warning signal to motivate defense behaviours, support adaptive learning and activate coping. The most passionate and dangerous emotion is anger, derived from feeling something is not as it should be. Anger energies, strengthens and sensitizes, producing aggression, destruction and harm. Disgust triggers the aversive motivation that moves us away from undesirable or contaminated objects. The most negative emotion is sadness which stems from separation or failure, sadness motivates us to behave productively in ways that restore or improve the situation.

The positive basic emotions of joy and interest promote us to engage and persist in satisfying behaviours. Joy comes from experiencing desirable outcomes. It tells us that things are going well, encourages social interaction, helps form and strengthen relationships and counters the sting of the negative emotions. Interest is constant, it fluctuates by directing our attention to different activities. Interest drives exploration, creativity, learning and development.

Emotions are not experienced as often as we think, generally what we feel are emotional after-effects in the form of a lingering mood, termed positive or negative affect. There are 3 main identifiable differences between emotions and moods - antecedents, action specificity, and time course.

Emotions Moods
Emotions are caused by significant events The causes for moods are often unknown
Emotions influence and direct behaviour Moods influence cognition and direct one's thoughts
Emotions are short-lived and are triggered by momentary events Moods last longer and stem from mental events that can last for hours or days

Positive affect is not like the attention-grabbing immediacy of an emotional response. This is the more subtle, pleasant feeling that is triggered by a good event and underlies a good mood. People who feel good are more likely to act in ways that are social, helpful, generous, creative and efficient. Positive affect facilitates persistence, cooperation and intrinsic motivation, possibly by subtly influencing our thoughts, memories and judgements.

Additionally, this isn't from the text but I thought it was relevant so I'm adding it here. Alexithymia is a personality trait defined by: Difficulty identifying, describing and working with one's own emotions; lack of understanding of other peoples feelings; confusion of physical sensations often associated with emotions/arousal; restricted imagination; concrete, realistic, logical thinking, often to the exclusion of emotional responses to problems. In general, people with this trait are aware that they experience emotions, many will seek help for anxiety or depression, some even demonstrate chronic dysphoria or rage/crying outburts. But their emotions are poorly differentiated making it exceptionally difficult to distinguish and describe them. This results in a sense of emotional detachment, lack of intuition and empathy, and difficulty connecting with others. Alexithymia commonly occurs alongside other disorders such as autism spectrum disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and is suggested to overlap with Aspergers Syndrome. People with this trait tend to have a limited experience of positive emotions and may dispel unspent emotional energy through impulsive or compulsive behaviours, possibly due to emotional dysregulation. You can test your level of alexithymia here. (And I'm soooooo not telling you what I scored!)

Cognitive VS Biological Theories[edit]

Important life events activate cognitive and biological processes that result in emotion, but are they primarily cognitive or biological? Surely one has to cognitively appraise and evaluate the meaning of a situation in order to be able to respond to it? On the other hand - rather than being learned through social processes, emotions have evolved through adaptation because they are useful for coping with situations, does that make them biological?

Biological supporters argue that emotions occur in babies and animals, they can be artificially induced through non-cognitive stimulation, and the difficulty in defining emotions suggests that they are not language based.

But cognitive supporters suggest that without cognitive appraisal of an events personal relevance there is no need for an emotional response. It is our attributions, beliefs and personal reflections that determine the nature of the emotional response.

Both good arguments...maybe it's both, that's the Two-Systems View answer. An innate and involuntary physiological system and an experience based cognitive system for social interpretation combine to create emotional reactions.

Or maybe it's neither...maybe emotion is a dynamic feedback process involving both cognitive appraisal and physiological arousal in a reciprocal cause-and-effect relationship.

Tutorial 4[edit]

Emotion Q-sort, this was fun. Like I mentioned, I was surprised that we had such diffferent ideas on which group specific emotions belonged to, and there were plenty of emotions that we had to look up. Then we filled in the PANAS.

Biological Vs. Cognitive Perspectives on Emotion[edit]

Biological theories of emotion consider the autonomic nervous system and its control over bodily reactions, the endocrine system which regulates hormone release, neural activity and information processing in the limbic system, and facial feedback and the influence of facial expressions on emotions and arousal. Cognitive theories on the other hand, focus on the neural processes involved in appraisals, attributions, knowledge, social interactions and cultural contexts.

