- Sep 2021
About 1930 it began to be evident that the nerve cell is not physiologically inert, does not have to be excited from outside in order to discharge (19, p. 8). The nervous system is alive, and living things by their nature are active. With the demonstration of spontaneous activity in c.n.s. it seemed to me that the conception of a drive system or systems was supererogation. For reasons I shall come to later, this now appears to me to have been an oversimplification; but in 1945 the only problem of motivation, I thought, was to account for the direction taken by behavior. From this point of view, hunger or pain might be peculiarly effective in guiding or channeling activity but not needed for its arousal. It was not surprising, from this point of view, to see human beings liking intellectual work, nor to find evidence that an animal might learn something without pressure of pain or hunger. The energy of response is not in the stimulus. It comes from the food, water, and oxygen ingested by the animal; and the violence of an epileptic convulsion, when brain cells for whatever reason decide to fire in synchrony, bears witness to what the nervous system can do when it likes. This is like a whole powder magazine exploding at once. Ordinary behavior can be thought of as produced by an organized series of much smaller explosions, and so a "self-motivating" c.n.s. might still be a very powerfully motivated one. To me, then, it was astonishing that a critic could refer to mine as a "motivationless" psychology. What I had said in short was that any organized process in the brain is a motivated process, inevitably, inescapably; that the human brain is built to be active, and that as long as it is supplied with adequate nutrition will continue to be active. Brain activity is what determines behavior, and so the only behavioral problem becomes that of accounting for inactivity.
New ways to think on motivation and c.n.s. That the views of the past were too simple, and that you don't have to use pain to motivate animals whether lower or high functioning. You can also motivate with food, water, oxygen which causes the energy of response. When prior it was thought stimulus was what caused the energy or response. They noted brain cells fired together in sync, showing us that the nervous system can do what it wants and not just based on stimulus or physical motivation.
What I propose, therefore, is to look at motivation as it relates to the c.n.s. -- or conceptual nervous system -- of three different periods: as it was before l930, as it was say 10 years ago, and as it is today. I hope to persuade you that some of our current troubles with motivation are due to the c.n.s. of an earlier day, and ask that you look with an open mind at the implications of the current one. Today's physiology suggests new psychological ideas, and I would like to persuade you that they make psychological sense, no matter how they originated. They might even provide common ground -- not necessarily agreement, but communication, something nearer to agreement -- for people whose views at present may seem completely opposed. While writing this paper I found myself having to make a change in my own theoretical position, as you will see, and though you may not adopt the same position you may be willing to take another look at the evidence, and consider its theoretical import anew. Before going on it is just as well to be explicit about the use of the terms motivation and drive. "Motivation" refers here in a rather general sense to the energizing of behavior, and especially to the sources of energy in a particular set of responses that keep them temporarily dominant over others and account for continuity and direction in behavior. "Drive" is regarded as a more specific conception about the way in which this occurs: a hypothesis of motivation, which makes the energy a function of a special process distinct from those S-R or cognitive functions that are energized. In some contexts, therefore, "motivation" and "drive" are interchangeable.
Looking at past views, the 1930s, a time as the article says that is 10 years in the past and the present. It is important to look at this throughout the years to know where it started, how its evolved and where it could possibly evolve.
We also need to be able to keep an open mind and be able to communicate with those who either totally disagree or are not quite on board with our own views.
The author is breaking down motivation as it relates to the c.n.s during these time periods.