Tag Archives: motivation

Maslow’s Pyramid: what is it, how can we apply it?

Our needs move us to overcome every challenge that is thrown our way daily. What is Maslow’s pyramid? What is it for? What are its levels? What are basic needs? What is self-actualization? In this article, we will take a look at Maslow’s hierarchy (or pyramid) of needs more to answer these questions. Discover everything you need to know about motivation through this theory.

Maslow’s pyramid

What is Maslow’s Pyramid?

Oxford dictionary defines a “need” as “to require (something) because it is essential or very important rather than just desirable.”

Regarding human needs, one of the most important contributions to psychology is the so-called Maslow pyramid. In it, the author ordered human needs in a hierarchy.

In order to be able to go up steps, it is necessary to satisfy the needs in the previous steps. Our progress will depend on our own actions, on the active attitude we adopt to keep moving forward. How? Through motivation.

The first three steps of the pyramid are “deficiency needs” (D-needs), which are the first three steps of the pyramid, and “being needs” (B-needs), corresponding to the top two steps of the pyramid. Without meeting the needs of each step, one cannot climb to another step. Only successful and motivated people can reach self-actualization which, whether conscious of it or not, is every human being’s goal.

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Human behavior can be altered if different needs are not met. The lower the step to be satisfied, the more it affects behavior.

Maslow is considered one of the founding fathers of humanistic psychology. This type of psychology explores issues from a philosophical perspective of life in order to answer meaningful questions. It differs greatly from other psychological perspectives, especially behavioral psychology, which only focuses on observable stimuli (like behavior), or from psychoanalysis which focuses on the unconscious.

Maslow believed human needs could be ordered, therefore he created a hierarchy, and with that, a pyramid. Maslow’s pyramid has five levels, the highest level being self-actualization. The way to climb to the top, according to Maslow, is to have an active attitude. Until our basic needs are not met, we can’t climb the next step. We are all responsible for our own progress. Motivation is the key to progressing and moving up.

“What a man can be, he must be. This need we call self-actualization.” Abraham Maslow

Maslow’s Pyramid: Five basic needs

1. Physiological or basic needs

These needs are the most primal and basic needs for all human beings starting at birth. They are impossible to ignore. They cover actions such as sleeping, breathing, temperature homeostasis, feeding, and mating. Who can ignore when your stomach growls?

These actions help us maintain homeostasis, which is the relatively stable equilibrium in our bodies. According to this theory, if we have severe health problems, it’s less likely we will worry about trivial things. Without thinking outside the box, we have all experienced tiredness or sleepiness. In this state, it is very difficult to concentrate on anything else.

2. Safety and protection needs

This stage is not only about physical safety but also material safety such as:

  • Personal security
  • Financial security
  • Health and well-being
  • Safety net against accidents/illness

For example, being fired and not having savings can make this stage very difficult to complete or fulfill.

3. Love and social belonging

This stage holds all of our relationships. We need to have positive and healthy relationships, be it friendship or partners. Love and affection make our existence easier since it involves feelings of belongingness. The group we belong to regardless of size or type (family, friends, sports club, etc.) will always motivate us to make changes and fulfill different stages.

Remember that for others to accept us, we must first accept ourselves. However, the other people’s support is a crucial impulse to help us search for the best version of ourselves.

4. Esteem needs

This stage refers to the typical human desire to be accepted and valued by others. It embraces more complex aspects of life such as confidence, trust, self-esteem, respect, and success. Self-esteem is vital for personal growth, a lack of it can lead to inferiority complexes and disorders. If we don’t appreciate ourselves it becomes complicated to worry about anything else, let alone fulfilling all the stages. These needs are usually divided into two:

  • Inferior: Based on others’ respect, attention, and appreciation. It’s linked to reputation, status, and position one might have or achieve in society or their social circle.
  • Superior: This is based more on ourselves, the self-respect you give yourself. This includes our self-worth, as well as accepting our cognitive skills, thoughts, and emotions.
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5. Self-actualization needs

They are at the top of the pyramid and longed by humans. To reach it, humans need to cover the previous four steps. What do we find here? Potential development: morality, creativity, spontaneity, acceptance. Prejudices disappear. The positive vision that is maintained of life makes you want to live it to the fullest.

