Free Sample of a Literature Review on the Role of Neurotransmitters in Motivation and Learning

Published: 2022-05-17
Free Sample of a Literature Review on the Role of Neurotransmitters in Motivation and Learning
Type of paper:  Literature review
Categories:  Learning Motivation
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1702 words
15 min read

Definition and Types of Motivation

Motivation refers to a situation whereby an individual is driven or has a desire to do something. The primary components of motivation in learning include excitement, enthusiasm, and interest. There are various kinds of motivations. The first kind of motivation is intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is the tendency of an individual to perform a specific task because he or she finds it exciting and enjoyable. Students with this type of motivation tend to remain determined in pursuing a challenging task and learn from mistakes. Extrinsic motivation involves engaging in specific activity due to external factors such as the expectation of reward or punishment. For instance, to pass exams or acquire impressive grades (Nilsen, 2009).

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The differences between intrinsically motivated and self-motivated students. It has been established that intrinsic motivation tends to influence students positively. Students who are intrinsically motivated to do a task are usually self-regulated. They can work overtime and use several skills to manage their challenges. Additionally, self-motivated students use in-depth approach to integrating new ideas with the current knowledge with the aim of understanding what they are studying. Those applying surface approaches are driven by extrinsic motivation, and their goal is to pass exams (Nilsen, 2009).

Self-efficacy as a form of motivation. Another type of motivation is self-efficacy. This is the ability of people to believe in their own ability to organize and execute certain types of performance needed to achieve specific objectives. People get an urge to perform a specific task if they believe they can succeed. On the other hand, if they believe they cannot succeed in certain task, they avoid. Attribution is a term that explains why a particular event happens the way it is and tend to influence self- efficacy. It can be defined in terms of locus of causality, stability, and controllability. Students have a higher self-efficacy, pride, satisfaction, and confidence if they associate their success and failure to internal controllable consequences. Furthermore, these students will choose to work on a more demanding task, tolerate longer in the face of failure and produce work of higher quality. On the contrary, students who describe their success and failure in terms of internal, uncontrollable stable factors are more likely to experience humiliation and shame and will display little effort or cognitive engagement. Value and expected outcome also influence motivation. If students believe the result is of no importance to them, they will not be motivated to put more effort.

Literature Review

The impact of intrinsic motivation on learning is a widely explored topic in psychology and education. This topic is of immense interest to psychologists and educational researchers because of its impact on students' academic achievement. In this literature review, the role of neurotransmitters in motivation and learning will be explored. Additionally, children's reading motivation and self-efficacy and motivation will be discussed.

Factors Affecting Student's Motivation

To ensure the success of motivational theories in university practice, the following factors affecting students' motivation should be considered: the experience of success, well-being and confidence, lecturer's motivation and enthusiasm, learning by doing, and perceived value. If a student experience success, he or she will have enhanced motivation and self-efficacy. However, failure lowers motivation and self-efficacy. Hence, there is need to increase motivation and self-efficacy among students since this is more likely to make them put more effort and persist longer. In teaching and learning context, motivation is also affected by wellbeing and confidence. Wellbeing and confidence can be realized by encouraging university students to be in social groups where they feel accepted and valued and possess skills and resources required to be productive (Nilsen, 2009).

The third factor that influences motivation and self-efficacy among students is lecturer's motivation and enthusiasm. Hence there is need to employ people who are intrinsically motivated to teach. Furthermore, university should arrange courses in pedagogy and encourage all lectures to pursue the course. Another factor that affects self-efficacy and motivation is practical work. Practical work enhances excitement, interest, and enthusiasm among students as compared to theoretical work. Practical assignments are significant both for motivation and learning. Lastly, perceived value influences motivation and self-efficacy since it informs students about the purpose and importance of various academic subjects (Nilsen, 2009).

Role of Neurotransmitter in Motivation and Learning

One of the neurotransmitters that have been associated with initiation and sustenance of learning, memory, and motivation is dopamine. According to Wise (2004), several hypotheses explaining the role of dopamine in enhancing the effectiveness of rewarding stimuli have been put forward. These hypotheses have confirmed that dopamine in the brain is vital for goal-directed behavior. This is because most normal rewards do not work in animals with impaired dopamine systems. The dopamine hypothesis of reinforcement deals with learning and maintenance of habits that are associated with rewards. The viability of this hypothesis has been proven through animal experiments. For instance, Wise (2004) reported that animals with blocked dopamine system do not learn stimulus-reward associations. Rapid extinction has also been reported in an animal with impaired dopamine system thus showing that blocking of dopamine receptors leads to a rapid decline in reinforcement. Moreover, when dopamine systems are impaired, the stamping-in of stimulus-reward association that occurs as a result of Pavlovian conditioning also malfunctions. Another hypothesis that is useful in explaining the importance of dopamine in learning and motivation is the dopamine hypothesis of reward which explains that dopamine contributes to pre-reward motivational arousal.

