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Motivation is all about what moves or propels us into action. This force could arise from within and so pushes us or come from outside and so pulls us. Given enough motivation, or given enough push, pull, or a combination of the two as is often the case, we get something done.

So how does motivation affect us daily? Have you ever been hungry? Curious? Thirsty? In need of closure? Needs may be either biological or psychological in nature. If you are hungry and go to the refrigerator for something to eat, this is an example of a behavior motivated by a deficit, which causes an uncomfortable feeling we wish to rid ourselves of. Who likes feeling hungry? Or what if we are driven by power? A need to achieve success? Being with others? These are needs too but are psychological in nature and like their biological counterparts, cause us to act in certain ways to fulfill them. These needs represent the push of motivation. We will discuss psychological needs in Module 8.

Personality, similar to needs and so also exemplifying the push of motivation, causes us to behave in a certain way. Whether this behavior is our innate predisposition to respond to events in our world in almost predictable ways or involves the choices we make concerning what activities to partake in, personality reigns supreme. We will discuss the moderating effect of personality in Module 7.

One way to focus our energies is to set goals that we strive to obtain. Our goals or objectives in life can be arranged hierarchically, with some goals being higher and more important than others, meaning we work on attaining them first, or some goals being more difficult than others to achieve. It’s the really hard things in life that present us with a greater chance for failure but also pride if we finish them. Success in obtaining the goal may be linked to how specific it is such that the more specific, the better our planning can be. Also important are subgoals which can help take complex tasks and break them down into more manageable objectives to achieve. We might even employ incentives to reinforce the motivated behavior (a form of pull motivation). Still, we achieve some goals and fail at others no matter how good our planning. That’s life and we all experience it. More on this in Module 3.

Whatever propels us to act will cost us in some way – whether it be in time, responses, energy, or lost opportunities. When we set a goal, we determine if we have sufficient resources to cover the costs. If we do not, then we may need to find new strategies to meet the goal or demand. For most people, there is a desire to achieve an end but with the least amount of resource expenditure as possible. For instance, we want to go to the store. When we get to the parking lot, we look for a space closest to the front door. Are people happy when they land a space right in front? But what if they have to drive around a bit until a space near the front opens up? In reality, we could invest more time trying to find a way to cut corners than if we had simply just parked and walked. People are driven by least effort! More on this in Module 5.

Emotion is a motivator. Consider that when we are faced with a demand in our world, we first assess its emotional importance or decide if it is something to worry about. If it is, we develop a plan of action to deal with it. When all else fails we experience stress which is the emotional response to the event. Stress takes a toll on the body (Module 4). But how do we display that stress or emotional response for the world to see? Can we measure the response physiologically? Through our facial expressions? Before we even go there, what are emotions? How do mood and affective traits play in here? And finally, it seems all people understand emotion in much the same way. Happiness is happiness in all cultures. Anger is anger. Though we universally interpret emotion similarly, we do not display emotion in the same way. Culture comes in to play and exerts social influence on us, defining when it is okay to make a specific emotional response, and when it is not. More on this in Module 2. We might even discover that what is causing us stress is ourselves and so we engage in motivated behavior to change this problem behavior or to establish some new, desirable behavior. This will be the focus of Module 6.

With this basis covered, we dive into an investigation of motivation from the perspective of psychology’s subfields. Our journey will have us look at some ways motivation appears in religion (Module ­9), development (Module 10), health and wellness (Module 11), social psychology (Module 12), cognitive psychology (Module 13), and physiological psychology (Module 14). We will end our discussion of motivation by taking a quick look at some ways we are motivated to engage in behavior with positive outcomes, but also negative outcomes. Look for this in Module 15. The book is organized around 5 parts and 15 total modules.

It is my hope that you enjoy this book, but know that motivation is a very diverse topic and another author covering exactly the same content could present it in a completely different way. This really depends on the orientation of the author and I will approach motivation from a more social and developmental perspective. Also, I like to describe the course for which this book is written as Intro on Drugs. Think back to the introduction to psychology course you took, likely a few years back. Intro can be intimidating for first- or second-year students because like other introductory courses, it covers a very diverse range of topics just not in a great deal of detail. This course is at minimum equally diverse, and covers the topics in more detail, typical of a 300-400 level course. So be prepared for that.

Lee Daffin


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