Human skeleton (svg template).svg

The James-Lange Theory is the oldest and most traditional of the biological theories of emotion. This theory poses two main questions: Can each emotion be defined by a unique biological reaction? And, to what extent does the bodily reaction cause the emotion? This raises the question does the emotional response trigger the physiological reaction, or does the physiological reaction trigger the emotional response? Is the emotion the subjective interpretation of the physiological response? The 2 underlying hypotheses are:

  1. The body reacts uniquely to different emotionally stimulating events.
  2. The body doesn't react to non-emotionally stimulating events.

Critics argue that reactions don't vary between emotions because they are part of the fight or flight response, that emotions are experienced much faster than physiological changes, and that arousal supports, rather than causes emotions. Contemporary researchers have evidenced that some of the survival-related emotions do have predictable biological patterns. So James wasn't completely wrong.

When distinct physiological reaction patterns didn't quite pan out, researchers moved on to specific neural circuit theories of emotion, suggesting that maybe each emotion has a distinct pattern of neural activity. Three specific neural circuits were identified in Gray's BIS/BAS theory. Each circuit relates specifically to either the opportunity seeking behavioural approach system, the defensive fight or flight system, or the aversive avoidance behavioural inhibition system. Tomkins followed with 3 basic, environmentally influenced, patterns of neural firing. Joy emotions are related to decreased neural firing, while interest, fear and surprise are associated with increased neural firing, anger and fear are relative to the suddenness and constancy of the increase. Izard's differential emotions theory highlights ten basic emotions that make up the human motivational system. Each of the ten emotions has its own unique feeling, expression, neural activity and motivation.

Biological theories focus on a few primary emotions, Ekman suggested this is because the other emotions are experienced based, some are better defined as moods, attitudes, personality, or disorders, some are blends of a few emotions, and many refer to aspects of an emotion. The facial feedback hypothesis suggests that emotions are activated by feedback from facial muscles, facial temperature and glandular responses. This particular theory highlights the interaction between feeling and expressing emotions, the face both expresses emotion and influences the subjective feeling of the emotion. I'm not sure about this hypothesis, I do practice my little buddha smile while I meditate, but I draw the line at laughing therapy.

Qualia of colour.jpg
Cognitive Aspects of Emotion[edit]

The cognitive perception adds information processing, social and cultural influences and personal appraisals into the equation. How one expects an event to affect them is the factor that defines the emotional reaction, not the event itself. Arnold's original appraisal theory proposed that an event is appraised as good or bad, triggering the feeling of either like or dislike, and setting off approach or avoidance motivation that initiates action.

The complex appraisal theory of Lazarus extended Arnold's approach by adding primary and secondary appraisals with intervening cognitive processes. Threats to one's physical or psychological well-being, goals, finances or relationships are evaluated during the primary appraisal stage. If one of these is under threat then the event becomes emotionally significant and activates the ANS and a specific emotion. The secondary appraisal now brings into consideration the persons cognitive, emotional and behavioural abilities to cope with the possible benefit, harm or threat. Since Arnold and Lazarus, researchers have proposed other potential appraisal processes such as expectancy, responsibility, legitimacy and compatibility.

Appraisal theories are about 70% accurate in predicting emotions. Other factors include biological or other processes, the overlap of appraisal patterns, whether appraisals intensify rather than cause emotions, developmental differences, how much you know about your emotions (emotion knowledge) and causal attributions.

Emotions are also socially and culturally learned through sharing experiences. There is similarity across the majority of emotions in different cultures, except for differences in love and shame. There are 3 social and cultural aspects of emotions that demonstrate variation, knowledge of emotions, expression management, and emotion management.

The Connection Between Personality and Motivation and Emotion[edit]

One happy chappy in a world of grumps..

In any situation, different individuals will primarily attend to and process information that is personally relevant. What determines which information is focal depends on the persons underlying personality traits, whether they hold predominantly positive or negative outcome expectancies, and their tendency towards either approaching positive rewards or avoiding aversive consequences. The characteristics that underlie an individuals level of happiness, arousal and control determine which situations they are likely to participate in, and how they are likely to cope within that experience.

Individual characteristics are measured along a continuum with different people varying in their demonstrated level of each trait. Although the majority of the population will fall into the middle section of each trait continuum, there are some extreme people that will measure on either end. It is precisely these varied levels of the different characteristics that shape our personalities and ultimately decide how we manage and adapt our surroundings in order to create the optimal environment for each of us.

