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Motivation: Friend or Foe?

-Dhanush and Aryaditi




In every sphere of life, be it professional, psychological or physical, a driving force necessitates our everyday activities enough to make us want to repeat it on a regular basis. This “driving force” is motivation. The concept of motivation is inspired by the Latin word "movere" which means to move. Psychologists define motivation as a neuropsychological process that involves biological, emotional, social and cognitive forces that activates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviour.



What is the neuroscience of motivation?


A number of significant chemical reactions amongst neurotransmitters drive the wagon of motivation. Neurotransmitters and brain networks, regulate the emotional response of risk-reward processing, another for reinforcement, a third area for memory and a fourth one for decision making. Converging evidence suggests that dopaminergic neurons of midbrain signal a reward prediction error, allowing a person to predict, and act to increase the probability of reward. This theory has been successful in accounting for a plethora of reinforcement learning phenomena and is formally known as the habitual or stimulus-response learning. According to recent research, however, it has been proved that it is not the only pathway that motivates an individual. A number of extensive and complex neural, social and cognitive processes are also involved in motivated behaviour.




Theories of Motivation:


Over the years, a number of eminent psychologists have pondered upon the topic of motivation and carried out extensive research to come up with theories to explain the reason and motive behind an individual’s actions. Some of the most accepted theories are:

  1. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory(1954): Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs suggests that individuals have intrinsic needs arranged in order of priority: physiological needs; security needs ; belonging needs; self-esteem needs; self-actualization needs.

  2. Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory(1959): Herzberg asserts that there are two categories of needs that affect employees motivation and attitude: hygienes and motivators

  3. Attribution Theory (1958): Developed by Fritz Heider, Edward Jones, Keith Davis and Harold Kelly. It gives a methodical cognitive view of motivation and describes how people view the cause of their behaviours.

  4. Social Cognitive Theory (1960's): The premise of SCT explains how individuals are motivated to learn from each other through social influences, observation and imitation.


How does motivation affect you mentally and physically?


On a daily basis, we face disappointments, failures and embarrassment as well. To move on from the unpleasant experiences and find the courage to give the task another try, motivation is indispensable. Recent research on health psychology revealed the massive impact motivation has on our mind and body. Motivation enables us to survive - to get out of bed, cook food because we're hungry, to go to work, or to educate ourselves in order to pursue higher goals. A report on Psychology Online identified that individuals with negativity or anxiety are highly likely to deal with the physical effects of anger, guilt, nervousness, frustration and fear. These emotions can cause hypertension and high blood pressure and other complications include ulcers, arthritis, asthma and kidney disease.


The solution to this, according to therapists is to emulate a positive reaction to stress and use motivation as a source of empowerment. Learning to manage stress and using a motivation to set goals, work through a problem or fix it can in turn promote better mental and physical health.



What’s trending in the world of Motivation?


A lot of exciting research has taken place in the field of motivation in the last 5 years. A 2016 study carried out by A Bourgeois ET. Al. described the different mechanisms sustaining motivational attention and current knowledge concerning the neural networks governing the integration of motivational influences on attentional behaviour. According to remarkable research carried out by Hengchen Daiand Claire Li revealed that ‘temporal landmarks’, or moments that stand out in time, structure people's perceptions and use of time. Experiencing and anticipating temporal landmarks impact motivation and goal pursuit as it may produce a 'fresh start effect', making people feel more motivated. Anticipating a future landmark may also increase people's current motivation if they are reminded of an ideal future state. These new researches are helping therapists and psychologists tremendously in helping people out with issues with self-esteem and depression issues.



Wait, is there something called “Too Motivated”?


One might remember a very popular saying: “Too much of anything is good for nothing”. It holds

true in the case of motivation too. If you are too motivated, you will experience a lot of stress and anxiety which might lead to a lot of procrastination. When the dopamine instigates the release of stress hormones, the response can quickly turn into bad. Stresses, loss of appetite, insomnia are a few examples. So, how do we channelize our motivation to help us become more productive?

You can check out a few tips for positive motivation from our previous blog.