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Biopsychological ApproachAppel's Animated Figurine; see templart.htm.

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: June 7, 2000
E-Mail Takata or Curran .

Intrinsic versus Extrinsic Motivation

The Whirligig of Time
Jack Marr, Psychology, Georgia Tech

On Tuesday, June 7, 2000, jeanne responded:

Thank you for your clarification. I'm sorry to have taken so long to respond. We were in Albany for the Justice Studies Association Meetings. Just got back and trying to put everything up on our site.

Intrinsic/extrinsic motivation is certainly a part of my concern. I will have to read these materials. Thank you for offering to answer questions. And I'll pass that offer on to my students.

More soon. jeanne


I appreciate both your responses, however you seem to be of two minds of the matter. The journal of the experimental analysis of behavior can be found using the call letters JEAB. The jeab by the way is the major journal of the behavioristic movement. My own site is primarily satire, however I have a very extensive and technical paper on modern learning theory and the concepts of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Just hit the top button subtitled: flow: a reverent interpretation. By the way, the flow concept has long been described by its author (M. Csikszentmihalyi) and others as representing the process of intrinsic motivation.

As I said before, a division between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation does not hold up under the scrutiny of modern learning theory. However, because biobehavioral learning theory is so new, and is expounded at length in only the JEAB and Donahoe's book, you would have the distinct advantage of being one of the first on the theoretical block to use this new take on learning theory for your own work. I hope that my journalistic article on my odd site drmezmer will be of value to you, and I would be appreciative of your comment if you have a chance to read it.

By the way, I answer all emails, and it would be a pleasure to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous student questions, as well as your own.


A.J. Marr
New Orleans

On Monday, May 15, jeanne responded:

Subject: Re: Comment on intrinsic motivation
Wow! Thank you. I have some students that can follow this if I go over it with them. May I put your e-mail on my site for them? This is our last week of classes, and I will then be freer to read. I planned to today, but had to put up more materials for those who are hungry to learn.

I think I last studied learning theory in the early 70s. As I raced through your memo, I had some difficulty telling where precisely what I am doing fits in, though I'm sure it will come through as I do some reading. Perhaps I should describe my project. I want to guide my students to the more rewarding approaches that will produce dopamine, as I understand your comment, and I'm trying to do that within the state university, given all its constraints. I just hadn't investigated the bio-psychological approach.

I specially prize this information since it will give balance to what has been primarily a social philosophy approach. Again, thank you, and I will contact you as I read. And I will, of course, check out the sites you mention.

Jeanne Curran At 07:48 PM 5/15/2000 -0500, you wrote: >I read your site. This is meant as a brief comment, and I hope a telling >one. I understand and appreciate your perspective on intrinsic and >extrinsic motivation. However, before distinctive motivating states can be >accepted, one must first have a theory of motivation. Ultimately, any >motivational or learning theory must be derived from a sound understanding >of how the brain works on the neural level, and how neural processes are >modified with experience (or information) as guided by nativistic or inborn >tendencies. Nature and nurture both come together in modern learning theory >in what are called bio-behavioral theories of reinforcement or reward. >Unlike theories of motivation and learning that are based on inferred >processes, bio-behavioral motivational theories derive from an accounting >of the actual neural processes which instantiate behavior. I am sure that >you are unaware of the substance of such theories, but to be very brief >modern bio-behavioral psychology rejects the division of learning processes >into intrinsic or extrinsic, classical (Pavlovian) or operant (Skinnerian), >or any other separate components. All learning is due to single processes >that utilize nearly identical areas in the brain. What this means is that >intrinsic and extrinsic motivational processes are metaphorical constructs, >and do not exist in reality. > >In bio-behavioral learning theory, reward occurs when an individual shifts >attention from one environment-behavior perceptual relationship to another. >This attentional shifting is accompanied by the release of the >neuromodulator dopamine which fixes attention, makes thinking more >efficient, and adds value to the precept that is attended by the fact that >it has hedonic value, or that it feels good. Dopamine plays a key role in >decision making processes by modifying the emotional valence of incentives, >and by steering attention towards those precepts that solve problems faster >and better. As problems or behavioral 'discrepancies' are considered, >dopamine neurons don't change their firing. If these discrepancies are >solved faster and have a higher payoff, dopamine delivery is higher; and if >these discrepancies are solved slower with a lower or negative payoff, >dopamine delivery is decreased (Montague, 1997). > >Bio-behavioral reinforcement theory is a 'discrepancy' theory, and >postulates that we will find most rewarding those situations that have the >most 'problems' that can be solved quickly and effectively through the >investment of attention. Situations that have few problems rapidly become >boring, or if they contain many problems that are unsolvable, are >depressing (which means dopamine is not produced at all). Situations that >have frequent and many solvable problems sustain the release of dopamine, >and are precisely the events that we seek out. Games are the best example >of this, although there are many other 'game like' situations that require >the rapid fire shifting of attention to solve pressing problems. Rock >climbers, artists, surgeons, gamblers, etc. all report pleasurable or >ecstatic experiences while having to rapidly adapt to the changing demands >of their tasks (Csikszentmihalyi, 1993). In addition, it has been >empirically confirmed that the major morphological change that occurs >during extreme sports, gambling, or video game playing is indeed a >heightened level of dopamine (Koepp, 1997). The hallmark quality of >intrinsic motivation, namely that a behavior is rewarding or reinforcing in >itself, becomes more clearly revealed as an actual and very pleasurable >neuro-physiological change that is elicited by an abstract and non >consciously perceived aspect of the context in which a behavior occurs. > >Reinforcement implicates processes that are nonconscious and neurological >in basis, and thus cannot be completely understood through a sole reliance >on the tools of social psychological research. Ultimately, to understand >what motivation is from the standpoint of learning theory is to recognize >some very fundamental differences in our respective positions. Social >psychological interpretations of learning must be informed by up to date >information about what learning is, and not outdated interpretations of >what learning theory, and in particular behaviorism, used to be. The >subject matters of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation can be immensely >simplified by a simple update of one's knowledge of how learning processes >work. I hope these comments illuminate somewhat how an expansion of your >scholarship may be of value to you in your research on these topics. > >(By the way, the best introduction to Biobehavioral principles of >reinforcement are found on the website of the Journal of the Experimental >Analysis of Behavior (JEAB). Shull's article in particular can explain many >of the issues that I have touched on only briefly in this email. Finally, >my own site treats extensively on the topic, although you >might find it a bit bizarre. I have enclosed a short article that explains >my position on intrinsic motivation (a much more technical article on >intrinsic motivation is also at my site under flow: a reverent >interpretation). > > >References are in attachment >: > >Thanks > >A. J. Marr >New Orleans > > > > >