Posts Tagged ‘Motivation’

The motivation space: Between debilitation and satiation

October 11, 2018

It is an empirical observation that the same person can perform the same action with different degrees of effectiveness depending upon his motivation. The difference between a person being motivated or not for a particular action is a difference, not in his capability or his knowledge or his skill, but must be in the cognitive state of that person when performing that particular action.

In common usage, “manipulation” has a negative connotation but “motivation” is generally regarded as being something positive. This usage reflects the mixing up of what elicits human behaviour on the one hand, with value judgements about the objectives or purpose of causing such behaviour on the other. The means of eliciting behaviour is merely a tool. Manipulating or motivating the behaviour of others is central to being human. Most social interaction involves the influencing of the behaviour of others. I take “motivation” – and particularly “motivation in the work place” – then to be just a particular subset of manipulation to elicit desired human behaviour. By empirical observation, I note that when a person is “motivated” he is not

  • more competent, or
  • more knowledgeable, or
  • more intelligent, or
  • more skillful, or
  • stronger or taller or smarter,

but he is

  • More effective
  • More focused
  • More cooperative
  • More “driven”
  • More dynamic
  • More result-oriented
  • More diligent …….

Thus I take the level of motivation to be a measure of the level of engagement of an individual in the actions he is performing (his behaviour). The more motivated he is the more “effective” his performance is, within the constraints set by his abilities. An unmotivated or demotivated person performs the actions in hand well below the limit of his capabilities. Motivation does not affect capability but it does affect performance.

My basic assumption in my “Engagement” theory of motivation (in preparation) invokes an analogy from the physical world. It is entirely qualitative and only very small parts are subject to quantification. I assume that all human actions (which we call behaviour) are analagous to motion in physics. Further, I take a change to be only in response to a “force of behaviour”. The challenge lies in describing and defining this force. Building on Maslow (Motivation and Personality – 1954) I assume that any human, at any given time, exhibits a “state of human condition” which is a composite of

  1. the levels to which his various needs are satisfied, and
  2. the levels of his various dissatisfactions from deficiencies that are not met

I take “satisfaction of needs” and “dissatisfactions due to deficiencies” as two separate scales, neither of which can be negative and which are not diametrically opposed. Of course there are many needs and many deficiencies and there is a level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with each of them,

I use the analogy of motivation as a force of human behaviour.  In physics

In physics, a force is any interaction that, when unopposed, will change the motion of an object. A force can cause an object with mass to change its velocity (which includes to begin moving from a state of rest), i.e., to accelerate. A force has both magnitude and direction, making it a vector quantity. – Wikipedia

The analogous definition of motivation then becomes

With human behaviour, motivation is any interaction that, when unopposed, will change the behaviour of a person. Motivation can cause a person having free will to change behaviour (which includes the initiation of behaviour from a state of rest). Motivation has both magnitude and direction, making it a vector quantity. 

Human behaviour is only visible as human actions. For an object to be susceptible to a force it must have mass. The quantity analogous to mass is the freedom of the human to act rationally, i.e. his free will. The force acting on an object must be greater than the sum of all opposing forces in the direction of the acting force, to cause the object to respond. Just as a constrained object may not react to a force, so a constrained human may not react to a motivational force.

For every deficiency there is a tolerable level of dissatisfaction. If this level is exceeded then rational behaviour is no longer possible and an individual can and will only act to reduce the dissatisfaction to the exclusion of everything else. When a deficiency is in the intolerable region the person is debilitated and not amenable to any motivational force. It is the tolerable level of dissatisfactions which defines the behavioural space where manipulation and motivation can be brought into play to influence behaviour.

From Pillai “Engagement theory of motivation”

But it is not only deficiencies and intolerable levels of dissatisfaction which constrain the behavioural space. Rational behavior is also “ignored” when a particular course of behavior only brings more “satisfaction” of a need which has already been satiated. The “satiation boundary” is reached at relatively low levels of satisfaction with Malsow’s lower-order needs and increase sharply as higher-order needs are considered – “mentally satiated” line. At the highest orders of self-actualisation, needs can never be satiated.

