Betsy Speicher

Positive and negative motivation

15 posts in this topic

1. Conflict is superficial. > Benevolent-Universe Premise. > "If you want to be loved, love and be lovable." Benjamin Franklin

Not all conflicts are superficial and the solution to a conflict can't just be deduced from the Benevolent Universe Premise. It frequently takes a careful examination or inquiry as to what the facts are that gave rise to the conflict. Premise-checking is often a difficult and time-consuming undertaking.

2. Anything that has an effect on you, can be understood. > Law of Causality, and the nature of the Scientific Method. > And that means understood through Objective principles.

That something can be understood doesn't mean it will be understood nor that coming to understand it will be easy. Scientists using the scientific methods have discovered wonderful things, but it took time and sometimes centuries. Despite the time and effort rational scientists have spent, there are still many unanswered questions and unresolved problems and that is not a failing of the scientists.

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Not all conflicts are superficial and the solution to a conflict can't just be deduced from the Benevolent Universe Premise. It frequently takes a careful examination or inquiry as to what the facts are that gave rise to the conflict. Premise-checking is often a difficult and time-consuming undertaking.

Does anyone here think I wrote that long strain of advice as though knowledge about the situation was superficial?

;)

Then again, I could have made the ending statement clearer through extrapolation. The Ben Franklin quote is too vague and should have been removed. (A peck of the above laughter is directed, properly, at myself.)

I will extrapolate:

In one sense, all conflicts are superficial. You should deemphasize the negative emotional content of experiences. This is not subjectivist repression. But a reorientation around the problem, that carries an aspect of suppression. This is necessary because negative motivators are much less effective than positive ones. One leaves you in strict control, the other without it. ( As an interesting side point, I find that many Objectivists channel pain much too readily because they are without this principle. )

In another sense, and for the reasons you named, all conflicts can be taken seriously. To choose to consider a problem is to take it seriously. But this certainly does not mean emotionally painful.

That something can be understood doesn't mean it will be understood nor that coming to understand it will be easy. Scientists using the scientific methods have discovered wonderful things, but it took time and sometimes centuries. Despite the time and effort rational scientists have spent, there are still many unanswered questions and unresolved problems and that is not a failing of the scientists.

Are you extrapolating that for me?

If you are, be aware: you said that there were not principles for this situation and then I showed that there were. In this context, understand your own response as a pessimistic and undue appraisal of my intention and understanding.

If not, laugh at my pessimism as I would at yours.

(P.S. I am happy to even see someone use the phrase "hierarchy of values.")

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Then again, I could have made the ending statement clearer through extrapolation. The Ben Franklin quote is too vague and should have been removed.

Clarity is essential when thinking or communicating.

I will extrapolate:

In one sense, all conflicts are superficial. You should deemphasize the negative emotional content of experiences. This is not subjectivist repression. But a reorientation around the problem, that carries an aspect of suppression. This is necessary because negative motivators are much less effective than positive ones. One leaves you in strict control, the other without it.

What do you mean by "deemphasize the negative emotional content of experience?" Some examples would help. Also, could you provide some evidence that "negative motivators are much less effective than positive ones" since I have no reason to believe this is true.

( As an interesting side point, I find that many Objectivists channel pain much too readily because they are without this principle. )

That's also a surprising claim. Could you explain what you mean by "channel pain" and supply some evidence and justification for your claim about Objectivists?.

That something can be understood doesn't mean it will be understood nor that coming to understand it will be easy. Scientists using the scientific methods have discovered wonderful things, but it took time and sometimes centuries. Despite the time and effort rational scientists have spent, there are still many unanswered questions and unresolved problems and that is not a failing of the scientists.

Are you extrapolating that for me?

If you are, be aware: you said that there were not principles for this situation

Where did I say that?

and then I showed that there were. In this context, understand your own response as a pessimistic and undue appraisal of my intention and understanding.

If not, laugh at my pessimism as I would at yours.

