Posts tagged Motivation
I have blogged extensively about personality and how it may be related to emotions. A common theme underlying my discussion of personality and emotion has been these traits/states arising as a result of adaptation to basic evolutionary tasks or problems that each living organism/species has to solve. Where there are problems to be solved or tasks to be accomplished or goals to be achieved, there is also going to be motivations and drive to achieve them and underlying needs that drive that pursuit. Thus motivation and Personality/ emotion are also intricately linked and associated when one uses the underlying basic adaptive problems paradigm.
In my last post I had mentioned that Personality can be discussed in just descriptive terms as in trait theories, the most famous of which is the five factor model of personality or one could look at the underlying processes and mechanism and come up with theories that are grounded in motivational or cognitive terms as to what actually drives the behavior in consistence with the observable traits and behaviors.
I have recently come across an important paper in my view which tried to bridge this gap by explaining the motivational systems (or reaction norms as they call it) underlying the five factor model of personality.
To recall, the five factor model or OCEAN model posits the following five factors:
- Neuroticism or sensitivity to negative affect
- Conscientiousness or ability to delay gratification and persist with task at hand
- Extraversion: propensity to socialize and be more outgoing
- Agreeableness: empathetic and cooperativeness
- Openness to Experience: Intellect and curiosity etc.
Now, I have elaborated or tried to explain the OCEAN traits as per my understanding, but Dennissen and Penke looked at how prominent personality researchers have interpreted the traits to arrive at a common motivational framework that is grounded in theory and then they developed a scale in accordance with theory to measure these motivational reaction norms – the important difference from tradition FFM message scales being that all statements referred to underlying motivations/ propensities etc and did not refer to specific behaviors in specific situations. They then subjected their scale to factor analysis that came with a five factor structure that was consistent with FFM and also had predictive validity of similar sorts. They thus conclude that their theoretical framework is on the right track.
There are of course problems with such can interpretation, but I found some of their motivational reaction norms pretty consistent with my basic adaptive problems and basic developmental life tasks paradigm, while some I could find were slightly different or more nuanced interpretations.
Looking at the original data set of 9 personalty researchers from where they derived this framework, some of these I could resolve to my satisfaction.
Neuroticism is interpreted as sensitivity to social rejection/exclusion. I have problems with this interpretation in that focuses too much on social dimension, while to me it is general sensitivity to threat/stress. In their paper they do discuss this:
As can be seen in Table 1, almost all theorists link neuroticism to individual differences in affect regulation, conceptualizing this factor as differences in the ability to handle stress (Buss, 1991), facilitation of performance under pressure (Hogan, 1996), affect regulation (McAdams, 1992; van Lieshout, 2000), and affect intensity. These conceptualizations all regard neuroticism as the sensitivity of a domain-general system to respond to environmental threats. Various studies have also linked neuroticism to individual differences in general differential reactivity to negative events or stressors.
I like the above interpretation of Neuroticism as it is consistent with the adaptive problem of avoiding Foes. However, the authors chose this interpretation over the above:
By comparison, other conceptualizations treat neuroticismas a trait that is especially activated in situations in which people’s social relationships are threatened. For example, Matthews (2004) pointed out that ‘‘individual differences in human anxiety revolve primarily around social fears such as being criticized or rejected, rather than physical threats” (p. 260, italics added). Support for this conceptualization comes from research by Bolger and colleagues (1989), who found that interpersonal stressors were more important in causing negative mood than non-social ones, such as transportation problems or work overload. Similarly, Denissen and Penke (in press) found that neuroticism was particularly correlated with the intensity of people’s negative reactions to social threats.
Conscientiousness did not have many interpretations:
All theorists listed in Table 1 agree that conscientiousness is involved in task-related behaviors. Speci?cally, McAdams (1992) conceptualizes this factor as involved in work-related behaviors, MacDonald (1995) as the monitoring of non-attainment of goals, van Lieshout (2000) as executive regulation in the performance domain, Ashton and Lee (2001) as the intensity of engagement in task-related behaviors, Buss (1991) as the capacity for reliable work and enduring commitment, and Hogan (1996) as trustworthiness and dependability. Holmes (2002) and Nettle (2006) are arguably most successful in capturing the positive aspects of both poles of the conscientiousness continuum by describing it as the promotion of immediate vs. distant goal striving. This conceptualization nicely maps onto lifespan-theoretical insights regarding individual differences in the tenacity of goal pursuit (Brandtstädter,Wentura, & Rothermund, 1999). In the current paper, we adopt the view of these various authors that conscientiousness can be plausibly conceptualized as differences in the tenacity of goal pursuit.
