A Biological Theory Of Motivation

This biological theory of motivation (The Intuition Theory), suggests that motivation levels are regulated by neural pattern recognition events. Subconscious drives impel people to achieve excellence, or to spend exceptional energies on services to humanity. There have been five well known theories of motivation, which seek to explain the reasons why a few people spend more energy than others to achieve their goals. All these theories essentially outline the crucial impact of neural activities on motivation.

The Instinct Theory suggests that motivated behavior is a biological instinct. The Drive Reduction Theory suggests that motivated behavior seeks to reduce the tension of drives triggered by sensations such as hunger or pain. The Arousal Theory suggests that motivated behavior is the result of a search for an optimum level of arousal.

The Psychoanalytic Theory suggests that motivated behaviors follow fundamental drives to survive and avoid death. The Humanistic Theory presents the Maslow Hierarchy, where people strive to achieve their maximum potential. Instinctual responses, drive reduction, arousal, psychological and humanistic drives are the varied aspects of the powerful neural drives, which ultimately motivate people. The Intuition Theory suggests that these drives are powered by the intuitive choices of the mind.

  • Intuition focuses the nervous system on an activity. Wisdom, or emotions decide.
  • Strategic drives use coded knowledge to achieve objectives.
  • Motivation is limited by neural wisdom. Excellence is delivered by wider knowledge and skills.
  • Excellence results in flow.
  • When emotions dominate, an individual will persist in the task.
  • Speed dial circuits, created by painful experiences, focus people on specific goals.
  • Different people are motivated by different rewards.
  • Many people are not fortunate enough to work on rewarding careers.
  • The Intuition Theory suggests that inner wisdom and emotions motivate the system.

A Biological Theory Of Motivation – Wisdom, Or Emotions Motivate
The intuitive choices a person makes in life are determined by the options available within his mind. The system runs through millions of possibilities to make each choice. Everywhere, it is intuition,which enables inherited processes to deliver swift decisions. Animals cannot afford to freeze into immobility, unable to decide between chewing grass and drinking water. If the choice is to chew grass, the drive to quench thirst is instantly inhibited. This website describes 
intuition as a process, which eliminates unfit possibilities within milliseconds to choose a single option for action. In this process, when the system knows the answers, actions flow with effortless energy. When answers are lacking, the system fumbles. In more complex situations, emotions guide system strategies. When emotions dominate, the system acts with passion for good or evil.

A Biological Theory Of Motivation – Neural Drives
Since solutions are often not immediately available, neural drives constantly seek answers to problems faced by the system. Neural drives are purpose driven. When you decide to move a piece on a chess board, sequences of motor impulses persist from the instant your hand picks up the piece, till it is set down in its new position. Muscle movements are sequences of contractions, which last just milliseconds. Each signal invokes only a tiny contraction.

Myriad muscles contract and relax over thousands of cycles till your chess piece reaches its desired position. The motor codes continually issue precise instructions to meet a set objective. Your hand does not wander off on its own. The human mind has immense knowledge, stored as coded answers from myriad evolutionary and real life experiences. Intuitive drives manage neural search processes, which constantly locate suitable answers from this lode of experience. But, answers are not always available. The information may not be there in the system.

A Biological Theory Of Motivation – Excellence And Knowledge
Motivation is limited by neural wisdom. Successful people make millions of choices during the course of their lives. The wisdom in their words, the experiences they remember and even their social choices are all decisions and abilities of the system. Famous actors, statesmen and business leaders have access to the crucial physical and mental knowledge, which supports quick and effective decisions. Those choices carry them to the top. The legendary management guide Peter Drucker defined excellence as the ability to easily do something, which others find difficult. The easy intuitive availability of answers is crucial in the motivation of successful people. When a person appears to lack motivation in a job, the real problem may also be an inability to locate suitable answers. He lacks the crucial insights and motor skills. Wiser decision making processes constitute one aspect of increased motivation. Such knowledge is the key to work flow.

A Biological Theory Of Motivation – Excellence Results In Flow
At its highest level, motivation achieves flow. Flow is a state of mind, where people become totally immersed in their tasks and lose all sense of time. It is a state, where people work for the pure enjoyment of completing the task and not for any external reward. The solution of problems is in itself, a reward. Professor Wolfram Schultz discovered that reward oriented behavior is promoted by the release of a group of neurotransmitters by neurons in the early reptilian part of the human brain.

These neurons detect signals in the environment, which indicate the possibility of a reward within a specific time frame. By releasing dopamine, these neurons increase neural activity in the forebrain, mainly in the prefrontal regions, where attention and analysis take place. Schultz noted that the release continues only for the predicted time period, when a reward can be expected. The release reduces at the end of this period. The releases stop if the rewards have become a matter of routine. Novelty is essential for sustained interest.

The solution of each new problem, however simple, provides a reward. Dopamine increases alertness and provides clarity to immediate objectives and makes a person feel more energetic and elated. Research has shown that people achieve flow, when they feel that they are in control of tasks, which are goal directed, provide feedback and give them a sense of meaning. Studies indicate that flow does not require engagement in creative, or artistic tasks. Flow has been shown to be experienced even in tasks such as analyzing data, or filling out income tax returns. Flow occurs, because the system is rewarded with swift answers in the challenges of the job.