I wasn't writing about your intention and understanding nor from pessimism. I was pointing out the distinction between the knowable -- which all things are -- to the known, which takes time, effort, and the correct psycho-epistemological methodology. Gaining understanding of particular things requires a lot more than just

2. Anything that has an effect on you, can be understood. > Law of Causality, and the nature of the Scientific Method. > And that means understood through Objective principles.
(P.S. I am happy to even see someone use the phrase "hierarchy of values.")

That's not so unusual around here. ;)

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What do you mean by "deemphasize the negative emotional content of experience?" Some examples would help.
1. Dagny's introduction, and how she suppresses weariness. 2. In Galt's speech, the car/gas metaphor on motivation. (My apologies for lack of page numbers. I am on a trip and don't have a copy of Atlas.)

I mean that you don't dwell on problems unnecessarily: that you think about only the things you can control. That within a problem, you think about only the aspects which render the solution.

Also, could you provide some evidence that "negative motivators are much less effective than positive ones" since I have no reason to believe this is true.

Thank you Betsy. ( I was not entirely clear on the answer to this when I first saw it. ) ( Fun. )

Given a mental problem. A positive motivator will increase work incentive. A negative motivator will decrease work incentive. (E.x., A man working on a car fixes it and gets a mental reward. Or he can't get it and tears away kicking the fender and yelling obscenities.) Positive motivators draw people in. Negative motivators cause a fight, flight, or freeze response. "Achieving life is not the same as avoiding death."

. . . a surprising claim. Could you explain what you mean by "channel pain" and supply some evidence and justification for your claim about Objectivists?.

They become a channel, emotionally, for pain; they get frustrated because they are not looking at the situation correctly. I find that the most readily available example is argumentation. (By Objectivists, I refer to general people applying the philosophy. Not to any pubic figure. And especially not Ayn Rand.)

Objectivists often don't know why they are talking about a certain point. Consequentially, they often get frustrated when they cannot please this need that they don't know that they even have. The need is the reason they entered the argument. It stems from a contradiction in the given person's knowledge. (Someone argues only when they are not sure of themselves on some point. It is an essential tool of clarifying one's thoughts. Tangentially, this is what I am doing right now.)

When a person encounters a contradiction they conceptualize it, vaguely, and begin to experience a negatively valanced mental state. Negative emotion deepens as the conversation extrapolates the contradiction's consequences upon their beliefs. (Arguments often involve the direction of this emotion at another participant.) Now, there are two ways to resolve the emotion: 1) eliminate the contradiction and correct one's knowledge, or 2) evade and suppress the contradiction.

Objectivists often shoot for #1 in an attempt to solve the problem right away, but can't when the problem is too complex. Negative emotion overruns them before they can find a solution. Consequentially, they resort to #2 and then run away from the argument: frustrated. They feel that it isn't worth it. (Recall the nature of positive and negative motivators mentioned previously.)

Now, the proper manner of execution is actually from #2 and to #1. Instead of actualizing the contradiction's affects, which pushes you (emotionally) away from the situation, you actualize the positive ends and then strive to meet them. You look to see how, in reason, you would reunite the units of your broken conceptual chain. You are drawn towards the problem, rather than fighting yourself the whole way in.

"It goes down only to a certain point and then it stops."

That something can be understood doesn't mean it will be understood nor that coming to understand it will be easy. Scientists using the scientific methods have discovered wonderful things, but it took time and sometimes centuries. Despite the time and effort rational scientists have spent, there are still many unanswered questions and unresolved problems and that is not a failing of the scientists.

Are you extrapolating that for me?

If you are, be aware: you said that there were not principles for this situation

Where did I say that?

In your last response before I posted. Please answer my question.

I wasn't writing about your intention and understanding nor from pessimism. I was pointing out the distinction between the knowable -- which all things are -- to the known, which takes time, effort, and the correct psycho-epistemological methodology. Gaining understanding of particular things requires a lot more than just . . .