To me the goal pursuit tenacity bodes well for adaptive problem of finding Food or exploring.
Extraversion seems to have multiple interpretations, all to my eyes equally valid.:
In Table 1, three clusters of conceptualizations of extraversion emerge. First, van Lieshout (2000) conceptualizes this factor as re?ecting a person’s activation vs. inhibition of impulses, which is somewhat similar to MacDonald’s (1995, 1998) notion of extraversion as re?ecting individual differences in behavioral approach. Both views are consistent with Lucas, Diener, Grob, Suh, and Shao (2000), who hypothesized that extraversion is positively associated with the sensitivity of individuals’ reward system. Because these authors view positive affect as a proxy of the activity of the general reward system, this hypothesis can also account for the high correlations between extraversion and individual differences in positive affect (Watson & Clark, 1997), even when controlling for social activity (Watson, Clark, McIntyre, & Hamaker, 1992).
A second cluster of explanations of the extraversion factor is the notion that this trait is involved in people’s hierarchical proclivity (Buss, 1991), leadership potential (Hogan, 1996), or disposition to wield power (McAdams, 1992). In addition, the disposition for dominance vs. submission in accessing resources is one of the two social dimensions that can be mapped onto extraversion in Holmes’ (2002) model. However, a problem with this account is that differences in dominance seem to be confounded by differences in competitive resources such as physical prowess, mental ability, material wealth, and social alliances, which depend not only on extraversion but also on other personality factors, such as general problem-solving ability and persistence in reaching goals.
Third, extraversion has been linked to the motivational predisposition to experience social interactions as rewarding (Ashton & Lee, 2001; McCrae & Costa, 1987). Insofar as this predisposition motivates people to seek out the company of others, this view is consistent with Holmes’ (2002) second possible conceptualization of extraversion as tapping into people’s level of assertiveness vs. passivity in initiating social contacts. In an empirical study, Ashton, Lee, and Paunonen (2002) presented evidence for this position, showing that a ‘‘tendency to engage and enjoy social attention” (p. 246) correlates very highly (.74) with traditional extraversion measures. Ashton et al. (2002) reasoned that extraversion can be adaptive because it is correlated with people’s ‘‘social attention-holding power” (Gilbert, 1989), allowing for the exertion of group in?uence and the attraction of possible mates (Campbell, Simpson, Stewart, & Manning, 2003; Nettle, 2005, 2006). In the current paper, we take this latter explanation as a plausible conceptualization of extraversion, though other explanations (e.g., as differences in general reward sensitivity) might also be consistent with the empirical evidence.
I am most sympathetic to second and third interpretations as they directly relate to the problem of Making Friends and Alliances.
Agreeableness is interpreted in two ways:
In Table 1, two clusters of conceptual interpretations for agreeableness can be discerned (the conceptualization by Ashton & Lee, 2001, is directed at a rotational variant of this factor and will not be considered here). First of all, several theorists regard agreeableness as fostering intimate relationships, conceptualizing it as enjoyment of other people’s company (Hogan, 1996), facilitation of intimate family relationships and parental investment (MacDonald, 1995), or dispositional love (McAdams, 1992). This conceptualization is consistent with the hypothesized social nature of personality traits. However, Hogan’s (1996) notion of enjoyment of other people’s company is dif?cult to differentiate from sociability, a key feature of extraversion. In addition, MacDonald’s (1995) emphasis on the facilitation of intimate family relationships and parental investment is not consistent with ?ndings by Graziano, Jensen-Campbell, and Hair (1996) that the effects of agreeableness on reactions to interpersonal con?ict with non-kin individuals do not consistently differ from reactions to con?icts with kin.
