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The role of Learning in human motivation

Motivation is behind every behavior. The principle of cause-effect is apparent in the study of motivation and behavior: motivation is the cause or the “why”, and behavior is the effect. Thus it is motivation that gives direction and thrust to our behavior. Without motivation, behavior may not occur (Halonen and Santrock, 1999). A common family friend one day told me she wanted my advice, whether she’ll break up with her boyfriend or stay on with him and wait for him to change.

Her problem was that whenever they disagree or fight, her boyfriend (we’ll call him “Raymond”) ends up pinching her to the point that he was actually physically hurting her. It is something very interesting to think about because of all things that a man would do to his sweetheart, pinching her seems strange and extraordinary. I couldn’t help asking her why “Raymond” is that way. What are the forces behind this seemingly love and hate relationship? What drives Raymond to do this precise act towards his girlfriend?

Did he learn it or is it innate? Psychology seeks to understand human behavior with the following 4 or 5 goals in mind. These are description, explanation, prediction, control, and improvement (Atkinson et

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al, 2000). Analyzing the given scenario with my friend, I just was able to describe the event and the occasions that led him to do it. However, it does not suffice to say that just because he is hurt in some ways by his girlfriend that he would resort to doing such a thing as pinching.

It would be a lot clearer if we start to examine his behavior in the light of possible reasons basing on the need theory and the learning theory (Halonen and Santrock, 1999). 1. Need Theory – A need is defined as a specific state within the organism that may activate behavior to satisfy the need; they are often related to the depletion of essential body substances; a state or condition which indicates the lack or something vital or desired which the organism will strive to obtain; it can also mean the existence of an unpleasant condition, which has to be relieved or eliminated.

In the case of “Raymond,” his pinching behavior can be interpreted as his way of relieving or eliminating an unpleasant feeling or condition (i. e. he has anger management problem that he couldn’t guide his emotions to a more benign and less destructive manner), that unless he gets it off his system, a more violent reaction might occur, so the pinching is for him so minor, that he can do it anytime to his girlfriend. Usually, in cases like Raymond’s behavior, the individual does not possess the skills in channeling strong and powerful emotions and communicating such in the right manner.

2. Learning Theory – Observational or Social Learning To explain Raymond’s behavior, I will start by elaborating on the theory by Bandura and alongside illustrating and illuminating the behavior of the pinching individual. Social learning theorist Albert Bandura has run experiments that show we acquire operants by observing the behavior of others. We may need some practice to refine the skills we acquire by observation. We may choose to allow these skills to lie latent.

For example, we may not imitate aggressive behavior unless we are provoked and believe that we are more likely to be rewarded than punished for it. Observational learning may account for most human learning. It is not mechanically acquired through reinforcement. We can learn by observation without engaging in overt responses at all. It appears sufficient to pay attention to the behavior of others. To explain how this occurs, Bandura suggests that four mental processes must be in operation; these processes are necessary for observation learning (Bandura, 1986).

“Attention. ” The observer must pay attention to what the model says or does. In all likelihood, “Raymond” may have spent his younger days in the hands and example of a mother who actually specifically would pinch him whenever he misbehaves. Probably, those years were for him troublesome, knowing that a mother oftentimes displays this behavior or act out of sheer frustration, at times not because the child actually misbehaves. He was probably doing what every normal child would do that time.

His mother could have been laden with so many things to do and lacked the patience or time to understand the needs of her children (Bandura, 1986). “Memory. ” The observer must store or remember the information so that it can be retrieved and used later. In Raymond’s case, because he practically grew up in the “apron strings” of his mother, it’s not surprising that he would manifest many characteristics of his mother. Raymond’s memory would necessarily be traced back to the years he had experienced under her (Bandura, 1986). “Imitation.

” The observer must be able to use the remembered information to guide his or her own actions and thus imitate the model’s behavior. Although Raymond has now a choice over his acts whenever he felt provoked, he seemed “tied” to the responses his mother made years ago, thus displaying the same behavior (Bandura, 1986). “Motivation. ” The observer must have some reason, reinforcement, or incentive to perform the model’s behaviors. Raymond must probably feel that the “pinching” is justifiable and quite normal because that was what he’d experienced with his mother.

When he felt being provoked by the girlfriend, the physical reaction could have been a natural consequence to him (Bandura, 1986). The major theories presented here have helped us understand the kind of behavior that the person in the scenario was doing towards the girl. Theories have their way of making us comprehend things, situations and behavior better. Because of this, we are able to make necessary adjustments, and lessen potential conflicts at the very least. It allows us also the opportunity to gain insights on the way people behave, what makes them tick, or what sets them off.

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