Thursday, December 6, 2012

Final Project Post

General Overview
I originally ended up in Motivation because a friend of mine wanted to take the class as well.  I looked it up on the GoPortal and decided to sign up.  I'm happy I did because this class filled many knowledge gaps for me.  I've taken many other psychology courses, each one with its own points to make, but this class provided information that filled in the blanks for other courses.  Motivation is an important topic because without motivation we wouldn't be where we are today.  I don't believe that humans would even exist.  We learned how Motivation plays a role in the perpetuation of the species and evolutionary psychology in general.  Being able to get up and do something is important for survival.  On some level, all of our actions, decisions, behaviors and so on are a result of Motivation.  In another course, I learned about something called Akinetic Mutism, a condition where one loses all motivation.  They're still conscious, but do not possess any of the drive that sets us into action.  With the knowledge I received from this class, the idea of Akinetic Mutism became all the more dreadful.  An understanding of how Motivation underlies our basic existence brings about awareness of just how serious a total lack of Motivation would be!

Every day, I am motivated to get up and do all kinds of things - getting up, getting dressed and showered, getting in the car to go to school, getting to class, getting back home, etc...  Dull, but without Motivation, I wouldn't be doing any of those things.  On a day-to-day basis, we're driven to move forward.  I think about the long-term incentive of getting a college degree, so I can get a good job, and live comfortably.  I am motivated by the incentive to do well and learn so I can one day (hopefully) be successful.  

In short, Motivation is a great course that complements other psychology courses very well.  It provides extended knowledge about a myriad of topics that are highly applicable to both other courses as well as everyday life!

Favorite Part
There are a number of topics from this course that I really enjoyed, but if I had to pick one, I think it would be Chapter Three: Evolutionary Antecedents of Motivation.  In particular, the part on instinctive behaviors.  I remember being very engrossed by the section on mate selection, mate value, the good gene hypothesis and so on.  

What I think drew me in to this section was the biological basis that seems to dictate a lot of motivation related to these topics.  In our early history we tried to find mates who would both produce healthy offspring and remain with the children to ensure their survival.  Mate value was really interesting; although, when we added up our own subjective estimation of out mate value I had a really, really low score.  I don't think my mate value is that low... I think my problem was more about self-esteem and modesty (I couldn't bring myself to give myself a top score on anything...).   Many of my classmates rated themselves high!  The idea is that people will seek someone with a high mate value or avoid someone who has a low mate value is intriguing.  A related concept, the good gene hypothesis, was interesting as well since it relies on the idea that a person's physical appearance and attractiveness can predict intelligence, health, ability to produce healthy offspring, etc...  Research has shown that attractiveness is based on the same principles regardless of culture or country.  Sexual dimorphism (the difference of features between men and women), symmetry (how much the left and right half of the face match up), and averageness (how much a face represents an average of many different faces among a population) make up attractiveness. As much as we may not like to think that these kinds of things play into our relationship decisions, experiments on the subject have shown that they play a pretty big part (see The Science of Sex Appeal).  

These innate motivations that drive us to chose a partner are deep-rooted because in our history we had to seek mates who would better the changes of the survival of any offspring.  However, I think it's interesting how we are changing.  For example, a woman may not need a man who can stay around to support her and her young anymore because it is much easier for us now than in the past to successful on our own.  Despite this fact, if I recall correctly, our poll in class still reflected (for the most part) the fact that the sexes seek instinctual characteristics (i.e., men seeking attractive women or women seeking financially successful men). 

Creative Piece
I thought about a couple of different concepts to cover, at one point I even considered videotaping myself taking a shot of hot sauce, but despite my love of hot sauce that just seemed like a bad idea... Instead, I decided on focusing on the Yerkes-Dodson Law, which posits two things.  First, some arousal helps performance but too much arousal will hinder performance.  Second, the optimal level of arousal is task dependent - it is based on the difficulty of the task.  Given that it's the time of the year where everyone is scrambling to get work done, living off coffee and not enough sleep, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about how arousal is related to our performance!  Instead of making a video, I decided to make a short comic (I'm camera shy). 

In the following mini-comic, we have a young woman - Procrastinor Girl - who finds tests and studying easy.  Since studying is an easier task for her, she figures she'll just drink a bit of coffee to get herself a little energized and get the task out of the way.  Since this is an easy task... higher arousal makes sense since the Yerkes-Dodson Law states that easier tasks require higher arousal than harder tasks.  Unfortunately, she bit off more than she can chew and doesn't finish studying by the time her arousal starts to decrease, eventually leading her to crash face first into her book.  Enjoy!

This class is all about real-world extensions.  Motivation is one of those areas of psychology that relates directly to everyday life with every concept.  Not all psychology classes do this, for example, Abnormal psychology is relevant, but not all of the concepts can be used outside of class because it's not likely that everyone you meet is going to have a given diagnosis.  Although, we're all a little abnormal in our own way.

The creative piece I did on the Yerkes-Dodson Law is an example of how Motivation concepts apply to everyday life.  We all study, we all work hard, and I'm sure all of us have at some point tried to pull a coffee-infused all-nighter only to crash before our work is done.  Of course, the short discussion about mate selection is also highly applicable to the real world.  

There are other concepts that are relevant as well.  Taste in music for example.  We enjoy music that is complex, but not too complex - the idea of incongruity resolution.  Novelty is important, music that gets built into a schema becomes boring over time.  Or, going back to our comic, Caffeine.  In Chapter Four: Addictions and Addictive Behavior, Caffeine is cited as making people alert and clear-headed and a lot of people drink it for this reason, much like Procrasinator Girl!  We all make decisions - some of us choose to procrastinate because that's who we are, it's a personality trait.  Personality traits cause us to avoid or approach situations, maybe some of us avoid classes we think are too much work, others might be attracted to particular courses for the same reason that someone else avoids it.  Some of us react to getting a B happily, for someone else it might feel like the end of the world, which also relates to our goal-seeking behaviors....

All of these examples interconnect and overlap.  I could write for hours about different concepts that affect everyday life.  In fact, even if I just expanded on the above paragraph it would become too long!  Many of these concepts reoccur in other chapters, but with new motivational perspectives given to them.  All in all, Motivation is complicated by many factors and to understand all of these factors would take a great deal of work.  Our class covered a lot, but I'm sure there's even more out there.  New research with new discoveries that add to and evolve the way we currently understand human Motivation.  Maybe if I get motivated enough I'll do some research on contemporary studies of Motivation over the break...


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