This level is reserved for the most successful people, but success is subjective. In this stage, issues can be resolved without duress and reality is seen through positivity.

Not everyone has the same goals, therefore, in order to understand what the ultimate goals are for self-actualization, we need to master the others. For example, one person might feel self-actualization by their very important job at the UN, while another can achieve self-actualization teaching children in a small town. Everyone has different dreams and it doesn’t mean you have to become famous in order to achieve self-actualization.

Maslow, in his later years, criticized his own version of self-actualization, specifying that a human being can find his or her self-actualization in giving themselves to some higher goal outside oneself, in altruism and spirituality. He named this Self-Transcendence, however it was not added to his original pyramid.

“Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic levels of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos” – Abraham Maslow

Description of a self-actualized person

People who have managed to reach the last level of Maslow’s pyramid are characterized by the following features:

  • Lead their problems towards solutions, beyond self-interest
  • Their sense of humor is not based on cruelty.
  • They respect each other and nature.
  • They show spontaneity, creativity, and originality.
  • They can enjoy solitude.
  • Their personal relationships are not very numerous, but the ones they have are very close (they reject superficiality).
  • They avoid social conventions and stereotypes, relying more on their individual experiences and judgments.
  • They do not believe that the end justifies the means.
  • They tend to enjoy experiences more intensely
  • are non-conformist and independent.

How does Maslow’s pyramid relate to depression?

There are studies that have found a link between depression and the first levels of Maslow’s pyramid. Dissatisfaction of the basic and security needs could lead to depression. However, this is not a cause-effect relationship, it is just another variable that intervenes in developing this disorder.

We highlight the so-called unreal needs (virtual or false). We do not have to cover them to achieve since they are not relevant to life. In fact, satisfying them can mean precisely falling into this depression. For example, those who achieve more success than others and are ashamed of it, those who make up their needs by comparing themselves with , those who anticipate events that never happen, etc.

Maslow’s Pyramid: Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages of Maslow’s motivational theory

  • It’s simple: Its approaches can be easily understood and followed by anyone.
  • It’s visually pleasing: The pyramid is self-explanatory and very memorable.
  • It’s easily applicable to reality: As you saw in the past example, it’s easy to extrapolate this theory into our daily lives.
  • It’s innovative: Maslow’s work was a different, more complete and flexible, perspective from the behaviorism and reductionist perspectives of that time.

Disadvantages of Maslow’s motivational theory

  • It’s ambiguous: Needs such as breathing are easily measured, however, concepts such as self-actualization are very abstract. Currently psychology is focusing on scientific perspectives or based on quantifiable evidence. Since this theory is hard to quantify it is considered vague.
  • Exaggerated Optimism: Maslow was an optimist and believed in the good nature of humans. He even stated that “when people appear to be something other than good and decent, it is only because they are reacting to stress, pain, or the deprivation of basic human needs such as security, love or self-esteem”.
  • Examples that don’t apply: It’s hard to find a theory without exceptions, and this one has many as well. For example, an artist tormented and obsessed by his masterpiece is a perfect example on how sometimes self-actualization might not be satisfactory.
  • Other sophisticated theories: There are other theories of motivation based on human needs such as McGregror’s theory (1969) or Alderfer (1972). They were both inspired by Maslow but added more layers and are currently used in human resources department.

Maslow’s Pyramid: Practical applications

In psychology, Maslow’s Pyramid has been studied all around the different perspectives and even been incorporated into practical, day-to-day things.

1. Maslow’s pyramid in organizations and companies.

Public and private institutions require their workers be motivated to work and in turn, they need to know how to motivate their workers. Companies like Google give their workers different benefits apart from the economic ones, in order to keep them motivated to do their job. Companies like Google, Facebook, etc. are leaders in work motivation and keeping efficiency by offering their workers favorable conditions in the workplace. The main reason for this is that if we are happy we are more likely to be motivated and our level of productivity will be higher.

2. Maslow’s pyramid in marketing.

Understanding consumer needs are important for sales to go up and for companies to triumph in a very competitive world. Through publicity and campaign designs, motivation is exploited for effective sales strategies.

