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Page i
Johnmarshall Reeve
Korea University
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George Hoffman
Veronica Visentin
Ethan Lipson
Howarth, Judy
Lisa Wojcik
Nichole Urban
Nicole Repasky
Indirakumari Siva
Mike Cullen
©Stockbyte / Getty Images
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ISBN: 978-1-119-36760-4 (PBK/BRV)
ISBN: 978-1-119-36761-1 (EVALC)
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data:
Names: Reeve, Johnmarshall, author.
Title: Understanding motivation and emotion / by Johnmarshall Reeve, Korea
Description: Seventh edition. | Hoboken, NJ : John Wiley & Sons, Inc., [2018]
| Includes bibliographical references and index. |
Identifiers: LCCN 2017050758 (print) | LCCN 2017053198 (ebook) | ISBN
9781119367642 (pdf) | ISBN 9781119367659 (epub) | ISBN 9781119367604 (pbk.)
Subjects: LCSH: Motivation (Psychology) | Emotions. | Personality and
Classification: LCC BF503 (ebook) | LCC BF503 .R44 2018 (print) | DDC
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017050758
The inside back cover will contain printing identification and country of origin if omitted from this page. In addition, if the ISBN on the back
cover differs from the ISBN on this page, the one on the back cover is correct.
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Now is an ideal time to take a course in motivation and emotion. This is because motivation and emotion scientists have just completed a highly productive decade in understanding how human motives
operate. The field is now in a “golden age.” Each year, new discoveries are made, new insights are
gained, and new theories emerge and are validated. As a whole, the field can now provide clear and
deeply satisfying answers to core questions, such as the following: What do people want?; Why
did she do that?; From where do motivation and emotion come?; Why do motivation and emotion
change?; and What good are they—what do motivation and emotion predict and explain?
The book’s title is Understanding Motivation and Emotion, and many pages of the book are
devoted to this purpose. A deep understanding is great, but it is even better to take the next step and
actually apply that knowledge to improve people’s lives. As a field, we now understand the nature
of motivation and emotion, their causes, the conditions that affect them, and how motivational and
emotional processes lead to productive outcomes such as learning, performance, and well-being.
The field’s understanding is so deep that researchers can now confidently offer practical recommendations. The book includes several state-of-the-art intervention programs designed explicitly to
enhance people’s motivation and emotion so to improve their lives in some important way. Because
this is so, it may now be time to re-title the book as, Understanding and Applying Motivation and
By the time you turn the book’s last page, I hope you will gain two important achievements. First,
I hope you gain a deep and sophisticated understanding of motivation and emotion. Second, I hope
you will gain the practical know-how to apply that knowledge in a concrete and personally meaningful way. Motivational and emotional principles and findings can be applied in many domains, but the
most obvious include the home, school, workplace, clinical setting, counseling center, gym, athletic
field, all aspects of health care, and interpersonal relationships in general.
I assumed some background knowledge on the part of the reader, such as an introductory course
in psychology. The intended audience is upper-level undergraduates enrolled in courses in the department of psychology. I also write for students in other disciplines, largely because motivation and
emotion research reaches into so many diverse areas of study and application, including education,
health, counseling, clinical, sports, industrial/organizational, and business. The book concentrates
on human, rather than on nonhuman, motivation.
It has been three years since the last edition of the book was published. In that time, two important
trends unfolded. First, motivation and emotion scientists were able to reach a greater sense of consensus as to what constructs, ideas, theories, and findings are most important and meaningful. For
someone who has spent a lifetime in the field, it was good to see this greater sense of agreement,
consensus, and clarity of purpose. This achievement just makes the story of motivation and emotion
study an easier story to tell. What this means for the reader is that the seventh edition of the book
is 50 pages shorter than the sixth edition. I think students might appreciate this greater clarity and
organization. That said, all of the following motivational and emotional phenomena are new to the
seventh edition: Expectancy × Value theories, with a special emphasis on value-promoting interventions; mindfulness, terror management theory; intrinsic goals and extrinsic goals; psychological need
frustration; internalization and integration of extrinsic motivations; leadership motivation profile,
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coping with failure, two views of the self, including self-as-object and self-as-agent, and the question
of whether or not people have a “true self.”
Each chapter features a chapter box that addresses a specific concern. For instance, the box
in Chapter 3 uses the information on the motivated and emotional brain to understand how antidepressant drugs work. The box in Chapter 8 uses the information on goals to lay out a step-by-step
goal-setting and goal-striving program that can be applied to many different objectives. At the end of
each chapter, a set of 10 recommended readings appears. These recommended journal articles represent suggestions for further individual study. I selected these particular readings using four criteria:
(1) each reading’s represents what is central to the chapter, (2) its topic appeals to a wide audience,
(3) its length is short, and (4) its methodology and data analysis are reader-friendly.
The seventh edition includes an expanded Instructor’s Manual/Test Bank. This supplement includes
classroom discussion questions, recommended activities, brief demonstrations of motivational principles, and other tools to help instructors teach their students. Interested instructors should contact
their Wiley representative for more information.
Many voices speak within the pages of the book. Much of what I write emerged from conversations
with colleagues and through my reading of their work. I have benefited from so many colleagues
that I now find it impossible to acknowledge them all. Still, I want to try.
My first expression of gratitude goes to all those colleagues who, formally or casually, intentionally or inadvertently, knowingly or unknowingly, shared their ideas in conversation: Nathalie
Aelterman, Avi Assor, Roy Baumeister, Daniel Berlyne, Virginia Blankenship, Mimi Bong, Jerry
Burger, Sung Hyeon Cheon, Valery Chirkov, Steven G. Cole, Bud Craig, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi,
Richard deCharms, Edward L. Deci, Andrew Elliot, Marylene Gagne, Nicolas Gillet, Peter
Gollwitzer, Wendy Grolnick, Leen Haerens, Martin Hagger, Marc Halusic, Pat Hardre, E. Tory
Higgins, Holley Hodgins, Alice M. Isen, Carroll Izard, Hye-Ryen Jang, Hyungshim Jang, Mireille
Joussemet, Haya Kaplan, Tim Kasser, Eun-Joo Kim, Sung-il Kim, Richard Koestner, Andraes Krapp,
Jennifer La Guardia, Randy Larsen, Woogul Lee, Lisa Legault, George Loewenstein, Chris Lonsdale,
Wayne Ludvigson, David McClelland, Lennia Matos, Marina Milyavskaya, Kou Murayama, Henry
Newell, Glen Nix, Nikos Ntoumanis, Brad Olson, Erika Patall, Dawn Robinson, Tom Rocklin, Carl
Rogers, Guy Roth, Richard Ryan, Oliver Schultheiss, Kennon Sheldon, Paul Silvia, Ellen Skinner,
Bart Soenens, Richard Solomon, Martyn Standage, Yulan Su, Silvan Tomkins, Robert Vallerand,
Maarten Vansteenkiste, Feliciano Veiga, John Chee Keng Wang, Karin Weber-Gaparoni, Netta
Weinstein, Dan Wegner, Geoffrey Williams, and Rex Wright. I consider each of these contributors
to be my colleague and kindred spirit in the fun and struggle to understand human strivings.
My second expression of gratitude goes to those who explicitly donated their time and energy to
reviewing the early drafts of the book, including Debora R. Baldwin, Sandor B. Brent, Gustavo Carlo,
Herbert L. Colston, Richard Dienstbier, Robert Emmons, Valeri Farmer-Dougan, Todd M. Freeberg,
Eddie Harmon-Jones, Wayne Harrison, Carol A. Hayes, Teresa M. Heckert, John Hinson, August
Hoffman, Mark S. Hoyert, Wesley J. Kasprow, Norman E. Kinney, John Kounios, Robert Madigan,
Randall Martin, Michael McCall, Jim McMartin, James J. Ryan, Kraig L. Schell, Peter Senkowski,
Henry V. Soper, Michael Sylvester, Ronald R. Ulm, Wesley White, and A. Bond Woodruff.
I sincerely thank all the students I have had the pleasure to work with over the years. It was
back at Ithaca College that I first became convinced that my students wanted and needed such a
book. In a very real sense, I wrote the first edition for them. The students who occupy my thoughts
today are those with me at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea. For readers familiar with the
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earlier editions, this seventh edition presents a tone that is decidedly more practical and applied.
This balance comes in part from my daily conversations with students.
Ithaca, New York, is doubly important to me, because it was in this beautiful town in upstate
New York that I met Deborah Van Patten of Wiley (then Harcourt College Publishers). Deborah was
every bit as responsible for getting this book off the ground as I was. Although 22 years have now
passed, I still want to express my heartfelt gratitude to you, Deborah. The professionals at Wiley
have been wonderful. Everyone at Wiley has been both a valuable resource and a source of pleasure,
especially Lisa Wojcik, Nichole Urban, Nicole Repasky, Judy Howarth, Ethan Lispon, Indirakumari
S, and Mike Cullen.
I am especially grateful for the advice, patience, assistance, and direction provided by my psychology editor Veronica Visentin. Thanks.
—Johnmarshall Reeve
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Page vii
To Richard Troelstrup, who introduced me to psychology.
To Edwin Guthrie, who first deeply interested me in psychology.
To Steven Cole, who mentored and supported me so that
I could participate in this wonderful profession.
To June Sunshine, who models for me everyday what healthy
human motivation looks like.
