Key for Marketers, Biz and Policy Folks – The Biology of Motivation

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It is a shame economists are so clueless about this basic biology – but they live in their own world.  The related strange world of behavioral econ has no understanding over even awareness of this complexity.

The term motivation refers to a construct that is widely used in psychology, psychiatry, and neuroscience. As is the case with many psychological concepts, the discussion of motivation had its origins in philosophy…..According to a more recent definition, motivation is ‘‘the set of processes through which organisms regulate the probability, proximity and availability of stimuli’’ (Salamone, 1992). Generally speaking, the modern psychological construct of motivation refers to the behaviorally-relevant processes that enable organisms to regulate both their external and internal environment (Salamone, 2010)…

Perhaps the main utility of the construct of motivation is that it provides a convenient summary and organizational structure for observable features of behavior.

–  Behavior is directed toward or away from particular stimuli, as well as activities that involve interacting with those stimuli.
–  Organisms seek access to some stimulus conditions (i.e., food, water, sex) and avoid others (i.e., pain, discomfort), in both active and passive ways.
–  Moreover, motivated behavior typically takes place in phases.
–  The terminal stage of motivated behavior, which reflects the direct interaction with the goal stimulus, is commonly referred to as the consummatory phase.

The word ‘‘consummatory’’ (Craig, 1918) does not refer to ‘‘consumption,’’ but instead to ‘‘consummation,’’ which means ‘‘to complete’’ or ‘‘to finish.’’

In view of the fact that motivational stimuli usually are available at some physical or psychological distance from the organism, the only way to gain access to these stimuli is to engage in behavior that brings them closer, or makes their occurrence more likely. This phase of motivated behavior often is referred to as ‘‘appetitive,’’ ‘‘preparatory,’’ ‘‘instrumental,’’‘approach,’’ or ‘‘seeking.’’ Thus, researchers sometimes distinguish between ‘‘taking’’ versus ‘‘seeking’’ of a natural stimulus such as food, or of a drug reinforcer; indeed, the term ‘‘drug-seeking behavior’’ has become a common phrase in the language of psychopharmacology. As discussed below, this set of distinctions (e.g., instrumental versus consummatory or seeking versus taking) is important for understanding the effects of dopaminergic manipulations on motivation for natural stimuli such as food.

Temporal Phases of Motivated Behavior

Qualitatively Different Aspects of Motivated Behavior

For several years, researchers have been making distinctions between aspects of motivated behavior, many of which are differentially affected by dopaminergic manipulations. Motivated behavior takes places in phases, in which the animal

  • first must approach or seek the reinforcing goal stimulus (e.g., appetitive, instrumental, approach, preparatory, or seeking behavior).
  • Eventually, the organism gains access to the motivational stimulus and directly interacts with it (consummatory or taking behavior).
  • In addition, the distinction between activational (vigor, persistence, stimulation of sustained activity) and directional (i.e., behavior is directed toward or away from a particular stimulus) aspects of motivation has been made in the behavioral literature for many years.

More recently, Berridge and colleagues have emphasized the distinction between
–  liking (i.e., the hedonic reaction to the stimulus) and
–  wanting (the desire for the stimulus, the tendency to consume or pursue the stimulus).
excerpted from Salomone 2012

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