Sunday, September 19, 2010

Instrumental behaviors

Instrumental behaviors or achievement behaviors are motivated activities in which a person does in order to satisfy a motive or attain an incentive. These instrumental behaviors can demonstrate the strength of a motivation in terms of the duration, persistence, frequency, and intensity.

I read the article Maxed out: How long can we concentrate for? in the online New Scientist magazine. This article looks at the question, how long can we push ourselves mentally before we need a break? This is an important question that I feel very much pertains to all of us college students who like me tend to procrastinate and spend the night before an exam or big paper is due studying and typing away for hours straight. "Vigilance is one of the area’s most sensitive to fatigue," says neuroscientist David Dinges at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. There are many professions that also depend on the ability or workers to concentrate for 12+ hours at a time such as truck drivers, airplane pilots and of course surgeons and doctors. People’s ability to concentrate dramatically decrease as the hours pass and can become deadly when it come to important decision making when in the operating room. Many doctors can work up to 80 hour shifts with only taking a few hours in between for rest.

Judging by the extreme duration and intensity of an operation it is clear to see that a surgeons motivation is extremely strong, most of the time it can be a person’s life in their hands that pushes them to concentrate for hours in surgery without a break and with little rest. Dinges’ and his team used MRI’s to study the brains of various people completing a highly demanding sustained attention task. As people's reaction times slowed, activity in certain brain areas waned. If you click on the link you will be able to view the study itself. I read the article and the results demonstrated that differences in neural activity between the resting periods before and after the demanding sustained attention tasks can act as markers of cognitive fatigue.

These results may be important in helping identify risk factors for accidents and errors due to prolonged performance requiring intense concentration. They may also lead to safer and more efficient working conditions for those professions where fatigue is always a present problem.


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