3. Maslow’s pyramid in education 

Needs accompany us throughout our whole lifetime. Educators need to know in depth the needs of those they are trying to teach. This is important in order to present stimuli that capture their attention.

In order to learn, we need to feel motivated and well. For example, during a war, the main need is survival, while that of knowledge and learning was left to the side. Therefore, any educational plan that doesn’t contemplate the basic needs of the students will fail.

4. Maslow’s pyramid and Therapy

To understand and make priority certain needs allows the psychotherapist to understand a patient’s situation, their behavior, and plan a specific therapy. If the exact needs of a person are known, they can be better oriented to achieve their satisfaction.

5. Maslow’s pyramid for personal growth

Maslow’s motivational theory lets us know ourselves better. Human needs are common to all, however, we all have personal motivations that in order to be happy we need to discover. Examining our different stages and analyzing them we can contemplate what needs work and from there start our personal progress.

6. Maslow’s pyramid and social needs

Needs can also develop in large masses of people. Much of the world’s population cannot meet their basic needs. However, production companies focus on the social needs of smaller populations but with greater purchasing power. Why? The latter generate more money.

In developed countries, the first two steps are satisfied for most people. For this reason, products oriented to higher stages emerge. For example, a top-of-the-range car does not seek to satisfy the need for mobility, but more with those associated with success and social prestige (level 4). Most societies are driven by economic benefits, by imposed needs, not by the real needs of individuals.

7. Maslow’s pyramid and economy

The economy is one of the fields where Maslow’s pyramid applies the most. It studies how to satisfy human needs in an environment where resources are limited, so they must be prioritized. Thus, the of needs would follow the same order maintained in the strata of the pyramid. What does this mean? That it is more likely, for example, that someone will spend their money on buying food than on a sculpture.

Following this logic, it should be noted that the higher the price of a product, the buyers will place it in higher steps of the pyramid. Low prices, on the other hand, ensure immediate consumerism.

Maslow’s pyramid: self-actualization

Maslow’s Pyramid: Examples

In order to understand Maslow’s motivational theory lets imagine Maslow’s pyramid as steps being climbed by a boy named John. John is an adolescent from an underprivileged neighborhood and an excluded social group.

1. Physiological needs

John is hungry, cold and thirsty. Fortunately, his parents find a job and he starts having access to basic resources.

2. Safety needs

In John’s neighborhood, there are constant gang wars. He is in constant threat of getting hit by a stray bullet or a gang fight. Due to his parent’s new job, they manage to move to a safer neighborhood.

3. Love and social belonging

In his new home, he spends most of his time alone, feeling lonely and sad. Within three months of moving, he makes his high school’s football team and manages to feel accepted and less alone.

4. Esteem needs

John’s first game came and he felt scared to fail or lose or even made fun by his teammates. He feels peer pressure to be the best and even though it was a rough start he starts becoming the star of the football team.

5. Self-actualization needs

As years go by, John makes football a career becoming his state star player. His success allows him to enjoy and reward himself. He has everything wants and his needs are entirely met. Due to his upbringing, he is now capable of seeing the sacrifices that were made for him to have reached self-actualization and is very grateful (this is very important).

Self-actualization has allowed John to now spend his free time on philanthropy. He participates in every charity and meditates every day. This is the perfect example we see in movies of someone that came from nothing and now is fully fulfilled. However, we dont need to imagine such extreme cases. Anyone of us can have difficulties at any stage, the important thing is that we keep a positive attitude and know that with sacrifice and hope we can make it.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is still a reference when referring to motivation and its importance. However, there are still many critics and its validity is still questioned.

Researching what is esential for us in life in order to fulfill our most intimate wishes is important to achieve happiness. It’s certain that this theory will continued to be studied for years to come.

Thank you for reading this article and if you have any questions or want to discuss this further leave a comment below.

This article is originally in Spanish written by Ainhoa Arranz Aldana, translated by Alejandra Salazar.

The comfort zone: What it is and is it beneficial? Tips to break out

The comfort zone. It contributes to making us feel mentally safe in our everyday life. Developing a routine such as arriving to work always at the same time using a fixed mode of transportation or cooking a good meal we have a lot of experience with contribute to reaching a higher productivity in these tasks. However, on the other hand stepping out of this powerful state of comfort has proven to be even more beneficial for the individual. But how can this be when we are constantly told to follow a routine in order to achieve maximum performance? Keep reading to find out.