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Brief Contents
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Preface iii
Introduction 1
Motivation and Emotion in Historical Perspective
The Motivated and Emotional Brain 44
Part I Needs 69
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Physiological Needs 71
Extrinsic Motivation and Internalization
Psychological Needs 123
Implicit Motives 152
Part II Cognitions
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Goal Setting and Goal Striving
Mindsets 202
Personal Control Beliefs 227
The Self and Its Strivings 255
Part III Emotions
Nature of Emotion: Six Perennial Questions
Aspects of Emotion 313
Individual Emotions 339
Part IV Applied Concerns
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Growth Motivation and Positive Psychology
Unconscious Motivation 397
Interventions 423
Author Index
Subject Index
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Detailed Contents
Chapter 1
What Is Motivation? Why Is It Important? 2
Motivational Science 4
Two Perennial Questions 5
What Causes Behavior? 5
Why Does Behavior Vary in Its Intensity? 7
Subject Matter 7
Internal Motives 8
External Events and Social Contexts 9
Motivation versus Influence 10
Expressions of Motivation 10
Behavior 10
Engagement 11
Psychophysiology 12
Brain Activations 12
Self-Report 13
Framework to Understand Motivation and Emotion 13
Ten Unifying Themes 14
Motivation and Emotion Benefit Adaptation and Functioning 14
Motivation and Emotion Direct Attention 15
Motivation and Emotion Are “Intervening Variables” 16
Motives Vary Over Time and Contribute into the Ongoing Stream of Behavior 16
Types of Motivations Exist 17
We Are Not Always Consciously Aware of the Motivational Basis of Our Behavior 18
Motivation Study Reveals What People Want 19
To Flourish, Motivation Needs Supportive Conditions 19
When Trying to Motivate Others, What Is Easy to Do Is Rarely What Works 20
There Is Nothing So Practical as a Good Theory 21
Summary 21
Chapter 2
Motivation and Emotion in Historical Perspective
Philosophical Origins of Motivational Concepts
Grand Theories 26
Will 26
Instinct 26
Drive 28
Rise of the Mini-Theories 33
Active Nature of the Person 34
Cognitive Revolution 35
Socially Relevant Questions 35
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Contemporary Era 37
The 1990s Reemergence of Motivation Study
Brief History of Emotion Study 40
Conclusion 41
Summary 42
Readings for Further Study 43
Chapter 3
The Motivated and Emotional Brain
Motivation, Emotion, and Neuroscience 46
Day-to-Day Events Activate Specific Brain Structures 46
Activated Brain Structures Generate Specific Motivations and Emotions
Neural Basis of Motivation and Emotion 47
Cortical Brain 47
Subcortical Brain 48
Bidirectional Communication 48
Individual Brain Structures Involved in Motivation and Emotion 49
Subcortical Brain Structures 50
Cortical Brain Structures 59
Hormones 65
Summary 67
Readings for Further Study 68
Part I Needs 69
Chapter 4
Physiological Needs
Three Types of Needs 72
Fundamentals of Regulation 74
Physiological Need 75
Psychological Drive 75
Homeostasis 75
Negative Feedback 76
Multiple Inputs/Multiple Outputs 76
Intraorganismic Mechanisms 77
Extraorganismic Mechanisms 77
Homeostatic Mechanism 77
Thirst 78
Physiological Regulation 79
Environmental Influences 80
Hunger 81
Short-Term Appetite 81
Long-Term Energy Balance 82
Environmental Influences 84
Self-Regulatory Influences 85
Weight Gain and Obesity 86
Comprehensive Model of Hunger 87
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Physiological Regulation 88
Facial Metrics 90
Sexual Scripts 93
Sexual Orientation 94
Evolutionary Basis of Sexual Motivation
Summary 96
Readings for Further Study 97
Chapter 5
Extrinsic Motivation and Internalization
Extrinsic Motivation 100
Incentives and Consequences 100
Incentives 101
Reinforcers 101
Managing Behavior 102
Consequences 103
Hidden Costs of Reward 106
Intrinsic Motivation 107
Intrinsic Motivation versus Extrinsic Motivation 108
Expected and Tangible Rewards 111
Implications 111
Benefits of Extrinsic Motivation 111
Cognitive Evaluation Theory 112
Two Examples of Controlling and Informational Events
Types of Extrinsic Motivation 115
External Regulation 117
Introjected Regulation 117
Identified Regulation 117
Integrated Regulation 118
Internalization and Integration 118
Motivating Others on Uninteresting Activities 119
Amotivation 120
Summary 121
Readings for Further Study 122
Chapter 6
Psychological Needs
Psychological Needs 124
Organismic Psychological Needs 125
Benefits of Need Satisfaction 125
Need Frustration 127
Autonomy 128
Supporting Autonomy 129
The Conundrum of Choice 134
Benefits from Autonomy Support 135
Giving and Receiving Autonomy Support
Competence 136
Optimal Challenge 137
Flow 137
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Structure 139
Failure Tolerance 141
Relatedness 142
Involving Relatedness 143
Satisfying Relatedness 143
Supporting Relatedness 144
Communal and Exchange Relationships 145
Benefits from Relatedness Need Satisfaction 146
Putting it All Together: Relationships and Social Contexts that Support Psychological Need
Satisfaction 146
Engagement 147
What Makes for a Good Day? 147
Vitality 149
Summary 149
Readings for Further Study 150
Chapter 7
Implicit Motives
Implicit Motives 154
Acquired Needs 155
Social Needs 155
How Implicit Motives, as Acquired Psychological Needs, Motivate Behavior
Achievement 159
Origins of the Need for Achievement 160
Atkinson’s Model 161
Achievement for the Future 163
Dynamics-of-Action Model 163
Conditions That Involve and Satisfy the Need for Achievement 165
Affiliation 166
Duality of Affiliation Motivation 167
Conditions That Involve the Affiliation and Intimacy Duality 167
Conditions That Satisfy the Affiliation Need 168
Power 169
Conditions That Involve and Satisfy the Need for Power 170
Goal Pursuit and Perspective Taking 172
Is the Implicit Power Motive Bad? 172
Leadership Motive Pattern 172
Compassionate Leadership Profile 173
Four Additional Social Needs 175
Summary 175
Readings for Further Study 176
Part II Cognitions 177
Chapter 8
Goal Setting and Goal Striving
Cognitive Springs to Action 180
Plans 181
Corrective Motivation 183
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Discrepancy 183
Discrepancy, Emotions, and Feelings 184
Two Types of Discrepancy 185
Goal Setting 186
Goal–Performance Discrepancy 186
Difficult, Specific, and Congruent Goals Enhance Performance
Feedback 189
Criticisms 190
Long-Term Goal Setting 192
From Where Do Goals Come? 192
Goal Striving 193
Mental Simulations 193
Implementation Intentions 194
Goal Disengagement 198
Summary 200
Readings for Further Study 201
Chapter 9
Mindset 203
Mindset 1: Deliberative–Implemental 203
Deliberative Mindset 205
Implemental Mindset 205
Downstream Consequences of the Deliberative and Implemental Mindsets 206
Mindset 2: Promotion–Prevention 206
Promotion Mindset 207
Prevention Mindset 208
Different Definitions of Success and Failure 208
Different Goal-Striving Strategies 209
Ideal Self-Guides and Ought Self-Guides 210
Regulatory Fit Predicts Strength of Motivation and Well-Being 211
Mindset 3: Growth-Fixed 211
Fixed Mindset 212
Growth Mindset 212
Meaning of Effort 212
Origins of Fixed-Growth Mindsets 214
Different Fixed-Growth Mindsets Lead to Different Achievement Goals 215
Achievement Goals 217
Cognitive Dissonance 221
Dissonance-Arousing Situations 222
Motivational Processes Underlying Cognitive Dissonance 224
Self-Perception Theory 224
Summary 225
Readings for Further Study 226
Chapter 10
Personal Control Beliefs
Motivation to Exercise Personal Control 228
Two Kinds of Expectancy 229
Perceived Control: Self, Action, and Control
Coping with Failure 230
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Self-Efficacy 231
Sources of Self-Efficacy 233
Self-Efficacy Effects on Behavior 235
Empowerment 237
Empowering People: Mastery Modeling Program
Mastery Beliefs 239
Ways of Coping 239
Mastery versus Helplessness 239
Learned Helplessness 240
Learning Helplessness 241
Application to Humans 242
Components 243
Helplessness Effects 244
Helplessness and Depression 245
Attributions and Explanatory Style 246
Reactance Theory 249
Expectancy–Value Model 250
Value 251
Value Interventions 252
Summary 252
Readings for Further Study 253
Chapter 11
The Self and Its Strivings
Page xv
Two Views of Self 256
Self-as-Object 257
Self-as-Agent 257
The Problem with Self-Esteem 258
Self-Concept 259
Self-Schemas 260
Motivational Properties of Self-Schemas 260
Consistent Self 261
Self-Verification versus Self-Concept Change 262
Why People Self-Verify 263
Possible Selves 263
Identity 266
Roles 267
Connections to Social Groups 267
Situations Make Specific Identities Salient 267
Agency 268
Self as Action and Development from Within 268
True Self? 269
Self-Concordance 270
Intrinsic Goals and Extrinsic Goals 271
Self-Regulation 273
Forethought through Reflection 273
Developing More Competent Self-Regulation 274
Self-Control 275
Is the Capacity to Exert Self-Control Beneficial to a Successful Life?