The Big Five Personality Traits[edit]

There are many different personality traits that can be considered when investigating individual differences. The big five personality traits are the scientific fields general consensus of the main characteristics. Costa & McCrae’s big 5 model utilises the NEO or the IPIP scales measure each of the main traits by its six associated sub-traits. The big 5 traits can easily be remembered by the acronym OCEAN.

Openness to Experience Conscientiousness Extraversion Agreeableness Neuroticism
Fantasy Competence Warmth Trust Anxiety
Aesthetics Order Gregariousness Straightforwardness Angry Hostility
Feelings Dutifulness Assertiveness Altruism Depression
Actions Achievement Striving Activity Compliance Self Consciousness
Ideas Self Discipline Excitement Seeking Modesty Impulsiveness
Values Deliberation Positive Emotion Tender-Mindedness Vulnerability

Out of curiosity I tried the IPIP for myself and discovered that I scored low on extraversion (except for 94 on activity level!) suggesting I am introverted, reserved, and quiet. Enjoy solitude and solitary activities. Tend to restrict socializing to a few close friends. And low on Openness to Experience indicating I like to think in plain and simple terms and am described by others as down-to-earth, practical, and conservative. My level of Agreeableness is average, suggesting some concern with others needs but a general unwillingness to sacrifice myself for others. And high scores on Conscientiousness as I set clear goals and pursue them with determination and am regarded by others as reliable and hard-working. Also a high score on Neuroticism indicating I am easily upset, even by what most people consider the normal demands of living. People consider me to be sensitive and emotional. Do I agree with that outcome? Well, I am definitely an introvert that enjoys solitude and close friends, but I wouldn't say that I am reserved or quiet. I simply don't have much need for external stimulation! My brain does a great job creating it's own stimulation ;-P ! So I guess in general I do accept that description but maybe I wouldn't explain it quite in those terms!

Individual levels of happiness tend to be relatively stable across the lifespan and are primarily determined by the traits of extraversion and neuroticism. Happiness is not derived from external sources but emanates from within the person, hence greater levels of happiness are related to low neuroticism indicating high emotional stability, and high levels of extraversion.

Very happy Tibetan Buddhist Monk
All that we are is the result what we have thought. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks of acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.

This concept of happiness is based on Gray’s Behavioural Activation and Behavioural Inhibition Scales, otherwise known as the BIS/BAS scales. According to Gray, extraverts have stronger behavioural activation systems and are more strongly driven to approach positive outcomes and engage in novel experiences. Extraverts tend to demonstrate more positive emotions, greater levels of sociability, a greater desire for social dominance, and are more adventurous.

Individuals with greater neurotic tendencies have stronger behavioural inhibition systems which are fine-tuned to be cautious and detect threats and potential harm. These people are sensitive to negative affect and emotional distress, they generally focus on avoiding potentially punishing situations.

I have a slight issue with this concept that extraverts are 'happier' than introverts. I'm an introvert and I'm very happy thankyou! I would argue that happiness is subjective, what is my optimal level of happiness is obviously very different from an extraverts optimal level. I am happy within myself, I have no need to derive my happiness from being around, or because of, other people. Perhaps extraverts are simply more vocal about their level of happiness?

Happiness is the interval between periods of unhappiness.
Don Marquis

Now I know that particular quote sounds somewhat bleak, but this also comes from the wisdom of the Buddha. Life is a constant fluctuation of happiness and suffering. Unhappiness comes (in part) from trying to avoid the inescapable periods of suffering. We need to realise, and accept, that suffering is an essential part of humanity. I may be generalising here, but I'd imagine introverts would be more likely to ponder these things than extraverts...would that imply that according to Buddhism introverts are likely to be happier?

Arousal and motivation[edit]

Arousal predominantly encapsulates sensation seeking and affect intensity. Individual levels of arousal are determined not by the person but by the intensity of the stimulation within the environment. Each of us has our own optimal state of arousal and we all behave in certain ways in an effort to increase or decrease stimulation to achieve that set point. An under-aroused person will experience feelings of boredom and seek to increase their level of arousal, subsequently increasing feelings of pleasure and enhancing performance. Conversely, an over-aroused individual will experience stress reactions and seek to decrease environmental stimulation and corresponding arousal. Optimal performance is more likely under conditions of moderate arousal and lowest when arousal is too high or too low, as demonstrated by the arousal inverted U-curve.

