Motivation

Posted: June 6, 2010 in Advertising, Artistry, Culture, Idle Nonsense, Media, Science

This YouTube video is interesting:

The underlying message of the video is that we don’t truly understand our own motivations. In short, scientific studies demonstrate that attempts to modify behavior through a system of rewards and penalties don’t always obtain expected results. It pleases me to see evidence in the video that financial rewards sometimes fail, that above a certain level of comfort, we’re really interested in different things. It bugs me, however, that the video is about extrinsic motivations offered to shape behavior, especially in the workplace. By discussing forces operating on us, it’s a dangerously short step from empowering employees to manipulating them. Subtle manipulation is also the domain of subliminal advertising, which people rebel against once they catch on.

The pitfalls of intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, are embodied in numerous aphorisms, sayings, and folk wisdom, the principal one being, “Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.” The familiar parable of the genie and the three wishes also warns that obtaining one’s fondest wishes might not be a good thing as the results tend to boomerang and leave the wisher worse off than before the wish was granted. Intrinsic motivation isn’t really discussed in the video, which is perhaps understandable since the most common character type in modern American culture is outer directed and lacks all but the most hardwired (instinctual) intrinsic motivations. That means they also lack the restraints and controls that go with intrinsic motivation and inner directedness and are easy marks for advertisers.

The other remarkable thing is the sugarcoating the presentation gets by virtue of the live-action illustration. If the attention span of the average viewer is too short to withstand the stand-and-deliver lecture style of the classroom, the added element of watching the illustrator recreate the presentation, sometimes using text functioning as callouts to reinforce key points, rivets the viewer. The slickness of the presentation shows how its creators supply the motivation to stay with the entire 10 min. video rather than click away to something else, which is more typical of Web surfing.

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