Cognition and motivation

The very first psychologists began their foray into the field by wondering how people think. Those pioneers had no idea what a difficult journey they were embarking upon. Human thought processes are incredibly complex and psychologists still argue today about how thinking, or cognition, occurs.

The psychological science and definition of cognition was a huge step forward in the field of psychology, but it still did not explain why thinking impacted behavior. Thus, psychological researchers moved onto the study of motivation to explore how motivation influences cognitive change.

Change in thinking may result in behavioral changes. Is cognitive change even possible without being able to identify a problem? Can behavioral change happen without cognitive change?

This week you examine how motivational theories explain cognitive change. You also explore the relationship between motivation and self-regulation, and apply theories of self-regulation to explain behavior.


  • Article: Alloy, L. B., Peterson, C., Abramson, L. Y., & Seligman, M. E. (1984). Attributional style and the generality of learned helplessness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46(3), 681–687.
    Retrieved from the Walden Library using the PsycARTICLES database.
  • Article: Bjornebekk, G. (2008). Positive affect and negative affect as modulators of cognition and motivation: The rediscovery of affect in achievement goal theory. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 52(2), 153–170.
    Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Academic Search Complete database.
  • Article: Egan, L. C., Santos, L. R., & Bloom, P. (2007). The origins of cognitive dissonance: evidence from children and monkeys. Psychological Science (Wiley-Blackwell), 18(11), 978–983.
    Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Academic Search Complete database.
  • Article: Prochaska, J. O., DiClemente, C. C., & Norcross, J. C. (1992). In search of how people change. Applications to addictive behaviors. The American Psychologist, 47(9), 1102–1114.
    Retrieved from the Walden Library using the PsycARTICLES database.

Please proceed to the Discussion.

Discussion 1: Cognition and Motivation

Change is not always an easy process, but motivation can assist in completing it. For example, some change is motivated by short-term needs that can be easily met (e.g., hunger motivates you to eat; being tired motivates you to sleep; and being thirsty motivates you to drink).

Other change is motivated by long-term needs that cannot be easily met (e.g., good health motivates you to quit smoking; having a low-paying job motivates you to obtain more education; or vanity motivates you to diet and lose weight).

What psychologists wonder is: “Which came first-the chicken or the egg?” In other words, do you change your thinking first, and then a behavioral change follows, or do you change your behavior first, and then a thinking change follows? Perhaps it is a combination of both.

Psychologists are still in disagreement about how motivation explains cognitive change, but beginning in the 1970s, they began to develop theories to explain it. To prepare for this Discussion, review these theories in this week’s Learning Resources, and select one to use for this assignment. Begin to consider how this theory explains cognitive change.

Post by Day 3 an explanation of how the theory you selected explains cognitive change. Explain why you think this theory is superior to others in explaining this relationship. Support your response with references to the literature and the Learning Resources.

Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources.

Discussion 2: Self-Regulation and Motivation

What psychologists call self-regulation is what lay people call self-control. It is the ability of a person to control his or her emotions, behaviors, and desires in order to obtain a future reward. As such, a person must have a comprehension of the future to be able to exercise self-regulation. Motivation plays a key role in self-regulation because it encourages working toward that future reward.

For example, a student who excels in academics might exercise self-regulation by setting his or her goals effectively, adapting his or her learning style, and self-monitoring his or her progress—all for the future reward of good grades, pleased parents, and admission to a university.

Nevertheless, motivation is not always positive (i.e., encouraging) in self-regulation. For example, a drug addict’s motivation to obtain more drugs may make that person unable to exercise self-regulation, comprehend the future, and obtain future rewards.

Post by Day 4 an explanation of how motivation influences self-regulation. Then describe two specific behaviors that could best be explained by theories of self-regulation and explain why.

Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources.


Last Updated on February 11, 2019