The comfort zone

What is the comfort zone?

The word “comfort zone” is widely accepted in the English language and appears frequently in everyday life.

It generally describes a “behavioural state within a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviours to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk”.

What this suggests is a steady performance if the person does not experience a change in anxiety. If however fluctuations in anxiety and skills are seen, a change in performance, either upwards or downwards, will be observed as a result.
To grow as a person, it is essential to break out of this state of comfort every once in a while by exposing yourself to a change in anxiety. Nevertheless, it is a difficult process stepping out of our comfort zone as at the beginning of this process, the person doing so will experience more anxiety than before.

Why do we feel at ease inside the comfort zone?

A lot of reasons exist why humans are wired to stay within the comfort zone.
Each of us has our own “comfort zone” where we feel at ease. It implies familiarity, safety and security keeping our anxiety and worry at a minimal level. Challenging yourself by stepping outside this zone of comfort would mean increased levels of anxiety and stress triggering a hormonal cascade. Human beings are naturally wired to avoid these changes in anxiety and stress.

Why is it so hard to leave our comfort zone?

  • Stress and Anxiety: Whenever we break out of our comfort zone, a stress response followed by anxiety is triggered. The natural response is to remove the stressor as quickly as possible. The only way to achieve this is mainly returning back to the comfort zone which makes keeping yourself out of your comfort zone extremely challenging.
  • Uncertainty: This will be a natural consequence if someone leaves his or her comfort zone. For the majority, the feeling of uncertainty leads to insecurity and can be perceived as a threat activating a stress response. The more uncertain you are, the higher will be your levels of stress mentally and physiologically.
  • New situations require extra energy: Inside your comfort zone, the person has established a routine allowing him or her to perform the tasks automatically (without a lot of thinking). These processes are run by the basal ganglia (a brain area responsible for executing habit-based behaviour), tasks such as shaving, brushing our teeth or bathing. If we stay within the comfort zone, the associated tasks are run by this area of the brain operating very energy efficient.
    Novel tasks, on the other hand, require the input of the prefrontal cortex (a brain area responsible for logical reasoning) which consumes a lot more energy than the basal ganglia. If the energy is depleted (which happens quickly in the prefrontal cortex), we feel discomfort as the prefrontal cortex is tightly linked to the amygdala (the emotional centre of our brain). According to these points, remaining inside the comfort zone seems highly favourable. It provides a state of mental security leading to regular happiness, low anxiety and reduced stress. However, we are often told to leave this state of comfort. This is achieved by expanding your comfort zone and is highly recommended. In order for this to happen though, we temporarily need to abandon this state of comfort, a task which is not so easily accomplished.

The comfort zone, the optimal performance zone and the danger zone

Before we can talk about leaving the comfort zone, we have to understand the core concepts, mainly the existence of three different zones:

  1. The comfort zone
  2. The optimal performance zone
  3. The danger zone.

We first look at an early experiment conducted with mice in 1907 by Yerkes and Dodson.
The study revealed “anxiety to improve performance until a certain optimum level of arousal has been reached. Beyond that point, performance deteriorates as higher levels of anxiety are attained.”

This suggests an increase in performance when anxiety levels are higher than normal. However, if the person is too anxious, performance will drop again. This relationship can be applied to the three different zones. We find ourselves in the comfort zone when anxiety levels are minimal. Depending on what extent we leave our comfort zone, anxiety levels can increase sharply or only marginally. In the case of a marginal increase of anxiety levels, the person experiencing it will be in the optimal performance zone. This is a state where increased skills are seen and where the elevated anxiety levels can be kept under control.

A real-life example would be an important job interview. If the person is not required to attend the interview, he or she is in the comfort zone and anxiety levels are minimal. However, as soon as the day of the interview has come, anxiety levels rise. When conversing with the manager, the potential employee is not only able to control his/her anxiety levels, but most of the times even possess increased communicative skill. He is now operating in the optimal performance zone.