A second cluster of conceptualizations of agreeableness focuses on this factor’s role in human cooperative behavior, with Buss (1991) relating it to people’s willingness to cooperate, Holmes (2002) to acting cooperative vs. competitive, Nettle (2006) to empathy and trust vs. self-interest, and van Lieshout (2000) to the coordination vs. opposition of joint interests. This conceptualization is consistent with game-theoretical research on reputations of cooperation vs. competition in resource dilemma’s (Rasmusen, 2006) and with research by van Lange and colleagues (van Lange, 1999; van Lange, De Bruin, Otten, & Joireman, 1997) regarding the existence of individual differences in social value orientation. Finally, Koole, Jager, van den Berg, Vlek, and Hofstee (2001) showed that agreeableness is related to altruistic behavior when playing a variant of the public goods game. Consistent with this evidence, we propose that agreeableness can be plausibly conceptualized as individual differences in this tendency to display altruistic behavior.
To me the first interpretation of empathy and prenatal investment and intimate family relations is consistent with the adaptive problems of having and caring for Kids. The second interpretation of altruistic behavior and cooperativenes is equally acceptable as presumably this builds on primitive kin-non-kin concerns and parental investment propensities.
The last factor Openness to Experience I have elsewhere reinterpreted as conformity/rebelliousness. The authors find following interpretations:
As can be seen in Table 1, several clusters of conceptualizations exist for the openness to experience factor. All conceptualizations converge in their conceptualization of this trait as involving a high level of cognitive activity, as indicated by having a broad, deep, and permeable consciousness (McCrae & Costa, 1997), a high propensity for innovation and solving problems (Buss, 1991; Hogan, 1996), engagement in the intellectual and creative domain (McAdams & Pals, 2006; Nettle, 2006; van Lieshout, 2000), processing incomplete information (Holmes, 2002), and intrinsically motivated curiosity facilitating the development of cognitive competence (MacDonald, 1995). In trying to make sense of this factor, however, openness should be distinguished from psychometric intelligence, which is correlated with openness but not identical to it (McCrae & Costa, 1987; also see Penke et al., 2007a).
A parallel distinction was made by Ackerman (1996), who noted the difference between maximum and typical levels of intelligence: whereas the former is identical to operationalizations of psychometric intelligence, the latter has been shown to correlate very highly with openness to experience (Goff & Ackerman, 1992). This conceptualization is almost identical to Cacioppo and colleagues’ (1996) construct of need for cognition, which they de?ned as ‘‘a stable individual difference in people’s tendency to engage in and enjoy effortful cognitive activity” (p. 198). Empirically, this view is supported by Berzonsky and Sullivan (1992), who found a correlation of .78 between need for cognition and the NEO-PI-R openness to ideas scale (though the correlation with other openness facets was lower). Accordingly, we propose that openness can be plausibly conceptualized as differences in the reward value of engaging in cognitive activity.
The need for cognition may be driven by the evolutionary task of identifying kin from non-kin.
To me this looks promising and in the expected direction. I’ll be watching research from this group more keenly henceforth and keep you guys posted.
DENISSEN, J., & PENKE, L. (2008). Motivational individual reaction norms underlying the Five-Factor model of personality: First steps towards a theory-based conceptual framework Journal of Research in Personality, 42 (5), 1285-1302 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2008.04.002
I’ve written previously about Maslow’s motivational hierarchy and how that relates to the eight stage evo-devo model. Most people are familiar with the 5 motivational basic needs/motives theory of Maslow, but are not aware that he had later revised it to include eight basic needs/ motives.
A recent paper by Krenrick et al also discusses the more popular 5 motivational scheme of Maslow and revamps the model by dropping self-actualization at the top and making room for 3 reproduction related motives -mate attraction, mate retention and parenting. Regular readers will note that this is inline with the eight stages discussed during life-history theory based perspectives on this blog.
This new paper, which is available in full on authors website, is an important contribution and gets many things right, though I believe that safety need should trump physiological needs and that we need an eighth motive/need which would be related to finding meaning/purpose/transcendence .
