Seeking Stimulation and Prioritizing Needs

Seeking Stimulation and Prioritizing Needs

3/13/2020 PSY105 & PSY101 – Page 7.3 – Motivation: Seeking Stimulation and Prioritizing Needs

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Psychology

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Motivation: Seeking Stimulation and Prioritizing Needs

Optimum Arousal

We are much more than homeostatic systems, however. Some motivated behaviors actually increase rather than decrease arousal. Well-fed animals will leave their shelter to explore and gain information, seemingly in the absence of any need-based drive. Curiosity drives monkeys to monkey around trying to figure out how to unlock a latch that opens nothing, or how to open a window that allows them to see outside their room (Butler, 1954). It drives the 9-month-old infant to investigate every accessible corner of the house. It drives the scientists whose work this text discusses. And it drives explorers and adventurers such as mountaineer George Mallory. Asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, the New York Times reported that Mallory answered, “Because it is there.” Sometimes uncertainty brings excitement, which amplifies motivation (Shen et al., 2015). Those who, like Mallory, enjoy high arousal are most likely to seek out intense music, novel foods, and risky behaviors and careers (Roberti, 2004; Zuckerman, 1979, 2009). Although they have been called sensation-seekers, risk takers may also be motivated by a drive to master their emotions and actions (Barlow et al., 2013).

The point to remember Human motivation aims not to eliminate arousal but to seek optimum levels of arousal.

So, human motivation aims not to eliminate arousal but to seek optimum levels of arousal. Having all our biological needs satisfied, we feel driven to experience stimulation and we hunger for information. Lacking stimulation, we feel bored and look for a way to increase arousal to some optimum level. If left alone by themselves, most people prefer to do something—even (when given no other option) to self-administer mild electric shocks (Wilson et al., 2014). However, with too much stimulation comes stress, and we then look for a way to decrease arousal. In one experiment, people felt less stress when they cut back checking e-mail to three times a day rather than being continually accessible (Kushlev & Dunn, 2015).

Two early twentieth-century psychologists studied the relationship of arousal to performance and identified the Yerkes-Dodson law, suggesting that moderate arousal

 

 

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would lead to optimal performance (Yerkes & Dodson, 1908). When taking an exam, for example, it pays to be moderately aroused—alert but not trembling with nervousness. (If anxious, it’s better not to become further aroused with a caffeinated drink.) Between depressed low arousal and anxious hyperarousal lies a flourishing life. But optimal arousal levels depend upon the task as well, with more difficult tasks requiring lower arousal for best performance (Hembree, 1988) (Figure 2).

Figure 2

Optimal Arousal Varies With Difficulty of the Task Being Performed

Chart showing level of performance on easy and difficult tasks at various arousal levels. The highest performance level for difficult tasks is shown to be at lower arousal levels, while the peak for easy tasks is at higher arousal levels.

Multiple-Choice Question

What is the optimum level of arousal?

The optimum level of arousal depends on the difficulty of the task, with easy tasks requiring less arousal than difficult tasks. The optimum level of arousal depends on the type of task, with less physical tasks requiring less arousal than mental tasks. The optimum level of arousal depends on the drive to accomplish a task, with less desirable tasks requiring less arousal than enjoyable tasks.

 

 

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The optimum level of arousal depends on the difficulty of the task, with easy tasks requiring greater arousal than difficult tasks.

Correct. According to the Yerkes-Dodson law, physiological arousal associated with peak performance varies with the difficulty of the task.

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A Hierarchy of Motives

Some needs take priority over others. At this moment, with your needs for air and water hopefully satisfied, other motives—such as your desire to achieve—are energizing and directing your behavior. Let your need for water go unsatisfied and your thirst will preoccupy you. Deprived of air, your thirst would disappear.

Abraham Maslow (1970) described these priorities as a hierarchy of needs (Figure 3). At the base of this pyramid are our physiological needs, such as those for food and water. Only if these needs are met are we prompted to meet our need for safety, and then to satisfy our human needs to give and receive love and to enjoy self-esteem. Beyond this, said Maslow (1971), lies the need for self-actualization—to realize our full potential.

Figure 3

 

 

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Illustration of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs arranged in a pyramid shape. From top to bottom, the text reads: Self-transcendence needs—need to find meaning and identity beyond the self. Self actualization needs—need to live up to our fullest and unique potential. Esteem needs—need for self-esteem, achievement, competence, and independence; need for recognition and respect from others. Belongingness and love needs—need to love and be loved, to belong and be accepted; need to avoid loneliness and separation. Safety needs—need to feel that the world is organized and predictable; need to feel safe, secure, and stable. Physiological needs—need to satisfy hunger and thirst.

Reduced to near-starvation by their rulers, inhabitants of Suzanne Collins’ fictional nation, Panem, hunger for food and survival. Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen

expresses higher-level needs for actualization and transcendence, and in the process inspires the nation.

© Lionsgate/Photofest

Near the end of his life, Maslow proposed that some of us also reach a level of self- transcendence. At the self-actualization level, we seek to realize our own potential. At the self-transcendence level, we strive for meaning, purpose, and communion in a way that is transpersonal—beyond the self (Koltko-Rivera, 2006).

The order of Maslow’s hierarchy is not universally fixed: People have starved themselves to make a political statement. Culture also influences our priorities: Self- esteem matters most in individualist nations, whose citizens tend to focus more on personal achievements than on family and community identity (Oishi et al., 1999). And, while agreeing with Maslow’s basic levels of need, today’s evolutionary psychologists

 

 

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add that gaining and retaining mates and parenting offspring are also universal human motives (Kenrick et al., 2010).

The point to remember The simple idea that some motives are more compelling than others provides a framework for thinking about motivation.

Nevertheless, the simple idea that some motives are more compelling than others provides a framework for thinking about motivation. Worldwide life-satisfaction surveys support this basic idea (Oishi et al., 1999; Tay & Diener, 2011). In poorer nations that lack easy access to money and the food and shelter it buys, financial satisfaction more strongly predicts feelings of well-being. In wealthy nations, where most are able to meet basic needs, social connections (such as home-life satisfaction) better predict well-being.

Table 1

Classical Motivation Theories Theory Its Big Idea

Instinct theory/evolutionary psychology

There is a genetic basis for unlearned, species-typical behavior (such as birds building nests or infants rooting for a nipple).

Drive-reduction theory Physiological needs (such as hunger and thirst) create an aroused state that drives us to reduce the need (for example, by eating or drinking).

Arousal theory Our need to maintain an optimal level of arousal motivates behaviors that meet no physiological need (such as our yearning for stimulation and our hunger for information).

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs We prioritize survival-based needs and then social needsmore than the needs for esteem and meaning.

Multiple-Choice Question

Which motivation theory BEST explains why Michael, who has plenty of food and owns a nice house, now feels like he needs to find a soul mate with whom he can share his life?

instinct theory drive reduction theory achievement motivation Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

 

 

3/13/2020 PSY105 & PSY101 – Page 7.3 – Motivation: Seeking Stimulation and Prioritizing Needs

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Correct. Since Michael’s physiological needs (food and water) and safety needs (a good house) have already been met, the next need he will turn to is the need to give and receive acceptance and love. This would explain his hunt for a spouse.

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