46 Module Introduction

Motivation and Emotion

Module Introduction

Topics Covered

  • Motivation
  • Emotion
  • Gender Identity

This module will cover topics of Motivation, Emotion, Appetite and Eating, and Sexual Behavior. (1)

The material is covered in Chapter 10 of the OpenStax text. (1)

How many times have you put off studying for an exam, or perhaps writing a paper for class? Even though you knew it needed to be done, you could not seem to get “Motivated” to begin the work. Perhaps you felt you needed to loose those extra pounds, or work out at the gym, however your goal seemed unattainable, so you gave up. Motivation, or lack there of, presents itself to us multiple times during the day, and in many ways. Likewise, emotions – positive and negative – are very tied to our daily behavior. We may wonder why we feel the way we do, or why we behave a certain way when we are emotional. When beginning this module you may have asked yourself what all of this has to do with eating and sex!

In this module we will explore these events and see how they tie together. We will look at different theories that have been developed and researched to attempt an explanation for our motivations and emotions. We will also study motivation and emotion as physiological and cognitive events to understand how they are functions of the brain, CNS, and hormones.

Why are you in college? That may seem like an easy question, however there might be multiple answers. You might be in college because it is expected of you in your family. You might be in college to pursue a certain degree in order to get a job in a certain field. You might be in college because you are not sure what you want to do in life and college provides a way to find out what path to take. You might be in college because you enjoy learning and see college as a way to “better yourself”. Next, ask yourself what grade you expect/hope to get for this class. If an “A” is your goal, are you prepared to do the amount and quality of work that is required to achieve that grade, or are you content with doing enough to “get by”? The answers to all of these questions are based on motivation. Not only are they based on motivation, they are based on the type of motivation that drives your effort. Motivation can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation means the drive comes from within you, your desire to master a task and feel rewarded by your accomplishments. Extrinsic motivation means that the drive is external to you, you are motivated by a reward or compensation, or even punishment. As you can probably see, some of our behavior may be motivated by both intrinsic and extrinsic forces. You may feel a personal accomplishment in getting an A, and it may be more likely to get you into the program of study you want to follow.

Motivation has been studied and theorized since the early days of psychology. Today, one of the more well known theories is that of Abraham Maslow. You text will explain this theory in more detail and you will want to access the “Link to Learning” that gives more information on this theory. Today, Maslow’s theory is accepted and used widely in business, industry, education, and social sciences.

In some cases, motivation is not just about reward, satisfaction or punishment. Motivation can also have a physiological basis. We see this in areas such as eating and sexual behavior. Because of the physiology that drives hunger, we need to understand the connection between physiological motivation and mental or emotional drives. In our country, obesity is seen as an “epidemic” for both adults and children. On the other end of the continuum we see eating disorder such as anorexia and bulimia where individuals starve themselves or engage in binging and purging in order to control their weight, and therefore their bodies. In any case, appetite and eating behaviors can, and do, have significant health problems associated with them. In order to fully deal with these issues, we must understand both physiological and psychological mechanisms at work in order to deal with, and hopefully correct the problem.

Sexual issues also are dealt with in relation to motivation and emotion. Until the 1940’s sexual behavior and response had not been openly researched and studied in a scientific manner. Alfred Kinsey, and later Masters and Johnson, established research studies that provided much information about sexual behavior as well as sexual desire and response. Their research and published results have served to bring issues of sexuality, behavior, desire, and orientation into the open. The “Links to Learning” in your text provides some interesting material related to these topics. The issues of sexual orientation and gender identity are still being researched and science has not been able to answer many of the questions, especially as they pertain to causation. It was long believed that sexual orientation was a “choice”, yet we know today that sexual orientation may be rooted in genetic, hormonal, emotional, cultural events. You should find the case of David Reimer on p. 353 interesting and you will find a link in the supplemental material for a video on this case.

Where do Emotions fit into all of this? You are probably aware that emotions, both the feelings and the display (facial, body, or behavior) often links to a motivating event. Why do we cry in a sad movie? Why do we feel anger when a car cuts us off on the highway? Why do we feel joy at seeing someone we love? Emotions can be described as both the cognition or feeling and the resulting behavior. Theories of emotion have tried to explain the process of physiological arousal and cognition and how they work together to produce a behavior, yet this is difficult to separate out. We know that males and females may experience emotions differently. We know that infants use emotions as communication from birth. We know that emotions can be both pleasurable and harmful (to self and others). The focus on emotions by psychologists now centers more on helping the individual understand the source and behavior and to exhibit emotions in a more positive way. We see the range of emotions, from love and affection to anger, as natural human responses and seek ways to use emotions more productively. After all, the goal of anger management is not to curb anger, it is to recognize anger and act on the emotion in a manner that is healthy and safe for self and other.

Last, but not least, we need to understand the parts of the brain and body that are involved in motivation and emotion. Motivation involves, to a great extent, the glandular system that regulates appetite, hunger and sex drives. Emotions involve the limbic system consisting of the hypothalamus, thalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus. Understanding the biological basis of both motivation and emotion can help us understand, diagnose and treat many mental and physical disorders. Today, much research is being done on the biological roots of emotions and emotional response in regard to PTSD. With this research, new approaches to understanding and treating this disorder are being evaluated for their effectiveness. (2)

Learning Outcomes Related to this Module

1. Demonstrate the ability to think critically
3. Articulates an understanding of the individual in society
5. Thinks critically about institutions, cultures and behaviors of the people of the world
6. Comprehends the biopsychosocial aspects of behavior and mental processes
7. Synthesizes empirical information to draw accurate evidence-based conclusions about behavior and mental processes


Upon completion of this module, the student will be able to:

  • Define motivation and emotion
  • Explain theories explaining motivation
  • Explain theories explaining emotion in humans
  • Identify the relationship of motivation to hunger and eating
  • Identify the relationship of motivation to sexual behavior
  • Define the parts of the brain and CNS associated with motivation and emotion (1)

Assigned Readings

Note: You will need to click on “Get This Book” button to download the textbook. Students are not required to purchase a textbook. You can download the entire Psychology textbook from OpenStax for free.

Supplemental Material/Resources

(Note: This material, in the media form of online videos, is considered supplemental and thus is not used for assessment purposes.)

  • Video: Crash Course Psychology #27 – Let’s Talk About Sex – This video explains research and societal views on sexual behavior and identity.
  • Video: Crash Course Psychology #17 – The Power of Motivation: This video explains theories of motivation. It also covers the physiology of motivation, stimulation and arousal.
  • Video: Crash Course Psychology #33 – Eating and body dismorphic disorders: This video covers eating disorders and the emotional processes that are connected to the disorders.
  • Video: Crash Course Psychology #25 – Feeling all the Feels: This video covers the topic of emotions and how, as humans, we act/react on our emotions.
  • Video: Dr. Money and the Boy with No Penis: This video recounts the full story of David Reimer, a case presented in the OpenStax text.
  • Reading: Articles on Motivation
  • Reading: Gender identity and gender role
  • Reading: Cherry, K. “What is Locus of Control” retrieved from

Assignments | Learning Activites

  • Read Module Introduction
  • Complete assigned readings
  • Submit Critical Thinking Assignment #6
  • Complete Annotated Bibliography 2


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