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Detailed Contents
Summary 279
Readings for Further Study
Part III Emotions 283
Chapter 12
Nature of Emotion: Six Perennial Questions
Six Perennial Questions 286
What is an Emotion? 287
Definition 288
Relation between Emotion and Motivation 290
What Causes an Emotion? 291
Two-Systems View 292
Chicken-and-Egg 293
What Ends an Emotion? 294
How Many Emotions are There? 294
Biological Perspective 294
Cognitive Perspective 296
Reconciliation of the Numbers Issue 297
What Good are the Emotions? 299
Coping Functions 299
Social Functions 300
Why We Have Emotions 302
Can We Control Our Emotions? 303
Emotion Regulation Strategies 304
What is the Difference Between Emotion and Mood? 306
Everyday Mood 306
Positive Affect 308
Summary 310
Readings for Further Study 311
Chapter 13
Aspects of Emotion
Biological Aspects of Emotion 314
James–Lange Theory 315
Contemporary Perspective 315
Brain Activity Activates Individual Emotions
Facial Feedback Hypothesis 318
Cognitive Aspects of Emotion 324
Appraisal 324
Complex Appraisal 327
Appraisal as a Process 329
Emotion Differentiation 330
Emotion Knowledge 331
Attributions 332
Emotions Affect Cognition 334
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Page xvii
Social Aspects of Emotion 334
Social Interaction 334
Social Sharing of Emotion 335
Summary 337
Readings for Further Study 338
Chapter 14
Individual Emotions
Basic Emotions 340
Fear 341
Anger 342
Disgust 343
Contempt 344
Sadness 345
Emotional Preparation for Threat and Harm 346
Joy 346
Interest 347
Emotional Preparation for Motive Involvement and Satisfaction 348
Self-Conscious Emotions 348
Shame 348
Guilt 350
Embarrassment 351
Pride 352
Triumph 352
Interrelations among Shame, Guilt, Embarrassment, Pride, and Hubris
Cognitively Complex Emotions 353
Envy 353
Gratitude 355
Disappointment and Regret 356
Hope 357
Schadenfreude 357
Empathy 358
Compassion 359
Summary 360
Readings for Further Study 361
Part IV Applied Concerns 363
Chapter 15
Growth Motivation and Positive Psychology
Holism and Positive Psychology 367
Holism 368
Positive Psychology 368
Self-Actualization 368
Hierarchy of Human Needs 369
Encouraging Growth 371
Actualizing Tendency 371
Organismic Valuing Process 372
Emergence of the Self 373
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Conditions of Worth 374
Conditional Regard as a Socialization Strategy 376
Fully Functioning Individual 378
Organismic Integration 379
Humanistic Motivational Phenomena 379
Causality Orientations 379
Growth-Seeking versus Validation Seeking 380
Relationships 381
Freedom to Learn 382
Self-Definition and Social Definition 382
Problem of Evil 383
Positive Psychology 385
Happiness and Well-Being 385
Eudaimonic Well-Being 387
Optimism 388
Meaning 389
Positivity 390
Mindfulness 391
Interventions 391
Cultivating Hope 392
Cultivating Compassion 392
Criticisms 394
Summary 395
Readings for Further Study 396
Chapter 16
Unconscious Motivation
Psychodynamic Perspective 398
Psychoanalytic Becomes Psychodynamic 399
Dual-Instinct Theory 400
Do the Id and Ego Actually Exist? 401
Contemporary Psychodynamic Theory 402
The Unconscious 403
Freudian Unconscious 403
Adaptive Unconscious 404
Implicit Motivation 406
Priming 407
Psychodynamics 408
Repression 409
Suppression 409
Terror Management Theory 411
Ego Psychology 412
Ego Development 412
Ego Defense 413
Ego Effectance 415
Object Relations Theory 416
Criticisms 419
Summary 420
Readings for Further Study 421
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Chapter 17
Applying Principles of Motivation and Emotion 424
Explaining Motivation and Emotion 424
Predicting Motivation and Emotion 425
Solving Motivational and Emotional Problems 425
Practice Problems 426
Three State-of-the-Art Interventions 428
Preface 428
Intervention 1: Satisfying Psychological Needs 428
Intervention 2: Increasing a Growth Mindset 431
Intervention 3: Promoting Emotion Knowledge 434
Wisdom Gained from a Scientific Study of Motivation and Emotion
Page xix
Author Index
Subject Index
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Page xx
What Causes Behavior?
Why Does Behavior Vary in Its Intensity?
Internal Motives
Emotions as Motivational States
External Events and Social Contexts
Motivation versus Influence
Brain Activations
Motivation and Emotion Benefit Adaptation and Functioning
Motivation and Emotion Direct Attention
Motivation and Emotion Are “Intervening Variables”
Motives Vary Over Time and Contribute into the Ongoing Stream of Behavior
Types of Motivations Exist
We Are Not Always Consciously Aware of the Motivational Basis of Our Behavior
Motivation Study Reveals What People Want
To Flourish, Motivation Needs Supportive Conditions
When Trying to Motivate Others, What Is Easy to Do Is Rarely What Works
There Is Nothing So Practical as a Good Theory
Chapter 1
Every morning on my way to work, I walk by the same beautiful tree. Some of these mornings are
bitterly cold. On these winter days, I realize that I can do something that the tree cannot. I can move.
I can walk inside a building, put on a coat, or bring along a cup of hot coffee. The tree, however, just
stands there day after day. So, I worry about that tree.
I worry because the tree cannot take action and do what is necessary to protect itself—from the
cold, from a chainsaw, or from bark-eating beetles. I also worry about the environment that surrounds
that tree. I am happy to see it supported by warm weather and a soft rain, while I fret when the wind
blows hard and nutriments are scarce.
My desire and capacity to move are incredible assets. Move is the theme of this book. Indeed,
the words motivation, emotion, and motive are all derived from the Latin verb movere, which means
“to move.” This book is about all the forces that generate and sustain movere. It is a story about
how the motivational and emotional assets we all possess help us move forward toward optimal
functioning and greater well-being.
What is motivation? One reason to read this book is, of course, to find an answer to this question.
But as a way of beginning the journey, pause for a moment and generate your own answer, however
preliminary, however tentative, however personal and private. Perhaps scribble your definition on a
notepad or in the margins of this book.
Later in the chapter, the book offers a formal definition for both motivation (page 8) and
emotion (page 9). To get us started, however, consider a simple definition: Motivation is wanting
(Baumeister, 2016). Motivation is a condition inside us that desires a change—a change in the self
or a change in the environment. The appeal of this simple definition is that it identifies the active
ingredient (i.e., wanting change) within any motivational state—I want to change my behavior,
change my thoughts, change the way I feel, change my self-concept, change my surrounding
environment, change the quality of my relationships, and so forth.
Why is motivation important? Why is it important to know and to understand what people want?
While there are many reasons why motivation study is important and worthwhile, consider two key
First, learning about motivation is a very interesting thing to do. Few topics spark and entertain
the imagination so well. Anything that tells us about what we want and desire, why we want what
we want, and how we can improve our lives is going to be interesting. And anything that tells us
about what other people want, why they want what they want, and how we can improve their lives
is going to be interesting. To give us these insights, we can turn to theories of motivation to learn
about topics such as human nature, goal setting, strivings for achievement and power, desires for
biological sex and psychological intimacy, and emotions like fear, anger, and compassion. These theories explain how to boost engagement, change behavior, develop talent, be creative, grow interests,
develop competencies, and set goals and make plans.
Second, learning about motivation is a valuable, useful, and deeply worthwhile thing to do.
Learning about motivation can be an extremely practical and worthwhile undertaking. It can be
quite useful to know where motivation comes from, why it sometimes changes and why it other
times does not, under what conditions it increases or decreases, what aspects of motivation can
and cannot be changed, and whether some types of motivation are more beneficial than are other
types. Knowing such things, we can apply our knowledge to situations such as trying to motivate
employees, coach athletes, counsel clients, raise children, engage students, or change our own ways
of thinking, feeling, and behaving. Understanding motivation and emotion offers a reliable pathway
to gain valued outcomes, such as greater effort, improved performance, a sense of purpose, personal
growth, and enhanced well-being. To the extent that a study of motivation and emotion can tell us
how we can improve our lives and the lives of others, the journey will be time well spent.
What Is Motivation? Why Is It Important?
Studying motivation and emotion is an opportunity to gain both theoretical understanding and
practical know-how. As a case in point, consider exercise. Think about it for a moment: Why would
anyone want to exercise? Can you explain this? Can you explain where the motivation to exercise
comes from? Do you understand why people might be more willing to exercise under some conditions yet less willing to do so under other conditions? Can you explain why one person might
be more willing to exercise than another? Can you explain why the same person sometimes wants
to exercise but other times does not want to exercise? To help answer such questions, 13 different motivation-based reasons to exercise appear in Table 1.1. For some reasons, the person just
exercises spontaneously (e.g., good mood). For other reasons, the motivation has more purpose to
it (e.g., health benefits). And for still other reasons, the motivation reflects something unique about
the person (e.g., pursuit of a standard of excellence).
And we need to consider not only the motivation to exercise (approach) but also the motivation
not to exercise (avoidance). What if exercising makes us feel anxious or stressed? What if exercise
makes us feel incompetent and embarrassed? What if we feel tired, or what if we just do not feel like
putting forth all that effort? What if time spent exercising takes us away from other things we like
to do, such as watching television, reading a book, or logging on to Facebook?
And there are of course many different ways to exercise, assuming one actually has sufficient
motivation to do so. So, we need to ask: Why run laps around a track? Why jump up and down
during an aerobics class? Why climb stairs on a machine that does not really go anywhere? Or, why
pass by the elevator or escalator to walk up seven flights of stairs? Why run when you know your
lungs will collapse for want of air? Why jump and stretch when you know your muscles will rip
Table 1.1
Thirteen Different Motivational Reasons to Exercise
Why Exercise?
Fun, enjoyment
Intrinsic motivation
Personal challenge
Forced to do so
Accomplish a goal
Health benefits
External regulation
Possible self
Pursuit of a standard
of excellence
Satisfaction from a
job well done
An emotional kick
Achievement strivings
Good mood
Positive affect
Alleviate guilt
Relieve stress,
Hang out with friends
Personal control
Children exercise spontaneously—they run and jump and
chase, and they do so simply for the sheer fun of it.
Athletes get “in the zone” when their sport optimally
challenges their skills.
Athletes exercise because their coach tells them to do so.
Runners strive to run a mile in six minutes or less.
People exercise to lose weight or to strengthen the heart.
People watch others exercise and become inspired to do
the same.
Snow skiers race to the bottom of the mountain trying to
beat their previous best time.
