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Friday, January 22, 2010

Motivation is different for different personalities


Interesting
this article at Science Daily. There seems to be two different types of personalities, those who strive for excellence and those who strive for fun.

Oddly enough they are similarly productive, it all depends on the motivation. For the first type (achievers), when something is presented as challenging or are motivated by subliminal messages of excellence and accomplishment, they work better... but when something is presented as fun, they are just not interested and fail. The other type (enjoyers), maybe more common, do exactly the opposite thing: they will perform well when something is presented as fun but will feel demotivated when it's presented as a competition for excellence. Again, with the wrong motivation, they just lose interest and do worse.

As a decided member of the club of anti-competitive enjoyers, I perfectly understand this type: Excellence? That's boring. Fun? Then I will give my best.

As the co-author of the research, Dolores Albarracín, suggests: enjoying life is not a bad goal. But placed in a competitive environment we will unavoidably feel disenchanted and, almost willingly, allow ourselves to "lose".

We just want some other kind of game, one that is, simply put, enjoyable and not just demanding. It's not that we are worse: we are just not interested in winning just for the sake of it. First of all it has to be emotionally gratifying.

That's what communism (well understood) is about: destroying alienation and making work and production again something cool, not just the worthless competition of of the living dead that is today.

21 comments:

manju said...

I'm bit confused about this article. Aren't every one driven for more dopamine(fun)? It doesn't look like lack of fun as a cultivated behaviour. The way I interpreted the article, people who are driven to excellence are naturally un-funloving guys.

Maju said...

That's how I read that too.

They seem demotivated by "fun". Is it pathological or an adaptation to a competitive society? Or both at the same time? I think the matter warrants further research.

manju said...

I think alienation could be balanced by good family life. This is Marx's comment:"The worker only feels himself outside his work, and in his work feels outside himself. He is at home when he is not working and when he is working he is not at home".

That I suppose is okay, if you have a good family life. Work like a donkey but live your life after work. This of course requires you are not alienated from your family life too.

Maju said...

It's not ok. It's not natural. It's not satisfactory.

That's why we want to recover the original integration of work and life.

Charles Iliya Krempeaux said...

@Maju said...
"They seem demotivated by "fun". Is it pathological or an adaptation to a competitive society? Or both at the same time? I think the matter warrants further research."


Since I'm pretty sure I'm a "achiever" type (after reading the article) let me respond to that.

(Assuming I'm representative of "achievers" in general....) When an "achiever" type hears the words "for fun" they think "it doesn't matter", so they don't bother trying. After all, who cares in this situation. It's just a waste of time.

"Achiever" types derive fun and even pleasure from competing, from winning, from beating everyone else.

"Achiever" types do like fun. But my impression is that what is (actually) fun for "achiever" types is (probably very) different than what is fun for "enjoyer" types.

Also, if I'm truly representative of "achiever" type, then they are extremely competitive. (Which is kind of a feedback system, since the more competitive an "achiever" type is, the more "achiever" style fun they get when they compete.)

Maju said...

Makes sense: getting fun from smashing others' heads... sounds pathological, with due respect.

Certainly is sociopathic, except in those societies, like ours, where that behavior is encouraged by the system (yet the ancestral behavior seems to remain quite dominant).

Maju said...

Let me explain myself better: empathy is a central human emotion or psychological process. Our societies are built from that and among hunter-gatherers competition is normally hindered by social norms that emphasize the group and dismiss, often among jokes, individual achievements. Individuals without the community are nothing but walking dead, even today.

Delight from anti-social activities such as smashing others' heads does not fit at all in this fundamental human sociology and related psychology.

However civilization and the division of labor, and notably Capitalism with its emphasis in competition, may have found a role for that psychology, otherwise clearly sociopathic, in my opinion.

Anyhow, thanks for your contribution, Charles. I wonder to what extent these two personality types are strictly split or actually represent a gradation. The article seems to suggest that they are clearly split but it's not too extense.

manju said...

In my opinion, the scope of the study is rather narrow. I would like to see how this 'enjoyers' and 'achievers' performed in school before attaining their puberty. I would like to see whether Eros or Thanatos play major role in their outlook. Achiever mentality appears to be closely connected to hunter mentality. I mean your aggression needs to be controlled and you need to be patient for that final fun.