Anyway, lets first see what a motivational system is:
Throughout this article, we have used the terms needs, motives, and goals somewhat loosely. Our view of motivational systems follows that of evolutionary theorists such as Plutchik (1980) and Scott (1980), with connections to the views of the original evolutionary psychologists such as William James (1890) and McDougall (1908) and to Carver and Scheier’s (1998) cybernetic view. On that view, any motivational system includes (a) a template for recognizing a particular class of relevant environmental threats or opportunities, (b) inner motivational/ physiological states designed to mobilize relevant resources, (c) cognitive decision rules designed to analyze trade-offs inherent in various prepotent responses, and (d) a set of responses designed to respond to threats or opportunities represented by the environmental inputs (i.e., to achieve adaptive goals).
To elaborate, and link with the ABCD model of psychology, desire/motivation forms a big sub-domain of psychology,m but motivation.desire can itself be broken into 1)Affective components (a template for recognizing a particular class of relevant environmental threats or opportunities) 2) Behavioral components ( a set of responses designed to respond to threats or opportunities represented by the environmental inputs) 3) Cognitive components (cognitive decision rules designed to analyze trade-offs inherent in various prepotent responses) and 4) Desire / motivation proper ( inner motivational/ physiological states designed to mobilize relevant resources).
The motivational system itself can be analyzed at different levels of analysis-Proximate reasons for a behavior and ultimate reasons for a behavior. The different levels of analysis include evolutionary (ultimate), developmental, situational (proximate) and phenomenological. These concern with the biological context, the ecological context , the cultural context and the personological context respective;y in which a (human) being functions.
Kenrcik et al consider the evolutionary , developmental and proximate mechanisms and level of analysis and use that to refine the Maslow’s ladder and that makes sense and is more or less inline with the eight stage model.
They also refer to Deci and Ryan and their intrinsic motives and I like to think of deci and Ryan motives as well as addition to that by Daniel pink as follows: 1) autonomy (from genes) 2) mastery (over environment) 3) Belongingness (to culture) and 4) Purpose ( of self) – these intrinsic drives again related to biology, environment, culture and phenomenology. Only the last level of analysis need make a reference to consciousness; all prior levels are/may be non-conscious. I believe the lack of phenomenological level of analysis is limiting and perhaps the reason they miss the eight and highest motive.
The authors, apart from adding new motives of mate attraction. mate retention and parenting, also stress the point that these are overlapping/ can be activated simultaneously and do not necessarily follow developmental stages.
The original article itself is accompanied by commentaries and Kenrick himself maintains a blog and has written a couple of blog posts related to this, so there are no excuses for not reading up more on this.
Douglas T. Kenrick,, Vladas Griskevicius,, Steven L. Neuberg, & Mark Schaller (2010). Renovating the Pyramid of Needs
Contemporary Extensions Built Upon Ancient Foundations Perspectives on Psychological science DOI: 10.1177/1745691610369469
I’ve recently latched onto the ABCD model of psychological entities, where any psychological aspect is defined by following four features/dimensions: Affect( how does it subjectively feel) , Behavior (what are the manifest effects resulting in overt behavioral changes) , Cognition (how is it cognitively appraised) and Desire/Drive(what are the underlying motivations).
I was prompted on this journey by the evolutionary theory of personality (see here) by Theodore Millon, where he identifies four different evolutionarily salient domains and fields of adaptation: Existence (pain/pleasure) mapped to Affect in my model, Adaptation(active/passive) mapped to Behavior in my model, Replication(Self-other) mapped to Desire/drive in my model and finally Abstraction (broad-narrow) mapped to Cognition in my model.
Thus personality clearly is a dynamic between these four ABCD factors. What we habitually feel, how we habitually act, what usually drives us and how we habitually make sense of our situations clearly defines a personality.
I have also covered how emotions can be similarly considered as belonging to these four domains and having four ABCD dimensions- affective in nature, lead to action tendencies, differential appraisal and cognitive underpinnings and different motivational states-whether the motivation to be in control or to nurture the other.
As it happens I am also keenly into this new ‘positive psychology’ stuff and keep reading the practitioners in this field; thus while reading ‘Happier’ I came across the happiness definition (as per Seligman) as anything that is pleasurable, meaningful and engaging, then I could immediately see the relationship to ABCD model by extending the concept of Drive (or intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation) to the mix and thus came up with this ABCD definition of happiness on twitter:
ABCD of happiness: find work that has pleasure(Affect), meaning (Cognition) and is engaging(Behavior) and intrinsically motivating(Desire)less than a minute ago via TweetDeckSandeep Gautam
The above to me perfectly sums up the Happiness formula and is very easy to remember too!
