Monday, May 3, 2010

Meta Motivation

Why does an addict like cocaine? When he's nearly passed out sitting in a dark alley and smashing windows to feed his habit, it's probably purely just because of the feeling that he gets, the same way that when you're wolfing down eight cookies at 2 in the morning you're probably doing it just because it tastes good, not because of the positive associations with eating eight cookies at 2 in the morning. There just aren't the positive associations with that the same way that there are positive associations with say, volunteering or doing yoga.

When someone asks themselves, "why do I like doing something?" the stock answer probably doesn't tell the whole story and the real reason is likely more complex that they realize or are willing to admit.

For example, the reasons you like going camping are more complex than why you're eating those cookies - you don't like going camping just because you get to sleep in a tent and wear bug spray- a more accurate representation would be because you enjoy the relaxation or seeing the sights. Those would be the reasons that would immediately come to mind when you're being interviewed in a beige room by a grad student writing on a squeaky desk. But people aren't good at accurately reporting their true feelings. One factor that is often overlooked is the meta- the feeling that thinking about yourself doing something gives you. (Need to reread that?) The fact that you're out rock climbing and you, yes you, you're just like those people on that adventure TV show. People like to be part of things. Lots of people want to be like Parisians. Lay in your hotel room in Paris with your eyes closed and your ears plugged and you’re still excited because “I’m in Paris!” Here it's not because of the immediate hedonic feeling but the feeling you get thinking about yourself doing a certain thing.

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