Sunday, 25 August 2013

Motivation #1

I've just finished reading Motivational systems by Frederick Toates (1986), which is my starting point for developing further knowledge around the topic of motivation.
The book is part of a series entitled Problems in the Behavioural Sciences, which gives a context for the approach Toates takes.

Although the book looks at the principles of motivation behind hunger, thirst and sex in laboratory animals (not an obvious basis for my research on student experiences in dance lessons I hear you cry!) it felt like a great place to begin to understand the fundamental theories and concepts behind motivation.
Throughout the book Toates draws on the work of B. F. Skinner, Ivan Pavlov and other behaviourists.

I also realise that the book is over 25 years old, and will aim to uncover more current, and perhaps relevant, literature on motivation now that I have given myself a starting point.

In the preface Toates explains that his book is an attempt to bring together three strands of motivational theory, that of the 'biological roots of motivation', the purposive, goal-directed nature of motivational sytems' and contemporary learning theory (p.xi).

In this blog I  hope to do three things,
  1. Identify the specific terminology relating to motivation,
  2. Accurately describe this terminology, and
  3. Attempt to make connections to my area of research.
(N.B. This is a vital aspect of my inquiry as I will need to be clear and definite about any terms used in my research both in my own mind and so as to reduce the readers confusion and/or misinterpretation. It will also be important to ensure that any theory or concept that I may use to analyse any data be relevant and correct.)

Toates suggest that 'perhaps motivation has most commonly been used to refer to the strength of tendency to engage in behaviour when taking into account not only internal factors but also appropriate external factors' (p.6) 'Thus motivation arises as a function of both internal state (drive) and incentive'* (p.6).
(*Incentive being the term used to describe the external factors.)

He goes on to describe motivation as 'the strength of willingness' (p.7) and 'the strength of tendency to engage in behaviour of a particular quality' (p.17). 

Already this has already given me a two-pronged description of motivation, which, if applied to the dance student, equates to the state of being of the student in combination with the environment.
The 'strength' of which is dependent, then, on particular combinations in specific situations.

Goal-directed/ Purpose
Toates suggests the normal usage of these terms has two aspects:
(1) Behaviour is directed towards the attainment of some desired future  state...(2) The particular form of goal-directed behaviour ceases when the goal has been attained (p.8).
Which he then uses as the basis of a second, 'more cognitive model' (p.17) of motivation, as:
the goal-seeking, purposive quality involved in the expectation of a future state' (p.18).
So, motivation can also be said to be how one plans to get from where one is now to where on wants to be. In terms of the dance class that would suggest that the student cognitively forms strategies that will allow them to attain their particular goal(s).

Toates takes motivation one step further and suggests that 'sensory stimulus revives a memory' (I picture Pavlov's dogs salivating), which if positive will enhance motivation but if negative will reduce it (p49).

In practice this would suggest that students don't react to the 'incentive' in the here and now but in combination with previous experience. So, for example, a student, realising that they are late for class, might invoke a memory of a previous occasion where they were severely reprimanded for tardiness, causing them to feel panic.

Where a stimulus 'reinstates a memory of the incentive...', which then determines the behaviour that follows (p.115).

Using the previous example, I could then suggest that this student might suddenly rush in order to try and get to the class on time.

Competition/ integration
Two terms used to describe occasions of multiple incentives, where competition refers to factors that pull in different directions - conflicting - and integration where they pull in the same direction.

The relevance to my research, I believe, comes from how these moments of conflict are dealt with, and is where Toates suggests that,
Bias and inhibition at the sensory level might be able to eliminate all but one candidate incentive. (p.154)
And also that, incentives are presented can affect the motivational state. (p.155)
In an imaginary class situation this could be seen as follows:
During class a student is asked to perform her routine as a solo. She has, in this example, two conflicting incentives, (1) the feeling of satisfaction she will get from performing the routine (her love of dance) and (2) the feeling of embarrassment performing in front of an audience (her shyness). The strength of her shyness might be stronger than her love of dance and so the student may refuse, cry or run out of the studio.
If the situation was presented, perhaps, as performing the routine whilst the other students waited outside the studio door then this could potentially alter the students motivational state by not causing her to feel shy.

To conclude this blog I am going to finish with perhaps the most pertinent sentence in the book, relative to my inquiry, which is that drive cannot be seen. We only see the behaviour. Or as Toates puts it,
as soon as we se attempt to look at indices of such a state this will inevitably be with regard to some external reference.' (p.164)

So, as I've mentioned previous blogs, and have again had reinforced, throughout my inquiry I cannot at any point say that I will looked at motivation as a phenomenon. Perhaps it will be more apt to say that I have tried to explore and understand the physical and cognitive manifestations of motivation through the thoughts and experiences of my students?

In the next few weeks I hope to expand, enhance and develop my understanding of motivation so if anybody has discovered any literature concerning motivation I would really appreciate you sharing.
I'd also really appreciate any thoughts or comments, particularly where I have tried to apply concepts to dance-related examples.



Toates, F. 1986. Motivational systems. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]: Cambridge University Press.


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