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Author Topic: What is volition or motivation  (Read 1554 times)

Offline cheryl j

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What is volition or motivation
« on: 14/03/2014 22:21:43 »
I was thinking about this a few weeks ago when I was sick, and felt like didn't want to do anything and had no energy, even though I doubt my state of mind really had anything to do with "energy," at least not in terms of metabolism or the thyroid, sleepiness, or things like that.

I'll assume for the sake of argument that people do act purposefully. I'm not so much interested in the ultimate causes of people's actions or a discussion of free will, but how thought is transformed into action, and the role emotional drivers play.

A patient with a condition called akinetic mutism, from which he had recovered, later described the experience to a neurologist "I was fully conscious and aware of what was going on, Doctor. I understood all of your questions. I simply didn't want to reply or do anything."

What is the nature of wanting?


 

Offline evan_au

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Re: What is volition or motivation
« Reply #1 on: 14/03/2014 23:41:12 »
There are many motivation-blockers:
  • When we are overtired, we don't want to do anything. Our body needs sleep to recover. (Insert here whatever-it-is that bodies & brains do to recover during sleep.)
  • When we are physically exhausted, we don't want to do anything. Our muscles ache, and need rest to recover.
  • When we are physically ill, we don't want to do anything - our body is devoting all its energy to fighting off some pathogen. If we are running a fever, our bodies don't work so well at the higher temperature, anyway.
  • Narcotics and some medications can make people more passive.
  • Some forms of mental illness such as depression can make us unable to get out of bed. 
I think we humans are addicted to controlling our environment - mental, social and physical environments. Perhaps some things like sleep and recovery from illness are (temporarily) more important than controlling our environment.

Depression seems to include the overwhelming feeling that all this control is just all too hard.
 

Offline cheryl j

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Re: What is volition or motivation
« Reply #2 on: 15/03/2014 15:06:06 »
Yes, I can see why it's an advantage to rest or  down regulate when an organism is sick or injured.

When I google the topic or related words, it's hard to find information, or many of the articles that seem relevant aren't accessible without paying for them.

At anyrate, I think it's an interesting topic with a lot of practical applications in understanding behavior. For example, education. Although there are learning problems related to cognitive delays or specific deficits like dyslexia, I always wondered if the hurdles in boosting student achievement result from treating the problem as if it were an intelligence, skill problem, when it's actually more about motivation - the value students attach to learning or information, and the level of satisfaction from those activities.

Volition seems important in changing habits or overcoming addiction. Why do people commit sincerely to a course of action, but then seem unable to stick with it or follow through?

And I'd argue that "will" maybe one of the things that differentiates biological organisms from mechanical, information processors. Organisms that did not act in self-efficacious ways, did not survive, and it would not necessarily matter how much information the organism had, or even the logic in applying it.
 

Offline Ophiolite

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Re: What is volition or motivation
« Reply #3 on: 17/03/2014 12:01:42 »
Are you familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. While one can find fault with it in detail I have long found it an excellent framework for providing insight into the motivations of myself and others.

The link provides full details, but in summary Maslow envisages 'levels' of need. Each lower level must be satisfied before the next level is attended to. From the bottom the levels are : Physiological; Safety; Love/Belonging; Esteem; Self-Actualisation.

One moves up and down these levels in response to circumstance.
 

Offline cheryl j

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Re: What is volition or motivation
« Reply #4 on: 17/03/2014 13:39:40 »
Yeah, I remember Maslow from school, and the list seems valid in many ways. I don't know if they ever followed up with experiments in people and animals to see how true.  I suspect there is a lot of shifting back and forth and addressing needs at different levels simultaneously, even extreme deviations like the desire to create art under the most deprived conditions.

But pain, or the need not to be in it, is certainly a good example that supersedes everything else, even hunger. Doctors often think of pain in terms of how much a patient can tolerate. I can tolerate quite a bit sitting in a chair doing nothing else. I can't tolerate a lot of pain and accomplish much else, like write a paragraph, carry on lengthy conversation, or a complex multi-step task. The last time I was in pain, even making dinner was a ridiculously frustrating ordeal and I remember freaking out when I couldn't find the spaghetti strainer. I have a lot of sympathy for people who who have unending chronic pain.  I only have  flare ups now and then. 

I read a study that said sleep deprivation is bad for intimate relationships because experiments showed that it made people extremely self-absorbed and uninterested or insensitive to the feelings and interests of other people. It wasn't just related to a physiological lack of alertness, but a more qualitative aspect of not caring or a decrease in empathy.

In regards to education, there was an interesting study involving an achievement test that students in Europe take. The academic test also includes a lengthy and very boring personal inventory with many questions about parents' level of education and occupation and students activities and interests. It is so long that many students don't bother completing all the questions, even when given unlimited time. And they found that the number of questions completed on the personal inventory correlated nearly perfectly with the math scores, not just math questions answered, but math questions answered correctly. That seems to suggest that while we think of math as a skill related to intelligence, motivation and perseverance may be critical in acquiring it. 

I suppose one could study volition not just by looking at weakness of will, but the opposite, things like alien hand syndrome, or obsessive compulsive disorder.

It seems really hard though to separate the "why" from the "how", and most articles I look at are more interested in why we choose option a or option b, not how we turn that choice into a decision to act.
 

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Re: What is volition or motivation
« Reply #4 on: 17/03/2014 13:39:40 »

 

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