As exercisers make progress, they feel more competent,
more effective.
Vigorous jogging can produce a runner’s high (a euphoric
rebound to the pain).
Beautiful weather can induce a good mood such that
people exercise spontaneously, as they skip along
without even knowing why.
People exercise because they think that is what they
should or ought to do to please others or to relieve their
own sense of guilt.
After a stressful day, people go to the gym, which they see
as a structured and controllable environment.
Exercise is often a social event, a time to enjoy hanging
out with friends.
Opponent process
Chapter 1
and tear? Why take an hour out of the day when you just do not feel like it or when your schedule
simply will not allow it? Why exercise when life offers so many other interesting things to do?
Why indeed?
These questions ask about exercise, but they could just as easily ask about the motivation underlying any activity. If you play the piano, why? If you are fluent in a second language, why did you
go through all the effort to learn that foreign language? If you spent the afternoon working hard to
learn something new or to develop a talent, then why?
The study of motivation and emotion is a behavioral science. The term science signals that answers to
motivational questions require objective, data-based, empirical evidence gained from well-conducted
and peer-reviewed research findings. Motivational science does not accept quotes from famous basketball coaches as definitive answers, however inspirational and attention-getting those quotes may
be. Instead, motivational science embraces empirical methods, as it emphasizes testable hypotheses,
operational definitions of its constructs, observational methods, and objective statistical analyses to
evaluate the scientific merit of its hypotheses. Such research seeks to construct theories about how
motivational processes work.
The ongoing processes of putting one’s ideas about motivation to empirical test is a crucial process to realizing the title of this book (i.e., Understanding Motivation and Emotion), because the
motivational concepts one uses need to be chosen carefully, and they need to be continually evaluated against new findings. Inadequate concepts—as determined by a lack of supportive empirical
evidence—are best tossed aside, useful concepts need to be improved upon, and new explanatory
concepts need to be discovered.
A theory is an intellectual framework that organizes a vast amount of knowledge about a phenomenon so that the phenomenon can be better described, understood, and explained (Fiske, 2004).
The study of motivation and emotion exists to answer the Why? questions of behavior, thought, and
feeling, such as Why did she do that? and Why does she feel that way? To quote Bernard and Lac
(2013, p. 574):
without an answer to why, we are left only with the description of behavior, and description without
explanation is ultimately unsatisfying.
To understand the nature of something such as achievement motivation and to explain how it
works, a theory of achievement motivation needs to do two things. First, it needs to identify the
relations that exist among naturally occurring, observable phenomena. For instance, a theory needs
to identify what causes the phenomenon and also what the phenomenon itself causes. A theory of
achievement motivation, for instance, will identify variables such as optimal challenge, independent
work, and rapid performance feedback as the naturally occurring causes for achievement strivings,
and it will identify variables such as effort, persistence, and career choices (e.g., entrepreneurship) as its naturally occurring consequences. Second, it needs to explain why those relations exist.
For instance, why does a challenge (e.g., Can you do this?) lead some people strive for achievement while it leads other people to experience only anxiety and avoidance? If you can identify the
antecedents and consequences to a motivational or an emotional phenomenon, then your understanding will be clearer, more sophisticated, and more helpful. You will be well positioned (well informed)
when it comes time to improve your life or the life of a loved one.
Figure 1.1 illustrates the function and utility of a good theory (Trope, 2004). A theory cuts
through the complexity and noise of reality to represent how a phenomenon generally works (“Representation” in Figure 1.1). Once formed, theories generate predictions (i.e., hypotheses) about where
a motivational state comes from, what it leads to (e.g., behavioral change), and how, when, and under
what conditions it might change.
Two Perennial Questions
(In all its complexity)
(As created by
(How to support and
enhance motivation
and emotion in
applied settings)
(As derived from
the theory)
(To test the adequacy
of each hypothesis)
Figure 1.1 Illustration of a Theory
How a theory conceptualizes the phenomenon may or may not be correct or complete. So,
researchers use the theory to generate testable hypotheses. A hypothesis is a prediction about what
should happen if the theory is correct. For instance, one hypothesis about achievement motivation
might be that people who set goals and receive rapid performance feedback (e.g., entrepreneurs)
should experience greater achievement strivings at work than do people who have service-oriented
jobs (e.g., nursing; Jenkins, 1987). With a hypothesis in hand, a research study is carried out to collect the data necessary to evaluate the accuracy of the hypothesis. If the findings support the theory’s
hypothesis, researchers then gain confidence in the validity of the theory.
If the findings fail to support the theory, however, researchers lose confidence in the theory and
either revise it or go in search of a better theory (i.e., a better explanation).
After a theory has been sufficiently, rigorously, and objectively validated, it becomes useful.
A validated theory serves as a practical tool to recommend applications that can improve people’s
lives (“Application” in Figure 1.1). A validated theory can inform interventions and applications in
real-world settings. With a valid theory in hand, the motivation scientist can translate discovered
knowledge into useful applications in schools, workplaces, and society and, therefore, promote in
people more effective functioning and enhanced well-being.
Overall, by proposing and testing their theories, researchers develop a deep understanding of
motivation and emotion (i.e., gain theoretical knowledge), and by refining and applying their theories, researchers develop workable solutions to life’s motivational problems (i.e., gain practical
The study of motivation revolves around providing the best possible answers to two fundamental
questions: (1) What causes behavior? and (2) Why does behavior vary in its intensity?
What Causes Behavior?
Motivation’s first fundamental question is, What causes behavior? Or, stated in terms of a Why?
question: Why did she do that? We see people behave, but we cannot see the underlying cause
or causes that generated their behavior. We watch people show great effort and persistence
Chapter 1
(or none at all), but the reasons why they show great effort remain unobserved. Motivation exists as
a scientific field to identify those hidden causes of behavior.
It is helpful to expand this one general question into five specific questions:
· Why does behavior start?
· Once begun, why is behavior sustained over time?
· Why is behavior directed toward some goals yet away from others?
· Why does behavior change its direction?
· Why does behavior stop?
In the study of motivation, it is not enough to ask why a person practices a sport, why a child
reads books, or why an adolescent refuses to sing in the choir. To gain a sophisticated understanding
Why We Do What We Do
Why is this information important?
To gain the capacity to explain why people do what they do.
Explaining motivation—why people do what they
do—is not easy. People have no shortage of possible
motivation theories (“He did that because … ”), but the
problem is that many of these intuitive theories are not
really helpful.
When I talk to people in everyday life, when I ask students about their own motivation theories during the first
week of class, and when I read the advice people give online
and during television talk shows, the most popular theories
people embrace are:
· Self-esteem and praise
· Incentives and rewards
At the top of the list of people’s theories of motivation
is “boost self-esteem.” The view on self-esteem sounds
something like, “Find a way to make people feel good
about themselves, and then good things will start to
happen.” “Praise them, compliment them, and give them
some affirmation that they are worthy as a person and that
brighter days are ahead.” The problem with this strategy
is that it is wrong. It is wrong because there is practically no empirical evidence to support it (Baumeister,
Campbell, Krueger, & Vohs, 2003). Educational psychologists, for instance, routinely find that increases in students’
self-esteem do not produce subsequent increases in their
academic achievement (Marsh & Craven, 2006). A former
president of the American Psychological Association
(APA) went so far as to conclude that “there are almost no
findings that self-esteem causes anything at all” (Seligman,
quoted in Azar, 1994, p. 4).
There is value in a healthy dose of self-esteem. The
problem is that self-esteem is not a causal variable. Instead,
it is an effect—a reflection of how our lives are going.
It is a barometer of well-being. When life is going well,
self-esteem rises; when life is going poorly, self-esteem
falls. This is very different from saying that self-esteem
causes life to go well. The logical flaw in thinking about
self-esteem as a source of motivation is the act of putting
the proverbial cart before the horse. Self-esteem is a cart,
not a horse.
Next on people’s list of theories of motivation is
“provide incentives and offer rewards.” This view sounds
something like, “When people are unmotivated, offer them
an incentive to get them going.” The problem with this
strategy is twofold. First, incentives and rewards need to be
given carefully, because removing them tends to damage
the person’s preexisting motivation to engage in that same
task without the promise of reward (Deci, Koestner, &
Ryan, 1999). For instance, in school, do you only read the
course textbook right before the exam? Have years and
years of tests squashed your natural curiosity and early love
of reading?
Second, if you think about it, the person offering the
incentive actually ignores or bypasses an understanding of
the person’s motivation and instead seeks only compliance.
Instead of offering a reward to compensate for low motivation, wouldn’t it make a lot of sense if authors would just
write a really interesting and “must read” textbook in the
first place?
What we will do on each page of this book is look
inside the person to identify those internal processes that
energize, direct, and sustain behavior. When we do this,
we will discover theories of motivation that are much more
effective than the big two of “boost self-esteem” and “offer
Subject Matter
of why people do what they do, we must ask further why athletes begin to practice in the first place.
What was the reason (or reasons) why this athlete or this group of athletes first started to participate
in this particular sport? What energizes their effort hour after hour, day after day, season after season?
Why do these athletes practice one particular sport rather than another? Why are they practicing now
rather than, say, hanging out with their friends? When they do practice, why do these athletes quit
for the day, or quit during their lifetimes? These same questions can be asked of children as they read
books: Why begin? Why continue past the first page? Past the first chapter? Why pick that particular
book? Why stop reading? Will their reading continue in the years to come?
For a more personal example, let me ask, Why did you begin to read this book today? Will you
continue reading to the end of this chapter? Will you continue reading until the end of the book?
If you do stop before the end, then why will you stop? After reading, what will you do next? Why?
The discussion in Box 1 expands on the quest to explain why we do what we do.
Why Does Behavior Vary in Its Intensity?
