Monday, October 18, 2010

Cognitive Approaches to Motivation

WHAT: In the case study proposed two men, Jack and Ben, have began a workout plan with a hired personal trainer, Rudy.  The two of them begin going to the gym diligently at least five times per week.  They’ve shown amazing progress during the first two months and although Jack has made greater gains, Ben has not let this bother him.  Due to Ben’s insistence everything they’ve done so far has been as a pair and focused solely on weight training, although Jack has inquired many times about group aerobic workouts.  In the past month Rudy has began to notice Jack doesn’t seem very happy about working out and doesn’t push himself as hard as he did during the first two months.   His motivation has greatly changed which is noticeable when he says things like, “I guess I’ve reached the limits of my ability” and “I just can’t do any better”.  As a health care professional it’s my duty to identify the reasons behind these motivational changes and develop ideas to re-motivate the individual.

SO WHAT: Cognitive approaches toward behavior assume that people are active perceivers and interpreters of information (Gill & Williams, 2008). People participate in physical activity for both intrinsic and extrinsic reasons or rewards.  For example, intrinsic rewards can be enjoying competition, feeling good when performing, or simply having fun.  Extrinsic rewards can be tangible or intangible like trophies, T-shirts, or verbal praise.  As a health care professional we must understand the effects of these rewards on internal motivation and consider how different individuals interpret rewards.  It’s obvious from this case study that two identical people in identical situations can have two different motivational experiences.  With this individual I would begin by identifying his level of intrinsic motivation and develop a plan to increase his motivation back to how it was when he began working out for the first time.

NOW WHAT: People are by nature intrinsically motivated so I would start by finding out what Jack is intrinsically motivated by.  Intrinsic motivation requires three conditions including feeling competent, the task must be interesting and challenging, and lastly the individual must have a choice in the activity (Gill & Williams, 2008).  Jack has been working out diligently for three months, has hired a personal trainer, and has shown excellent improvement so it’s hard to say he’s not competent but depending on what he says this may be a reason for his decrease in motivation.  Since it’s been three solid months of only weight training it’s possible however that weight training is no longer interesting or challenging to him.  This may be the reason why he feels like he’s reached his limits and he can’t do any better, decreasing his motivation.  Of these three conditions required by intrinsic motivation Jack not being able to pick the activity involving in may be the most likely cause of his motivational decrease.  Although he’s brought up joining in group aerobic exercise multiple times, Ben refuses to listen and the pair continues to do only weight training.  If Jack took a break from doing only strength training its likely his motivation would change back to how it was when he first began his workout plan.
As for extrinsic motivation, Rudy could award Jack with T-shirt or maybe a week of free training if he meets all his performance goals.  Another extrinsic reward which may possibly be more effective is verbal praise.  As Jacks personal trainer I’m sure Rudy is constantly telling the two men their both doing a great job.  Rudy may want to try pulling Jack aside and talking to him individually about his improvements and how well he’s doing.
After determining Jacks level of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation I’d evaluate him following the Self-Determination Theory, which states that individual motivation and behavior is dependant on three primary psychological aspects including: autonomy, competence, and relatedness with others (Frederick & Schuster, 2010).  This Self-Determination Theory focuses on how intrinsic motivation influences an individual during physical activity.   The first of the aspects, autonomy, is fulfilled when an individual participates in physical activity without the presence of external pressures.  Jack has been participating in weight training consistently without external pressures so his need for autonomy is fulfilled.  However since he hasn’t been able to participate in aerobic activity his need for autonomy is not fully fulfilled.  The second psychological aspect in the Self-Determination Theory is competence.  As I said before he’s been doing weight training for 3 solid months so he’s obviously competent, but when it comes to aerobic activity he hasn’t had a chance to participate in any so he’s doesn’t feel competent which is an issue.  The last psychological aspect included in the Self Determination Theory is relatedness with others, which I don’t think is an issue for Jack.  For sure he relates to Ben because the two have been working out together for 3 months and have shown equal improvements so they should feel related.
I would tell Rudy to encourage the two of them to switch it up for awhile.  Maybe instead of doing weight training five times per week, they can do aerobic exercise on the odd days and weight training on the even.  This switch from the original may be all that’s needed for Jack to regain his motivation.

CONCLUSION:  The combination of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards can be powerfully motivating in sports.  Intrinsic motivation requires three conditions including feeling competent, the task must be interesting and challenging, and lastly the individual must have a choice in the activity.  Jacks level of intrinsic motivation has significantly decreased since he began his workout for many reasons.  Once Jack is able to choose his activity and he begins to feel challenged again his level of motivation will be increased.

Frederick-Recascino, Christina M., and Hana Schuster-Smith. "Competition and intrinsic motivation in physical activity: a comparison of two groups." Journal of Sport Behavior 26.3 (2003): 240+. Academic OneFile. Web. 17 Oct. 2010.
Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

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