Post #012: Motivation

Glasgow, October 31, 2017

There are a number of interesting neurobehavioural and sociocultural theories on how an individual can experience motivation and adopt/embrace a certain motive [1]. In the course of one’s life, motives tend to develop and be adapted to: (i) one’s experiences, (ii) the needs that emerge in one’s pathway and (iii) the moral values’ hierarchy that one maintains; motives tend to develop and – ideally – become more refined, rational and intrinsic [2] with age. The early-age educational input in the formation of a basic set of motives is undoubtedly significant, as is the motivation imprinted – either actively or passively – through one’s family seniors. The early-age extrinsic motivation is then complemented by the formation of one’s will and personality; the sum of these traits that act as the fertile ground upon which one’s late-age intrinsic motivation will grow and flourish.

For a mentally-healthy individual, “being motivated” is often considered as a prerequisite of action, and the term has been frequently mixed up with “willpower”. In the context of research, a “motivated” researcher would almost certainly be a productive researcher. However, in this specific case, the presence of motivation on its own cannot allow for a qualitative determination of the output of this researcher [3]; the latter being dependent on the nature of one’s motivation. Greed, vainglory and obsession are obvious determinants of the nature of one’s motivation, and they could seriously affect both the quality and the honesty of one’s research output.

In the complex reality of the everyday choice-making of a researcher, ill-natured motivation could fuel controversial action through a number of dishonest or deceitful choices. However, choices are not only driven by motives. One also makes decisions based on reason, impulse and emotion [4], and these do not necessarily define one’s motivation unless the latter is appropriately-conditioned to be intrinsically-driven. In this context as well as in many others, considering motivation as the sole determinant of choice is more complicated than it seems and thus, one should avoid drawing assumptions based only on an assessment of motives. Instead, assumptions should be more safely drawn based on one’s choices.

Our choices are more representative of ourselves than our motives, and in practical terms, the subjective assessment of our motivation will not reveal more about us than the objective analysis of the outcomes of our choices. This argument is well contained in the quote of Menander (Μένανδρος; c. 342-291 BC) that reads as follows: “οὐδεὶς ὃ νοεῖς μὲν οἶδεν, ὃ δὲ ποιεῖς βλέπει” [5].

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Notes: [1]: the practical applications of defining theories on motivation have affected the development of methodological tools in workforce management, marketing and education; [2]: the incentive theories of motivation define two forms of the latter, namely the “intrinsic” (internal) and “extrinsic” (external) motivation; [3]: his/her published work; [4]: also defined as “cognition”, “instinct” and “feeling”; [5]: the quote’s translation: “no one knows what you are thinking, but sees what you do”.

Citation: Zarros A. Post #012: Motivation. azarros.info/blog 2017; 31-Oct.