The central nervous system prefers a continual and moderate level of environmental stimulation to achieve optimal arousal. Check out this youtube clip on sensory deprivation to see how stagnant, unchanging environments affect the brain by depriving it of the sensory information that is essential to good cognitive functioning. In these circumstances the brain may start to generate its own stimulation in the form of visual and auditory hallucinations, temporarily impairing cognitive ability. Sensory deprivation isnt all bad though, it's also used for meditation and relaxation. For instance, sensory deprivation can be used to reduce the sensory overload commonly seen in autism.

Prolonged excessive stimulation results in heightened stress and its psychologically debilitating symptoms including emotional, cognitive and physiological disruption, anxiety, irritability, anger, confusion, memory impairment, reduced concentration and hyperactive nervous system activity.

Sensation Seekers[edit]

The personality traits of risk taking and sensation seeking are related to arousal and reactivity and depend on the extent to which the individuals central nervous system requires change and variability. Sensation seekers are more susceptible to becoming easily bored, require higher levels of stimulation in order to maintain positive affective states, and tend to opt for novel, risky or unusual experiences which can become dangerous due to the minimal inhibition associated with reward-approaching behaviours. High sensation seeking tends to predict propensity for addiction and has been correlated with alcoholism, gambling and drug use. On the flip side, it is also an essential component for entrepreneurship and enhanced creativity.

Our tutorial this week, provided us the opportunity to complete the sensation seeking scale. I was surprised at just how loaded some of the items seemed. For instance "I would not like to try any drug which might produce strange and dangerous effects on me" OR "I would like to try some of the new drugs that produce hallucinations". My interpretation was "dangerous drug" OR "safe and fun drug"! I didn't find this scale to be particularly personally accurate. My scores are below and are compared to what I would have expected.

Subscale My actual score My expected score
Boredom susceptibility 2 9
Disinhibition 5 5
Experience seeking 8 3
Thrill and adventure seeking 9 3

Intensity of affect refers to whether an individuals mood is generally stable over time, or has a tendency to fluctuate. Higher levels of intense affect are indicated by emotional instability and stronger emotional reactivity to both positive and negative events.

Higher levels of perceived control are demonstrated by individuals with an internal locus of control and a belief in their capacity to produce positive outcomes. Lower levels of perceived control are associated with individuals who see themselves as a victim of circumstance, lower performance, less effort and the likelihood of giving up easily. Optimal levels are correlated with moderate perceived control which facilitates goal setting, effort, concentration, persistence, positive affect, performance and problem solving abilities. Perceived control depends on the predictability and responsiveness of the situation and either extreme becomes a self-perpetuating cycle linked to learned helplessness and learned optimism.

Desire for control is reflected by the extent to which an individual is motivated to establish control over events. Individuals with a higher desire for control tend to select harder tasks, see themselves as more capable, exert more effort, are more persistent, accept responsibility for success and attribute failure to external sources. Although this may result in better performance, effort and motivation there is also a tendency towards a fear of failing and a higher probability of over-investing individual effort.

Unconscious Motivation or You Did What???[edit]

This week focuses on the Psychodynamic perspective of unconscious motivation, based in Freudian thinking but modernised and updated due to a lack of empirical evidence.

That's my idea of a good run!

The Psychodynamic perspective is deterministic in that it asserts that our personality is relatively stable through life, and that we are not the primary cause of our motivational desires or thoughts, but innate biological drives and socially learned impulses are. These needs and impulses are in a constant battle for saliency. Freud thought his ideas were realistic rather than pessimistic, but I beg to differ. Psychoanalysis is based in anxiety, depression and aggression, it's not an uplifting theory. Me personally, I like to run - intense physical exercise is the best anxiety smasher! From the psychodynamic perspective we can't change these unconscious motivations but we can learn to cope with them more efficiently - isn't that what a good psych is for? ha ha!

Psychoanalytic refers to the more traditional Freudian take on the unconscious and includes dual-instinct theory. Whereas the Psychodynamic approach is the more modern perspective with less emphasis on Freud's arguable areas and more emphasis on dynamic internal processes. This means that one can dabble in the psychodynamic area of unconscious mental processes without necessarily embracing Freud's weirder theories.

Freud's Dual-Instinct theory centred around physiological needs and their impact on the body's mental and physical energy levels, physical energy supplying mental energy and being ultimately due to biological drives. Freud categorised these drives into life and death, sex and aggression, or Eros and Thanatos.

  • Eros are the life instincts for self-preservation and individual and species survival - food, drink, sex.
  • Thanatos are the death instincts which facilitate rest and energy conservation, with particular emphasis on aggression.