(I use“sated” and “satiated” as being identical in meaning).

from Pillai “Engagement theory of motivation”

Intentional motivation can only function within the rational behavioural space and that space lies in the region where deficiencies are not debilitating and needs are not satiated.


Related: https://ktwop.com/2014/07/28/between-debilitation-and-satiation-the-behavioural-space/


 

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Between debilitation and satiation: The behavioural space

July 28, 2014

This is the second part of series of posts describing what I call the Engagement Theory of Motivation and which I have found useful during my working career.

The first part was posted on 23rd July 2014: Manipulation, motivation and behaviour

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2: Between debilitation and satiation: The behavioural space

The space within which rational behavior can be expected and elicited is constrained by the debilitations of intolerable deficiencies on the one hand and needs which are satiated and incapable of providing further satisfaction on the other.

Eliciting desired behaviour lies at the core of all human social interaction. I take “manipulation” and therefore motivation merely to be tools for eliciting behaviour from our fellows. As tools they are neutral and neither good nor bad.

Since Maslov (1954) first came up with his hierarchy of needs there have been many theories and hypotheses of motivation proposed. I find his hierarchy is fundamentally sound. His approach is still the simplest, most practically applicable approach. It remains I think the most useful – if qualitative – way of addressing motivation and behaviour in the work place.

Hierarchy a la Maslow

Hierarchy a la Maslow

Fig 1. Maslov’s hierarchy of needs

I take Maslow’s lower-order needs (physiological and safety needs) to be mainly – but not exclusively – physical and his higher-order needs (social, esteem and self-actualisation desires) to be mainly – but not exclusively – cognitive.

The space for eliciting rational human behaviour lies in the planes of his satisfactions and dissatisfactions. I postulate that all conscious, rational human behaviour is aimed at decreasing  internally perceived deficiencies giving dissatisfactions or increasing internally perceived desires (needs) giving satisfactions. I take these planes to be that on which the “state of human condition”, at any given time, can be plotted as a representation of the individual’s satisfactions and dissatisfactions at a particular time. The axis of time is not explicit but it is implied since only one “state of human condition” exists at any given time. For an individual to go from state 1 to state 2 on the behavioural therefore implies – and requires – the passage of time.

(more…)

A theory of motivation (as a subset of manipulation): Part 1

July 23, 2014

This is the first part of series of posts describing what I call The Engagement Theory of Motivation and which I have found useful during my working career.

1: Manipulation, motivation and behaviour

In common usage, “manipulation” has a negative connotation but “motivation” is generally regarded as being something positive. A “manipulated” person is considered a dummy, or someone being exploited. A ” manipulator” is considered “bad” even if not always “evil”. A “motivated” person  is usually seen as being diligent and performing to the best of his ability. To be “motivated” is usually considered a “good” thing – but not always. A “motivated” witness or a “motivated” observer is biased and therefore “bad”! To “manipulate” someone has a connotation of being unethical whereas to “motivate” someone is usually seen  as something to be admired.

This usage reflects the mixing up of what elicits human behaviour on the one hand, with value judgements about the objectives or purpose of causing such behaviour on the other. I try to keep these separate. The means of eliciting behaviour is merely a tool.

Manipulating the behaviour of others is central to being human. Most social interaction involves the influencing of the behaviour of others. Requesting, debating, arguing, persuading, coercing, threatening, ordering, begging, praying, rewarding, punishing are all methods we employ to elicit desired behaviour from others. I take all such influencing of behaviour to be “manipulation”. When I “request” a cup of coffee at a cafe in return for a “reward”, I successfully “manipulate” the behaviour of the server. An order in the army is to “manipulate” the actions of others. Politicians “manipulate” their voters – or try to. The cry of a baby “manipulates” the behaviour of its mother. We manipulate our children, our friends, our colleagues and our enemies. All man made laws manipulate. Manipulation is the very essence of social interaction.

Manipulation, as I use it here, is the eliciting of human behaviour. It is a tool of social interaction and is neither good nor bad.  It is only the objectives and purposes of manipulation which can be subject to value judgements about goodness or badness.