Motivation’s second fundamental question is, Why does behavior vary in its intensity? Other ways
of asking this same question would be to ask, Why is desire strong and resilient at one time yet weak
and fragile at another time? and Why does the same person choose to do different things at different
Behavior varies in its intensity, and its intensity varies both within the individual and among
different individuals. The idea that motivation can vary within the individual means that a person
can be actively engaged at one time, yet that same person can be passive and listless at another time.
The idea that motivation can vary among individuals means that, even in the same situation, some
people can be actively engaged while others are passive and listless.
Within the individual, motivation varies. When motivation varies, behavior also varies. Some
days an employee works rapidly and diligently; other days the work is lethargic. One day a student
shows enthusiasm and strives for excellence; yet the next day, the same student is listless, does only
the minimal amount of work, and avoids being challenged academically. Why the same person shows
strong and persistent motivation at one time yet weak and unenthusiastic motivation at another time
needs to be explained. Why does the worker perform so well on Monday but not so well on Tuesday?
Why do children say they are not hungry in the morning, yet the same children complain of urgent
hunger in the afternoon? So the second essential problem in a motivational analysis of behavior is
to understand why a person’s behavior varies in its intensity from one moment to the next, from one
day to the next, and from one year to the next.
Among different people, motivation varies. We all share many of the same basic motivations
and emotions (e.g., hunger, anger), but people do clearly differ in what motivates them. Some motives
are relatively strong for one person yet relatively weak for another. Why is one person a sensation
seeker, who continually seeks out strong sources of stimulation such as riding a motorcycle, whereas
another person is a sensation avoider, who finds such strong stimulation more of an irritant than a
source of excitement? In a contest, why do some people strive diligently to win, whereas others care
little about winning and strive more to make friends? Some people seem so easy to anger, whereas
others rarely get upset. For those motives in which wide individual differences exist, motivation
study investigates how such differences arise (antecedents) and what implications they hold (consequences). So another motivational problem to solve is to recognize that individuals differ in what
motivates them and to explain why this is so.
To explain why people do what they do, we need to explain what gives behavior its energy, direction,
and endurance. It is some motive that energizes the athlete, it is some motive that directs the student’s
Chapter 1
Antecedent Conditions
* External Events
* Social Contexts
Internal Motives
Energized, Goal-directed, and
Persistent (Motivated) Action
Figure 1.2 Three Categories of Internal Motives
behavior toward one goal rather than another, and it is some motive that keeps the artist painting
month after month after month. The study of motivation concerns those internal processes that give
behavior its energy, direction, and persistence. Energy implies that behavior has strength—that it is
relatively strong, intense, and hardy or resilient. Direction implies that behavior has purpose—that
it is aimed or guided toward some particular goal or outcome. Persistence implies that behavior has
endurance—that it sustains itself over time and across different situations.
As shown in Figure 1.2, motives are internal experiences—needs, cognitions, and emotions.
They are the direct and proximal causes of motivated action. External events and social contexts are
important too, because they act as antecedents to motives. Using a movie metaphor, internal motives
are the stars while external events are the supporting characters.
Internal Motives
A motive is an internal process that energizes, directs, and sustains behavior. It is therefore a general
term to identify the common ground shared by needs, cognitions, and emotions. The difference
between a general motive versus a specific need, cognition, or emotion is simply the level of analysis.
Needs, cognitions, and emotions are just three specific types of motives (see Figure 1.2).
Needs are conditions within the individual that are essential and necessary for the maintenance of life
and for the nurturance of growth and well-being. Hunger and thirst exemplify two biological needs
that arise from the body’s requirement for food and water. These are required nutriments for the
maintenance of life. Competence and belongingness exemplify two psychological needs that arise
from the self’s requirement for environmental mastery and warm interpersonal relationships. These
are required nutriments for growth and well-being. Needs serve the organism, and they do so by
(1) generating wants, desires, and strivings that motivate whatever behaviors are necessary for the
maintenance of life and the promotion of growth and well-being and (2) generating a deep sense of
need satisfaction from doing so. Part I discusses specific types of needs: physiological (Chapter 4),
psychological (Chapter 6), and implicit (Chapter 7).
Cognitions refer to mental events, such as thoughts, beliefs, expectations, plans, goals, strategies,
appraisals, attributions, and the self-concept. Cognitive sources of motivation involve the person’s
ways of thinking. For instance, as students, athletes, or salespersons engage in a task, they have
Subject Matter
in mind some plan or goal, they harbor expectations that they will cope well, they have ways of
appraising or interpreting what is happening around them, and they have an understanding of who
they are striving to become. Part II discusses specific cognitive sources of motivation: plans and goals
(Chapter 8), mindsets (Chapter 9), beliefs and expectations (Chapter 10), and the self (Chapter 11).
Emotions are complex but coordinated feeling-arousal–purposive–expressive reactions to the significant events in our lives (e.g., an opportunity, a threat, a loss; Izard, 1993). Emotions generate
brief, attention-getting bursts of emergency-like adaptive behavior. That is, given a significant life
event, emotions rapidly and rather automatically generate and synchronize four interrelated aspects
of experience into a unified whole:
· Feelings: Subjective, verbal descriptions of emotional experience.
· Arousal: Bodily mobilization to cope with situational demands.
· Purpose: Motivational urge to accomplish something specific at that moment.
· Expression: Nonverbal communication of our emotional experience to others.
By generating and synchronizing these four aspects of experience into a coherent whole, emotions allow us to react adaptively to the important events in our lives, such as life’s challenges to our
survival and well-being. For instance, upon encountering a threatening event, we rapidly and rather
automatically feel afraid, our heart rate increases, an urge to escape arises, and the corners of our
lips are drawn backward in such a way that others can recognize and respond to our fear experience.
Other emotions, such as anger and joy, show a similar coherent pattern that organizes our feelings,
arousal, function, and expression in ways that allow us to prepare for and to cope successfully with
a different set of circumstances. Part III discusses the nature of emotion (Chapter 12), its different
aspects (Chapter 13), and individual emotions (Chapter 14).
Emotions as Motivational States
In thinking about the subject matter of motivation and emotion, the reader might be a bit perplexed that emotions are conceived here as motivational states—that is, emotions are a subset of
motivation. Emotions certainly can be studied on their own. But emotions do clearly also serve an
adaptive role for individuals (Keltner & Haidt, 1999; Zeelenberg, Nelissen, Breugelmans, & Pieters,
2008). Each emotion featured in this book serves a distinct motivational function (e.g., fear from
a potential threat motivates the person to escape and to search for a safe place). That is, people
have three major mechanisms to generate adaptive motivational states—needs, cognitions, and emotions, and these three types of internal motives serve as the core subject matter of contemporary
motivation study.
External Events and Social Contexts
External events are environmental, social, and cultural offerings that affect a person’s internal
motives. Environmental events include specific attractive stimuli such as money and events such as
being praised. Environmental events can also be unattractive stimuli such as a foul odor or being
yelled at. Social contexts include general situations, such as a classroom or workplace climate, a
parenting style, or the culture at large.
It is tempting to think that external events are themselves direct sources of motivation. For
instance, if someone says, “I’ll give you $20 if you touch your nose,” then it seems rather obvious
that the $20 bill is directly responsible for your sudden urge to touch your nose. But the motivational
power of incentives and rewards ($20) is actually traceable to the dopamine discharge that occurs
Chapter 1
in your subcortical brain when you expect the delivery of a valued reward (Schultz, Tremblay, &
Hollerman, 2000), as will be explained in Chapter 3. So, it is actually the dopamine discharge and
the cognitive expectation of a forthcoming benefit (internal processes), not the extrinsic reward itself,
that energizes, directs, and sustains behavior (nose touching). That is, if the dopamine discharge did
not occur, then energetic goal-directed behavior would not occur whenever such a $20 offer came
our way. Precisely how environmental events and social or cultural contexts add to and inform a
motivational analysis of behavior will be explained in Chapter 5.
Motivation versus Influence
One reason to read a book on motivation might be to learn the techniques necessary to get other
people to do what you want them to do. For instance, parents might want to know how to get children
to clean their room, and workplace managers might want tips in how to persuade employees to make
more sales. In these examples, what people want is not motivation per se but, rather, influence.
Influence is the social process in which one requests that the other change his or her behavior
or thought (attitude, opinion) (Hogg, 2010). This interpersonal process occurs under various names
such as persuasion, compliance, conformity, obedience, and leadership. Motivation, however, is a
private, internal process. What motivation does is endow the person with the energy and direction
needed to engage in and to cope with the environment in an open-ended, adaptive, problem-solving
sort of way.
When you motivate someone, you energize and direct their behavior, engagement, and coping.
People are motivated when their behavior is strong, purposive, and resilient. When you influence
people, you get them to do what you want them to do. The study of motivation is, therefore, not about
manipulating people; rather, it is about understanding the conditions under which people can energize
and direct (i.e., motivate) their own behavior—and then offering those conditions in a supportive way
(Deci, 1995).
Watch someone for a few minutes, and then ask yourself if this person is motivated or not. If so, then
ask yourself what types of motivation the person has. For instance, as you watch two people—say,
two teenagers playing a tennis match—how do you know that one person is more motivated than the
other? How do you know whether the two players have the same type of motivation, or two different
types of motivation?
Motivation is a private and unobservable (internal) experience. You cannot see another person’s
motivation. That is, as you walk down the street, you cannot look at the passersby and actually see
their thirst, the goals they strive for, or extent of their achievement motivation. Instead, we observe
what is public and measurable to infer such motivations.
Below are the five telltale ways that you can know (or measure) motivation when you see
it—behavior, engagement, psychophysiology, brain activations, and self-report.