A Biological Theory Of Motivation – Persistent Emotions Motivate
Persistence is another aspect of motivation. Some people are said to be motivated, when they complete a job with speed and excellence. There are others, who bring extra-ordinary energy to a job. Energy results, when a person strikes harder as well as when he persists in his effort. Persistence is the result of a single minded focus, where an individual keeps after a single objective, regardless of setbacks. Such objectives are set by strong 

Varying emotions are triggered by specific organs, developed by nature over millions of years. Each subsystem triggers signals, which enable the achievement of a specific objective. A reptilian system initiates signals, which act to satisfy hunger and thirst. Anger and fear signals from the amygdala generate fight, or flight responses. The insula generates emotions like guilt and love, which act to support social cohesion.

Myriad competing emotions offer as many objectives to the system. An 
intuitive decision making process chooses the most powerful emotion as the current motor control option. When a specific emotional signal is strong and persistent, the system focuses on the objective of that emotion. The process causes people to become emotionally motivated.

A Biological Theory Of Motivation – Neural Plasticity And LTP
The amygdala dispatches fight, or flight responses to avoid pain. Love and compassion are emotions, which sense the pain of others. Jealousy and envy are emotions, which feel the pain of failure, when confronted by competition, or failure. The amygdala triggers avoidance behaviors, which seek to lessen pain. The amygdala also remembers. Neural plasticity and long term potentiation (LTP) are neural phenomena, which set off “speed dial circuits” which make the amygdala persist with its signals.

Speed dial circuits are created in the organ by particularly painful experiences, or when a person dwells repeatedly on memories of painful events. The system focuses persistently on the objectives of the dominant emotion, which could be fear, anger, compassion, or envy. The system returns from any diversion to a single goal, which seeks to avoid the remembered pain of these emotions. When these emotions lead to positive results, people are said to be dedicated. When they lead to antisocial results, people are called fanatics.

A Biological Theory Of Motivation – Pleasure Motivates
The potential for pleasure motivates. The feeling of pleasure had been shown to be located in the septal areas of the brain for rats. The animals were observed when they were able to self stimulate themselves, by pressing a lever, through electrodes implanted in the septal area. They continued pressing the lever till they were exhausted, preferring the effect of stimulation to normally pleasurable activities such as consuming food. For human beings, the highest pleasure is a sense of fulfillment in their careers. Such a sense of fulfillment varies between people.

Different things please different people. While one is thrilled by the sound of music, another delights in the exploration of history. Not everyone is lucky enough to be employed in a field which grants them a true sense of fulfillment. A talented musician may not enjoy bagging grocery. While people can seek employment in agreeable fields, the majority of people can only seek an adequate income, which can bring them joy in their favored fields. Money can also be a powerful motivator.

A Biological Theory Of Motivation – Many Lack Motivation
The characteristics of motivation are preset in the nervous system. Some people have great skills and talents. Others inherit, or subconsciously modulate neural circuits, which make them loving and compassionate. Still others find immense pleasure in the products and services, which their jobs provide to people. Society praises such people as being motivated.

The large majority of people are not so fortunate. They choose a career by accident. They pay little conscious attention to their work, which is usually a matter of unconscious habit. Such people have a few 
options to become more motivated. They can evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses and choose a career, which appeals to their passions, or where they can be excellent. They can learn on the job and bring excellence through continuous study and practice.

A Biological Theory Of Motivation – The Intuition Theory
The neural network is a biological system. It carries within it vast inherited and acquired knowledge. An intuitive process, which makes instant contextual decisions from available knowledge powers the activities of the mind. The Intuition Theory holds that, when this process is supported by the stimulus of talent, pleasure, passion, or learned ability, motivation is increased.

This page was last updated on 28-Jan-2016.

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For my peace of mind, I earmarked 20 minutes for meditation on the terrace. With my eyes closed, I sense my hands on the chair and feel the numbness in my feet.

I feel my breath flowing through my nose, my throat, my chest and my stomach. I can hear the chirping of birds, the phut phut of auto rickshaws, the occasional roar of a truck and the insistent hooting of horns.

When I open my eyes, I see a pale moon over two hundred thousand miles away. I see the nuclear fires, blazing for millions of years in the pale globe of the setting sun. A star millions of miles away in space.

I can see green shoots coming up on a tree, watch the dives and swoops of birds, the great circles of the hawks and flocks of birds flying home for the night.

Diffused light from the sun reflects off a parrot on the tree and enters my eye through a pinhole opening. I sense the bustling mood of the bird, even though it is smaller than a drop of water in my eyes.

All these things are seen and felt by me in a few brief minutes. In the distance, is the head of a man seeming to be no bigger than a pea. Yet, that head too sees and feels such things. Ten million people in this great city see and feel in ten million ways.

My mind wanders to a misty view of postwar London; an exciting glimpse of Disneyland. An awed view of Tiananmen Square. The looming Himalayan ranges. My mind takes me to distant galaxies.

It carries me into the heart of millions of invisible neurons, where electrical charges flash thousands of times a second powering my contemplation. I see the campaigns of Julius Caesar and Alexander. I feel the longings of Jehangir.

Already my mind has taken me to palaces, battlefields and even the stars. And yet, the 20 minutes hang heavily on me. If I lost everything, but can just see and feel, in just a few brief minutes, my mind can travel the world, or imagine the cosmos.

Life has already blessed me with over twenty million waking minutes. I have an infinity of time on my hands. Have I a right to expect more from life?

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