But what happens in the event where anxiety levels do not increase only by a little, but significantly? The person would leave his or her comfort zone too but would end up in the danger zone in which performance is worse than in the comfort zone. The level of anxiety would simply be too high. Following the example, imagine the same job interview with a person suffering from autism (a disorder in which the affected person finds any social interactions extremely challenging). For this person, anxiety levels will be much higher when he or she is invited to the interview which leads him to perform worse (he skipped the optimal performance zone completely). For this individual, a task which would not have caused the anxiety to rocket would have been more appropriate in order to shift swiftly from the comfort zone to the optimal performance zone.

But why is it beneficial to leave the comfort zone?

A few benefits have become already visible, mainly the increase in performance and the acquisition of new skills when being pushed away from the comfort zone. However, the list of advantages does not stop there.

  • Increase in productivity: Comfort is a productivity killer. If we do not have the sense of uneasiness to complete a given work before a deadline, we tend to postpone and do the minimum work required. This phenomenon is often seen in students procrastinating. If the deadline for an assignment is far, the work they put in tends to be low. However, as soon as the deadline is approaching, they start to increase their productivity drastically as they are now in the optimal performance zone.
  • Radical changes become easier to handle: Some people always wish to stay within their state of comfort, however leaving the comfort zone sometimes just happens out of the blue and there is nothing you can do about it (change of job, move to a different home, change in a relationship, an illness). A person that has already left the comfort zone once or twice will be more able to handle also those life changes and transitions. It is important to be at peace with the unknown to combat the negative effects that change can bring. Leaving the comfort zone on a regular basis can help with exactly this.
  • Expansion of your boundaries in the future: Leaving the comfort zone creates a feeling of anxiety which has to be coped with. The more times you leave your state of comfort, the better you are able to cope with this increase of anxiety. This allows you to become accustomed to this state of optimal anxiety where you perform at your best. Ultimately you are willing to push yourself more when repeatedly exposed to the unknown.

Tips to break out of your comfort zone

  • Become aware what lies inside and outside of your comfort zone!
    What are the things that you want to accomplish but triggers a feeling of anxiety in you? Identifying these is of utmost importance in order to know how to expand your comfort zone. Draw a circle and write everything down you associate with discomfort outside of the circle. Inside the circle, you write down everything that triggers comfort. This process will allow yourself to identify not only your discomforts but also your comforts.
  • Consider failing as something positive!
    It sounds difficult, but try to see failure as your teacher. What did this negative experience teach you? You can use this knowledge to increase your chance of success for the future.
  • Surround yourself with people taking risks!
    If you are willing to improve your skills to leave the comfort zone, stick to people that do exactly that. The influence of them will certainly have an effect on your behaviour.
  • Honesty with yourself!
    We have all been there. A task that we are afraid of is waiting and we say “I don’t have time for this right now!” Most of the times though, you are lying to yourself. Instead be honest and say “I’m afraid to do this!”. Confronting your fears will increase your chances of moving forward more easily.
  • Take it slow!
    Start by taking small steps when moving out of your comfort zone. Try making a plan of goals you want to achieve. Try to not be overambitious in a short period of time or you risk becoming demotivated. It is essential for you, to return to your comfort zone from time to time as explained in the next paragraph.

Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.

Brian Tracy

Why should we return to our comfort zone from time to time?

Though it is important to break out of your comfort zone, it is equally important to also return to this state of comfort from time to time. It is indeed beneficial to leave the comfort zone, but staying outside for too long and you might end up getting your stress and anxiety levels too high. Ultimately, you have to return to the comfort zone to prevent your anxiety levels from taking over and you end up in the danger zone. Once in this zone, your performance drops sharply and leaving the comfort zone for good becomes even more challenging than before. For this reason, allowing yourself some breaks from time to time is essential.

Frontal Lobe: Areas, functions and disorders related to it

The brain is divided into four lobes, differentiated by their location and functions. In this article, we are going to focus on one of the lobes: the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is the biggest lobe in the brain and the most important lobe for the human species. 

Why is the frontal lobe so relevant? What are its functions? The following article will give you an all-inclusive look on the frontal lobe. 

Frontal lobe

Frontal Lobe: Anatomy and Functions

The Frontal lobe is located at the front of the brain, at the front of each cerebral hemisphere and in front of the parietal lobe. It is considered the most important lobe due to its functions and because it takes up one-third of the total brain. In other species its volume is inferior (chimpanzees 17% and dogs 7%).