Eros and Thanatos (sex and aggression) provide motivational energy, this energy is not openly acted on but rather is managed by defense mechanisms that develop along with the developing personality. This system of defence mechanisms is what Freud referred to as the Ego. Therefore motivation is energised by biological drives but is directed by the ego into socially acceptable, anxiety reducing behaviours.

Biological drives maintain the body's optimal state (homeostasis), but drive theories are problematic because not all drives dissipate once they've been satiated - aggression for instance. The cognitive based Wish model suggests the discrepancy between a present state and an ideal state is what facilitates motivation. Which is a nicer thought really, I'd rather think I was driven through personal growth than biological need, sounds like spiritual vs. animalistic.

The contemporary psychodynamic perspective recognises that most of our mental life is unconscious and continuous. Unconscious regulation is more efficient and useful than consciousness, which is unnecessary for survival. Continuously operating mental processes deal with our constant inner conflict, if these processes aren't helpful they can be identified and changed. The psychological journey of humanity is to develop into mature, functional individuals, that effectively and happily fit in with society. According to object relations theory, mental representations of the self and others are formed in childhood to guide our later social motivations and relationship. These early experiences become our unconscious adult motivations. The adaptive unconscious is like the hidden captain, it sets goals, makes judgements, and initiates actions that we have some vague level of awareness of but wouldn't be able to explain. Implicit motivation matches our explanatory style with emotionally salient environmental stimuli in order to guide us towards appropriate opportunities. Under all of this is our subliminal Motivation, the things we don't know we're perceiving. The effects of information processed at an unconscious level, it impacts us but we're not aware of it.


According to Freud, we are all victims of unresolved issues from our childhood. Freud conceptualized the id as the selfish desire to seek pleasure regardless of consequences, when our desires aren't met we experience anxiety - like a little kid trying to get his Mum's attention. The counter-balancing ego is like the adult who tries to restrain the Id, and manage the anxiety, through the use of defense mechanisms. The ego therefore provides the perception that we are consciously in control of our desires. A strong ego has better control than a weaker ego which is more vulnerable to the urges of the id. Although these notions have been criticised for being difficult to test, the Id has been roughly mapped onto the limbic system, and the Ego appears to fit pretty well with the Neocortex, learning, memory, decision making, and executive control.

Because we can't meet all of our desires at once, the ego uses various defense mechanisms to manage the id and the anxiety. For instance, repression buries them in the unconscious, suppression attempts to ignore a conscious thought. Psychodynamics attempts to find efficient ways to cope with the anxiety that is experienced when our defence mechanisms arent working. Defence mechanisms are part of an adaptive response, but some are more mature and more effective than others, learning which ones are beneficial is part of ego development.

Object relations theory looks at the nature and development of our mental representations and relationships to both people and objects, as a measure of our need for relatedness. The quality of the relationships we experience with our primary caregivers influence the level of satisfaction for our relatedness need, impact our self-beliefs, and form the underlying expectancies for our adult relationships. The quality of a person's mental representations of relationships can be characterized by the unconscious affective tone, the capacity for emotional involvement, and mutuality of autonomy with others. Sounds very similar to attachment theory, if I had more time I'd be checking if there was some link between the two theories.

The psychodynamic perspective has been criticised for using concepts that aren't scientifically testable, and may not be generalizable due to their origins in case studies of disturbed people. Further to this, Freud's methods of data collection (such as dreams and free association) are difficult to replicate. Some of his ideas were found to be purely wrong, and have since been dropped. Freud's focus on past events is not particularly helpful and results in a lack of predictive ability, limiting application.

Personal Growth and Positive Psychology[edit]

The psychological version of enlightenment - Humanity's higher motivation towards personal growth and development. Humanistic Psychology and Positive Psychology are similar holistic perspectives with some subtle differences.
Personally, I love Positive Psychology, it's like the Western take on Buddhism. Concepts of Loving Kindness, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity. The basic teachings are to have respect for all life; to understand that life is essentially the continuous alternation between happiness and suffering; evil thoughts/actions come from suffering so remember to have compassion for the person that hurts you; and suffering can be overcome by releasing attachments and realising that everything changes. Buddha says to practice meditation and mindfulness, stay present in the moment and experience each moment as it is, without judgement.