Seven aspects of behavior express the presence, intensity, and quality of motivation (Atkinson &
Birch, 1970, 1978; Bolles, 1975; Ekman & Friesen, 1975): effort, persistence, latency, choice,
probability of response, facial expressions, and bodily gestures. These aspects of behavior are listed
and defined in Table 1.2. When behavior shows intense effort, long persistence, short latency, high
probability of occurrence, facial or gestural expressiveness or when the individual pursues one
specific goal-object in lieu of another, such is the evidence to infer the presence of a relatively intense
motive. When behavior shows lackadaisical effort, fragile persistence, long latency, low probability
Expressions of Motivation
Table 1.2
Seven Behavioral Expressions of Motivation and Emotion
Probability of response
Facial expressions
Bodily gestures
Exertion put forth during a task. Percentage of total capacity used.
Time between when a behavior first starts until it ends.
Duration of time a person waits to get started on a task upon first being given an
opportunity to do so.
When presented with two or more courses of action, preferring one course of action
over the other.
Number (or percentage) of occasions that the person enacts a particular
goal-directed response given the total number of opportunities to do so.
Facial movements, such as wrinkling the nose, raising the upper lip, and lowering
the brow (e.g., a disgusted facial expression).
Bodily gestures, such as learning forward, changing posture, and intentionally
moving the legs, arms, and hands (e.g., a clenched fist).
of occurrence, minimal facial and gestural expressiveness, or when the individual pursues an
alternative goal-object, such is the evidence to infer an absence of a motive or at least a relatively
weak one.
Engagement refers to how actively involved a person is in a task (Christenson, Reschly, & Wylie,
2012). As shown in Figure 1.3, engagement is a multidimensional construct that consists of the four
distinct, yet intercorrelated and mutually supportive, aspects of behavior, emotion, cognition, and
agency (Christenson, Reschly, & Wylie, 2012; Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004; Reeve, 2013;
Skinner, Kindermann, Connell, & Wellborn, 2009). Behavioral engagement refers to how effortfully
involved a person is during the activity in terms of effort and persistence, and it is synonymous with
Extent of
Ö On-task Behavior
Ö Effort
Ö Persistence
Presence of:
Ö Interest
Ö Enjoyment
Ö Enthusiasm
Absence of:
Ö Distress
Ö Anger, Anxiety
Ö Frustration
Ö Using Sophisticated
Learning Strategies
Ö Seeking Conceptual
rather than Surface
Ö Self-regulation,
such as Planning
Figure 1.3 Four Interrelated Aspects of Engagement
Ö Contributing
Constructively into
and Changing the
for the Better
Ö Asking Questions
Ö Expressing
Chapter 1
the behaviors listed in Table 1.2. Emotional engagement refers to the presence of positive emotions
during task involvement, such as interest, and to the absence of negative emotions, such as anxiety.
Cognitive engagement refers to how strategically the person attempts to process information and
to learn in terms of employing sophisticated rather than superficial learning strategies. Agentic
engagement refers to the extent of the person’s proactive and constructive contribution into the
flow of the activity in terms of asking questions, expressing preferences, and letting others know
what one wants and needs. For one example, to infer the underlying motivation of the student who
sits next to you during class, observe his or her effort and persistence (behavioral engagement),
interest and enjoyment (emotional engagement), deep processing and strategic learning (cognitive
engagement), and input and contribution into the flow of the class (agentic engagement). These
are the reliable telltale signs of the presence, intensity, and quality of that person’s underlying
class-specific motivation.
As people engage in various activities, the nervous and endocrine systems manufacture and
release various chemical substances (e.g., neurotransmitters, hormones) that provide the biological
underpinnings of motivational and emotional states (Andreassi, 2007). The term psychophysiology
refers to the process by which psychological states (motivation, emotion) produce downstream
changes in one’s physiology. Psychophysiology is the study of the interaction between bodily and
mental states.
In the course of a public speech, for example, speakers manufacture and release into the bloodstream various hormones such as epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol, and these hormonal changes
produce changes throughout the body (e.g., increased heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate, and
sweating) that can be picked up by blood tests, saliva tests, and various types of psychophysiological
equipment. Using these measures, motivation researchers monitor a person’s hormonal activity, heart
rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, pupil diameter, skin conductance, skeletal muscle activity, and
other indicators of physiological functioning, as listed in Table 1.3, to infer the presence, intensity,
and quality of underlying motivational and emotional states.
Brain Activations
Brain activations underlie every motivational and emotional state, as will be discussed in Chapter 3.
When thirsty, the hypothalamus is active. When we feel disgust, the insular cortex is active. Because
each motivation and emotion generates a different pattern of neural activity, researchers can use
Table 1.3
Five Psychophysiological Expressions of Motivation and Emotion
Hormonal activity
Cardiovascular activity
Ocular activity
Electrodermal activity
Skeletal activity
Chemicals in saliva or blood, such as cortisol (stress) or catecholamines
(fight-or-flight reaction).
Contraction and relaxation of the heart and blood vessels (as in response to an
attractive incentive or a difficult/challenging task).
Eye behavior—pupil size (extent of mental activity), eye blinks (changing
cognitive states), and eye movements (reflective thought).
Electrical changes on the surface of the skin (as in response to a significant or
threatening event).
Activity of the musculature, as with facial expressions (specific emotion), bodily
gestures, or shifting one’s weight from side to side during a boring hallway
conversation (desire to leave).
Framework to Understand Motivation and Emotion
very sophisticated equipment (e.g., EEG, or electroencephalograph) and machinery (e.g., fMRI, or
functional magnetic resonance imaging) to detect, monitor, and measure brain-based neural activity.
Thus, by observing a rise in hypothalamic or insular activity, researchers can infer that the person
is experiencing a rise in thirst or disgust, respectively. In this sense, changes in brain activations are
just like changes in behavior, engagement, and psychophysiology, as they mark the rise and fall and
maintenance of motivational states.
A fifth and final way to collect the data needed to infer the presence, intensity, and quality of motivation is simply to ask. People can typically self-report their motivation, as in an interview or on a
questionnaire. An interviewer might assess anxiety, for instance, by asking how anxious the interviewee feels in particular settings or by asking the interviewee to report anxiety-related symptoms,
such as an upset stomach or thoughts of failure. Questionnaires (paper-and-pencil, online) also have
several advantages. They are easy to administer, can be given to many people simultaneously, and
can target very specific information (Carlsmith, Ellsworth, & Aronson, 1976). But questionnaires
also have pitfalls that raise a red flag of caution as to their usefulness. Many researchers lament
the lack of correspondence between what people say they do and what they actually do (Quattrone,
1985). Furthermore, there is also a lack of correspondence between how people say they feel and
what their psychophysiology indicates that they probably feel (e.g., “Oh, I’m not tired, I’m not hungry, I’m not afraid.”). Hence, what people say their motives are sometimes are not what people’s
behavior, engagement, psychophysiology, and brain activations suggest their motives are. What conclusion, for instance, can one draw when a person verbally reports low anger but shows a quick
latency to aggress, a rapid acceleration in heart rate, and eyebrows that are drawn tightly downward
and together?
Because of such discrepancies, motivation and emotion researchers typically trust and rely on
behavioral, engagement, psychophysiological, and brain-based measures of motivation and emotion
to a greater degree than they trust and rely on self-report measures. Self-reports can be useful and
informative, but they always need to be backed up and verified by the person’s behavior, engagement,
psychophysiology, and brain activity.
One way to integrate the perennial questions, subject matter, and expressions of motivation is summarized in Figure 1.4. Antecedent conditions affect the person’s underlying motive status, and the
rise and fall of the person’s motive status (needs, cognitions, and emotions) expresses itself through a
Antecedent Conditions
Ö Environmental
Ö Social Contexts
Energizing, Directing,
and Sustaining:
Ö Behavior
Ö Engagement
Ö Psychophysiology
Ö Brain Activity
Ö Self-report
Motive Status
Figure 1.4 Framework to Understand Motivation and Emotion
Changes in Life
Ö Performance
Ö Achievement
Ö Learning
Ö Adjustment
Ö Skill, Talent
Ö Well-being
Chapter 1
pattern of behavioral, engagement, psychophysiological, neural, and subjective (self-report) activity
that can then be expected to contribute positively to important life outcomes.
The summary framework (Figure 1.4) illustrates how motivational psychologists answer their
perennial questions. That is, the model explains what causes motivation and emotion (antecedent
conditions), illustrates the subject matter of motivation study (needs, cognitions, and emotions),
articulates how motives express themselves (behavior, engagement, psychophysiology, brain
activations, self-report), and explains why the study of motivation and emotion is so important to
people’s lives (it contributes positively to important life outcomes).
The scientific study of motivation and emotion includes a wide range of assumptions, hypotheses,
theories, findings, and domains of application. All of this information can be a bit overwhelming
at first. Fortunately, 10 unifying themes can be identified to bring all this information together in a
sensible and cohesive way. Those 10 unifying themes are as follows:
· Motivation and emotion benefit adaptation and functioning.
· Motivation and emotion direct attention.
· Motivation and emotion are “intervening variables.”
· Motives vary over time and influence the ongoing stream of behavior.
· Types of motivations exist.
· We are not always consciously aware of the motivational basis of our behavior.
· Motivation study reveals what people want.
· To flourish, motivation needs supportive conditions.
· When trying to motivate others, what is easy to do is rarely what works.
· There is nothing so practical as a good theory.
Motivation and Emotion Benefit Adaptation and Functioning
Circumstances constantly change, as do the environments we live in (at home, school, work).
Demands on our time rise and fall, opportunities come and go, threats emerge, and previously
supportive relationships turn sour. When faced with a constantly changing stream of opportunities
and threats, people need the means to take corrective action. Motivations and emotions serve as the
means for such corrective action.
Motivation and emotion change in response to changes in the environment, and this capacity to
change allows people to function as complex adaptive systems. For instance, when others treat us
unfairly, we often get angry and that anger motivates corrective action to do what it takes to counter
the exploitation. Or when a stranger goes out of her way to help us when we really need it, we feel
gratitude and that warm glow motivates corrective action to develop a new friendship. Take away
the corrective motivational and emotional states, and people would quickly lose a vital resource to
adapt, function productively, and maintain well-being.
