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PSYC 2130
Ian Mc Gregor

A goal is not merely a stimulus or response. It is the combination of a stimulus and a flexible motivation to tenaciously approach or avoid a stimulus. This tenacious goal pursuit has been a central theme in leading personality theories under different names. Freud referred to it as “drive,” Kurt Lewin as a “force,” and Jeffrey Gray as “Behavioural Activation.” Charles Carver’s popular robotics model of goal pursuit breaks down the basic elements of goal pursuit as the goal (what you want), the comparator (what you currently have), and the output (what you do to try to reduce the discrepancy between goal and comparator). This increase in tenacious focus on the goal is called, goal-shielding. It allows the animal to become fully absorbed in un-conflicted approach motivation. In this state of complete goal immersion, humans feel absorbed, motivated, and vigorous—a state that has been referred to metaphorically as “flow As difficulties begin to seem insurmountable, however, then the full goal conflict reaction kicks in (inhibition, anxiety, vigilance), which ultimately causes disengagement from the impeded goal. A schema is a collection of cognitive elements or knowledge structures that are associated with one another in our minds, e.g., a bird-theme schema would include elements such as feathers, beak, fly, egg, nest, wing, etc. Lexical refers to words and language. Participants are required to make “lexical decisions” about stimuli flashed on a computer screen—to determine whether the words are part of language or not Hungry people will notice food, cold people will notice things to keep them warm, and angry people will notice weapons and means of hurting others. These goal goggles also have another (usually) adaptive function. They shield people from goal-irrelevant information—a process that is called “goal shielding.” Achievement-primed participants over-fished the lake to maximize their personal fishing achievement at the expense of the rest of the participants in the game (i.e., leaving no fish in the lake for others). Relationship-primed participants, in contrast, were more likely to take only their fair share of fish from the lake in order to be considerate of the other players According to research by Tanya Chartrand, they can. Chartrand found that if goals are subtly primed, e.g., with an achievement crossword puzzle, and then later blocked by causing participants to fail at an achievement test, participants who had been achievement primed were significantly more upset by the failure than other participants Unconsciously experiencing goal shielding—meaning that only stimuli and thoughts related to the active goal are being noticed, and that other, unrelated stimuli are inhibited. Pavlov referred to desire as a “psychic secretion” akin to “appetite juice”. This early work was the basis of his Nobel Prize winning discovery of classical conditioning Lewin coined the term approach-avoidance conflict to refer to the predicament of wanting to approach something eagerly (e.g., wanting to eat a whole pizza) but simultaneously wanting to avoid something cautiously (e.g., health concerns about too much pizza). He called the related predicament of wanting to approach two incompatible incentives at once an approach-approach conflict (e.g., when my dog Hector was asked if he wanted to go for a walk just as he was fed his kibble). An approach-approach conflict is essentially a double approach-avoidance conflict because approaching either incentive raises concern about wanting to avoid losing out on the other Jeffery Gray, The fight, flight, freeze system responds to clear aversive cues. The important thing to remember is that this system responds to any clearly aversive experience including pain, rejection, failure, fear, death, disgust, etc., that people unambiguously want to get away from. The Behavioural Activation System (sometimes called the Behavioural Approach System) is oriented toward clear appetitive cues that people want to move towards. This system is mediated primarily by the nucleus accumbens, amygdala, and left prefrontal cortex, and by the neurotransmitter, dopamine. The BIS is activated if there is conflict between simultaneous activation of the FFFS and BAS (i.e., approach-avoidance conflict), or simultaneous activation of the BAS toward incompatible rewards (approach-approach conflict). The function of the BIS is to resolve conflict From our own laboratory here at York we have also published research findings showing that left frontal EEG activity indicative of BAS is negatively correlated with the ERN arising from the anterior cingulate cortex, indicating BIS—a finding consistent with the Joint Subsystems Hypothesis of reciprocal Thought suppression efforts also often fail because the thoughts people turn to in order to distract themselves are not powerful enough to absorb their attention and keep their attention All of these competing impulses must be inhibited to focus on the boring task. This kind of conflict also causes ego depletion effects afterwards. Another kind of ego depletion study involves resisting temptation Depleted boyfriends tended to spend more time than non-depleted boyfriends ogling the sexy pictures, despite the presence of their girlfriend right beside them Happiness arises from discrepancy reduction—from narrowing the gap between what you want (the goal) and what you have (the comparator). When our actions are successfull
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