Both Humanistic and Postive Psychology take a top-down, holistic perspective towards motivation. Rogers and Maslow focused on the higher order needs such as self fulfillment and self realisation, which are accompanied by the biological needs. Humanistic psychology attempts to discover and encourage the development of human potential. Seligman's Positive psychology is a modern, empirical approach to exploring which traits, experiences and psychological strengths facilitate personal growth and a good life, and how we can acquire them. Positive psychology is a proactive, scientific exploration of such positive experiences as satisfaction, hope, optimism and flow.

Self actualization is the striving to reach our potential and move beyond a shallow, materialistic existence. Self actualization is based in the idea that humans are differentiated by an inner consciousness that moves us beyond animalistic and primitive urges. Developing self actualisation involves two key aspects. Autonomy, the sense of the self as capable with some level of control over the environment. Encapsulates a greater level of awareness and the courage to accept responsibility for experiences. Openness, embracing new challenges, experiences and possibilities (both good and bad) without altering or adapting them out of fear or desire, accepting change as an opportunity for growth rather than something to avoid.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs.png
Abraham Maslow and his Hierarchy of Human Needs[edit]

Maslow grouped human needs into the five clusters on his famous hierarchical pyramid, from physiological at the base to self actualization at the top - Maslow claimed only about 1% of people could be considered self actualised. He identified three main concepts concerning the nature of human needs.

  1. The lower the need is in the hierarchy, the more strongly and urgently it is felt - physiological needs (hunger) are more strongly felt than psychological needs.
  2. The lower the need is in the hierarchy, the sooner it appears in development - children and animals overtly display their physiological needs but have less awareness of psychological needs.
  3. Needs in the hierarchy are fulfilled sequentially from lowest to highest - fulfilling the lower needs first lays the foundations that enable us to fulfill the higher needs.

Maslow identified 2 types of needs, deficiency needs include safety, belonging and esteem, satisfying these allows growth needs to emerge. Personal development flounders until the deficiency needs are fulfilled, only then can we move towards our potential and self actualization.
Luckily for us, Maslow also identified 6 behaviours that encourage self actualization:

  1. Making growth oriented choices that embrace change as an opportunity for growth.
  2. Be honest by being your authentic self rather than who others expect or want you to be.
  3. Situationally position yourself for peak experiences by learning your strengths and weaknesses, and focusing on your areas of strength.
  4. Giving up defensiveness to realise and accept the good and the not-so-good aspects of the self as what they are, rather than judging them as weakness and hiding those insecurities behind anxiety or other defenses.
  5. Let the self emerge by paying attention to your intuition and having faith in yourself to make your own choices.
  6. Be open to new experience, enjoy and be present in every moment.

On top of these, Maslow emphasised the need for intimate and fulfilling social relationships that positively nurture development.

Carl Rogers[edit]

Rogers agreed with Maslow, except that all of the various needs culminated to support the ultimate striving towards self actualization, what he called the actualizing tendency. This innate tendency provides and guides the motivation to continue and develop despite the inherent pain and disappointment of life. The organismic valuation process is an innate examination of the growth value of incoming information in order to direct behavior towards positive experiences. Early on, the actualizing tendency and the organismic valuation process work for the general development of the child. With the emergence of the self comes the self-actualizing tendency, a second motivational force directed towards higher needs. At the same time, the need for positive regard arises. This is the need for the acceptance, love and approval of others, making us susceptible to both praise and criticism.

From early infancy, children learn that their behaviour is deemed good or bad, acceptable or unacceptable. Due to our need for positive regard, and through these conditions of worth, we learn and internalize socially desirable behaviour to gain love and approval. The flip side to conditional positive regard is the notion of unconditional positive regard, loving and accepting children for who they are rather than who they are expected to be. People raised with unconditional positive regard develop into fully functioning individuals. These people experience psychological congruence as they are at peace with, and behave in accordance with, who they really are. Those who experienced conditional positive regard develop a social-self that doesn't match their true temperament. This discrepancy results in incongruence and the rejection of who they really are, leading to anger and anxiety.

Accoring to Rogers, a fully functioning individual accepts their true self, is in touch with their intuition, and has faith in their abilities. There is a sequential three part process to the development of the fully functioning self: the emergence of the innate desire to be true to the self; acceptance of that desire 'as is' without any sort of social refinement or external influence; and the extermal communication of that unedited, uninfluenced desire.