Charles Iliya Krempeaux said...

@Maju said...
"Makes sense: getting fun from smashing others' heads... sounds pathological, with due respect."

The "achiever" types' drive doesn't necessarily have to be expressed through "smashing others' heads".

Just because "achiever" types derive fun and even pleasure from competing, from winning, from beating everyone else, doesn't mean they want to harm other people.

For example.... Have you ever met a person who seems to want to debate with everyone? Many non-"achiever" types think people who do this are assholes. But "achiever" types debate like that because #1 "achiever" types get fun and pleasure out of it and #2 many "achiever" types just assume that debating like that is fun and pleasurable for everyone (and thus they assume others love it too).

"Achiever" types' drive to debate often causes them to study a large breath of topic very very in depth. (This can obviously have side-advantages if any of those topics has is valued enough by someone else to pay for your services. But, just to say it explicitly, that's not necessarily the case.)

Maju said...

I would like to see how this 'enjoyers' and 'achievers' performed in school before attaining their puberty.

It might depend a lot on the type of schooling. Traditional types would clearly favor achievers, while modern pedagogy that emphasizes playing would favor enjoyers surely.

Achiever mentality appears to be closely connected to hunter mentality.

I don't see that because hunter-gatherers disdain that kind of competitive approach, which destroys the community. And hunting is a game anyhow... a practical game but a fun game too. The "achievement" for the achiever personality is not getting a piece... but being better than the rest, which is against all classical forager values, which are clearly "communist" (egalitarian, distributive, collaborative).

Maju said...

Just because "achiever" types derive fun and even pleasure from competing, from winning, from beating everyone else, doesn't mean they want to harm other people.

Good point, Charles. I my have misinterpreted some stuff here.

For example.... Have you ever met a person who seems to want to debate with everyone?.

Myself. But I would not consider myself an "achiever": I like to have fun, I play a lot and get bored when games are too competitive. I never wanted to show "how good I am" and hate to be evaluated. I know I'm good enough and that's enough.

I like debate because it helps clarifying matters and broadening knowledge, rather than a competitive exercise. I have even been criticized at times for changing my own viewpoint as the debate went on, what for me is perfectly legitimate, as it's not winning the discussion what matters but improving the understanding.

Charles Iliya Krempeaux said...

@Maju said...
"I [and assumingly other "enjoyer" types] like to have fun, I [and assumingly other "enjoyer" types] play a lot and get bored when games are too competitive. I never wanted to show "how good I am" and hate to be evaluated. I know I'm good enough and that's enough."


That does sound different than the "achiever" type (assuming I'm representative). An "achiever" type would be driven more by the competition. "Achiever" types tend to want to "show" that they are better (than whomever they are competing with). (Not necessarily to others though. Might be only to "prove it" to themselves, or just to the people or person they are competing against.)


@Maju also said...
"I like debate because it helps clarifying matters and broadening knowledge, rather than a competitive exercise. I have even been criticized at times for changing my own viewpoint as the debate went on, what for me is perfectly legitimate, as it's not winning the discussion what matters but improving the understanding."


"Achiever" types (who express their drive in the form of debating) tend to have to change their views or positions too. They tend to do this because they want to win arguments. And to be able to win argument, their views and positions tend to need to be based on truth. (I.e., their "achiever" drive can get them to seek truth.)

Maju said...

The discussion brings to my mind the rather twisted personality of Newton, who probably was the achiever type and who once admitted to have have felt a huge satisfaction "breaking Leibniz' heart" in the dispute on who invented calculus. He did so by massive cheating, from his privileged position as president of of the Royal Society.

Few other great scientists were as sharky, competitive and cheating as Newton was. Probably it's also the case of Edison, often accused of stealing others' inventions.

But obviously you don't need to be the competitive type to be a great scientist, as the motivation for science is not so much personal success as search of truth (in a sense a social success). I think the achiever type is best fit for economic roles (in the contest of a Capitalist system, of course), though can also succeed in sports, specially those that are not team-oriented.

Charles Iliya Krempeaux said...

@Maju said,
"But obviously you don't need to be the competitive type to be a great scientist, as the motivation for science is not so much personal success as search of truth (in a sense a social success)."

