Tag Archives: motivation

New Year’s resolutions

As the New Year approaches many people will be contemplating and setting New Year’s resolutions. Since many of those are likely to involve exercise programmes, I want to briefly cover some of the health attitude theories (Biddle and Nigg, 2000) that can provide us with important frameworks for understanding people’s motivations to undertake psychical activity and why ultimately, some people will succeed or fail to maintain those New Year’s resolutions.

Belief attitude theories tend to centre on the model of health belief (Becker et al. 1997), the theory of reasoned action (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1970) and the theory of planned behaviour (Ajzen and Madden, 1986). The health belief model suggests that a person’s beliefs about the health-enhancing value of exercise (physical fitness, psychological well-being) tends to be weighed against their perceived costs in participating in the activity (e.g. time, commitment etc) and the amount of social support (Kelly et al. 1991), which in turn will determine the person’s level of participation or subsequent withdrawal.

The theory of reasoned action and its successor the theory of planned behaviour focus primarily on the relationship between a person’s attitude to exercise and/or a person’s self-efficacy, social norms about exercise, and a person’s subsequent exercise behaviour. Both these theories suggest that a person’s intention to exercise reflects their personal beliefs about exercise (attitude), the social norms surrounding exercise (what their friends and families may think). Therefore a person’s attitude to their New Year’s resolution of beginning an exercise programme will predict the level of their participation, whether they commit to maintaining the activity long-term will also be influenced by other factors such as age and gender, (Motl et al., 2002).

Motivation

Sport Psychology

When Gut Feelings Trump Conscious Thought

At almost every major sports event there will be commentators giving their opinions on the predicted winners, losers, or favorites. People tend to give commentators due credibility for their knowledge of the game and sometimes experience. For the layperson however it may be better not to give the event much thought. This is true when making predictions on your own. In a recent study, Dijksterhuis and colleagues (2009) asked participants to make predictions about random football matches two weeks prior to the event. Three groups were used in this investigation. Those who were asked to guess performed the worse. Those who were asked to think about their answers performed better. But the group that performed the best was the group who thought unconsciously.

One exception however is that making predictions unconsciously without prior knowledge is not recommended. The participants who performed the best in the investigation also perceived themselves as relatively knowledgeable.  Those who made conscious decisions with relative knowledge are said to not give proper value to relevant information, hence why they performed worse. People who are essentially asked to guess tend to do worse overall. So next time there’s a football, or sports match for that matter, it might be better to not give it much thought about whom will win.

Read More: Football info

Read more: Sports commentary

Dijksterhuis, A., Bos, M.W., van der Leij, A., van Baaren, R.B. (2009) Predicting soccer matches after unconscious and conscious thought as a function of expertise.

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Never Gonna Give You Up

800px-StudyingIt is generally assumed that telling friends and family about your current goals is beneficial. A great deal of research has shown that when people explicitly state their intentions, they are more likely to follow through. This might be for a number of reasons including the need for self-consistency and the benefits of social support.

However, a recent investigation showed that publicizing your goals may actually lead to a lower likelihood of working toward them. In 4 studies, Peter Gollwitzer and colleagues (2009) asked people to report how important certain goals were to them. These responses were then turned into the experimenter who read them over (making them socially known) or set it aside without looking at them (making them private). Following this, the students completed tasks that were related to their goals. In all studies, they found that while both groups were made up of people strongly committed to their goals, it was people who kept their goals private that were more likely to actually engage in behaviors that were consistent with their intentions.

This finding, while somewhat surprising, is actually consistent with work done by classic theorists such as Kurt Lewin. Namely, the act of stating one’s intentions publicly is symbolic and creates a premature feeling of success, leading people to feel as if they’re already on their way to achieving their goals. In turn, this false sense of accomplishment makes people less likely to engage in the necessary behaviors for achieving those goals. And with this, I’m off to work on some of my own goals, none of which I can or should tell you about.

square-eye Does announcing your goals help you succeed?

square-eye Gollwitzer et al. (2009). When intentions go public: Does social reality widen the intention-behavior gap?

