Arousal and Its Role in Motivation


Describe in detail what arousal is as well as the role it plays in motivation, emotion, and behavior. Be sure to include the more prominent theories in your discussion.

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Back to the analogy of the bow and arrow, the arrows represent the incentives that exist in the environment and in our minds. Motives are, “…a person’s internal disposition to be concerned with approach positive incentives and avoid negative incentives” (Deckers, 2005, p. 2). So motives determine which arrows (incentives) to choose and which to avoid. Motivation is the metaphorical action of placing a selected arrow on the bow and drawing the string back. Behavior is the actual release of the arrow to a selected target. Now, arousal is not the force put behind the arrow before it is shot, that is the potential energy accumulated as a matter of motivation. Rather arousal is the third-party modulation of the potential and kinetic energy expended during motivation and subsequent behavior. Put in context, arousal is the butterflies in the archer’s stomach, the sweaty palms on the archer’s hands, the tremor in his grip, the cold sweat on his neck. Arousal is an action of the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, which moderates motivation and behavior, through the mobilization and activation of energy. As to the theory of zones of optimal functioning, if the archer were to be over-tense, due to cognitive or somatic anxiety, they might overshoot the target completely. But if the archer is well-balanced or even slightly at ease the arrow will be released with just the right force to hit the target. The inverted-U relationship hypothesizes that when arousal increases so does performance, then levels off, and then decreases. So arousal can be useful as long as we do not exceed our optimal zone of functioning. When that happens arousal has a negative effect on performance.       

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I was also quite interested in the effect that schemas, assimilation, congruity, and accommodation have on our music preferences. I have never noticed before that I do like music that is easily assimilated into my current music schemas. I also like music that modifies a current schema or even creates a new schema, as long as the music is not too simple or too complex. For instance, I have always been a Matchbox 20 fan. I love all of their music, especially the “Yourself or Someone Like You” album. Here recently I have really begun to like Nickelback, especially the “All the Right Reasons” album. As I think about the themes, complexity, tone, and harmonics of their songs they are a lot alike. That is weird. 


Deckers, L. (2005). Motivation: Biological, psychological, and environmental, Second Edition. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. 

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