Effects of Motivation & Emotion on Perception, Cognition & Behavior

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  • 0:01 Motivation and Perception
  • 1:02 Learning and Problem-Solving
  • 2:06 Performance vs.…
  • 3:47 Emotion and Decision Making
  • 5:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christine Serva

Christine has an M.A. in American Studies, the study of American history/society/culture. She is an instructional designer, educator, and writer.

In this lesson, we'll discuss how motivation influences learning and the ways that emotions contribute to our perceptions. You'll hear about two specific ways of approaching goals and consider how your own tendencies fit with these categories.

Motivation and Perception

What if I told you that the purpose of you watching this video lesson today is simply to understand a new topic, and that even if you have to watch it more than once, or take the quiz multiple times, your effort will help you to master this information for later use?

Now, what if I told you that your purpose in watching this video lesson is something else entirely? Instead, I tell you that the number of questions you get right on the quiz the very first time will be compared with other students, only a few of whom will succeed, and that the results will be posted on the website. (Don't worry, that's not actually going to happen!)

This lesson looks at how different motivations, such as learning the information in the first example or competing against others in the second, affect our perceptions. We'll look at the impact on learning and problem solving, as well as how we go about making decisions. You'll also consider where emotions fit into the picture.

Learning and Problem-Solving

In the mid-2000s, educational psychology researchers Bereby-Meyer and Kaplan published a journal article detailing their experiments involving children who were given instructions with two different types of motivation.

They found that when a group of sixth graders was told that the purpose of a task was to learn how to do something, even if they made mistakes, they were able to apply the new information to other tasks later on. In short, they got better at the type of problem solving that they were taught how to do.

However, when a group of students was told instead that the purpose of the activity was to see which students had greater abilities, the students weren't quite as good at applying their new-found knowledge to the similar task. In short, they didn't improve on their problem solving like in the other scenario.

This experiment provides a good example of how being oriented toward a certain type of goal affects how we behave. In other words, what motivates us affects how we perceive situations and how we act, and even how well we learn.

Performance vs. Mastery Goal Orientation

In the experiment I just described, students were told what the motivation was before they began the task. But a person can also have this motivation as a tendency in their own life, a way they are oriented to the world around them.

Those who lean more toward wanting to learn in order to master a topic, even if this means some mistakes along the way, can be described as focused on mastery goals. Those who instead lean toward performing in order to demonstrate that they are capable compared with others can be described as focused more on performance goals. Both types of goals play a role in our lives, but being motivated more by one type might affect how you approach situations, particularly how young people in school settings end up learning.

Think about your own tendencies. Do you worry more about appearing to do poorly than actually retaining what you learn? Or do you try and try again if you don't get something the first time?

Students with mastery goal orientation are more likely to see failure as part of the process of learning, and to see mistakes as inevitable. They often seek out challenges as a result.

Those with greater performance goal orientation are more likely to want praise from others, and to perform easier tasks that they are likely to get the first time, rather than have to make mistakes in order to learn. They may even be more likely to want to cheat on a test since having the answers will ensure the appearance of success.

Your own personal tendencies may also be affected by other factors such as what others around you expect or what's at stake when you take a particular test, for instance.

Emotions and Decision Making

It's not just young people that are affected by having different motivations. Imagine a woman who goes to her doctor to address a medical condition, like a pain in her hip. The doctor prescribes a medication, but mentions that a rare side effect is that she could experience dizziness.

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