My impression is that to be a great scientists you need to be #1 intelligent and #2 obsessive.

Although I do think there is some truth to the notions of, if a smart person wants to make money they go into the business world, and if they want to "make a difference" they go in to non-profits and academia. (I'm making this point because I have noticed some people don't count scientists in the business world to be scientists, but just call them engineers. All engineers are scientists AFAICT.)


@Maju also said,
"I think the achiever type is best fit for economic roles (in the contest of a Capitalist system, of course), though can also succeed in sports, specially those that are not team-oriented."

(Assuming again that I'm representative of "achiever" types) being an "achiever" type doesn't mean you don't cooperate with other people.

For example, team sports are fine too. You still compete. And when your team wins, you win. You get a similar thrill out of it.

Also, since you mentioned it, even in Capitalism, although there is competition, people are still cooperating. You can't help but cooperating in capitalism. You cooperate when you form and work within the structure of a company. You cooperate whenever you trade with someone. You cooperate when someone invests. You cooperate whenever a customer purchases something. Etc. (Not meant to be a exhaustive list. Just a some examples.)

Maju said...

Very good observations, Charles. I thought about what you say about team competition but also about those players that, even excelling in skills, tend to be excessively individualist and have coaches (or managers in the business world) trying to discipline them to work in the team.

I also agree that in Capitalism cooperation applies but only or mostly within the company. I was thinking more in market economy as such, where competition is more direct and intense and not in-the-company, where competition is somewhat hindered by the need for cooperation. Hence my ideal "achiever" would be some archetypal entrepreneur, a Rockefeller or, more caricaturized, the Mr. Burns of The Simpsons.

As for scientists and engineers, generally what we have in mind as scientist is a researcher, not a high level technician as normally engineers are. Most engineers are not into research, but I know it's the kind of career that would attract achievers, together with economics, particularly. I presume that you are an engineer yourself, for the way you have "inflated" the scientific prestige of this career. I know too many engineers to take that claim with a good dose of salt. :D

manju said...

I think Freud already discussed about this feature. The repression of instinctual nature is necessary for individual and social progress. He called this, transition from "pleasure principle(PP)" to the "reality principle(RP)".

PP: Immediate satisfaction
RP: Delayed satisfaction
PP: Pleasure
RP: Restraint of pleasure
PP: Joy (Play)
RP: Toil (work)
PP: Receptiveness
RP: Productiveness
PP: Absence of repression
RP: Security

I suppose that means every individual should make transition from PP to RP. But the problem is this study says people are born with either PP or with RP outlook.

Maybe civilization is the triumph of RP people over PP people.

Maju said...

But motivation by achievement seems only related to productivity or even to an unmentioned factor: recognition, self-esteem, not the RP in general. Playing is anyhow crucial in learning and the PP is anyhow only natural as motivator (the RP would only be a rationalization, an adaptation to get an improved pleasure, roughly speaking).

So what motivates the "achievers"? I suspect that something like a weak Ego (distinct from individualism) that needs all the time of reaffirmation. I'd like to see if that psychology is genetically-determined or, as I suspect, generated by environment (education, parental pressure). Or a mix.

Charles Iliya Krempeaux said...

Sorry for the late reply. (Got busy with work.)

@Maju said...
"Very good observations, Charles. I thought about what you say about team competition but also about those players that, even excelling in skills, tend to be excessively individualist and have coaches (or managers in the business world) trying to discipline them to work in the team."

While, based on my experience, I agree that there does tend to be a degree of individuality. There is also a degree of cooperation.

(Assuming you mean the same thing by "individuality" and "cooperation" as I do) I don't think individuality and cooperation are necessarily mutually exclusive things. (I.e., you could have both.) Or to put it another way, individuality does not necessarily mean atomization.

For example, consider the "band of brothers" effect you often get with teams. The teams start to act somewhat like a "super organism" competing with other (team-based) "super organisms". You see the same effect with soldiers and law enforcement.


@Maju said...
"I also agree that in Capitalism cooperation applies but only or mostly within the company."

What about when someone from one company hires another company to do work for them? For example, a security company wants a new "image", so they hire a graphics design company to design them a logo.

Isn't that cooperation too?