You weren't writing about my intention, but you were writing from it. I understood quite clearly what you were writing about. I did not understand why you said it. Knowledge spoken is knowledge addressed to a person. Was it for me, or him. . . (Refer to the parts of the previous post which were not answered.)

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What do you mean by "deemphasize the negative emotional content of experience?" Some examples would help.
1. Dagny's introduction, and how she suppresses weariness. 2. In Galt's speech, the car/gas metaphor on motivation. (My apologies for lack of page numbers. I am on a trip and don't have a copy of Atlas.)

I mean that you don't dwell on problems unnecessarily: that you think about only the things you can control. That within a problem, you think about only the aspects which render the solution.

But you have to dwell on problems necessarily. Also, honestly dealing with emotions requires acknowledging the positive AND negative aspects of the context realistically and factually. How does one solve a problem if one does not properly evaluate the seriousness of the problem? How does one avoid useless effort if one does not acknowledge that, in some situations, nothing can, in fact, be done?

Ayn Rand in her essay "The Metaphysical Versus The Man-Made" (The Ayn Rand Letter, March 12, 1973) approvingly quoted the Serenity Prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change things I can, and wisdom to know the difference." Although she rejected all the mystical implications of the prayer, she stated "that statement is profoundly true, as a summary and a guideline: it names the mental attitude which a rational man must seek to achieve. The statement is beautiful in its eloquent simplicity; but the achievement of that attitude involves philosophy's deepest metaphysical-moral issues."

So, the issue isn't "positive" or "negative" but realistic or unrealistic.

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Also, could you provide some evidence that "negative motivators are much less effective than positive ones" since I have no reason to believe this is true.

Thank you Betsy. ( I was not entirely clear on the answer to this when I first saw it. ) ( Fun. )

Given a mental problem. A positive motivator will increase work incentive. A negative motivator will decrease work incentive. (E.x., A man working on a car fixes it and gets a mental reward. Or he can't get it and tears away kicking the fender and yelling obscenities.) Positive motivators draw people in.

This is just a restatement of your position, not a proof that it is true.

Negative motivators cause a fight, flight, or freeze response.

So, negative motivators can motivate dramatic actions like fighting or fleeing? That contradicts your claim that "negative motivators are much less effective than positive ones," doesn't it?

"Achieving life is not the same as avoiding death."

Quite true, but that is changing the subject. We were discussing whether negative incentives can effectively motivate people -- i.e. move them to act.

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As an interesting side point, I find that many Objectivists channel pain much too readily because they are without this principle. )
That's also a surprising claim. Could you explain what you mean by "channel pain" and supply some evidence and justification for your claim about Objectivists?.

They become a channel, emotionally, for pain; they get frustrated because they are not looking at the situation correctly. I find that the most readily available example is argumentation. (By Objectivists, I refer to general people applying the philosophy. Not to any pubic figure. And especially not Ayn Rand.)

Then who do you mean? Yourself? Objectivists you know?

Where is the evidence that these people are "frustrated because they are not looking at the situation correctly?"

Objectivists often don't know why they are talking about a certain point. Consequentially, they often get frustrated when they cannot please this need that they don't know that they even have. The need is the reason they entered the argument. It stems from a contradiction in the given person's knowledge. (Someone argues only when they are not sure of themselves on some point. It is an essential tool of clarifying one's thoughts. Tangentially, this is what I am doing right now.)

When a person encounters a contradiction they conceptualize it, vaguely, and begin to experience a negatively valanced mental state. Negative emotion deepens as the conversation extrapolates the contradiction's consequences upon their beliefs. (Arguments often involve the direction of this emotion at another participant.) Now, there are two ways to resolve the emotion: 1) eliminate the contradiction and correct one's knowledge, or 2) evade and suppress the contradiction.

Objectivists often shoot for #1 in an attempt to solve the problem right away, but can't when the problem is too complex. Negative emotion overruns them before they can find a solution. Consequentially, they resort to #2 and then run away from the argument: frustrated. They feel that it isn't worth it. (Recall the nature of positive and negative motivators mentioned previously.)

