The Power of Motivation: Crash Course Psychology #17

The Power of Motivation: Crash Course Psychology #17

You’ve probably heard this story. Aron Ralston was out climbing in Utah’s Bluejohn
Canyon when a giant rock shifted under his feet, and he fell, pinning his right arm to
the canyon wall. He was stuck, and worse, he hadn’t told anyone where we was going. For the next five days, Ralston tried to move
and chip away at the rock. He ate his remaining food, drank the last of his water. Eventually
he drank his own urine, and started videotaping his goodbyes. But then something happened. Ralston had a
dream. He saw himself as a father, picking up his son, and with that vision, an overpowering
will to survive kicked in. He broke his arm bones, sawed through his flesh with a dull
pocket knife, and freed himself. Ralston harnessed some of our most powerful
psychological forces — hunger, thirst, desire to be part of a family, need to return to
the human community — they ignited his tenacity, which allowed him to do an incredible thing. He harnessed the power of motivation. Obviously, in a big, big way. [INTRO] In its most basic sense, motivation is the
need or desire to do something. Whether that need is biological, social, or emotional,
and whether that something is making dinner, going to college, or cutting off your arm,
motivation is what gets you moving. But the big question is, why? Why do we do
anything? I mean, why ever bother changing out of my sweatpants? Psychologists often view motivation in one
of four ways. On their own, none of these theories is perfect, but taken together, they
help us understand what drives us. Let’s start with the first theory: an evolutionary perspective. For a while in the early 20th century, it
was popular to think of all behaviors as instincts, or innate drives to act a certain way. But
this so-called Instinct Theory was misguided, in part because the presence of a tendency
doesn’t always mean it’s supposed to be there. Like, we can imagine why a bunch of people
might start rioting at a heated soccer match, but to say that they’re supposed to — a little
short-sighted. Evolution is a far more complex, chaotic,
and interesting process than that. Plenty of behaviors could just be accidents of evolution
— late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould called these accidents “spandrels,” or traits that
rather than being “adaptive” just stuck around as byproducts of other processes. Today we define instincts as complex, unlearned
behaviors that have a fixed pattern throughout a species. For example, dogs instinctively
shake their fur when wet, salmon return to the stream in which they hatched, and human
babies know how to suckle just minutes after being born. These are true, genetically-predisposed instincts
that do not require learning. But today we understand that while certain
tendencies may be genetic, individual experience plays a major role in behavior and motivation,
as well. So another theory of motivation suggests that
a physiological need, or drive, simply compels us to reduce that need. This is called the
drive-reduction theory. This can be as simple as hearing my stomach growl, and looking for
a burrito. My need is food, my drive is hunger, my drive-reduction behavior is burrito. Drive reduction is all about maintaining your
body’s homeostasis — the physiological balance of its systems. As much as we’re pushed to reduce our drives,
we’re also pulled along by incentives — the positive or negative stimuli that either entice
or repel us. The mouth-watering smell of that burrito pulls me toward it, just as much as
my hunger pushes me there. However, we’re also clearly more complicated
than our homeostatic systems, and drive-reduction theory may over-simplify a lot of our behavior.
For example, a person may fast for days, ignoring their body’s hunger to honor some spiritual
or political cause; and I know I’m not the only one who sometimes eats when I’m not actually
hungry. So a third theory — the theory of optimal
arousal — attempts to fill in some of those gaps. It suggests rather than just reducing
a drive or tension, like hunger, we’re motivated to maintain a balance between stimulation
and relaxation. Say you’re holed up in your house all weekend
studying. You’re bored and lonely and gettin’ weird, so you call up some friends to go mountain
biking or to a karaoke bar or whatever you like to do to for stimulation. The idea here is that you want to hit the
right level of arousal — which, take note, psychologists often use in a non-sexual sense
— without getting overstimulated and stressed. So if you nearly break your face on that bike
ride, or if the Journey covers at karaoke start getting too intense, you may need to
back off and take a nap. Of course everyone has a different level of
optimal arousal, and I’m guessing Aron Ralston’s was fairly high. Adrenaline junkies may jump
out of planes to hit their ideal level, whereas others might be satiated by an engaging book,
or new knitting pattern. No matter which, the optimal arousal theory suggests that we’re
motivated to avoid both boredom and stress. And obviously not all needs are created equally.
If I’m suffocating and can’t catch a breath, I’m not going to be thinking about eating
that burrito. And if I’m about to be ravaged by lions, I’m not going to worrying about
my paycheck. American psychologist Abraham Maslow illustrated
this shuffling of priorities in the mid-1900’s with his famous hierarchy of needs. Down at the bottom of the pyramid you’ll find
our most basic physiological needs for food, water, air, and moderate temperatures. The next rung up speaks to our need for safety,
then comes love and belonging, followed by esteem or respect, and finally, once all those
needs have been met, we have the relative luxury of being motivated by self-actualization
and spiritual growth, and yoga retreats and stuff. Of course there are problems with Maslow’s
vision. Empirical research hasn’t really supported his hierarchy. We tend to skip around on that
pyramid all the time, and the importance of those higher-level needs may vary depending
on our culture and finances and personalities. But still, everyone is restricted by the lowest
levels of the pyramid. So, regardless of the theories about why we have them, most schools
of psychological thought agree that we are driven by at least three big motivators: sex,