Motivation and dopamine

Dopamine_chemical_structureWhile we might be able to explain some human behavior with intrinsic motivation, the source of this motivation is difficult to pinpoint. The New York Times reported several studies focusing on the effects of dopamine, revealing that dopamine should no longer be thought of “as our little Bacchus in the brain.” Until recently, dopamine was thought of as a provider of “pleasure and reward.”

In one study, mice with significantly less dopamine seemed satisfied to lounge around as their bodies withered away, choosing death over the hardship of staggering a few inches to the food dish. These same mice acted normal when nibbles of food were brought to them—chewing, swallowing, even “wriggling [their] nose in apparent rodent satisfaction.”

These new studies on dopamine suggest it’s more about survival—“drive and motivation” as the New York Times writes—than some kind of adrenaline counterpart. If this is the case, then social psychologists can join up with behavioral geneticists to talk about motivation. We know, for example, of the social origins of motivation, but it’s quite another approach to suggest that even the motivation for getting out of bed has origins in the brain. The next step is to determine how dopamine is affected by social life.

Working out for health, not for beauty

female-bodybuilding

People exercise more for health than for anything else including beauty, according to the results of a poll which was conducted by EveryDay Health and American Council on Fitness. It’s really a good news that more and more people realize that the motivation for exercise could significantly influent the exercise results.

 Exercise could not only benefit your physical health by lowering your blood pressure, maintaining your healthy joints, and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, it also benefits your mental health. With respect to psychological wellbeing, participation in regular physical activity has already been shown to confer considerable benefit such as the reduction of anxiety, stress, and depression in individuals. However, research has also shown that not all individual benefit positively from physical exercise. The motivation for exercise has been found to be an important factor which influences the exercise results.

In particular, exercises sometimes could lead female exercisers to poorer body image and greater eating disturbance, if they overly focus on their physical appearances. Studies found that young women who exercise primarily to lose weight, to improve body tone, and to improve attractiveness were more likely to become more dissatisfied with their physical selves the more they exercise, regardless of the associated health and fitness benefits (McDonald & Thompson, 1992). It is because exercise is a slow and challenging means of appearance improvement that does not instantly change a woman’s shape. The long and frustrated processes often lead these women to feeling disappointed rather than a sense of achievement. Thus, it seems that the motivations women hold for exercise may play a significant role in the development and maintenance of body image concerns. Although research indicated that women’s motivation for exercise was more often related to weight and tone reasons than men, in general, for both genders, exercising for weight, tone, and attractiveness reasons was highly correlated with eating disturbance and body dissatisfaction. In contrast, exercising because of health was positively associated with self-esteem for both female and male.

square-eyeWhy Exercise? Health Trumps Beauty, Study Finds (Fox News)

 

square-eyeKaren McDonald, & J. Kevin Thompson (1992). Eating disturbance, body image dissatisfaction, and reasons for exercising: Gender differences and correlational findings.

Knives at school

091005_bus(1)A tragedy may have been averted when a knife was confiscated from a Delaware student last week. According to the New York Times, the school district’s rules say that Zachary Christie should be sent to reform school, where an important lesson is surely to be learned.

After joining the Cub Scouts, the knife-fork-spoon combo utensil seemed like it would be nice to use at lunch—on his food, we can presume. The lesson is more of a reminder: deterrence efforts are not as useful as policymakers hope. “It just seems unfair,” the 6-year-old said, probably not thinking about the intended effect of such policies.

Presuming that children are motivated by the economic or social benefits of finishing school, zero-tolerance policies are meant to give children motivation for following rules. But even the U.S. Department of Education admits zero-tolerance policies are inequitable and “counterproductive.”

Zachary’s case is similar to one in which a third grader was expelled for a year when her grandmother sent her with a birthday cake accompanied by a knife. Never mind that it proved useful for the teacher who proceeded to cut the cake, but heaven knows what the child would have done if she had gotten to it first.

Zero-tolerance policies should remind us of Reagan-era crime control models that brought us three-strikes-you’re-out laws. We now know that “criminals” or 6-year-olds are not rationally considering the possible consequences of their decisions in such a way, and I doubt Zachary’s peers feel any safer.