We know that emotions increase motivation. The stronger feelings, the more motivated we get to do something about it. We know that humans differ a lot in how emotional we are. In theory that should imply that less emotional people have less motivation in general. Are there any research studies on how much emotions affect our motivation, or how much motivation differs from different people? Or possibly research studies on personality types that are more/less eager to get things done than the average?

For those who need sources to believe that emotions and motivation are linked:


(...) Without emotion and motivation there would be no learning. Emotional states are integral parts of the adaptive process of learning, which includes attaching value to objects and events (both outside and inside oneself), based on a set of needs. (...)

In short, emotion and motivation relate to internal states that are relevant in the management of goals. For example, motivation has been defined as modulating and coordinating influence on the direction, vigor, and composition of behavior (Shizgal, 2003). In line with this reasoning, emotion is seen as an evaluating response of an event as relevant to a goal; it is positive when the goal is advanced, negative when the goal is impeded (Oatley, 2003). Thus, it has been argued that the key function of emotions in a learning perspective is to decouple the individual from the necessity to respond unconditionally (Scherer, 2001). As will be discussed below, emotions also embody a crucial part of the learning process by influencing the associations that are formed between stimuli, their combinations and behavioral responses. (...)

Studies also show that the emotional intensity, measured as arousal, of a stimuli or a situation increases the allocated attention (e.g. Armory et al., 2002). (...)

Evaluative conditioning (EC) illustrates an active research paradigm within this tradition. EC combines emotional evaluations and higher order cognitive constructs. (...) http://www.lucs.lu.se/LUCS/112/LUCS.112.pdf

From the study "The impact of emotion on perception, attention, memory, and decision-making":

(...) neuropsychological studies have shown that patients with emotional dysfunctions due to brain lesions can be highly impaired in everyday decision-making and social interactions. Neuroimaging studies have demonstrated how brain regions previously thought to be purely “emotional” (e.g., amygdala) or “cognitive” (e.g., frontal cortex) closely interact to make complex behaviour possible. Psychology experiments have illustrated how emotion can change our perception, attention, and memory by focusing them on important aspects of the environment. This research has revealed to what extent emotion and cognition are related, or even inseparable. (...)

We define emotion as an event-focused process consisting of (a) specific elicitation mechanisms based on the relevance of a stimulus that (b) shape an emotional response instantaneously across several organismic subsystems, including motivational changes (changes in action tendency, such as approach versus withdrawal), physiological changes (e.g., heart rate, skin conductance), changes in motor expression (in face, voice, and body), and changes in subjective feeling [3, 4]. Emotions are elicited as the individual continuously evaluates objects, events and situations with respect to their relevance for his/her needs, goals, values, and general well-being (appraisal). The detection of a relevant event elicits an adaptive emotional response that mobilises resources that allow the individual to cope with the situation.

When faced with a choice, we evaluate the options, weigh the possible consequences and their probabilities, and choose an option, and are confronted with the consequences. Expected emotions may influence our evaluation of behavioural options (for example, I may expect to be very happy once I buy the new luxury car, or I may have a gut feeling that it’s better to avoid a certain car dealer) and thus inform the choice at hand. Once a decision has been taken, the immediate consequences will also elicit emotions such as joy, relief, regret or disappointment, which may inform future choices or lead us to modify our current choice.

However, recent research has shown that emotion is central to the decision-making process, both as an input and an output [43]. Decisions and their consequences result in emotions (such as joy, relief, regret, or disappointment), and many of our choices are guided by the experience of these emotions or the anticipation of the emotions that may be elicited [interestingly, however, we are not very good at predicting which emotions we will feel in the future, see 44].

According to the somatic marker hypothesis [48], our choices and decisions are informed by bodily reactions that are triggered by emotion. These so-called somatic markers are body states that have been elicited by rewards or punishments in the past and been associated with certain situations or choices. When a person is deliberating several behavioural options, the physiological reactions associated to previous choices are re-enacted or anticipated in ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and may inform the current decision, e.g., by helping us reject less advantageous options.

Conclusions Our review of recent research from the Affective Sciences shows that the duality of reason versus emotion that has been propagated for a long time is not reflected in the architecture of the brain and the functioning of the mind. Emotion and cognition are closely intertwined, complex human behaviour emerges from dynamic interactions between multiple processes and brain networks. Emotion determines how we perceive our world, how we remember it, and which decisions we take. Like any other complex system, emotion may go awry, as illustrated for example by exaggerated attentional bias to threat in anxiety [23] or preferential memory for negative events in depression [56]. However, when functioning normally, emotion should be considered as useful guide, far from being irrational, that helps us navigate our complex environment. http://www.smw.ch/content/smw-2013-13786/

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What is the evidence that emotions in general increase motivation in general? Most teenagers are a counterargument to that assertion. . . $\endgroup$ – Krysta Feb 5 '15 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ No, they are not. You are thinking about being productive, not about being motivated. If you have no feelings you will not feel any desires, you will not long for anything, you will not miss anything, you will not have any reason to do anything at all. Without feelings you might aswell kill yourself, because you wont have anything to live for. $\endgroup$ – Berit Larsen Feb 6 '15 at 19:09
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It's kind of strange to assert that "emotions increase motivation" but then later ask if there are research studies on "how much emotions affect our motivation." How do we know the first statement is true without research on the relationship between emotions and motivation? $\endgroup$ – Josh de Leeuw Mar 21 '15 at 21:31
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ There's a difference between "is there a link?" and "how strong is the link?" I already knew there is a link, see my added post. That does however not answer my question about how strong the link is. $\endgroup$ – Berit Larsen Mar 23 '15 at 13:07
  • $\begingroup$ This was a very helpful clarification, thank you. I think this question would now at least potentially be amenable to an answer based on anhedonia or even direct experimental evidence, so I have retracted my close vote. Would upvote given a more precise definition of what is meant by motivation. $\endgroup$ – Christian Hummeluhr Mar 23 '15 at 13:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.