These are just more vague and fantastic claims about the alleged motivations of unnamed "Objectivists" made without any evidence that they pertain to any actual Objectivists except, possibly, yourself. Until evidence is provided, such claims must be treated as arbitrary.

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What do you mean by "deemphasize the negative emotional content of experience?" Some examples would help.
1. Dagny's introduction, and how she suppresses weariness. 2. In Galt's speech, the car/gas metaphor on motivation. (My apologies for lack of page numbers. I am on a trip and don't have a copy of Atlas.)

I mean that you don't dwell on problems unnecessarily: that you think about only the things you can control. That within a problem, you think about only the aspects which render the solution.

But you have to dwell on problems necessarily. Also, honestly dealing with emotions requires acknowledging the positive AND negative aspects of the context realistically and factually. How does one solve a problem if one does not properly evaluate the seriousness of the problem? How does one avoid useless effort if one does not acknowledge that, in some situations, nothing can, in fact, be done?

Ayn Rand in her essay "The Metaphysical Versus The Man-Made" (The Ayn Rand Letter, March 12, 1973) approvingly quoted the Serenity Prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change things I can, and wisdom to know the difference." Although she rejected all the mystical implications of the prayer, she stated "that statement is profoundly true, as a summary and a guideline: it names the mental attitude which a rational man must seek to achieve. The statement is beautiful in its eloquent simplicity; but the achievement of that attitude involves philosophy's deepest metaphysical-moral issues."

So, the issue isn't "positive" or "negative" but realistic or unrealistic.

I am quite aware of that essay. ;) (hahaha)

After Possible(realistic) or Impossible(unrealistic), comes Positive or Negative focus. Some problems are Impossible and of inherently Negative content. A deemphasis of the negative emotional content of experience is most important in response to the determined and inescapable problem. For example: the pain with associated with physical injury, death, or the pain associated with a contradictory idea that you held and are now correcting. You do not focus on these things unnecessarily. (You must have the ability to solve it first.) You do not have to focus on these problems and shouldn't.

"Metaphysical problems." (I don't know if this is the right phrase.) My aforementioned process is exactly what one uses to achieve Serenity. The opposite result is existential angst qua The Myth of Sisyphus. (Tangentially, I was aware of that prayer since I was 8 years old. Objectivism came 10 years later.)

In answer to your questions:

1. One can solve a problem without evaluating the seriousness of it.

2. You wouldn't be able to avoid useless effort if you didn't actualize the problem honestly.

. . . honestly dealing with emotions requires acknowledging the positive AND negative aspects of the context realistically and factually.

You acknowledge them, and then suppress what is unnecessary. Once used to trace the causality of pain the emotion surrounding the fact that you are wrong is irrelevant to the solution of the problem. What becomes relevant emotionally is desire.

As I said before what I am talking about is not subjectivist repression.

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Some problems are Impossible and of inherently Negative content. A deemphasis of the negative emotional content of experience is most important in response to the determined and inescapable problem. For example: the pain with associated with physical injury, death, or the pain associated with a contradictory idea that you held and are now correcting. You do not focus on these things unnecessarily. (You must have the ability to solve it first.) You do not have to focus on these problems and shouldn't.
What does this even mean? I've read it multiple times, and I have no idea what you're getting at. Why do you not have to focus on physical injury? I've had 3 surgeries in the past six months. Physical injuries have, in the short term, become a major part of my life. I focus on them, and deal with them, so I can get better. I focus on the pain to know whether it is "good pain" (that which accompanies muscle fatigue during weight training) or a "bad pain" (that which is a symptom of stressing the injury). I don't see how this is anything other than a far less eloquent re-statement of the Serenity Prayer.
"Metaphysical problems." (I don't know if this is the right phrase.) My aforementioned process is exactly what one uses to achieve Serenity. The opposite result is existential angst qua The Myth of Sisyphus. (Tangentially, I was aware of that prayer since I was 8 years old. Objectivism came 10 years later.)
What "process" have you described?