I also serendipitously came across this amazing video based on Dan Pink‘s ‘Drive’
That made me think further of how the same ABCD formula applied to work incentives.
That to me is further proof of the simplicity and power of this simple ABCD formula. So are you ready to apply the ABCD of happiness and work incentives to your life?
I’ve written about the relation between personality and emotion from my perspective, but was gladdened when I found Scherer has written on the matter in a very eloquent and apt manner. To quote from him and Revelle:
Personality is the coherent patterning of affect, behavior, cognition, and desires (goals) over time and space. Just as a full blown emotion represents an integration of feeling, action, appraisal and wants at a particular time and location so does personality represent integration over time and space of these components (Ortony et al., 2005). A helpful analogy is to consider that personality is to emotion as climate is to weather. That is, what one expects is personality, what one observes at any particular moment is emotion.
It is important to note that personality/emotion definition has been expanded to include cognition as well as affect; behavior as well as motivation (desires). Traditionally emotions are seen as affective (feeling) in nature but we know that emotional states have different cognitive underpinnings and can affect cognition in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Similarly though emotions may be more closely related to motivational issues (desires etc) they are also manifested in overt behavioral tendencies. some are energizing while others are calming/soothing.
In one of the last emotion/personality post , I referred to the dimensional emotional model of PAD (Pleasure-Arousal-dominance) as proposed by Meherbain. It is apt to note here that pleasure (pleasantness/unpleasantness) dimension is very much related to affect i.e. subjective feeling or how the emotion is subjectively felt. Also Arousal (Ready/Relaxed) is construct very much related to behavior or action tendencies. Some emotions lead to more vigorous, ready and active engagement with the environment as compared to others wherein one may be relaxed. Similarly Dominance (control/lack of control) is a motivational emotional dimension reflecting whether one wants to control and be in control or be dominated/ lose control in a particular situation.
That leaves us with cognition/appraisals dimension of emotions, but before we get onto that let us revisit the four evolutionary stages of Millon and how opposites on each stage lead to personality variations and disorders. The parallel with emotions will be self-evident.
The first stage is that of Existence and the polarity is of pain/pleasure: again an affective dimension/stage. Stability or life-preservation is coded by predominant disposition towards avoiding feelings of pain- a pain sensitive phenotype; Enhancing or life-enhancement is coded by predominant disposition towards felling pleasure a pleasure sensitive phenotype.
The second stage is that of Adaptation and the polarity is of active-passive: again a behaviorally defined dimension/stage. Modifying the environment to suit ones need is an active strategy, while passively accommodating to environmental niches is the passive strategy. both are defined behaviorally and the actual actions/behavioral tendencies define the personality type.
The third stage of Millon is that of Replication and the polarities are that of Self and Other: this is particularly a motivational dimension…whether one is motivated by selfishness and focus on oneself or by concern for others and selflessness too. There is polarity and tension between self-actualization tendencies and wants and other-nurturing motivational disposition. If focus is on self one would tend to dominate others, if focus is on others one would be willing to become vulnerable and submissive.
The fourth stage of Millon, that he does not relate to personality, but which I find integral to my theory is that of Abstraction and the polarity of information gathering versus information selection/transformation. I call the polarity Broad Versus Narrow and it is reflected in whether one is creative or is rigid and inflexible in thinking, , but the important point to note is that a cognitive dimension has been added to personality at the fourth stage.
Which brings us back to the (missing) cognitive dimension of emotions. I would have gladly taken the credit of discovering/proposing such a cognitive dimension, but it seems I was beaten to the game by Fontaine et al who made the bold statement :“The World of Emotions Is Not Two-Dimensional”.
As per Fonatine/ scherer et al’s analysis, using 144 features (like (a) appraisals of events, (b) psychophysiological changes, (c) motor expressions, (d) action tendencies, (e) subjective experiences, and (f) emotion regulation.) characterizing the 24 prototypical emotion terms, they found that emotions must be specified by at least four dimensions:these dimensions were evaluation-pleasantness, potency-control, activation-arousal, and unpredictability.