Motivation and Causality Orientations[edit]

Similar to locus of control, people have varying views on what causes them to behave in certain ways. Individuals with an autonomy causality orientation are internally guided and in control of their life. They feel capable of making personal decisions, pay closer attention to their internal needs and feelings, have faith in the self to live life well, and don't require social acceptance to be happy. Autonomy causality orientation relates to intrinsic motivation and correlates with good mental health and positive functioning. Individuals with a control causality orientation are externally guided by other peoples expectations and social norms. They may be more materialistic and more influenced by social status. Control causality orientation relates to extrinsic regulation and validation. These people are more likely to engage in validation Seeking, being told they are ok by others, making them more vulnerable to mental health problems. On the other hand, a person who strives to reach their potential and improve themselves is engaging in growth Seeking, they intuitively know their personal worth and look at the world as a series of learning opportunities.

Self-actualization can be supported and nourished by relationships that offer acceptance, safety, appreciation, authenticity, empathy, understanding and genuine interest. Relationships of this quality are characterised by encouraging independence and self reliance, mutual respect, personal freedom, and a lack of judgement or expectation.

One of the main problems with the humanistic approach is the question of evil. This generally covers two topics: how much of human nature is evil? and how can we understand those who enjoy inflicting pain on others? According to Humanistic psychology, humanity is not inherently evil, evil acts are due to enculturation and a society that fails to appropriately nurture its people. Therefore, the person is not evil within himself, but performs evil acts because they have been damaged by negative experiences.

Postive Psychology[edit]

Positive psychology doesn't focus on the negative aspects of life, rather it explores human strengths such as happiness, optimism, hope, meaning, wisdom and compassion, and their contributions to good mental health and a happy life. This is more like preventative psychology, fostering happiness and self-worth to create positive experiences and well being, and prevent psychological problems. I love Reeve's point that good mental health is more than just an absence of mental illness. Most other disciplines attempt to repair damage, whereas positive psychology moves in completely the opposite direction and tries to enhance everything....makes me think of sunflowers! They're already perfect, but when they open completely - they're spectacular!

Reeve covers 3 examples of personal strengths, optimism, meaning and eudaimonic well-being. An optimistic person views himself in a positive light and expects good outcomes. Optimists experience better physical and psychological health, are more likely to look after themselves, show greater persistence, better problem solving, coping and performance, and tend to be more popular. Satisfying the needs for purpose, value and efficacy results in experiencing a sense of meaning. An individual who appreciates the meaning within their life views events as opportunities for growth and learning, rather than simply labelling them as good or bad. Living an active and engaged life by pursuing intrinsic goals, seeking out challenges, and experiencing flow enhances self-realisation and leads to eudaimonic well-being.

Everything has its critics and positive psychology is no exception. This feel-good branch of psychology is criticised as being overly optimistic, naively emphasising only one side of human nature, using vague concepts such as a 'fully functioning person', and problems with operationalizing constructs such as 'inner guides'. Personally, I think if you look hard enough you can find something wrong with just about anything. Maybe the critics of positive psychology could do with a round of happiness treatment! Ok seriously, the concepts are vague and difficult to operationalize, and maybe it is one-sided in its approach. But considering the level of negativity in our world, maybe positive psychology is a counter-balance to stop us all from descending into a dark pit of depression and anger. Maybe there are some aspects of life that don't need to be rigorously measured, labelled and justified.

Week 13 Tutorial[edit]

Discussed the differences between humanistic and positive psychology followed by an interesting discussion on the best approach to raising a child with a socially unacceptable temperament. Personally I believe the behaviour needs to be separated from the child, I don't think you can 'change' someones temperament but maybe you can nurture the positive aspects and hope they are the predominant development. Socially unacceptable behaviours need to take into consideration what the behaviour exactly is and why it's being employed. Once that's been established it may be possible to offer alternative behaviours that could achieve the same outcome without upsetting anyone or causing social damage to the child.

Maslow's characteristics of self actualized people (checklist for level of self actualization!)[edit]

Priority of values

  1. Acceptance of self, others, nature - accepting things as they are, both good and bad (9).
  2. Identification with the human species - a sense of belonging to humanity on multiple levels (3).
  3. Emphasis on higher level values - are primarily more concerned with the higher levels of human needs (6).
  4. More accurate perception of reality - sees reality for what it is rather than naming it as good or bad (7).
  5. Discrimination between means and ends - sees the bigger picture, the forest and the trees are as important as each other (5).
  6. Resolution of dichotomies - less perturbed by normal conflict, sees beyond the momentary drama without a need to retaliate (3).