Betsy asked:

How does one solve a problem if one does not properly evaluate the seriousness of the problem?

You answered:

1. One can solve a problem without evaluating the seriousness of it.

You do realize that this is simply a re-statement of your position, right? Please attempt to answer the question in a straightforward manner. As to your second response, I'm not even sure how to categorize it, because you've just re-stated Betsy's position.

. . . honestly dealing with emotions requires acknowledging the positive AND negative aspects of the context realistically and factually.

You acknowledge them, and then suppress what is unnecessary. Once used to trace the causality of pain the emotion surrounding the fact that you are wrong is irrelevant to the solution of the problem. What becomes relevant emotionally is desire.

As I said before what I am talking about is not subjectivist repression.

Okay, so you've asserted that one should ignore any emotion that is objectively deemed "unnecessary", which you seem to believe all negative emotions are (because they're not a good motivators) but never offered any evidence or support for this. You've also offered no method for doing so. Obviously, it would be great to repress an emotion like stress during a big exam or sporting event, but this usually takes large amounts of experience and/or training.

Now a question for you: What are emotions? This is a direct and straightforward question. If you choose to answer, please do your best to do so in a straightforward manner.

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Also, could you provide some evidence that "negative motivators are much less effective than positive ones" since I have no reason to believe this is true.

Given a mental problem. A positive motivator will increase work incentive. A negative motivator will decrease work incentive. (E.x., A man working on a car fixes it and gets a mental reward. Or he can't get it and tears away kicking the fender and yelling obscenities.) Positive motivators draw people in.

This is just a restatement of your position, not a proof that it is true.

Extrapolation, not restatement. The proof follows from biology and introspection. ( I didn't have this article in mind when I started this discussion but: http://scienceblogs.com/neurophilosophy/20...what_we_see.php )

Negative motivators cause a fight, flight, or freeze response.
So, negative motivators can motivate dramatic actions like fighting or fleeing? That contradicts your claim that "negative motivators are much less effective than positive ones," doesn't it?

No. My apologies, I should have been clearer on what was being effected. We are talking about mental states, not physical actions. Negative motivators are extremely effective in short-term "biologically-determined" threats, e.x., someone clapping next to your ear unexpectedly invoking adrenaline. As mental states take on a higher level of experience they are translated into physical actions. It is at this point that negative motivators become ineffective for mental action. The mind rescinds to functioning through the "id."

"Achieving life is not the same as avoiding death."

Quite true, but that is changing the subject. We were discussing whether negative incentives can effectively motivate people -- i.e. move them to act.

It's not. (And in the long-term, mentally, it is extremely important.)

Positive motivators draw us to objects because they cause life.

Negative motivators push us away from them because they cause death.

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"Achieving life is not the same as avoiding death."

Quite true, but that is changing the subject. We were discussing whether negative incentives can effectively motivate people -- i.e. move them to act.

It's not. (And in the long-term, mentally, it is extremely important.)

Positive motivators draw us to objects because they cause life.

Negative motivators push us away from them because they cause death.

Instead of offering evidence, these are merely restatements and additional arbitrary assertions.

Like realitycheck44, I find your posts very hard to follow because they contain incomplete sentences (i.e., incomplete thoughts), passive voice, and rapid changes of subject and focus. They use many abstract terms that are ambiguous and undefined and that makes it hard for me to understand what you are actually talking about and/or what it has to do with anything.

It would help to be clearer as to what you are trying to prove, to define your concepts in terms of genus and differentia, and to provide relevant evidence that supports, rather than restates or is unrelated to, what you are trying to prove.

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(Thank you for the split.)

Like realitycheck44, I find your posts very hard to follow because they contain incomplete sentences (i.e., incomplete thoughts), passive voice, and rapid changes of subject and focus. They use many abstract terms that are ambiguous and undefined and that makes it hard for me to understand what you are actually talking about and/or what it has to do with anything.