Note that the first three dimensions are similar to PAD while the fourth dimension is cognitive(appraisal) in nature- predictability vs unpredictability or certainty vs uncertainty in the appraisal of the situation. this ca be reasonably related to Broad Vs Narrow last stage of Abstraction i.e. whether one is cognitively open to new situations or appraisals or closed to them.
So the relationship between emotions and personality is more or less clear to my naive mind as of now. Of course I’m leaving some parts for the next post that will extend this and correlate with the eight stage process.
For now I’ll like to end with the excellent Scherer et al article quote:
In that personality represents the integration over time of feelings, actions, thoughts and desires, theoretical developments in personality benefit from a greater understanding of emotional processes. At the same time, research in emotion can take advantage of individual differences in sensitivities to situational cues and predispositions to emotional states. The questions of why some people become angry, while others become frightened or depressed in response to threats, and why some become elated while others seem unaffected when given rewards will be better understood by jointly studying the problem of long term coherence (personality) with short term fluctuations in affect, behavior, cognition and desire (emotion).
Fontaine, J., Scherer, K., Roesch, E., & Ellsworth, P. (2007). The World of Emotions is not Two-Dimensional Psychological Science, 18 (12), 1050-1057 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.02024.x
Attention can be focused or it can be diffused. Attentional focus has been shown to be affected by mood or affect; with positive affect leading to a broadening of attentional focus; and negative affect, in general been shown to be associated with a narrowing of focus.
However, Gable and Harmon-Jones argue that emotion or affect is not a uni-dimensional construct, but has at least two dimensions: affective valence- i.e. whether it is felt as pleasurable or dis-pleasurable; and motivational direction- i.e. the action tendency to approach or avoid in pursuit of a preventive/promotional goal.
Much work on emotions has emphasized that they have a number of underlying dimensions. Two dimensions that have received considerable attention are affective valence, the felt pleasure or displeasure, and motivational direction, the action tendency associated with a particular emotional state—approach or withdrawal. Approach motivation refers to an urge or action tendency to go toward an object, whereas withdrawal motivation refers to an urge or action tendency to move away from an object.
They also argue that much of the extant literature on emotion-attention linkage has focused on emotional valence alone, with just one type of motivational direction, and thus has not clarified the (in)dependent role of valence and motivational direction as regards to attention.
Thus, for e.g., the finding that positive emotions lead to broadening of attention is focused on such research as emotions of joy, contentment etc that are low in approach motivation and are emotions felt after the goal has been reached.
Similarly, the research that has found that negative emotions lead to narrowing of focus have relied on emotions such as fear, anger etc that are high in withdrawal motivation and are pre-goal.
I believe, it is important to step back a little here and go back to our conception of happiness-ennui (mental well-being) continuum and sadness-mania (mental illness) continuum. Another way to conceptualize them is to see sadness having negative valence and low withdrawal motivation – it is passive; mania as having positive valence and high approach motivation- mania is characterized by immense desire for a goal and is pre -goal. Happiness is post goal emotion and is characterized by positive valence and low approach motivation- you have already reached the goal and do not need to exert much efforts in goal directed activity; ennui/boredom/listlessness is negative in valence and has high withdrawal motivation- it is pre-goal- a search for a worthwhile goal.
Another way to make the difference stark is employ the terminology of Berridge et al: happiness is related to liking and the opioid system; while mania is related to wanting and the dopamine system. Depression/sadness is related to disliking /feeling pain while ennui/boredom is related to dreading the outcome/feeling anxious (nothing to do and hence life is useless/meaningless!..anxiety but existential anxiety). Berridghe et al have shown that wanting/liking and dreading/disliking differ and have different neural and neurochemichal correlates.
To become a little philosophical, the wanting/disliking mental illness continuum leading to mania or depression in extremes is to be avoided (thus the dictum of all religions to shun desire/ be stoic) while the happiness-ennui/boredom/existential anxiety system is more preferable where you focus on liking positive outcomes and dreading negative/neutral ones. While the former, to paraphrase Freud, is the hysterical misery at worst, the latter is common unhappiness at worst.
But anyway that was long detour. Lets get back to the studies by Gable et al.
