Emotion and Motivation

Were you ever sad about something, but it made you try harder to reach your goals? What about being excited to start something new, but lacking the drive to get started? These are just two minor examples of how emotion and motivation can influence each other. 

Emotion and Motivation Emotion and Motivation

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Table of contents
    • What is an emotion? What is motivation?
    • What are types of motivation?
    • What are theories of emotion and motivation?

    Defining Emotion and Motivation in Psychology

    An emotion is a very complex internal psychological feeling that directly changes our mood but also can impact our thoughts, behavior, and mannerisms. Some common emotions are sadness, anger, happiness, or contentment. Motivation or drive is the desire or need to accomplish goals or certain tasks that may or may not be challenging. So, you're probably wondering, how do emotions and motivation relate?

    Good question! Our emotions influence our ability to accomplish our goals and expectations. While this can lead to a strong outcome for self-growth, there is a chance that strong negative emotions can adversely impact our motivation.

    Emotion and Motivation, an illustration of people on top of a mountain, StudySmarterFg. 1 Successful people, pixabay.com

    How Emotion and Motivation Work in Psychology

    Emotion and motivation are much more complex than they seem on the surface. To feel an emotion, the limbic system in our brain is put to work. While the parts of the limbic system are processing an emotion for us to feel, our brains are also impacted by neurotransmitters. Then, the brain releases neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, sending us a response on how to feel in our bodies.

    Looking at motivation, we can imagine our desires and how we want to accomplish them. If someone strongly wants something, they will fight through many good and bad emotions. Motivation has been studied under multiple lenses of psychology, but there is no perfect explanation of what ignites this inner desire and drive to accomplish our goals.

    Types of Motivation

    You can categorize motivation into two basic types.

    Extrinsic Motivation

    Extrinsic motivation is the motivation that you obtain through other people. Perhaps someone could challenge you or question/test your abilities to increase motivation.

    Intrinsic Motivation

    Intrinsic motivation is the motivation that you feel from within. Most of the time, this will be something that you enjoy or want to do, regardless of any gratification or award.

    Theories of Emotion and Motivation

    Multiple theories have been studied based on emotion and motivation. Below are just five of the most popular theories considering emotion and motivation.

    Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

    Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is probably something you have heard of before. In Maslow's theory, there are five levels of achievement; physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. He claimed that we base every behavior on these five pillars, and cannot move onto the next level without meeting the needs below. This theory claims that motivation is based on needs rather than wants.

    Reversal Theory (Dynamics of Motivation, Emotion, and Personality)

    Reversal theory is a complex take on the basic theories relevant in psychology regarding motivation and emotions. In simple terms, we can only feel excitement by having anxiety. This could be true in many scenarios, especially if we are stepping out of our comfort zones to do something new. With every pleasant emotion, we would also have an unpleasant one.

    A deeper analysis of motivation in this theory, namely, metamotivation, considers a person's growth and development. If two people are faced with the same scenario or situation, they will likely feel or react differently, which disproves most of the other theories in psychology.

    ERG Theory

    The ERG theory is a further representation of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It includes the same levels that a person can reach in their lifetime, with the same five pillars. However, the ERG theory proposes that you do not have to follow the hierarchy of needs in order. You can achieve success in different areas of your life without starting from the bottom.

    Hawthorne Effect

    The Hawthorne effect suggests that when people know they are being watched, they try harder to be successful. However, this theory has been proven only when individuals are a part of an experimental study. Employees, athletes, and peers are motivated to work hard to exceed their limits in such situations.

    Evolutionary Theory

    The evolutionary theory is one of the oldest theories in psychology, and contains many flaws that have been revealed over the years. This suggests that our behaviors are instinctual and not influenced by our will. For example, the willingness of a parent to take care of a baby can be considered a motivational instinct. However, instincts are very complex and not always the reason for our motivation.

    Cognitive Perspectives on Emotion and Motivation

    Cognitive perspectives on emotion and motivation suggest that we are motivated by our thoughts and beliefs. From a cognitive perspective, we can see that our behaviors are most likely based on our mental processes and thinking. For example, if we believe something to be true, such as a cultural or religious belief, we mentally process that as motivation to satisfy the need we are looking to fulfill.

    Attitudes, Motives, Emotions, and Personal Traits

    Let's look at how attitudes, motives, emotions, and personal traits contribute to emotion and motivation. While these topics are all interconnected, exploring them individually can explain emotion and motivation on a deeper level.

    Attitudes

    Attitudes are often shown through emotions that relate directly to our thoughts and behaviors. If our attitudes are positive, we will most likely be more committed to our goals. If we are more committed to our goals, we will most likely continuously have the motivation to succeed. In turn, if our attitudes are consistently negative, we most likely won't meet the goals we set.

    Motives

    Motives are essentially the reasoning behind our behaviors. Our motives are a set of personal reasons for engaging in certain tasks. They are the underlying basis for setting our goals and increasing our motivation to persist.

    Emotions

    As we've explored above, emotions are internal feelings that regulate our mood through various brain functions. A good example of an emotional response to something could include the "fight or flight" mode that your body goes into when it senses danger. Often, fight or flight can happen when doing something uncomfortable or stressful. This heavy emotion can set the basis for our motivation, or negatively impact our drive.

    Personal Traits

    Personal traits are the characteristics that frame who we are. By establishing personal traits, you can be better at setting goals. It is worthwhile to develop a list of personal traits and see how they benefit you. Your unique ability does not compare to others who might be doing the same or similar things. Establishing a daily routine can also help you enhance and develop personal characteristics that you may not have noticed otherwise.

    Emotion and Motivation - Key takeaways

    • An emotion is a complex internal psychological feeling that directly changes our mood.
    • Motivation or drive is the desire or need to accomplish goals or certain tasks that may or may not be challenging.
    • The limbic system is responsible for allowing us to feel emotions.
    • Important neurotransmitters that impact our moods include serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
    • Metamotivation is the understanding of personal growth and development and how that contributes to motivation.

    References

    1. Izard C. E. (2009). Emotion theory and research: Highlights, unanswered questions, and emerging issues. Annual review of psychology, 60, 1–25. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.163539
    2. Simpson, E. H., & Balsam, P. D. (2016). The Behavioral Neuroscience of Motivation: An Overview of Concepts, Measures, and Translational Applications. Current topics in Behavioral neurosciences, 27, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1007/7854_2015_402
    Frequently Asked Questions about Emotion and Motivation

    How might emotion and motivation impact personality traits?

    Our emotions contribute to our personality, which determines our sense of motivation. If we are sad but motivated, we might use that as a way to work harder. If we are happy and lack motivation, we might not exceed our goals or expectations.

    What is motivation and emotion in psychology?

    An emotion is a very complex internal psychological feeling that directly changes our mood. Motivation is the desire or need to accomplish goals or certain tasks that may or may not be challenging.

    What are motivational emotions?

    Motivational emotions give us the driving force that allows us to exceed and meet our goals.

    How are personal goals both cognitive and emotional-motivational?

    Setting personal goals is a cognitive experience that allows us to establish motives and take action steps to get there. The action steps are what may be influenced by not only our emotions and motivation, but our personal beliefs too.

    How are motivation and emotion related?

    Our emotions influence our ability to accomplish our goals and expectations. While this can lead to a strong outcome for self-growth, there is a chance that strong negative emotions can adversely impact our motivation.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Which of the following does not apply in the goal-setting theory of motivation?

    Which of the following is true for Maslow's motivation theory?

    Which of the following needs immediate satisfaction?

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