I will work on my grammar. If at any point my posts become too obtuse I remind you now of the potential and open choice to forget them. I appreciate any help in clarifying my grammatical structures.

I got through a very long post and then scrapped it. I realized I was wrong on several points because I was rationalizing.

What follows is why I was wrong:

1) What is and is not possible is more efficient a principle than "deemphasis of pain." A deemphasis of pain occurs as soon as you begin moving towards solving a contradiction. Telling someone to "not worry about it" is irrelevant. "Figure it out" is.

2) Without first differentiating it from "experience," the term "motivators" is unclear. These are two separate attributes of an emotion. (I.e., What the emotion causes as action, and what it is as experience.

3) By the standard of mental efficiency, negative emotions are not more or less effective than positive emotions. It is without proof. By the standard of experience, the justification for the suppression of unnecessary negative emotion stands. ( As an interesting side note, I was extrapolating "types of motivators" and thought about the feeling of solving math problems. It is "desire" yet without positive or negative content. It has a very "gut" feeling to me. Most of the time it is the same for writing or writing music. )

4) It would have been better of me to say "these Objectivists." Unfortunately I assumed it would be redundant. By Objectivists I was referring to my generalized impression. I was not making a statement about them as a principle. (I am aware that that wouldn't be possible except through a refutation of an idea within the philosophy that they all hold.)

Where is the evidence that these people are "frustrated because they are not looking at the situation correctly?"

In my brain, as I assumed it would be self evident in yours. Psychology is based, for the most part, on introspection and principled induction. Right?

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In my brain, as I assumed it would be self evident in yours. Psychology is based, for the most part, on introspection and principled induction. Right?

Sometimes, but not always.

Introspection is a good starting point, but you can't stop there. Introspection only tells you what is true of yourself and, therefore, may be possible to another person. It may also not be true for another person. The fact is, we have free will and another person's motivation and psycho-epistemology can be very different than one's own.

That is why it took Ayn Rand and her hero, Howard Roark, so long to figure out second-handers. Being independent thinkers, they could not introspect and imagine what would make them think and act like the Peter Keatings of the world. They had to figure in out by extrospection, gathering observations of other people's behavior, questioning them, making inferences, etc.

It is similar to the way we discover things in the external world. A child observes various objects, observes that the round ones roll, and tries to figure out why. He doesn't just sit there and think, "If I were a ball, why would I roll?"

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Have you ever written comments regarding the ideas of David Kelly?

From the limited readings of Kelley that I have made, I gather the same types of impressions that you have just described.

I also sense that the writings of Kelley may be based upon fundamental premises, e.g., those of Plato, rather than of Aristotle or Ayn Rand.

Inventor

* * * * * * * * *

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Have you ever written comments regarding the ideas of David Kelly?

1.

Absolutely not. I have never read anything by him. (As a long side note: There was a very bad article on his website disagreeing Daniel Dennet's ideas on volition and determinism. The argument ended in "because I said so," on the side of "Aristotelian Causation." It failed to answer Dennet's points about 1 to 1 relationships in time.)

From the limited readings of Kelley that I have made, I gather the same types of impressions that you have just described.

I also sense that the writings of Kelley may be based upon fundamental premises, e.g., those of Plato, rather than of Aristotle or Ayn Rand.

2.

Your psychological starting point should be more clearly delimited as such. It took me more than a second to get adjusted to the fact that you weren't making a subjectivist statement that I am similar to David Kelly because we have "flawed fundamental premises." (If you are actually doing something with these "impressions" and "senses" beyond developing them into clear ideas then I am afraid for you.)

3.

If someone knows of an objective similarity in my above ideas and David Kelly's, I would enjoy the extrapolation. (Though if it has to do with a similarity in form, it will have to be more complex than, "You have bad grammar, and fail to concretize your abstractions well enough.")

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