Saturday, November 10, 2007

Understanding Motivation

Motivation is simply fascinating—what drives us, what “makes us tick.” Prior to this course I had never thought of motivation as being a function of the brain outside of a very “hunter/gatherer” sense. I understood that people wanted things foremost on a basic level like food and water (incentives) because they were necessary for survival, but I never really understood why people wanted other things like material possessions (secondary incentives) that weren’t evolutionarily “programmed” as a means to survive.

The use of dopamine in the brain was most interesting. I often hear the word dopamine thrown around, usually associated with drugs. Even in the movie Super Size Me, it was proposed that fast food raised dopamine levels in the brain and therefore had “addictive properties,” that would cause a continued consummation of the product.

I always thought dopamine simply caused a sense of euphoria—in essence, it made you feel good. The fact this is incorrect, that dopamine is rather was motivates you to obtain incentives is quite intriguing. I can’t say that I fully understand how pleasure centers work. If dopamine is what makes you want, then what exactly makes you feel pleasure? What occurs in the brain that causes satisfaction?

It’s interesting to read about motivation in the context of The Echo Maker. A woman, whose brother suffers severe brain injury, is driven to determine what exactly happened to him. I think the closeness to her brother is a great factor in what drives her here, had they not had such a strong relationship prior to the accident, would she still be so consumed in what went wrong? I think it’s logical to assume that what motivates us differs on an individual level which causes me to recall the idea of nature/nurture and being wired for certain behaviors.

Remembering Zatesky and Skloot who still had their motivation intact, whose motivation became their lives because their lives had become fragmented and piecing what they had lost back together was the incentive. But I think even prior to their brain insults they were determined people in general, it was part of their persona.

I think it’d be interesting to determine how much of us is wired toward certain motivations as opposed to others; and how much of that is predetermined by the critical time during our childhood where we are more susceptible to wiring.

1 comment:

Matt N said...

Hey Emmy,

I really relate to your theory that our motivations and desires in life are liken to our nature/nurture quick impulses: hardwired, immediate, unconscious. And those three descriptions (and a potential host of other) are the only link we have with another’s motivations at any given time, for we each want different things. And upon thinking about it deeper, do we all ever want EXACTLY the same thing? I say, no. We want a variation of a thing, idea, situation or object; on the other hand, another people in our situation’s motivation, past and desires our shape their needs differently.

I think a lot of our motivation has to do with our perspective and what we feel we deeply need. This, I believe, ties in greatly to what Michelle (the dancer who spoke with us on autism last week) practiced with her children, unconsciously in her shadow dances. There was something about her children that raised flags, not only about their own “strange” behavior but hers. And in answering their unique needs with solutions like modern dance and building forts, she was able to build up a comfort and find an outlet for her children’s motivations, such as movement and expression—sometimes you do just need to slap your legs when you’re frustrated and people don’t understand (exactly like when Lyde gave up on dinner and joined Ryland).

You also raise and interesting pointing trying to calculate where our motivation comes from. Is it like language where we learn it socially? Is it organic, in us, like breathing? Do we learn in the home? In school? Where do we learn how to want? Must we even learn that, the need to need? And further, you’re right: what are the important times for shaping our instinctual motivations. Is it at an early age that people learn to eat poorly and want to do so, and that is why America is now the fat country, speaking of Supersize Me. Is in nursing school or grade school that we want to express ourselves in the arts rather than in the rising and falling heart beats of stocks? I wish I would answer that question but I think it would be nice to know… and perhaps we’d all be a little bit more ready for life is we knew. If we could plan ahead and arm ourselves with goals and determinations when the next susceptibility point was on the horizon.

Infact, I think that could be a largely problematic set of information. Correct me if I’m wrong, parents can already decide the sex of their babies and –I don’ know about you—but no holds barred try to control their children’s futures (schools, jobs, spouses); imagine what would happen if they didn’t have to try as hard and they could simply hardwire their kid to follow in daddy or mommy’s footsteps. Could brainwashing be the next “new thing” in parenting? Then picture this idea on a global scale: imagine the persuasion leaders like Osama or Hitler had had, and that was all without the ability to know EXACTLY when to influence people… think of the effects this knowledge could have on the larger population in a negative connotation. Perhaps it’s a good thing we don’t have this information.