Internally controlled

  1. Autonomy and resistance to enculturation - relatively in control of their own life without being particularly vulnerable to external influence (8).
  2. Detachment and desire for privacy - comfortable and at peace with their own company, enjoys time to themselves (10).
  3. Spontaneity, simplicity, naturalness - acts in accordance with values, less internal conflict (8).

High involvement, productivity, and happiness

  1. Problem centering - practices mindfulness, is present and engaged in the task at hand (7).
  2. Creativeness - sees the beauty of all life, sees everything with fresh eyes just like a child (7).
  3. Freshness of appreciation and richness of emotional reactions - internal mindfulness, aware and accepting of emotional reactions (7).
  4. High frequency of peak experiences - due to being engaged with the task at hand (7).

High quality interpersonal relationships

  1. Intimate relations - the person everyone wants to be friends with, but selective with company kept (4).
  2. Democratic character structure - sense of equality, status is relatively unimportant (6).
  3. Philsophical, unhostile sense of humour - self effacing, never at the expense of others (5).

I score 109 which I would think is pretty accurate. Some areas I aspire to but havent really got down yet, but as I said earlier - this all relates to trying to live a good life according to Buddhist philosophy. I can accept the reality of humanity, but I'm still working on letting go of attachments.

Sense of meaning and coherence[edit]

The SOC is the extent to which one finds the environment predictable and assumes things will work out as expected. Comprehensibility covers our understanding of things and whether we see outcomes as predictable. Manageability is our perceived level of control, ability and supportive environments. Meaningfulness relates to our level of engagement and whether we see a point in engaging. I'm such a sucker for a psychological questionnaire and this was no exception! I scored 4.8 (Mean 3.96)on comprehensibility, 4 (Mean 4.71) on manageability and 4.25 (Mean 5.01) on meaning. My overall score was 4.69 (Mean 4.19). The only one that surprised me was meaningfulness, I would have expected to be closer to the mean on that one. - Thanks James, I really enjoyed this topic :-)

Conclusion & Summary[edit]

We kicked off in week one by defining motivation as more than just a subjective internal drive, it's adaptive and attention-grabbing, it fluctuates, flourishes and it can be studied. Historically, motivation research has moved from the grand theories to the mini-theories, from the passive person to the inherently active person, and to modern perspectives of multiple influences. Week two was wiki instruction, or more to the point - taking the fear out of the assessments! Wiki assignments are a good idea and a nice change from writing essays, but I'm so ready to step away from the computer! I thought an e-portfolio would be a breeze compared to studying for an exam, sooooo wrong! I'm better equipped for this unit than I am for the ones with exams coming up! We then took a look inside the motivated and emotional brain, along with the neural structures, neurotransmitters and hormones. We also moved onto the physiological needs of thirst, hunger, sex, and tim tams - yes they SHOULD be a recognised need! Week 4 took us into the psychological needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness, and the social needs of achievement, affiliation, intimacy and power. This was by far the hardest for me to get through. Great topics but I found the text so dry and boring, and it just kept going on...and on...and on. Who would have thought so much information on achievement motivation even existed! I certainly fulfilled my psychological need by getting past these chapters!

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and goal setting took us into week 5 - betcha didn't know I was a life-coach before psychology! I enjoyed these topics, brings back the old days ha ha! But seriously, I still plan goals for pretty much everything I want to accomplish, my poor partner wishes I'd stop trying to set his goals for him.....oops! Maybe I'd better hone my motivational style! Week 6 was all about me - self-concepts, self-beliefs, self-efficacy, self-schemas... An interesting look into learned helplessness, explanatory styles and reactance theory. I learnt that depressed people are more realistic than non-depressed people. The exploration of emotions covered both week 8 and week 9. Are emotions biological or cognitive? How many are there? Why do we have them? Go back and read the section you lazy sod! I've spent countless hours typing that up! Into personality and individual differences within motivation and emotion. I enjoyed learning the finer points of sensation seeking and control. Although I'm still going with the Buddha, control is all in your mind! Next we ventured through the turbulent mind of Sigmund Freud and unconscious motivation, only to end on my favorite topic of positive psychology.

Just to quickly conclude, studying motivation allows us to explain and predict why people do what they do, and want what they want. Researchers have provided theories that can be applied to everyday life's motivational problems - like getting your grotty kid to brush his teeth! Thanks for the journey James, it's been an interesting and technically challenging experience. And now I have to move away from the computer...ciao!