I take “motivation” – and particularly “motivation in the work place” – then to be just a particular subset of manipulation to elicit desired human behaviour. By empirical observation, I note that when a person is “motivated” he is not

  • more competent, or
  • more knowledgeable, or
  • more intelligent, or
  • more skillful, or
  • stronger or taller or smarter,

but he is

  • More effective
  • More focused
  • More cooperative
  • More “driven”
  • More dynamic
  • More result-oriented
  • More diligent …….

Thus I take the level of motivation to be a measure of the level of engagement of an individual in the actions he is performing (his behaviour). The more motivated he is the more “effective” his performance is, within the constraints set by his abilities. An unmotivated or demotivated person performs the actions in hand well below the limit of his capabilities. Motivation does not affect capability but it does affect performance.

Human behaviour and what causes it is part of the seemingly infinite universe of psychology in all its myriad forms (social psychology, cognitive psychology………). I can only approach behaviour and its causes in an empirical and pragmatic way.

My basic assumption in developing my “Engagement” theory of motivation invokes an analogy from the physical world. It is entirely qualitative and only very small parts are subject to quantification.

I assume that all human actions (which we call behaviour) are analagous to motion in physics. Further, I take a change to be only in response to a “force of behaviour”. The challenge lies in describing and defining this force. Building on Maslow (Motivation and Personality – 1954) I assume that any human, at any given time, exhibits a “state of human condition” which is a composite of

  1. the levels to which his various needs are satisfied, and
  2. the levels of his various dissatisfactions from deficiencies that are not met

I take “satisfaction of needs” and “dissatisfactions due to deficiencies” as two separate scales, neither of which can be negative and which are not diametrically opposed. Of course there are many needs and many deficiencies and there is a level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with each of them,

state of human condition

state of human condition

It should be noted that there is a scale for each need and for each deficiency and that the scale itself is a composite of “health, wealth and happiness factors”. Nevertheless it should be possible by suitable weighting to combine all the levels of satisfaction of all the various needs into a single “level of satisfaction of needs”, and to combine all the various dissatisfactions due to deficiencies into a single “level of dissatisfaction due to deficiencies”. This then allows the positioning, at any given time, of an individual’s “state of human condition”.

state of human condition -2

state of human condition -2

For every deficiency – again following Maslow – there is a tolerable level of dissatisfaction. If this level is exceeded then rational behaviour is no longer possible and an individual can and will only act to reduce the dissatisfaction to the exclusion of everything else. It is the tolerable level of dissatisfactions which defines the behavioural space where manipulation and motivation can be brought into play to influence behaviour.

Next – 2: The Behavioural Space

Why so much fuss that Facebook “manipulated” emotions?

July 8, 2014

There has been a lot of fuss lately about an internal Facebook study which managed to be published in a scientific journal as I noted in passing about 3 weeks ago.

Emotional contagion by Facebook could be a new disease. A case of the medium creating the new disease! Heightened emotions can apparently be transmitted by Facebook. The researchers find that“emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness”. And emotional contagion is what turns a crowd into a mob. And as this work from MIT shows, “Good people can do bad things. Belonging to a group makes people more likely to harm others outside the group.”

The research consisted of manipulating Facebook feeds and seeing what happened. The paper, the journal, Facebook and Cornell University have been heavily criticised for their “lack of ethics” and many are back-tracking in CYA exercises. Retraction Watch writes:

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) is subjecting a much-criticized study involving Facebook that it published just two weeks ago to an Expression of Concern. …. Critics — and there were many online — said the study violated ethical norms because it did not alert participants that they were taking part.

…… Here’s the Expression of Concern, signed by editor-in-chief Inder Verma:

……. When the authors prepared their paper for publication in PNAS, they stated that: “Because this experiment was conducted by Facebook, Inc. for internal purposes, the Cornell University IRB [Institutional Review Board] determined that the project did not fall under Cornell’s Human Research Protection Program.” This statement has since been confirmed by Cornell University. ……

But I find all the fuss a little hypocritical. Manipulation of the behaviour of others is the norm and the bed-rock for all human social intercourse.

