Summary: Cognitive Motives

Partly in reaction to Hullian motivational theory and its single-minded focus on biological motives, psychologists in the 1950s and 1960s proposed many non-biological motivational principles. Many of them involved information processing. White wrote an influential article about competence motivation. Other theorists cited needs for control, consistency, and the need to satisfy curiosity.

Brehm's proposal of a "need for freedom" led to the concept of psychological reactance or rebellion against control and manipulation. So-called reverse psychology is based based on this need for freedom and the psychological reactance engendered by attempts at control. To achieve a desired result using reverse psychology, one pushes the opposite direction from where one wants a person to go. If the person "pushes back," this leads them in the desired direction.

So-called willpower or self-control is the focus of several theories. Metcalfe and Mischel describe the frequently conflicting demands of "hot" (emotional) and "cold" (intellectual) motivational systems. Other researchers have found that immediate, small rewards can divert people (and non-human animals) from the pursuit of longer-term, larger rewards. To maintain willpower over a long period of time, as is needed to accomplish any worthy project, one must minimize exposure to short-term temptations.


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Copyright © 2007 Russ Dewey