Psychology of Feeling and Thinking

Motivation, Emotion, and Behavior

Motivation refers to a desire or driving force that compels or prompts someone to perform a task or take action. It could be a belief, a need, an instinct, or a habit. Motivation is the inner drive and provides the reason and direction to someone’s behavior. It is an invisible inner force that stimulates and compels a response to stimuli or behavior (Kleinginna & Kleinginna, 1981).

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Emotions are strong, relatively unshakable feelings. Environmental events or internal processes trigger it. Certain emotions are associated with specific behaviors. Emotions are perceived by their pleasantness and intensity or strength. They could be unpleasant or pleasant/pleasurable and have an intensity that is either strong or weak (Kleinginna& Kleinginna, 1981).

Behavior refers to the actions by humans or organisms usually in response to stimuli. These could be either voluntary/involuntary or conscious/subconscious. Behavior change involves a process that starts with awareness of the problem and feeling the need to change. One then has to get the motivation to change, develop the skills to change, adopt the new behavior, and then the maintenance of the behavior.

Motivation is in several ways related to emotion. Someone can be motivated into experiencing a different emotion, or his/her emotions can dictate the level of motivation that he/she has for a given task. Motivation puts one into the right frame of mind to perform a task. For instance, fatigue or a general feeling of tiredness (emotion) makes one feel unmotivated and lacks the inner drive to perform a task that he/she usually enjoys. However, if motivated by self-convincing one can erode and do away with this feeling and perform the task (Izard, 1990).

An example of a behavior is a person liking to play football. The player gets motivated when his team wins, whenever he scores a goal, whenever he is congratulated for good play, when he’s being cheered on and whenever he wins a reward like the most valuable player or top scorer. He has however demotivated when his team loses and when he is injured. He experiences joy and happiness whenever his team wins or when he wins a prize or scores. He gets sad whenever they lose a match. Other emotions like fear are experienced when he is going to face a hard opponent and it is a must-win match.

Theories of Emotion

The James-Lange theory points out that an event triggers a physiological change. This change is then interpreted first before emotion is experienced. The theory asserts that this sequence must be followed and that failure of interpretation of the physiological change means that the person will experience no emotion. This theory is the least valid because of several reasons. Studies, where the organs that caused the physiological change were removed, did not eliminate the emotional response in the subjects.

This means that the emotions were in no way related to the physiological change. The fact that different emotional responses occur with similar physiological responses also raises more questions about this theory. The physiological changes are at times not noticed by the person having the emotions. This raises issues on whether he interpreted the physiological change. Again, the changes are usually too slow to be a cause of emotions, which occurs immediately after the event. The theory also does not explain similar physiological changes, which occur without an emotional response, e.g. increased heart rate.

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The Cannon-Bard theory argues both the physiological changes and emotions are experienced simultaneously. There is no role in the interpretation of physiological changes in this theory.

In the Schachter-Singer theory, the occurrence of an event causes a physiological change. One must identify the cause of the physiological change before he can experience the emotion.

The Appraisal Theory is the most valid since it explains all the shortfalls exhibited by all the other theories. In this theory, after an event, one has to think before he can have a physiological body change or emotion. The person experiences the emotion and the physiological response simultaneously after a cognitive thought process that follows an event. He/she has to appraise the event before an emotional response can be elicited. The emotional response is therefore based on the individual’s appraisal.

This explains the different reactions to similar events by people. It also explains the absence of emotions after some events and the fact that the presence of emotions means there was an existing event. It also explains how the physiological processes like peripheral autonomic activity, facial expression observed during emotional expressions, and other behaviors such as attack and flight come to exist. The appraisal theory also goes further to explain the difference in response and variance in intensity of emotions to certain stimuli/events or different stimuli having a similar response. This is all because of the different appraisal displayed by individuals.

Thinking, Intelligence, and Creativity

Thinking refers to an intellectual process that involves synthesizing and conceptualizing information or ideas obtained by observation, reflection, or communication. Intelligence is the ability or capacities of the mind to perform its functions. These functions include reasoning, learning, problem-solving, planning, and understanding of information. Studies have shown that low intellectual capacity is a cause of dysfunctional thinking. This results in a person having poor learning skills, reasoning, and inability to correctly solve problems. On the contrary, a normal range of intelligence quotient is vital for the thinking process (Sternberg, 2003).

Creativity refers to the act of producing new, valuable, and imaginative ideas that have never been in existence before. Creativity has four areas: the person, the cognitive processes taking place in the creation of ideas, the environment influences where the creative process takes place, and the resultant product that is identified as being creative. In the creative-person aspect, it refers to the person’s specific traits, abilities, and motives that result in him producing creative products.

This includes the person being of a normal or high intelligence quotient and is motivated. Intelligence in this case is the source of cognitive complexity, intricate and elaborate thinking patterns that are characteristic of a creative person. The process refers to the cognitive aspects involved in the production of creative ideas. These cognitive processes include the thinking process. Creativity can involve both divergent and convergent thinking.

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Divergent thinking refers to one’s ability to produce strange but correct responses to problems and convergent thinking refer to an approach, which employs the use of the usual logic and knowledge to answer questions. The creative environment is the conditions (physical and social) under which creativity takes place. The product of the creative process is the specific qualities attributed to the product that makes it be identified as being creative. The product should be original, new, and valuable (Kaufman, 2009).

One’s creativity bears a relationship to his or her thinking processes and level of intelligence. Thinking is an essential cognitive process that leads to a creative product in the creative process. It involves synthesizing original information and conceptualizing it to come up with a new idea, which is what creativity, entails.

Therefore, dysfunctional thinking would be a major setback to the creative process. In the creative process, intelligence is the source of cognitive complexity, intricate and elaborate thinking patterns that are characteristic of a creative person. A higher level of intelligence would be a boost to the creative process. Lower levels of intelligence interfere with abstract thinking patterns and are a setback to creativity.


Izard, C. (1990). Facial expressions and the regulation of emotions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58(1), 487-498.

Kaufman, C. (2009). Creativity 101. Springer Publishing Company: New York.

Kleinginna, J., &Kleinginna, A. (1981). A categorized list of motivation definitions, with suggestions for a consensual definition. Motivation and Emotion, 5(1), 263-291.

Sternberg, J. (2003). A broad view of intelligence: The theory of successful intelligence. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice & Research, 55(1), 139-154.

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