@Maju said,
"As for scientists and engineers, generally what we have in mind as scientist is a researcher, not a high level technician as normally engineers are. Most engineers are not into research, but I know it's the kind of career that would attract achievers, together with economics, particularly. I presume that you are an engineer yourself, for the way you have "inflated" the scientific prestige of this career. I know too many engineers to take that claim with a good dose of salt. :D"

In a lot of people's mind, "Scientist" equals "Researcher". (Which is why I made that previous comment.) My usage of the term "Scientist" though is basically anyone who uses the Scientific method.

But I agree, if one has it such that "Scientist" equals "Researcher", then most Engineers aren't "Scientists" (in that sense of the word).

And yes, I'm an engineer by profession :-)

Although I do do research from time to time. (For example, figuring out how to model human behavior, in various environments.)

Charles Iliya Krempeaux said...

@Maju said...
"So what motivates the "achievers"? I suspect that something like a weak Ego (distinct from individualism) that needs all the time of reaffirmation. I'd like to see if that psychology is genetically-determined or, as I suspect, generated by environment (education, parental pressure). Or a mix"

A bit of speculation (since I don't have evidence other than my personal experience and observation of others) but I'd say part of it might be related to a person's planning "time horizon". A long "time horizon" tends to make people more likely defer satisfaction. I.e., they forgo immediate satisfaction (like "having fun") for delayed satisfaction.

Perhaps the pleasure "achievers" get from from competing, from winning, from beating everyone else, is one strategy "nature" has for giving (some) people a long "time horizon".

(I've read claims that there is a heredity component to a person's "time horizon". But I haven't seen any actual evidence for it. Which doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I just haven't seen it.)

Maju said...

I said "individualism", not "individuality". Individuality is a given (we are all individuals), individualism an attitude that can be disruptive of social (or team) cooperation.

In soccer, for example, an individualist player would tend to try to score himself, not passing the ball and potentially hindering a team score. Some excellent players get away with that if not in excess but generally speaking it's not good for the team.

What about when someone from one company hires another company to do work for them?.

Fair enough. But typically the big fish will try to exploit the small fish in such unstable "symbiosis". The same happens between the corporation (big fish) and employees (small fish).

Most small companies that work for big ones struggle to make ends meet, while the big contractor typically gets a pretty good share thanks to their privileged position on top of the system.

But sure in some cases at least cooperation is possible and even the best option possibly.

My usage of the term "Scientist" though is basically anyone who uses the Scientific method.

That's too ample. I'd be a scientist then too. Senso lato, yes, everybody with some general scientific approach would be a "scientist", the same that they'd be "philosophers" and anyone who can write an intelligible text a "writer".

And yes, I'm an engineer by profession...

Easy catch. Only an engineer would make such an apology of engineers so spontaneously. :D

Not all engineers would do but no non-engineer would anyhow.

I'd say part of it might be related to a person's planning "time horizon". A long "time horizon" tends to make people more likely defer satisfaction. I.e., they forgo immediate satisfaction (like "having fun") for delayed satisfaction.

But that doesn't explain while "fun" demotivates this type. I suspect this psychological type has evolved to never have fun... but through achievement itself.

And this brings me again to the Type A personality, probably related if not the same psychological type: those Type A individuals who are not successful (not all are, naturally) seem to be particularly prone to an accumulation of illnesses (comorbidity). It would seem that Type B fun-inclined personality would protect against health problems caused by being a loser... because, after all, who cares? "Que me quiten lo bailado" is said in Spanish: "let them take from me all what I danced" (not sure which would be the English equivalent).

Anyhow, one thing I recall from having heard about Type A personality in the past, is that they did not typically cope the highest positions but specially the middle ones. It'd seem they'd be ideal to constitute the backbone of corporations and hierarchies but not usually to lead (lack creativity? sociability? empathy?)

Perhaps the pleasure "achievers" get from from competing, from winning, from beating everyone else, is one strategy "nature" has for giving (some) people a long "time horizon".

Obviously is an strategy that works in our complex societies but... before civilization?, before even agriculture? Did it even exist back then?

Maju said...

Erratum:

But that doesn't explain while "fun" demotivates this type should read: But that doesn't explain why "fun" demotivates this type.