hunger, and the need to belong. We’ll do a whole lesson later about all sorts
of sex-related stuff, including how it motivates us. There’s a lot there. For now, let’s just
say that sexual motivation is how we promote the survival of our species through recreation
and/or procreation – both of which help human communities bond and expand. Without it, none
of us would be here today, thinking about burritos and severed arms and sex and stuff. Internally, we are biologically driven to
knock boots by our sex hormones. We’re also motivated by psychological and sociocultural
influences – ranging from suggestive external stimuli plastered all over billboards, magazines,
and TVs in the form of, you know, scantily-clad bodies sprawled out on beaches to more genteel
desires like love, family, or adherence to personal, religious, or cultural values. Sex is a big motivator, but it isn’t precisely
a need, no matter what anyone has told you. People do not die without it. Hunger, though… After air and water, food is our body’s greatest
need, and thus obtaining food is one of our greatest motivations. Hunger may seem pretty simple. Eat food, stay
alive. But physiologically and psychologically, there is a lot going on. And like so many
things, it starts in the brain. The sensation of hunger usually begins with
a drop in your blood-sugar level. Glucose is our body’s primary source of energy, and
while you might not initially feel it drop, your brain will. Your hypothalamus monitors your blood chemistry,
and responds to both high levels of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin, and low levels of glucose
by triggering that feeling of hunger reminding you to eat something. I am in fact experiencing
it right now! Once you’ve eaten that burrito, your metabolism
takes over, converting that food into energy. But while our physiological need for calories
varies depending on our body size and composition, your gender, and your age, our hunger is also
shaped by our psychology, culture, and mood. And these factors don’t just rule when we’re
hungry, they also guide what we’re hungry for. Biologically speaking, most humans, and many
other animals, have a genetic taste for sweets and fatty foods, because they’re typically
high in energy. But other taste preferences are conditioned through experience and culture. I may have an aversion to oysters because
they once made me sick, and love gingerbread cookies because my grandma used to make them.
Although popular in Cambodia, I’m not too keen on eating fried tarantulas, just as lots
of folks around the world think that the very idea of peanut butter is gross. Still, the feeling of hunger affects us the
same. During World War Two in the US, some conscientious
objectors volunteered for medical research as an alternative way to serve their country. Perhaps the most famous of these studies was
physiologist Ancel Keys’ Minnesota Hunger Experiment, which measured the effects of
semistarvation, by partially starving its volunteers. While ethically dubious, the experiment was
geared toward understanding the many small and large effects of hunger, which was plaguing
Europe at the time. The study started in 1944, by feeding 36 young,
healthy men a normal diet for three months, then halving their caloric intake for six
months, then slowly rehabilitating them to normal weight during the last three months. They ate mostly wartime-foods like root vegetables,
bread, and pastas, and were required to walk 22 miles, and participate in various work
and educational activities, for 40 hours each week. The goal was to see a 25 percent drop
in body weight during the starvation period. As you can imagine, the changes were dramatic.
The men became gaunt and listless, and showed a decrease in strength, heart rate, and body
temperature. But the psychological effects were perhaps
even more dramatic. The men became totally obsessed with food. They dreamed about it,
talked about it all the time, read cookbooks. They lost interest in sex and jokes and social
activities. They were irritable, anxious, and depressed. In the end, they were all rehabilitated, but
the study gave us some understanding of the devastating psychological effects of starvation.
It also showed us something of the social effects, as the men withdrew from one another
and isolated themselves. As one fundamental need was frustrated, these men experienced
the decline of another – the need to belong. Humans are social animals. Evolutionarily
speaking, it’s fair to say that social bonding has helped us survive. It’s a tough world
out there, and we’ve got a lot better shot at thriving if we’re sharing resources and
responsibilities, protecting and supporting each other in groups. That isn’t say you need to be joined at the
hip with everyone–our social needs have to be balanced with our autonomy, or sense of
personal control, so we feel both connected and independent. But sometimes we’re denied that sense of belonging.
We’ve all experienced the pain of being ignored or rejected at some point in our lives. It’s
worse than just about anything. The evidence for this is abundant – one recent
study suggested that teenagers who had a sense of belonging to their community had better
health and emotional outcomes than those who didn’t feel like they belonged. Cultures all over the world actually use ostracism,
or social exclusion, as a type of punishment. Whether it’s kids in time-out, adults in exile,
or prisoners in solitary confinement, separation feels like a punch in the gut. Never underestimate the power behind what
motivates us. The need to survive, the need to belong… if you can harness that motivation,
you can do just about anything. Just ask Aron Ralston. If you were motivated to learn today, hopefully
you took in four theories of motivation including the evolutionary perspective, drive-reduction,
optimal arousal, and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and how sex, hunger, and the need to
belong motivate us. Thanks for watching, especially to our Subbable
subscribers who make this whole channel possible. If you’d like to sponsor an episode of Crash
Course or even be animated into an upcoming episode, just go to This episode was written by Kathleen Yale,
edited by Blake de Pastino, and our consultant is Dr. Ranjit Bhagwat. Our director and editor
is Nicholas Jenkins, the script supervisor is Michael Aranda, who’s also our sound designer,
and the graphics team is Thought Café.

