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Human Motivation
Chapter 2
Components of Motivation
Components of Motivation
 Biological component
 Learned component
 Cognitive component
Behavior is caused by an interaction of biological,
learned, and cognitive processes: brain circuits are
activated, learned responses are triggered, and control
is taken by making plans.
***Throughout this course, we will look at human motivation using these three
The Biological Component
 Main focus on the structure/design of the brain
Evolutionary theory
 Assumes our brain today is a result of years of
experiences and learning.
 Brain is made up of number of systems that
work together with the body to produce our
 Humans have two central complementary
drives (minds): self-preservation and the
preservation of the species.
The Biological Component
Refers to how we react to the world (reactivity) and
how we self-regulate ourselves (self-control) in the
face of certain environmental demands. (Our
predisposition to act one way or another.)
High activity (preference for intense stimulation and like of
Negativity (fearful/sad and angry when frustrated)
Regulation of attention/behavior (effortful control)
The Big Five: Personality Factors- extraversion,
neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and
openness to experience.
The Biological Component
Scientists use monozygotic/dizygotic twin
studies to determine whether behavior is caused
by genes.
The brain triggers emotions/feelings >
motivates us to act.
Brain circuits: structures work together with one
another with connecting pathways that are
aroused simultaneously. Each emotion has a
distinct brain circuit.
The Biological Component
Approach/Avoidant Motivation Brain Circuits
 Behavioral Activation System (BAS)
Activated by conditioned signals or rewards and nonpunishment, arousal is
enhanced to promote increased approach behavior.
 Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS)
Activated by conditioned signals of punishment and nonreward, as well as
novel stimuli, arousal is enhanced to inhibit ongoing behavior.
Pleasure/Punishment Motivation Brain Circuits
 The Reward Pathway
Reward centers are stimulated when positive responses occur.
Humans are motivated to perform actions that produce positive feelings.
Done through combination of dopaminergic pathways and limbic system.
The Biological Component
Limbic system: set of interconnected structures deep within the
brain that regulates emotions such as fear, love, and anger.
Helps in adaptation of environmental demands.
Plasticity: whether the basic structure of the brain can be altered as
the result of certain experiences or thought processes.
Synapses: gaps that separate short lengths of nerve fibers in which
neurotransmitters are released and carry information.
Neurotransmitters: chemicals that carry information across the
high levels = euphoria, low levels = depression
The Learned Component
What we learn is governed by a large degree by attention.
Attention: focus sensory receptors on source of
information and analyze (attending); focus on given
source and selectively process (selective attention); and
organize the information.
Attention is governed partly by motivational processes.
Associative learning: (S-R learning) the connection or
association of stimuli and responses.
Depends on receptor orientation and selective attention.
Deliberate (intentional) or incidental (passive) learning.
The Learned Component
Classical Conditioning:
 In this type of learning, the CS
(conditioned stimulus) becomes a
signal that the UCS (unconditioned
stimulus) is about to be presented.
The UCR (unconditioned response)
is automatically elicited by the UCS
(unconditioned stimulus). The CR
(conditioned response) is typically
weaker, but is the same response.
 Crucial for adaptive behavior.
 Associations are formed not only
between the US/CS, but also
between the events and the
situations in which the conditioning
takes place.
Instrumental Learning:
 In this type of learning, the S
(stimulus) becomes the signal to
perform a R (response). Getting
the R to occur may require
 Organisms learn that certain
environmental events, such as
receiving rewards/punishments,
depend on their own behavior.
 A nonrewarded response will
eventually diminish in rate or
strength (extinction).
The Learned Component
Social incentive theory: positive (rewarding)
experiences often occur when we do what others
want us to do.
Seeking approval and avoiding disapproval are
assumed to be central motivators for people.
Learned component of motivation has its roots in
this theory.
Children learn a great deal through imitation and
We are intrinsically motivated to learn about our
The Cognitive Component
Cognition involves thinking, perceiving, abstracting, synthesizing,
organizing, or otherwise conceptualizing the nature of the
external world and the self.
Cognitive theories are framed in terms of having or developing
cognitive structures that allow us to make sense of the
complexity of the world.
Cognitive processes help us summarize and reduce the amount of
information we encounter by finding higher-order relationships,
structures, principles, and rules.
Cognitions are based on past learning (beliefs and attitudes are
developed by imitating/modeling parents) or from cognitive
processes (active construction).
Many beliefs, attitudes, and values are based on our own
experiences and desires.
The Cognitive Component
Assimilation: children will process information by whatever
structures they have.
Disequilibrium: experienced confusion or incomprehension about
the world that motivates a child to develop new cognitive
structures to make sense of the complexity (accommodation).
Categories: allow us to summarize complex information into more
generic forms, freeing us from having to keep track of endless
pieces of specific information.
Generalization: tendency to simplify a response learned in one
situation to other situations. (Example: stereotypes)
Habits: result from a repetition of some response or sequences of
Automatic behavior: repeating behavior over and over until one not
longer needs to think about intentions. (Example: driving car)
The Cognitive Component
Cognitive dissonance theory: humans are inclined to process
information to be consistent with existing categories, beliefs,
attitudes, values, stereotypes, and behavior, ignoring information
that does not fit.
Implicit theories: hypotheses, models, and beliefs about the nature
of the external world (world theories) and about what we need to
do to satisfy our desires in this world (self theories).
Often exist at preconscious level and often involve more irrational and
intuitive thinking.
Attribution theory: how humans come to perceive the causes of
behavior; reasonable explanations.
Locus of control theory (internal vs. external causes of behavior):
Internals: cause of behavior lies within self
Externals: cause of behavior lies outside self
Components Example:
Motivation for Running
Biological component:
Stimulates output of several chemicals (Example: increase
in norepinephrine = elation/euphoria)
Learned component:
A rewarding activity that helps many people cope with
anxiety, depression, stress, fatigue, etc.
Cognitive component:
Benefits of exercise- decrease likelihood/progression of
number of health disorders, reduce cholesterol, increase
immune response, slow down aging process, etc.