The functions of the frontal lobe depend on the area we focus on. It plays a part on movement control as well as in high-level mental functions or behavior and emotional control. The frontal lobe is divided into two main areas: the motor cortex and the prefrontal cortex.

Motor cortex in the frontal lobe

The main function of the motor cortex is to control voluntary movement, including the ones in expressive language, writing, and ocular movement. This cortex is divided into three areas:

Primary Motor Cortex

Sends commands to the neurons in the brain stems and spinal cord. These neurons are in charge of specific voluntary movements. Inside the primary motor cortex, of both hemispheres, there is a representation of the contralateral half of the body. That is, in each hemisphere, there is a representation of the opposite side of the body.This is known as the motor homunculus and it is inverted, therefore the head is represented at the bottom.

Premotor Cortex

This area is in control of the preparation and movement programming. Premotor cortex automates, harmonizes and archives movement programs related to previous experiences. Within the premotor cortex:

  • Supplementary motor area: in charge of controlling postural stability during stance or walking.
  • Ocular field: controls the joint deviation of the gaze when voluntary exploring a field.
Broca’s Area

It’s considered the center for producing speech, writing, and also in language processing and comprehension. It coordinates movements of the mouth, larynx and respiratory organs that control language expression. Injuries can produce different language disorders. 

Prefrontal Cortex of the Front lobe

The prefrontal cortex is located in the front part of the frontal lobe. It is considered the ultimate expression of human brain development. It is responsible for cognition, behavior and emotional activity. Prefrontal cortex receives information from the limbic system (involved in emotional control) and acts as a mediator between cognition and feelings through executive functions. Executive functions are a set of cognitive skills necessary for controlling and self-regulating your behavior. Within the prefrontal cortex, three areas or circuits are important: dorsolateral, anterior and orbital cingulum.

Dorsolateral area of the frontal lobe

It is one of the most recently evolved parts of the human brain. It establishes connections with the other three brain areas and transforms the information into thoughts, decisions, plans, and actions. It is in charge of superior cognitive abilities such as:

  • Attention: Focus, inhibition, and divided attention.
  • Working memory: maintenance and manipulation of the information.
  • Short-term memory: ordering events.
  • Prospective memory: programming upcoming actions.
  • Hypothesis generator: analysis of the possible outcomes.
  • Metacognition: self-analysis of cognitive activity and continuous performance.
  • Problem Resolution: analysis of the situation and development of an action plan.
  • Shifting: the ability to adapt to new situations.
  • Planning: organizing behavior towards a new objective.

General Cognitive Assessment Battery from CogniFit: Study brain function and complete a comprehensive online screening. Precisely evaluate a wide range of abilities and detect cognitive well-being (high-moderate-low). Identify strengths and weaknesses in the areas of memory, concentration/attention, executive functions, planning, and coordination.

Anterior cingulum of the frontal lobe

This area regulates motivational processes. It’s also in charge of perceiving and resolving conflicts as well as regulating sustained attention.

Orbital area of the frontal lobe

This area is in charge of controlling emotion and social conduct. It regulates emotional processing, controls behaviors based on context and detects beneficial or detrimental change.

A neuroscientist explains the frontal lobe and the types of disorders that can happen after an injury.

Frontal Lobe: Disorders related to it

As we have explained, the frontal lobe is involved in different processes (motors, cognitive, emotional and behavioral). This is why disorders due to injuries suffered to this area can vary from concussion symptoms to others more severe.

Motor disorders

Injuries to the primary or premotor cortex can cause difficulties in the velocity, execution and movement coordination, all leading to different types of apraxia. Apraxia is a disorder in which the individual has difficulty with the motor planning to perform tasks or movements when asked, provided that the request or command is understood and he/she is willing to perform the task. A University of Toronto scientist has discovered the brain’s frontal lobe is involved in pain transmission to the spine. If his findings in animals bear out in people, the discovery could lead to a new class of non-addictive painkillers.

  • Ideomotor apraxia: Deficits or difficulty in their ability to plan or complete previously learned motor actions, especially those that need an instrument or prop. They are able to explain how to perform an action but can’t act out a movement.
  • Limb-kinetic apraxia: voluntary movements of extremities are impaired. For example, they can’t use their fingers in a coordinated fashion (waving).
  • Buccofacial or orofacial apraxia: Difficulty carrying out movements of the face, tongue, mouth, cheeks, etc. on demand.