In the first study, the authors showed that motivational direction was relevant and was the reason behind the positivity-broadening of attentional focus effect. they showed that positive emotions lead to broadening of attention only in low approach motivation condition; but when the positive emotion had high approach motivation (emotions like desire. engagement etc), the positive affect lead to narrowing of focus.
Now a brief detour into methodology: the attentional focus is usually measured using local-global tasks whereby it is determined whether one is paying attention to global features or local features of an ambiguous/mixed stimuli. For eg, the most popular of these consists of a global big H made up of smaller (say 5 in number) F’s and then determining whether the subject notices the global H or the local F. Details can be seen in the Gable papers which are open access.
Now the authors found robust support for their hypothesis that it is the motivational direction and not affective valence that determines the attentional focus. They also relate it to adaptivity.
Positive affects, particularly those low in approach motivation, suggest a comfortable, stable environment and allow for a broadening of attention and cognition, which may serve adaptive functions (Carver, 2003; Fredrickson, 2001). However, broadening does not occur when positive affects are high in approach motivation. Such positive affects often encourage specific action tendencies, such as tenacious goal pursuit, and an associated reduction in attentional breadth. This reduced attentional breadth may prove adaptive, as it assists in obtaining goals.
They also extend these finding to negative affects and depression etc and I can easily relate them to earlier work I have covered regarding the danger or safety of environment and promotional/ preventive focus:
Together with past research, the present research supports the idea that low- and high-approach-motivated positive affect produce opposite effects on attentional breadth. It is possible that the intensity of withdrawal motivation exerts similar attentional effects; that is, low-withdrawal-motivated negative affect may cause broadening, whereas high-withdrawal-motivated negative affect may cause reduction in breadth. Indeed, such an interpretation would fit with past research. For example, individuals with depression, a low-intensity motivation, are more creative than nondepressed individuals (Andreasen, 1987) and show broadening of attention and memory (von Hecker & Meiser, 2005). In the case of low-motivated negative affects such as sadness and depression, “a more open, unfocused, unselective, low-effort mode of attention would prove not deficient but, on the contrary, beneficial” (von Hecker & Meiser, 2005, p. 456), as one disengages from a terminally blocked goal and becomes open to new possibilities (Klinger, 1975). The past research that found negative affect caused decreased attentional breadth may have evoked negative affective states that were high in withdrawal motivation (e.g., fear; Gasper & Clore, 2002).
This brings me to their current paper , aptly titled , The Blues Broaden, but the Nasty Narrows, that found exactly the effect hypothesized above that sadness/depressive mood was related to broadening of attention, while disgust, a negative emotion with high withdrawal motivation was related to narrowing of focus. they also found that the effect of negative emotion was mediated by arousal which could stand as a proxy for motivational direction.
These two experiments revealed that the relationship between negative affect and attentional precedence is more complex than commonly thought. In line with past theory and evidence, Experiment 2 demonstrated that negative affect caused a narrowing of attention. However, this narrowing occurred only when negative affect was high in motivational intensity. When negative affect was low in motivational intensity, in Experiment 1, it caused a broadening of attention. These results are consistent with the idea that the effect of emotion on local/global precedence is not due to negative versus positive affect, but is instead due to motivational intensity. Positive and negative affects of low motivational intensity broaden attention, whereas positive and negative affects of high motivational intensity narrow attention.
To me this is sufficient, clinching and converging proof of the theories I have been trying to develop with regards to emotions (specifically mania, depression, happiness and despair) and make clear that there are at least two dimensions to happiness/sadness and mental well being/illness constructs. Perhaps if we start liking what we have and stop coveting or wanting more, we have a philosophical, religious, as well as now a psychological, blueprint for how to lead the good life and how to avoid a living hell.
Gable, P., & Harmon-Jones, E. (2010). The Blues Broaden, but the Nasty Narrows: Attentional Consequences of Negative Affects Low and High in Motivational Intensity Psychological Science, 21 (2), 211-215 DOI: 10.1177/0956797609359622
Gable, P., & Harmon-Jones, E. (2008). Approach-Motivated Positive Affect Reduces Breadth of Attention Psychological Science, 19 (5), 476-482 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02112.x