Professor Berg Performance
April 27, 2020
When we think of performance, many things come to mind---be it school-related, work-related, sports, and even theatre and dance! In psychology, we like to use performance as an example of motivation.
In this lecture, we see how performance and arousal can shape our actions and why some of us work differently in many environments. There is two parts to what is known as a "motivation sequence," which includes the choice and the instrumental behavior.
The choice is the beginning stage in decision-making in which we are given a selection of various options and it is up to us to choose which option will satisfy us and treat us best.
The next aspect of the sequence is the instrumental behavior. It is through this part that "finalizes" our decision as we consider the duration, intensity, how much we are willing to go (persistence) and the frequency of our desires and what the situation presents.
After all this consideration, we must now look into the more physiological aspect: arousal and behavior. To help understand this, we turn to the Yerkes-Dodson Law, which states that arousal and behavior work together when it comes to decision-making and task completion: low arousal is best for difficult tasks, whereas in contrast, high arousal is best for easy tasks. But why is that so? To attempt to explain this phenomena, we turn to the Zones of Optimal Functioning, which discusses inverted-u arousal relationships. The best example of what these theories describe is in sports (or other physically active tasks); which believe that every person has their own inverted-u curve, in other words, this logic suggests there is no scientific, universal number for everyone on how their curve should be. In addition to this general, yet specific theory, two other theories arise: the Hull-Spence Drive (HSD) and the Cusp-Catastrophe Model (CCM).
In the HSD, it is believed that because arousal is higher for easier tasks compared to harder ones, is because the incorrect answer weighs less in easy tasks compared to those harder tasks, where the incorrect answer is stronger (more at stake).
In the CCM, it views the Yerkes-Dodson Law that as tasks become more difficult and/or we spend a longer time at a task, we can become over-stimulated, causing performance efficiency to decrease. In other words, we can become more lethargic and maybe frustrated with more challenging tasks or decisions, as the outcome is dependent on how we attempt to find a solution.