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Changing Minds, Transforming Lives - Life Can Work When You Get The Right Support


Wednesday, February 8, 2012


What moves people to act? What makes someone jump into freezing water, risking his or her own life, to save a stranger, or why do exhausted marathon runners stagger relentlessly toward the finish line, determined to complete a punishing race?
To explain the enormous variety and complexity of behavior, psychologist study the environment as well as the individual, the mind as well as the body, to find what moves people to take action. They have observed that we move toward some things and away from others.
When we can't help moving toward something, we have an addiction. When we have an unusual aversion to something, we have a phobia. Between the two extremes of approach and avoidance, psychologists in for motives by noting what we choose, how intensely we involve ourselves, and how long we keep at it.
Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain explain many of our actions. But this same principle can also work against us. For example, alcohol and drugs may be pleasurable, but they are bad for us. And studying may be extremely difficult, but it can be good for us. As we grow older, we learn to do things that will pay off in the future. But our true desires may never go away.
Freud theorized that behavior was based on our motivation to seek sexual satisfaction and to express aggressive urges against those who restrain our pursuit of pleasure. He explained that our basic sexual and aggressive desires are hidden from our conscious awareness but that they still influence our behavior in sometimes reveal themselves in dreams, fantasies, or slips of the tongue.
In contrast to Freud, Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, who studied normal, healthy people, saw a different side of human nature. They theorize that our lives are shaped by a basic tendency toward growth and mastery.
Sexual behavior is a good example of the complex interaction of psychological and biological forces. In contrast to the motivation of other animals, whose sexual mating behavior patterns promote the survival of the species, human sexual motivation is a readiness to experience intense pleasure and, often, romantic love. It combines physical arousal, strong emotion, and intense attraction to another person. Human sexual behavior is highly diverse and subject to a mixture of personal, social, situational, and cultural influences.
A related area of psychological interest is a motion, the complex pattering of changes involving feelings, thoughts, behavior, and physical arousal. Psychologist Robert Plutchik has proposed that there are eight basic emotions made up of four pairs of opposites, such as joy and sadness, and anger and fear, which we combine when we feel other emotions.

Psychologist Paul Ekman’s cross – cultural studies reveal a remarkable universality in the way facial expressions communicate basic emotions. In fact, people all over the world denote emotions in much of the same way. And they show similar changes in the brain, muscles, thoughts, and behavior.
Theorists such as Martin Seligman emphasizes the role of cognitive appraisal in motivation and emotion. He suggests that what people do and how hard they try are influenced by basic optimism and pessimism. Our motivations and emotional states depend on how we view failure and success. An optimist failing a test would attribute the poor performance to external causes (i.e. the test was too hard) or changeable factors (i.e. I'll try harder and do better next time). The pessimist would feel doomed by stable unchangeable factors (i.e. I guess I'm dumb and unlucky) and out-of-control (i.e. nothing I do will make a difference; I'll always be this way) on the other hand, optimist take full credit for their success, while pessimist only see luck or chance in anything good that happens to them. A person's explanatory style can influence performance in school and work and even his or her physical and mental well- being.

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