The dopamine hypothesis of incentive motivation has also been used to explain the importance of dopamine in learning and motivation. The hypothesis posits that when there is impairment of the dopamine system in an animal engaging in learning, the normal reward does not lead to the stimulus-reward association on potentially predictive stimuli. Similarly, when the dopamine system is impaired in animals that have mastered a task, the already formed reward predictors are associated with devalued reward, and thus stimulus-reward association is diminished.

Children's Reading Motivation

Edmunds and Bauserman (2006) sought to determine the role of motivation in reading. The sample for the study comprised of pre-kindergarten through grade 5 students who attended an elementary school in the Southern United States. Most of the student-participants were White (59%), Blacks were 39%, and 3% were from other ethnic groups. Three language teachers were part of the research participants. Each of these teachers taught two language art classes. The researchers asked the teacher to rate the reading level and the motivation level of all their students. This was followed by categorization of students based on motivational levels. After that, the student participants were interviewed to understand what motivates them to read.

Findings from Edmunds and Bauserman (2006) showed that children's motivation to read varied depending on what they were interested in reading. For instance, children's motivation to read the narrative text was linked to choice, book characteristics, and personal interest. On the choice domain, children were more likely to read when they were given an opportunity to choose the book they would like to read rather than when they were assigned by the teachers. On the other hand, attributes of a book such as interesting, exciting, and humorous were often mentioned by the students as having influenced them to read the narrative text. Lastly, children attributed their reading of narrative texts to personal interests.

On the other hand, children attributed their interest in reading expository books to knowledge gained, choice, and personal interests. On the knowledge gained domain, children's motivation to read the book was linked to the information they could acquire from reading the informational books. These children were interested in sharing information learned from reading these books. Children were also more likely to read expository books they chose themselves than those assigned to them by the teachers. Children were also motivated by personal interest when selecting expository books to read. The children gave almost similar motivational factors for reading in general. Other sources of children's reading motivation included family members; teachers, and themselves.

Self-Efficacy and Motivation

Self-efficacy refers to a person's belief in his or her capability to accomplish a particular task or goal. The role of self-efficacy in learning and training contexts has been explored by educational and psychological researchers. Even though the concept of self-efficacy has been reported to influence motivation and performance positively, some researchers have reported negative association among these constructs. For instance, Vancouver and Kendall (2006) found out that even though self-efficacy was positively related to academic performance at the between-persons level, it was negatively correlated to motivation and academic achievement at the within-person level.

Vancouver and Kendall (2006) also noted that some of the self-regulation theories posit that self-efficacy can have an adverse effect on motivation. For instance, the social cognitive theory asserts that even though a higher level of self-efficacy is associated with higher motivational levels (such as increased focus on a specific goal, more effort towards a task, or persistence in a task) and better performance, self-efficacy can have a negative impact on motivation. More specifically, Vancouver and Kendall (2006) noted that the absence of self-doubt about one's capacity to execute a specific task (or high levels of self-efficacy) makes an individual highly prepared for a challenge and thus decreases motivation compared to if their self-efficacy was low. Additionally, under-preparedness is likely to impair goal achievement if they are based on flawed high self-efficacy beliefs. In Bandura's (1986) social cognitive theory, contexts in which self-efficacy might negatively influence performance are referred to as preparatory. Based on this social cognitive theory approach, Vancouver and Kendall (2006) posited that in training and learning contexts, increasing self-efficacy might result in decreased motivation because these contexts are preparatory.

Control theory has also been used to understand the role of self-efficacy in goal-directed activities. The theory posits that high self-efficacy beliefs make learner to devote less time to their studies because the discrepancy between the desired level of preparedness and the perception of readiness is smaller than when their self-efficacy levels are low. To explore the effect of self-efficacy beliefs on motivation and academic achievement, Vancouver and Kendall (2006) recruited 63 industrial/organizational psychology undergraduate students and assessed their self-efficacy and motivation levels before five class exams. The results of the study showed that self-efficacy was positively related to academic performance at between-persons level but negatively associated with motivation and academic achievement at the within-person level.

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