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There Is More To Motivation

Update Date: Oct 16, 2013 05:19 PM EDT

We have all had to motivate ourselves to finish a mundane task once in our life time. Willpower might be what comes to mind in overcoming the completion of that task but scientists say that unconscious motivation may be the real thing that improves our performance, not willpower.

"There are three components to motivation. The first is our conscious objectives and desires - for example, the aspiration for a highly paid role in a company in order to achieve a certain standard of living," Prof. Hugo Kehr from the Chair of Psychology at Technische Universität München (TUM) said in a news release. "We are also driven by unconscious, implicit motives." 

He added, "These are deeply rooted in our emotions and can include the desire to do things well, have an impact on and control over others, and engage in interpersonal relationships. The third motivational component builds on the skills and capabilities that we bring to a role." 
With their study, researchers wanted to explore the effects of unconscious motivation.

Researchers made their subjects watch an important scene in the movie Dead Poets Society, where a controlling father denies his son his acceptance in becoming an actor.

One group was to reenact that exact scene, playing the part of the father. The control group had to write down the dialogue.

In continuation with the experiment, researchers had the participants watch a funny scene in the animated movie Ice Age and were asked not to smile or laugh.

"Subjects had to use their willpower in both situations: In the first part, to play an unpleasant character in front of a video camera, and in the second, to suppress the desire to laugh," said TUM sports psychologist, Dr. Peter Gröpel. 

Researchers found that the subjects with stronger will power had no trouble holding back their smiles and laughs during the funny scene.

"We can conclude from this that they were able to draw on their internal motivation while completing the first task - and so they had more willpower left for the second task," said Kehr.

In an experiment with comparisons, researchers observed in the participants the motivation to do a task well. 

Gröpel said, "Again, it was clear that those with a strong achievement motivation did not drain their willpower resources and so performed better overall."  
The findings are published in the Journal of Personality.

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