The expectancy value theory of motivation is perhaps one of the simplest, but most useful, formulations of the psychology of motivation. Why do do we do things? According to expectancy approaches, because we think that they will probably generate an outcome we value. But is there more to it than that? What is it that makes some goals seem attainable? And is it better to ‘shoot the moon’ for a high value outcome which is likely to be unattainable, or are we better going for something smaller,but more likely..?
Lets explore expectancy value theory in more depth….
One way of improving our relationship with stress is to understand some of the processes which underpin it, and how they influence the ways we try and cope. One way of understanding this is through the transactional model of stress and coping1. The transactional model of stress and coping argues that our experience of stress is ultimately a system of appraisal, response and adaptation.
We think of positive thinking as a good thing right? Self-improving, make stuff happen, avoid doubt and feeling bad type stuff? An intriguing post I came across this week (retweeted by @amber_saying on twitter) suggests it is not quite so straight forward… Interesting and thought provoking read!
In August 2016, an ‘epidemic’ of scary clown sightings were reported, starting in the US. Scary clowns were then seen in the UK in October. What is the psychology of such scary clowns – why are they so darn creepy? And is it an ‘epidemic’?
Work long hours? Entrepreneur? ‘Sleep is an inconvenience?’ type attitude? Maybe the number of hours you are putting in are holding you back. Hard work is important, but what is the psychology of long hours and what is the psychological effect of a 24/7 lifestyle?
Do we think better in groups? Groupthink and group polarisation psychology in action.
Way back in my first post on cognitive biases I mentioned that a couple of the projects I am working on are quite high pressured, and involve a small, tight knit team. I love working in a small group, and currently our little band is on a roll, producing lots of good research and making some great contacts. For these particular projects, the team is made up of four people, each bringing their own strengths and differing areas of expertise. This sounds like a dream come true right? I’m very lucky, but also quite aware that our small, slightly insulated group brings its own risks, Indeed, the combination of a high pressure environment, a small team and high (in academic terms anyway!) stakes are all characteristics of situations which a psychologist named Janis1 suggest can encourage a phenomena called Groupthink.
I have been thinking a lot this week about luck and circumstance. We sometimes feel we are generally lucky, sometimes unlucky and sometimes don’t consider the role luck plays in our lives as much as we should. Generally, we’re really bad at working out what is our own doing and what is down to the situation we are in, and even worse at estimating what will happen in the future. But what insights can the study of psychology offer?
Kids should have magic in their lives. The tooth fairy, Santa Claus, Imaginary friends, the Elf-on-the-shelf (although to be honest, that last US inspired tradition weirds me out a little, so we are skipping it!) are all day to day parts of our children’s reality. But is magic for children a ‘good’ thing or a morally dubious waste of time? And what do psychologists who have studied it argue?
Procrastination, as we all know, is a productivity killer. I have a list of jobs (sometimes written down, and sometimes in my head) I need to do on a day to day basis. Some jobs – particularly ones I am worried about, or where a poor outcome has dire consequences- seem to sit on that list for a long time. This often makes them more difficult when I finally get to them! Why do we do this to ourselves? What is the psychology which underpins it, and how can we avoid getting bogged down in procrastination?
Sometimes, I wonder who is driving, me or the autopilot!
This last week or two have been a bit busy. As a result, I suspect I have been leaning a bit too much on my autopilot. On top of the day to day stuff, all sorts has been going on – I have had a big grant application due in, a new member of staff starting and end of teaching session marking, checking, and paperwork are all being done. (I love teaching, but I hate paperwork). I’m also getting ready to visit another university to comment on their courses and preparing to help evaluate one our own institution is launching. Finally, one of my PhD student this week defended their thesis – basically explaining to an independent judge why they should be given a doctorate. Alongside this me, my partner, baby Annabelle and big sister Katherine all went camping for the first time this weekend (having a great time, but a busy, not-much-sleep one!). This is all good stuff, but it means sometimes I forgot to be conscious of what I was doing. Whats the psychology behind this, and can we do anything about it?