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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.

  • 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 success StudySmarterSuccessful 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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Final Emotion and Motivation Quiz

Question

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

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Answer

Goal difficulty should be set low.

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

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Answer

Self-actualization comes after the fulfillment of basic human needs.

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Which of the following needs immediate satisfaction?

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The need to sleep.

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How is Maslow's theory different from Alderfer's ERG theory?

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Answer

Unmet needs may lead to frustration regression.

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According to Herzberg's Motivator-Hygiene Theory, which is an example of hygiene factor?


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Salary

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Question

Based on McClelland's Learned Needs Theory, what type of person will probably make a good manager? 


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A person who desires to be in control.

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Question

Which of these statements represents a view in the Expectancy Theory of Victor Vroom?


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The outcome of good performance will have a positive reward.

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Choose the situation that best explains the Expectancy theory.

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A gymnast is diligent in training because his efforts will help him win a medal.

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Based on the goal-setting theory, which statement is applied to boost performance?

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Goals must be clear, challenging, and accepted with commitment.

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The need for affiliation is one of the stated needs in this theory.

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McClelland's Learned Needs Theory

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Which statement defines positive reinforcements based on Burrhus Frederic Skinner's theory?

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Positive reinforcement involves rewarding good behavior with favorable consequences.

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Which of the following situations shows negative reinforcement?

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A teacher decides to remove the next day's homework if the students study hard.

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According to this theory, people get motivation by measuring one's performance and outcome against another.

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Equity theory

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Based on the Equity theory, what would likely happen if an employee sees that a co-worker is paid a higher salary for the same job he is doing?

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He will feel discouraged and demotivated.

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What might a person who feels under-rewarded not do based on Equity theory?

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He might try harder.

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What are the five levels of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?

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Physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.

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What is self-actualization?

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Self-Actualization means that a person has realized their potential, set goals, and developed their abilities.

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What are the parts of the physiological level?

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Basic human needs such as the ability to breathe, having food, water, sex, sleep, a steady internal and physical condition that is well maintained, and excretion (being able to expel waste).

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What are the parts of the safety level?

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Feeling secure in your body, job, morality, family, resources, property, and health.

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What are the parts of the love and belonging level?

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Family, friendships, and intimacy.

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What are the parts of the esteem level?

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Confidence in oneself, respect of/for others, self-esteem, achievement, and being respected by others.

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What are the parts of the self-actualization level?

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Problem solving, spontaneity, morality, lack of prejudice, creativity, and acceptance of facts.

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What type of people did Maslow study to create the hierarchy of needs?


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Maslow studied people that he thought were ‘exceptional’.

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What is the end goal to achieve in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?


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Self-Actualization

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What are some examples of characteristics that Maslow felt people who had achieved self-actualization possessed?


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Independence and Self-Acceptance

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Needs at the physiological level are considered to be what?


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Needs at the physiological level are considered to be basic needs to survive.

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Who was Abraham Maslow?

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Maslow was a psychologist from America that developed Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

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Maslow used the hierarchy of needs to try and explain what?


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Maslow used the hierarchy of needs to try and explain what motivates people.

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When looking at a pyramid example of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which level is at the top and which is at the bottom?


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At the top of Maslow’s pyramid model of his hierarchy of needs is self-actualization. At the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid model of the hierarchy of needs is physiological.

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Did Maslow later refine any of his findings in research, and if so, how?


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Maslow did later change some of his findings including that not all people need to achieve all levels in order to get to self-actualization.

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What is an internal psychological feeling that impacts our mood?

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Emotion

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What is motivation?

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The want or need to reach specific goals.

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What part of our brain creates emotions?

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The limbic system

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What are the three most popular neurotransmitters?

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Serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine 

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What are the five levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs?

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Physiological needs, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.

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What is metamotivation?

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The ability to consider that motivation is impacted by a variety of factors and may differ depending on the person.

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What theory states that people will try harder to achieve their goals when being watched?

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The Hawthorne effect

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What theory states that we are influenced by instincts?

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The evolutionary theory

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Why does having a positive attitude influence our motivation?

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Our thoughts contribute to our mood, which impacts our emotions. Staying positive will increase productivity.

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What is a motive?

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Set of personal reasons for which we decide to engage in a task.

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What is the underlying basis for setting our goals?

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Motives

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What mode does your body go into when it senses danger?

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Fight or flight mode

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What are the characteristics that make us who we are?

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Personal traits

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True/False: There is a scientific explanation for motivation.

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False

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We set goals based on ______ _______ that are directly related to our beliefs.

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Cognitive influences

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What are some popular theories of emotion in psychology? 

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James and Lange

Cannon-Bard

Two-Factor

Zajonc-LeDoux 

Lazarus

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The theory of emotion which states the physiologic response is felt first is the_____. 

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James and Lange's theory of emotion.

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Previous to James and Lange's theory most theories stated that____.

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Emotion came first and the physiologic response came after.

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What is an example of a physiologic response? 

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Increased Heart Rate 

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Is anger an example of a physiologic response?

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No

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