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Thread: What is motivation or will?

  1. #1 What is motivation or will? 
    Forum Masters Degree DianeG's Avatar
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    I don't have a particular view on this, other than I think it's an area of neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy that hasn't been really examined closely. I am also not talking about the philosophical issue of "free" will; I'm assuming will or volition or purposeful action exists, and in this context, it may not really matter whether it is determined or free.

    Often in discussions about human behavior, whether one takes a biological approach or another kind, the answer to why we act is because it's in our interests to do so, or the interests of someone we care about - to avoid pain, to maximize pleasure, to survive. It's assumed from the outset that we will act, if we are conscious; it's just a question of how, of option A or B.

    This article makes me wonder if the mechanism behind will or motivation is that logical or simple.
    Drowning Mr. M - Scientific American
    http://www.nature.com/scientificamer...nd0405-38.html



    I wonder if some behavioral abnormalities often attributed to disordered thinking, depression, personality disorders (ie "laziness," dependency) might have anything to do with abnormal function of parts of the brain responsible for will or volition.

    The other reason why I think this is might be interesting issue is in relationship to artificial intelligence, as there seems to be this assumption that a robot or computer that had all the same information, logic, and integrated connections that a brain has, especially a robot that was conscious, would similarly be motivated to act, just as biological organisms do. But the article above and conditions like akinetic mutism suggest that even consciousness and active experience does not automatically result in volition or drive.

    Noroscientist VS Ramachandran tells of a patient who recovered from a syndrome called akinetic mutism. The patient described his experience: "I was fully conscious and aware of what was going on, Doctor. I understood all of your questions, but I simply didn't want to reply or do anything."

    On a personal level, this is one of the most puzzling aspects of experience - why some days I feel motivated and full of energy, and other times rather apathetic even when the circumstances have changed very little.


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    Forum Professor scoobydoo1's Avatar
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    I might say that there may be a desync or disconnect between the biological reward system (incentives and motivations) and perhaps that of the assigned values of the conscious mind if it were capable of weighing the rewards of actually acting or in this case; not acting on them. The possibility of unusually high values being assigned to inaction in maintaining some sort of (please correct me on the two terms used) homeostasis/equilibrium keeps popping up whenever I try and figure out what the organism might be going through may be another factor that we can explore.


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    Forum Masters Degree DianeG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scoobydoo1 View Post
    I might say that there may be a desync or disconnect between the biological reward system (incentives and motivations) and perhaps that of the assigned values of the conscious mind if it were capable of weighing the rewards of actually acting or in this case; not acting on them. The possibility of unusually high values being assigned to inaction in maintaining some sort of (please correct me on the two terms used) homeostasis/equilibrium keeps popping up whenever I try and figure out what the organism might be going through may be another factor that we can explore.

    That's a good theory, and in this article I found, your explanation is one of the three causes or forms of apathy (#2). They break it down into either

    1) Apathy due to impairments in cognitive processing -inability to plan, keep things in working memory, apply rules, generate new rules or strategies or shift from one mental set to another.

    2) Apathy related to emotional-affective processing - an inability to pair emotional signals with behaviors, or associate emotional value to experiences. Either the emotion is not generated or the pairing of emotion to particular experiences is somehow blocked. Somewhat related is apathy connected to depression, where there's abnormal emotional processing, with over sensitivity to emotionally negative situations and insensitivity to pleasure.

    3) The third type is apathy related to "auto activation" deficit, which seems less well understood. It’s a problem in self initiating thoughts and actions, characterized by a kind of mental emptiness. Like a wet match, something just doesn't "get going" or reach a certain necessary threshold. Although, it can sometimes be externally prompted or driven. But interestingly, people with this problem aren’t really impaired in terms or consciousness or awareness itself, and that's what I find kind of interesting.


    http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/16/7/916.full

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