Politicians manipulate – or try to – their voters. Demagogues manipulate individuals to create a mob. Artists and authors try to arouse emotions. Scientists try to influence their grant panels. We manipulate our friends and our family members. A leader manipulates his followers. Followers try to influence their leaders. All human cooperation is built on manipulation of behaviour. We try to manipulate our enemies. When we call it “manipulation” we disapprove but when we call it “motivation” it is to be admired. Obama tries to motivate Netanyahu but Bibi usually manages to manipulate Barack. Manipulation of behaviour by persuasion is fine but manipulation by coercion is frowned upon. Any advertisement – by definition – plays with the emotions of its target audience and tries to manipulate their behaviour.

So what is wrong then when a Facebook or a Google or a Twitter  – whose business model depends on placing advertisements accurately and effectively – tries to employ “emotional contagion” to maximise their revenues? I closed my Facebook and Twitter accounts some time ago partly because I did not like their intrusive nature. But that was because I felt that my personal space was being encroached on – and beyond the level I felt comfortable with. But I certainly did not feel they were doing anything unethical. In this case I find the criticism confused and a little inane. Was it unethical for Facebook to have conducted an “internal” study. I don’t think so. Was it unethical for PNAS to have published the paper? Not really.

If it is unethical for internet sites or social media to target advertisements then it is unethical for any advertisement to be targeted towards anyone.

The onus I think lies with the individual.

 

 

Another case of data manipulation, another Dutch psychology scandal

April 30, 2014

UPDATE!

Jens Förster denies the claims of misconduct and has sent an email defending himself to Retraction Watch.

============================

One would have thought the credentials of social psychology as a science – after Diedrik Staple, Dirk Smeesters and Mark Hauser – could not fall much lower. But data manipulation in social psychology would seem to be a bottomless pit.

Another case of data manipulation by social psychologists has erupted at the University of Amsterdam. This time by Jens Förster professor of social psychology at the University of Amsterdam and his colleague Markus Denzler. 

Retraction Watch: 

The University of Amsterdam has called for the retraction of a 2011 paper by two psychology researchers after a school investigation concluded that the article contained bogus data, the Dutch press are reporting.

The paper, “Sense Creative! The Impact of Global and Local Vision, Hearing, Touching, Tasting and Smelling on Creative and Analytic Thought,” was written by Jens Förster and Markus Denzler  and published in Social Psychological & Personality Science. ….

Professor Jens Förster

Jens Förster is no lightweight apparently. He is supposed to have research interests in the principles of motivation. Throughout my own career the practice of motivation in the workplace has been a special interest and I have read some of his papers. Now I feel let down. I have a theory that one of the primary motivators of social psychologists in academia is a narcissistic urge for media attention. No shortage of ego. And I note that as part of his webpage detailing his academic accomplishments he also feels it necessary to highlight his TV appearances!!!!

Television Appearances (Selection) 

Nachtcafé (SWR), Buten & Binnen (RB), Hermann & Tietjen (NDR), Euroland (SWF), Menschen der Woche (SWF), Die große Show der Naturwunder (ARD), Quarks & Co (WDR), Plasberg persönlich (WDR), Im Palais (RBB), Westart (WDR)

They love being Darlings of the media and the media oblige!

As a commenter on Retraction Watch points out, Förster also doubles as a cabaret artist! Perhaps he sees his academic endeavours also as a form of entertaining the public.

Rolf Degen: I hope that this will not escalate, as this could get ugly for the field of psychology. Jens Förster, a German, is a bigger name than Stapel ever was. He was repeatedly portrayed in the German media, not the least because of his second calling as a singer and a cabaret artist, and he has published an enormous amount of books, studies and review papers, all high quality stuff

This revelation occurs at a bad time for Förster, write the Dutch media. He is supposed to work as “Humboldt professor starting from June 1, and he was awarded five million Euros to do research at a German university the next five years. He is also supposed to cooperate with Jürgen Margraf – who is the President of the “German Society for Psychology” and as such the highest ranking German psychologist.