When motivation depletes, personal adaptation, functioning, and well-being all suffer. People
who feel helpless in exerting control over their fates tend to give up quickly when challenged
(Peterson, Maier, & Seligman, 1993). Helplessness sours the person’s capacity to cope with life’s
challenges. Similarly, people who are bossed around and controlled coercively by others tend
to become emotionally flat and numb to their own inner motivational resources (Deci, 1995).
Ten Unifying Themes
In contrast, when students are excited about school, when workers are confident in their skills, and
when athletes set high goals, then their teachers, supervisors, and coaches can rest assured that
each of these people is on course to adapt successfully, function optimally, and basically be well.
The conclusion is that people with high-quality motivation and emotion generally adapt and thrive,
while people with motivational and emotional deficits generally flounder and suffer.
Motivation and Emotion Direct Attention
Environments demand our attention, and they do so in a multitude of ways. Just driving down the
road, for instance, we have many things to do—find our destination, avoid hitting other cars, listen
and respond to our passengers’ conversation, avoid spilling our coffee, and so forth. Similarly, a
college student must simultaneously make good grades, maintain old friendships, eat healthy, balance
budgets of money and time, plan for the future, wash clothes, develop artistic talents, keep abreast
of world news, and so on. Who is to say whether our attention is allocated in one direction or the
other? Much of that “say” comes from our motivational and emotional states. Environmental events
and the motivations and emotions they generate have a way of gaining, and even demanding, our
attention so that we attend to one aspect of the environment rather than to another (Smith, Cacioppo,
Larsen, & Chartrand, 2003).
Motives prepare us for action by directing attention to select some behaviors and courses of
action over others, as illustrated in Table 1.4. The table’s four columns list, from left to right, (1) various aspects of the environment that may need attending to or not, (2) a motive typically activated by
that environmental event, (3) a motive-appropriate course of adaptive action, and (4) a hypothetical
priority given to each course of action as determined by the intensity of its associated motive.
While six courses of action are possible, attention is not allocated equally and this is so for two
reasons. First, because the aroused motives vary in strength (as denoted by the number of asterisks
in the far-right column), some motivational states are more attention-getting than are others. Second,
negative stimuli and environmental events are more attention-getting than are positive stimuli and
environmental events (Smith et al., 2003). Hence, because interest, thirst, and rest are not urgent at
that particular time (one asterisk), their salience is low and they fail to grab attention and prepare
motive-congruent action. The motive to avoid a headache’s pain is highly salient (five asterisks and
a negative stimulus) and therefore pain avoidance is a strong candidate to grab attention and channel
behavior toward taking an aspirin. Like many motives, pain has an intrinsic ability to grab, hold, and
direct our attention (Eccleston & Crombez, 1999). Motives, therefore, capture attention, interrupt
what we are doing, take us away from doing other things, prepare us for motive-congruent action,
and impose a motive-congruent priority onto our thinking, feeling, and behaving.
Table 1.4
How Motives Influence Behavior for a Student Sitting at a Desk
Course of Action
Motive’s Urgency
Attention-Getting Status
Familiar voices
Lack of sleep
Upcoming competition
Pain avoidance
Read chapter
Drink beverage
Talk with friends
Take aspirin
Lie down, nap
Practice skill
Note: The number of asterisks in column four communicates the intensity of the environmentally activated motive. One
asterisk denotes the lowest intensity level, while five asterisks denote the highest.
Chapter 1
Motivation and Emotion Are “Intervening Variables”
Motivational and emotional processes arise in response to environmental events and, once aroused,
cause behavior and outcomes (as illustrated earlier in Figure 1.4). Motivation and emotion are
therefore variables that intervene (or “mediate”) between these causes (antecedents) and effects
(outcomes) to explain the why that underlies these cause–effect relations.
Figure 1.5 graphically illustrates what is meant by the claim that motivation and emotion are
intervening variables. The left-hand side of Figure 1.5 shows the direct cause–effect relation between
what happens in the environment (X) and how well we adapt and function (Z). For instance, you
might travel to a new place and then respond with exploration and sightseeing. In the language of
Figure 1.5, the new place causes your exploration (X → Z). What motivation and emotion researchers
and practitioners do, however, is to ask why you behaved the way you did (i.e., why you explored
the new surroundings). The right-hand side of Figure 1.5 presents a different way of thinking about
cause–effect relations. Rather than directly effecting outcomes, antecedents cause changes in motivation and emotion (line “a”). And what changes in motivation and emotion do is produce changes in
life outcomes (line “b”). For instance, if the new environment led you to experience interest, then that
interest (not the new environment itself) is what led to the exploration. Had the new environment led
you to experience a different motivation or emotion—say, fear or anxiety—then that anxiety would
have led to a different way of behaving, such as doing what is safe and familiar. When the explanatory function of motivational and emotional states are considered, the X → Z direct effect disappears
(hence, the line “c” changes from a solid line on the left-hand side of the figure to a dashed line “c′ ”
on the right-hand side).
Motivational and emotional states “intervene” between environmental causes and life-outcome
effects to explain why the antecedent affects the outcome. The result is that it is typically more
profitable to offer a motivational and emotional explanation for behavior and life outcomes than it
is to offer an environmental explanation.
Motives Vary Over Time and Contribute into the Ongoing Stream of Behavior
Motivation and emotion are dynamic processes—always changing, always rising and falling. It is
helpful to think of motivation as a constantly flowing river of needs, cognitions, and emotions.
People always harbor a multitude of different motives at any one point in time. Typically, one
motive is strongest and most situationally appropriate, while other motives are relatively subordinate
(i.e., one motive dominates our attention, while others lie relatively dormant, as in Table 1.4). The
strongest motive typically has the greatest influence on our behavior, but each subordinate motive
can become dominant as circumstances change and as time passes and can therefore influence and
contribute to the ongoing stream of behavior.
As an illustration, consider a typical study session in which a student sits at a desk with book
in hand. Our scholar’s goal is to read the book, a relatively strong motive on this occasion because
of an upcoming examination. The student reads for an hour, but during this time, curiosity becomes
Direct Effect
Indirect (Mediated) Effect
Figure 1.5 Motivation and Emotion as “Intervening Variables”
Note: X represents the antecedent cause, Z represents the life-outcome effect, and Y represents the intervening motivational
or emotional state.
Ten Unifying Themes
Hanging Out with Friends
Strength of
the Motive
Figure 1.6 Stream of Behavior (in Italics) and the Changes over Time in Its Underlying Motives
satisfied, fatigue sets in, and various subordinate motives—such as hunger and affiliation—begin
to increase in strength. Perhaps the smell of popcorn from a neighbor’s room makes its way down
the hallway, or perhaps a text message from a friend increases the affiliation motive. If the affiliation
motive increases in strength to a dominant level, then our scholar’s stream of behavior will shift from
studying to affiliating.
An ongoing stream of behavior in which a person spends time reading, hanging out with friends,
and snacking appears in Figure 1.6 (based on Atkinson, Bongort, & Price, 1977). The figure plots the
rise and fall (changes) in the strength of each of the three motives that produce the observed stream of
behavior (i.e., curiosity, affiliation, and hunger). Initially, curiosity is the dominant motive, while the
affiliation and hunger motives are subordinate. Hence, the person reads. After some time passes, the
affiliation motive increases in strength above curiosity (perhaps because of a friend’s text message).
Hence, the behavior stream changes from reading to hanging out with friends. As more time passes,
hunger gains relative dominance (perhaps because of the alluring smell of popcorn) and exerts its
influence on the stream of behavior. The person spends some time snacking. Overall, Figure 1.6
illustrates that (a) motive strengths change over time; (b) people forever harbor a multitude of motives
of various intensities, any one of which might grab attention and participate in the stream of behavior,
given appropriate circumstances; and (c) motives are not something a person either does or does not
have, but instead, they rise and fall as circumstances change.
Types of Motivations Exist
In many people’s minds, motivation is a unitary concept. Its key feature is its amount, and what
matters about motivation is How much? The thinking is that more motivation is better than less
motivation. Practitioners (teachers, parents, managers, coaches) therefore ask, “How can I increase
motivation in my students, children, workers, or athletes?”
In contrast, motivation theorists emphasize that types of motivations exist (Elliot & Murayama,
2008; Ryan & Deci, 2017) and that human beings are motivationally complex (Vallerand, 1997).
For instance, intrinsic motivation is different from extrinsic motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2017), and
the motivation to approach is different from the motivation to avoid (Elliot, 1997). Similarly, emotion
is not a unitary concept, because types of emotions exist (Izard, 1991). For instance, a person who is
intensely angry behaves quite differently from a person who is intensely afraid or is intensely grateful. All three persons are highly emotional and “how much?” matters, but “which type?” (of emotion)
is an equally important question to consider, because people who are angry behave very differently
than do people who are afraid who, in turn, behave very differently from people who experience
gratitude. So a complete motivational and emotional analysis answers both questions—How much?
and What type?
Chapter 1
Watch as an athlete practices, an employee works, and a doctor cares for a patient, and you will
see variations in the intensity of their motivation and emotion. But it is equally important to ask why
the athlete practices, why the employee works, and why the doctor provides care. Type of motivation
and emotion is important because some types yield a higher quality of experience, more favorable
performances, and psychologically healthier outcomes than do other types. For instance, students
who learn out of an intrinsic motivation (via interest, curiosity) show more creativity and conceptual
learning than do students who learn out of an extrinsic motivation (via stickers, deadlines; Ryan
& Deci, 2017). In achievement situations, students whose goal is to approach success (“My goal
is to make an A.”) outperform equally able students whose goal is to avoid failure (“My goal is to
avoid making less than an A.”) (Elliot, 1999). When people diet, those with autonomous motivation
tend to diet successfully because they eat healthier foods, whereas those with controlled motivation tend to diet unsuccessfully because they enact dysfunctional behaviors such as binging
(Pelletier, Dion, Slovenic-D’Angelo, & Reid, 2004).
