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Approaches To The Study Of Motivation

The study of motivation focuses on the question of why people initiate, terminate, or persist in specific actions. Given this broad scope, the field of motivation has been characterized as the "cornerstone in the science of human behavior" (Ryan, 1998, p. 114). Despite a variety of theoretical approaches, research has come to increasingly emphasize the importance of goals as directors of human action. Accordingly, research has focused on desired outcomes and how they serve as incentives; on how goals direct action; how pursuit is regulated; and how needs are related to higher-order goals. It has also looked at control-related beliefs for goal attainment, such as an individual's ability to attain desired outcomes through appropriate action. An additional research focus has been on the role of emotions in motivating thought and action.

Arousal theory offers another perspective by focusing on psychophysiological states characterized by varying degrees of excitation, activation, or energy mobilization. It has been maintained that high levels of arousal are a prerequisite for the experience of at least some emotions, and that they are embedded in many motivated acts. On the other hand, any goal-directed activity has an intrinsic emotional component; so motivational and emotional processes are intertwined and exert a powerful influence on cognitive processing, as well as being affected by cognition. Even more, as Buck (1999, p. 303) has put it, "each is involved in both of the others," whereby motivation and emotion are seen "as the two sides of the same coin," i.e., the motivational-emotional system.

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