100 thoughts on “The Power of Motivation: Crash Course Psychology #17

  1. Im motivated to get as much information in so I'm watching this already fast pace video 2x the speed.

  2. Is the need to belong really a need? Will you die without it? I'm thinking of Buddhist hermits who survive fine alone. Perhaps it's more of a psychological need to belong, as in, if you feel one with the universe or something, then you don't necessary need people to fulfil your need to belong.

  3. The need for the presenter to speak more slowly would be top of my list for watching this video.
    I feel exhausted just listening to it. The information was great though so thanks for sharing.

  4. I dunno, cutting an arm off seems comparable in the amount of motivation required as… say, pushing a watermelon sized parasitic growth out of your sex organ.
    Just sayin, haven't done either but they both seem pretty harsh!

  5. Hank : …..they ignited his tenacity, which allowed him to do an incredible thing.
    Me : Cut off his arm?
    Hank : He harnessed the power of motivation.
    Me : Ohhhh…..

  6. I've been watching too much crash course, and now my own mental Hank Green constantly narrates my life. Kind of annoying, but a welcome change from the usual collection of Netflix actors.

  7. I was just trading an article about how motivation, ie a motive force, is a relic of the Newtonian paradigm, and that a better model is enticement and constraint.

  8. while revising for my next class was totaly caught up in the flawless explanation of this man. i really do like his explanation it unexpatedly makes it easier to undesstand

  9. i like how that guy had the motivation to cut his arm off to survive and be free but i barely had the motivation to get off the couch and make mac n cheese

  10. Kind of ironic how a dream of picking up his son was the motivation he needed to cut off his arm. Let me repeat that. A dream of PICKING UP his son was the MOTIVATION he needed to CUT OFF HIS ARM.

  11. Hi! Maybe you could give some advices what to read to extend this knowledge that you're sharing?

  12. I am just trying to eat my dinner…after some of this it was hard to motivate myself to continue eating…yay for motivation…

  13. Brilliant channel. I haven't seen a better one yet. The mini lecture reminds me of what Schopenhauer wrote about boredom, a big theme in his philosophy.

  14. Don't mind me, just here trying to make sense of this stuff to pass a test haha! Thanks for helping. I have a 90% in the class so far. I watch these over and over. Super helpful!

  15. note that the dude's motivation at the beginning was goal-oriented. goal oriented thinking puts us in a future possibility mindset instead of a locked-in-the-present mindset. and gives us a clear victory condition to aspire to.

  16. There was a study on motivation that deprived ppts off food for 24hr and then showing them food on a screen while the experimenter recorded how bright the ppts viewed the food against a controlled group that was not deprived- despite the ethical issues of harming participants and the participants not fully aware of how it feels to go without food the study showed the deprivation caused a brighter, more idealistic view of the food images. It’s interesting that their motivation on food changed their perception of food.

  17. At first, I watch the video for my management class, but I find the video describe very detail about motivation. I watched twice to catch up the points. I think the hunger is the most important motivation in our lives. When we are hungry and we know that we don't have lunch until finish our jobs, then people would work very fast.

  18. Who is watching this at 4 am, trying to retain all the information for their AP Psychology Final that’s in a few hours? Because same.

  19. Term and definition at time 3:53 in the video do not match. I think you meant to put optimal-arousal theory instead of drive-reduction theory.

  20. "DFTBA" was put in this lesson and the previous one to motivate us to search it out of curiosity. Well played, Hank, well played.

  21. New favorite quote when I'm with someone and hungry. "My need is food. My drive is hunger. My drive reduction behavior is burrito."

  22. From the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, i think my lack of motivation may be caused by my reduced meals over the past year +. I shall test this theory and see where i am at in 30 days of 3 full meals a day. Thank you.

  23. Lol I went to this video because I got impromptu debate and the question is “are humans primarily driven by self interest?”

  24. Better to speak slowly? Pause and maxes make the speech more interesting to listen, otherwise, it looks like a radio channel.

  25. Him: "…whereas others might be satiated by an engaging book or new knitting pattern."
    Me: (Looks down guiltily at embroidery that I'm working on while watching)

  26. Oh, so basically the video talked about how we humans have a psychological need to belong. And also the need to eat, sleep and do other important stuff to survive. One of the most primitive emotions is fear and that could be one of the factors on why we do what we do.

  27. Honestly speaking idk if it’s me alone. I love to watch ur videos their really helpful BUTTTTTT you talk wayyyyy to “FAST” no disrespect !
    I always watch over the videos to make sure I didn’t miss anything because I always do 🙄🥴 or because I didn’t fully understand because you were speaking at such a FAST pace
    But I do enjoy ur videos 🔥💖

  28. Clarification : "Motivation" is not the desire to do something, otherwise motivation would just be desire.
    You can have a desire but no motivation to fulfill it.
    Motivation is basically all the things that help you fulfill your desires.

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