A new, profound insight into “climate change cooperation”

October 21, 2013

There is bad science and there is silly science and there is trivial science. There is also inane science.

And their are learned journals for all of them. This is a new paper published by Nature Climate Change. (One wonders why?). The authors though can be very pleased since they can each add another paper to their respective list of publications. “We learned from this experiment that even groups gravitate towards instant gratification” 

Wow!

Jennifer Jacquet, Kristin Hagel, Christoph Hauert, Jochem Marotzke, Torsten Röhl, Manfred Milinski. Intra- and intergenerational discounting in the climate gameNature Climate Change, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2024

EurekAlert has this to say:

Delayed gratification hurts climate change cooperation

Time is a huge impediment when it comes to working together to halt the effects of climate change, new research suggests.

A study published today in the journal Nature Climate Change reveals that groups cooperate less for climate change mitigation when the rewards of cooperation lay in the future, especially if they stretch into future generations.

“People are often self-interested, so when it comes to investing in a cooperative dilemma like climate change, rewards that benefit our offspring – or even our future self – may not motivate us to act,” says Jennifer Jacquet, a clinical assistant professor at New York University’s Environmental Studies Program, who conducted the research while a postdoctoral fellow working with Math Prof. Christoph Hauert at the University of British Columbia.

“Since no one person can affect climate change alone, we designed the first experiment to gauge whether group dynamics would encourage people to cooperate towards a better future.”

Researchers at UBC and two Max Planck Institutes in Germany gave study participants 40 Euros each to invest, as a group of six, towards climate change actions. If participants cooperated to pool together 120 Euros for climate change, returns on their investment, in the form of 45 additional Euros each, were promised one day later, seven weeks later, or were invested in planting oak trees, and thus would lead to climate benefits several decades down the road – but not personally to the participants. Although many individuals invested initially in the long-term investment designed to simulate benefits to future generations, none of the groups achieved the target.

“We learned from this experiment that even groups gravitate towards instant gratification,” says Hauert, an expert in game theory, the study of strategic decision-making.

The authors suggest that international negotiations to mitigate climate change are unlikely to succeed if individual countries’ short-term gains are not taken into consideration.

Could there be any form of cooperation – in any field – where long-term gains are not out-weighed by instant gratification? For any investment – let alone a cooperative investment – given a choice of a short payback or a long payback, is there any case where the long payback period is chosen? 

This is so profound and so deep an insight it almost hurts!

Humans prefer to cooperate, chimps don’t

October 18, 2011

Perhaps this was one of the critical genetic traits which – in evolutionary terms – helped humans  separate from the apes and power ahead to be the leading species on the planet.  It is not difficult to imagine that a “cooperation” gene or a “motivation to cooperate” gene – if such a thing exists – could have resulted in a number of “downstream” needs (for communication, language, artefacts, complex social organisations, arts and science) which in turn selected for and influenced the development of the traits which distinguish anatomically modern humans from other primates.

A new paper from the Max Planck Institutes in Leipzig and Nijmegen:

Yvonne Rekers, Daniel B.M. Haun and Michael Tomasello. Children, but Not Chimpanzees, Prefer to CollaborateCurrent Biology, 2011 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.08.066

 Summary

Human societies are built on collaborative activities. Already from early childhood, human children are skillful and proficient collaborators. They recognize when they need help in solving a problem and actively recruit collaborators.

The societies of other primates are also to some degree cooperative. Chimpanzees, for example, engage in a variety of cooperative activities such as border patrols, group hunting, and intra- and intergroup coalitionary behavior. Recent studies have shown that chimpanzees possess many of the cognitive prerequisites necessary for human-like collaboration. Chimpanzees have been shown to recognize when they need help in solving a problem and to actively recruit good over bad collaborators. However, cognitive abilities might not be all that differs between chimpanzees and humans when it comes to cooperation. Another factor might be the motivation to engage in a cooperative activity. Here, we hypothesized that a key difference between human and chimpanzee collaboration—and so potentially a key mechanism in the evolution of human cooperation—is a simple preference for collaborating (versus acting alone) to obtain food. Our results supported this hypothesis, finding that whereas children strongly prefer to work together with another to obtain food, chimpanzees show no such preference.

