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Motivation and Emotion



Motivation and emotion both influence how people think and act. Human behavior is motivated by primal drives such as hunger, thirst, and sexual desire. People are also motivated by more complex psychological desires, such as achievement and connection with others. Sexual identities, such as gender and sexual orientation, can influence human relationships and emotional expression. Emotions are reflected in a person's thoughts, physical arousal level, and behaviors. Three major theories explain how these factors interact when shaping human emotions. Research has identified universal emotions and their expressions across cultures. The new field of positive psychology is at the forefront of research on social factors, cultural attributes, and life events that boost happiness.

At A Glance

  • Human behavior is motivated by biological drives such as hunger, thirst, and sexual desire and by psychological desires.
  • Once basic needs for food and safety have been met, social and environmental factors become important motivators.
  • The human body has built-in mechanisms to regulate hunger, eating habits, and weight; however, social and environmental factors also have influence.
  • Psychologists have researched human sexual desire and behaviors, as well as the physiology of the human sexual response cycle, through surveys, interviews, and observations. Sexual desires and behaviors are shaped by age, sex, experiences, social norms, and culture.
  • The sexual response cycle includes four stages: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution.
  • Sex refers to the biological characteristics that differ across men and women whereas gender refers to the roles, interests, and activities associated with each sex.
  • Emotions are influenced by events, thoughts about those events, and physical arousal. Arousal helps determine the intensity of emotions.
  • Emotions are expressed nonverbally through body movements, physiological arousal, and facial expressions.
  • Culture shapes rules for displaying emotions. However, happiness, surprise, sadness, fear, disgust, contempt, and anger are expressed with similar facial expressions around the world.
  • Humans have a limited ability to predict what will make them happy and tend to believe moods will last longer than they actually do.