What this theme adds to an understanding of motivation and emotion is that different types
of motivation exist and these different types have different antecedents (causes) and different
consequences (outcomes). Instead of thinking of motivation as a single unitary phenomenon, it is
more scientifically profitable to recognize that human beings have a complex and rather extended
motivational repertoire that features many different types of motivations. Hence, a full understanding of the rich fabric of human motivation includes an appreciation for both growth-oriented,
approach-based, and flourishing-related motivations and emotions (e.g., interest, curiosity, intrinsic
motivation, hope, joy, gratitude, goals, growth mindsets, achievement motivation, sensation-seeking,
self-actualization, and so on) as well as defense-oriented, avoidance-based, and suffering-related
tendencies (e.g., pain, distress, fear, dissonance, anxiety, tension, pressure, frustration, perfectionism, depression, helplessness, stress, insecurity, and so on) (Bartholomew et al., 2011; Carver,
2006; Elliot, 2006; Vansteenkiste & Ryan, 2013).
We Are Not Always Consciously Aware of the Motivational Basis of Our Behavior
Motives vary in how accessible they are to consciousness and to verbal report. Some motives
originate in language structures and the cortical brain (e.g., goals) and are thus readily available
to our conscious awareness (e.g., “I have a goal to sell three insurance policies today.”). For these
motives, if you ask a person why he or she selected that particular goal, the person can confidently
list the rational and logical reasons for doing so. Other motives, however, have their origins in
nonlanguage structures and the subcortical brain and are therefore much less available to conscious
awareness. Not many people, for instance, say they feel hungry because of low leptin in the
bloodstream; not many people say they acted violently because it was so hot; and not many people
say they seek power and social status because their parents imposed very high developmental
standards on them during their childhood. These are the motives that originate in the unconscious
subcortical brain rather than in the language-based cortical brain.
Many experimental findings can be offered to make the point that motives can and do originate
in the unconscious. Consider that people who feel good after receiving an unexpected gift are more
likely to help a stranger in need than are people in neutral moods (Isen, 1987). People are more
sociable on a sunny day than they are on a cloudy day (Kraut & Johnston, 1979). People commit
more acts of violence in the summer months than at other times of the year (Anderson, 1989).
Major league baseball pitchers, for instance, are more likely to intentionally hit batters on the
opposing team when the temperature is hot rather than when the temperature is cold or moderate
(Reifman, Larrick, & Fein, 1991). In each of these examples, the person is not consciously aware of
why he or she committed the prosocial or antisocial act. Few people, for instance, would say they
helped a stranger because of their mood, and fewer would say they committed murder or hurled
baseballs at the heads of opponents because of the hot temperature. Still, these are conditions that
Ten Unifying Themes
cause motivations. The brief lesson is that the motives, cravings, appetites, desires, moods, needs,
and emotions that regulate human behavior are not always immediately obvious or consciously
accessible. That is, we are not always consciously aware of the motivational basis of our behavior.
Motivation Study Reveals What People Want
The study of motivation and emotion reveals what people want and why they want it. It reveals what
people need, and it reveals what makes people be happy. It literally reveals the contents of human
The subject matter of motivation and emotion concerns what we all hope for, desire, want, need,
and fear. It examines questions such as whether people are essentially good or evil, naturally active
or passive, brotherly or aggressive, altruistic or selfish, free to choose or determined by biological and societal demands, and whether people harbor inherent developmental strivings to grow and
Theories of motivation reveal what is common within the strivings of all human beings by identifying the commonalities among people from different cultures, different life experiences, different
ages, different historical periods, and different genetic endowments. All of us harbor physiological
needs such as hunger, thirst, sex, and pain. All of us inherit biological dispositions such as temperament and neural circuits in the brain for reward and pleasure. We all share a number of basic emotions,
and we all feel these emotions under the same conditions. We are all hedonists (approach pleasure,
avoid pain), but we seem to want personal growth and optimal experience even more (Seligman &
Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).
Theories of motivation also reveal those motivations and emotions that are learned through
experience and are socially engineered through cultural forces (and hence outside the realm of
human nature). For example, through our unique experiences, exposures to particular role models,
and awareness of cultural expectations, we acquire different goals, values, expectations, aspirations,
and views of self. These ways of energizing and directing our behavior originate not from inherited
human nature but, rather, from internalized environmental, social, and cultural forces. The study
of motivation therefore informs us what part of want and desire stem from human nature but also
what part of want and desire stem from personal, social, and cultural learning. It reveals what part
of motivation and emotion is universal and inherent versus what part is enculturated and acquired.
An even more careful study of motivation and emotion reveals that we do not so much have a
single human nature as we have multiple human natures (Ryan, 2013). Part of our nature is to be
inherently malevolent, selfish, passive, and tending toward the antisocial, while another part of our
nature is to be benevolent, cooperative, active, and tending toward the prosocial. All of us have both
natures. Whether we tend toward malevolence or benevolence depends significantly on how supportive versus thwartive are the social contexts and the interpersonal relationships that surround
us. When the social environment is nurturing and when our interpersonal relationships are supportive, our benevolent nature arises and regulates our ongoing stream of behavior, but when the
social environment is thwarting and when our interpersonal relationships neglect and frustrate us,
our malevolent nature arises and regulates our ongoing stream of behavior. Because environments
can be both benevolent and hostile, it helps to have a complex human nature to prepare us well for
whatever comes our way.
To Flourish, Motivation Needs Supportive Conditions
A person’s motivation cannot be separated from the social context in which it is embedded. That is,
a child’s motivation is affected by and somewhat dependent on the social context provided by his
or her parents. The same could be said for the motivation of athletes affected by coaches, patients
affected by physicians, and citizens affected by their culture. These environments can be nurturing
Chapter 1
and supportive or they can be neglectful, frustrating, and undermining. Those who are surrounded
by social contexts that support and nurture their needs and strivings show greater vitality, experience
personal growth, and thrive more than those who are surrounded by social neglect, frustration, and
abuse (Keyes, 2007; Ryan & Deci, 2000).
Recognizing the role that social contexts play in people’s motivation and well-being, motivation
researchers seek to apply principles of motivation in ways that allow people’s motivation to flourish.
Four areas of application are stressed in this book:
· Education
· Work
· Sports and exercise
· Therapy
In education, an understanding of motivation can be applied to promote students’ classroom
engagement, to foster the motivation to learn and develop talent, to support the desire to stay in school
rather than drop out, and to inform teachers how to provide a motivationally supportive classroom
In work, an understanding of motivation can be applied to improve worker productivity and
satisfaction, to help employees set goals, to keep stress at bay, and to structure jobs so that they offer
workers optimal levels of challenge, control, variety, and relatedness with their coworkers.
In sports, an understanding of motivation can be applied to identify the reasons youths participate in sports, to design exercise programs that promote lifelong physical activity, to provide
coaching that develops skill and talent, and to understand how factors such as interpersonal competition, performance feedback, and goal setting effect performance.
In therapy, an understanding of motivation can be applied to improve mental and emotional
well-being, to acquire effective emotion regulation strategies, to foster mature defense mechanisms,
and to appreciate how the quality of our interpersonal relationships affect our motivation, emotion,
and mental health.
When Trying to Motivate Others, What Is Easy to Do Is Rarely What Works
It is easy to come up with strategies and recommendations about how to motivate self and others.
If someone asks you, “How can I motivate my employees to be more creative and to work harder?”,
I suspect that you can rather quickly offer a seemingly satisfying reply. The problem is that when people’s commonsensical answers (e.g., “offer attractive incentives”) are put to the objective empirical
test, those proposed motivational strategies routinely fall short and prove themselves to be ineffective. They also sometimes create serious harm, such as damaging the very motivation the person
sought to promote. If you study motivation and emotion long enough, you will come to two conclusions: (1) not all attempts to motivate others and the self are successful and (2) what is easy to do in
practice is rarely what is most effective.
The general finding that “what is easy to do is rarely what is effective” leads motivation and emotion researchers to go back to the drawing board to do the tough work to create effective interventions
and motivational supports. For instance, teachers tend to have much better success in motivating their
students to read when they do the tough work to transform the lesson plan into activities that children find to be interesting, curiosity-provoking, and personally inspiring. Employers tend to have
much better success in motivating their employees’ creativity and hard work when they sit down,
take the employees’ perspective, and invite them to generate their own heartfelt, self-endorsed work
goals. Parents tend to have more success encouraging their children to engage in socially constructive behaviors when they do the hard work to truly understand why their children do not want to be
prosocial and when they take the time to explain to their children the otherwise hidden benefits of
engaging in such activities. And, everyone tends to have better success in motivating others when
they stop uttering directives and commands and, instead, work patiently and diligently to see the
situation from the other person’s point of view, ask the other for input and suggestions, and then pull
all that information together to offer some constructive goals and strategies. All of these approaches
to motivate and engage others are somewhat difficult to do, but that is what the present book is for.
If you will take a moment to glance through the book’s final chapter (Chapter 17), you will find
several rather sophisticated and highly successful interventions. It may take 16 more chapters to get
to that final chapter on effective interventions, but we will get there.
There Is Nothing So Practical as a Good Theory
Consider how you might answer a motivational question such as, “What causes Joe to study so hard
and for so long?” To generate an answer, you might begin with a commonsense analysis (e.g., “Joe
studies so hard because he has high self-esteem.”). Additionally, you might recall a similar instance
from your personal experience when you studied very hard and then generalize that experience to
this particular situation (e.g., “The last time I studied that hard, it was because I had a big test the
next day.”). A third strategy mi…
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