Highlights

  • ► First study comparing collaborative motivation between children and chimpanzees
  • ► Children, but not chimpanzees, prefer collaborative over individual food acquisition
  • ► Motivation might be one key factor in the evolution of human-like cooperation

Science Daily

Researchers from the MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and the MPI for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen have now discovered that when all else is equal, human children prefer to work together in solving a problem, rather than solve it on their own. Chimpanzees, on the other hand, show no such preference according to a study of 3-year-old German kindergarteners and semi-free ranging chimpanzees, in which the children and chimps could choose between a collaborative and a non-collaboration problem-solving approach. ….

The research team presented 3-year-old German children and chimpanzees living in a Congo Republic sanctuary with a task that they could perform on their own or with a partner. Specifically, they could either pull two ends of a rope themselves in order to get a food reward or they could pull one end while a companion pulled the other. The task was carefully controlled to ensure there were no obvious incentives for the children or chimpanzees to choose one strategy over the other. “In such a highly controlled situation, children showed a preference to cooperate; chimpanzees did not,” Haun points out.

The children cooperated more than 78 percent of the time compared to about 58 percent for the chimpanzees. These statistics show that the children actively chose to work together, while chimps appeared to choose between their two options randomly. ….. Future work should compare cooperative motivation across primate species in an effort to reconstruct the evolutionary history of the trait. …..

The Art of Motivation

April 21, 2011

I have been conducting a workshop on motivation in the work place as part of an exercise to establish a performance based incentive scheme for a company trying to change from being a family run enterprise to one which can be floated on the stock exchange in a year or two.

Praise Loudly, Blame Softly

In human behaviour, motivation can be considered to be a force. It is brought to bear when performing actions. Where actions have no purpose motivation is undefined. Where there is purpose I take it to be without doubt that the purpose is better served when the required actions are carried out by people who are motivated rather than by people who are indifferent.

The motivated state can then be described as that biological, emotional or cognitive condition which generates a force – variously called incentive, enthusiasm, inspiration, drive, desire, impetus or commitment – which can be applied to a person’s actions. The difference between a motivated person and an unmotivated person lies in the force they bring to bear when performing the same action. It follows that motivation is that particular force within a person which infuses dynamism into his actions or his behaviour towards a particular purpose. The art of motivation then lies in the manner of generating such a force of engagement in people when acting towards a particular purpose.  It is the influencing of human desires and drives by addressing their needs and deficiencies such that they have a vested interest in achieving the purpose. ……

It is a universal and well established observation that when some dissatisfaction is acute, all other drives and actions are subordinated to the alleviation of the acute dissatisfaction. …

What constitutes satisfaction or dissatisfaction varies from one individual to the next. What levels of these are considered acute or tolerable or acceptable or unacceptable or mild satisfaction or ecstasy, also vary with the individual. To what extent and with what velocity a change of state will drive an individual towards reaching a different state of satisfaction or dissatisfaction also depends upon the individual. With this level of variation, and with this dependence upon the individual, motivating people is in the realm of art and is still a long way from being an exact science. The use of rewards and penalties to achieve the actions chosen to be elicited from specific individuals is the art of motivation

….. To be able to consciously engage in motivation, which is a necessary task for a manager, it is vital that some assessment be made of the current status of satisfaction or dissatisfaction of the subject. This in turn determines whether some other state of satisfaction or reduced dissatisfaction will be sufficiently separated from the current state for any motivation to be feasible. This applies irrespective of whether the subject is a subordinate, a superior or a complete stranger. Without such an assessment the drive actually generated by any motivator that is applied, will be nothing more than a guess. The objective is of course, to intentionally provide sufficient drive to the subject such that the desired action results and is carried out forcefully. In a few cases the manager will have sufficient information to be able to make a fairly accurate assessment. In most cases however, he will only have partial information. Nevertheless, the starting point must be an assessment of the current status. 


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