Apart from the apraxias, other disorders can be developed from injuries to the frontal lobe, such as language disorders or aphasias.

  • Transcortical Motor Aphasia: language disorder due to which the person has a lack of verbal fluency (slow speech with reduced content and poorly organized), limited spontaneous language (lack of initiative) and difficulty or incapacity in writing.
  • Broca’s Aphasia: language disorder that generates a lack of verbal fluency, anomia (inability to access the lexicon to evoke words), poor syntactic construction in speech, difficulties in repetition, reading and writing.

Dysexecutive syndrome

It consists of a group of symptoms, cognitive, behavioral and emotional that tend to happen together. However, the symptoms are going to depend on the injured area:

Dorsolateral Area

An injury in this area is usually related to cognitive problems such as:

  1. Inability to solve complex problems: decrease in fluid intelligence (reasoning, adapting and resolving of new situations, etc.).
  2. Cognitive rigidity and perseveration: the person maintains a thought or action despite being invited to change it.
  3. Decreased learning ability: difficulty in acquiring and maintaining new learning.
  4. Temporal memory impairment: deficit in the order things happened
  5. Deficiency in motor programming and changing motor activities: difficulties in the organization of sequences of movements and the time to change an activity.
  6. A decrease in verbal fluidity: impairment in the ability to recall words after an instruction. This action not only requires the lexical part but also organization, planning, focus and selective attention.
  7. Attention Deficit: difficulty maintaining your attention and inhibiting other irrelevant stimuli or changing the focus of attention.
  8. Pseudo-depressive disorders: similar symptoms to depression (sadness, apathy, etc.).
Anterior cingulum area
  1. Reduction of spontaneous activity: appear to be static.
  2. A loss in initiative and motivation: noticeable apathy.
  3. Alexithymia: difficulty identifying emotions and therefore inability in expressing own emotions.
  4. Language restriction: answers tend to be monosyllabic.
  5. Difficulty in controlling interference: selective attention impairment.
  6. Pseudo-depressive disorders. 
Orbital area

The symptoms of an injury in this area are more behavioral. The person’s behavior tends to be uninhibited.

  1. Changes in personality: high instability between who he is and how he acts. Similar to what happened to Phineas Gage. 
  2. Irritability and aggressiveness: exaggerated emotional reactions in daily life situations.
  3. Echopraxia: imitation of observed movements in others.
  4. Disinhibition and impulsivity: lack of self-control over their behavior.
  5. Difficulty adapting to social norms and rules: behaves socially unacceptable.
  6. Judgment is impaired: many reasoning errors.
  7. Lack of empathy: difficulty understanding other people’s feelings.
  8. Euphoria
 The frontal lobe is incredibly important for humans to function to their full potential. Even without brain injury, it’s crucial to maintain our cognitive skills active. CogniFit offers a complete assessment of your cognitive skills and brain training not only as a rehabilitation due to injury, dementia, etc. but it can also strengthen your current neural patterns. Brain health is essential to lead a full life.
Hope you liked this article, feel free to leave a message below!
This article is originally in Spanish written by Natalia Pasquin Mora, translated by Alejandra Salazar. 

Intrinsic Motivation: When You Love Doing What You’re Doing

What drives us to join a dance class or paint a picture? What makes some people choose a certain career path knowing that their economic stability will be challenged? What is it that gives us the energy to strive to reach our goals? The leading force behind all of these decisions is intrinsic motivation. In this article, we’ll talk about how to stay strong and meet your goals when you’re faced with challenges.

Intrinsic motivation

What is intrinsic motivation?

Motivation is a psychological process that helps us carry out and complete determined actions. We can be motivated to do anything, from taking a nap to running from danger. Motivation makes it possible to better adapt to the challenges and situations that we face on a daily basis.

The causes behind motivational processes vary significantly from person to person, and can even change for a single person depending on the circumstances. It’s possible to distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation depending on the reasons behind the action.

Intrinsic motivation comes from the inside and happens when you are truly interested in something, without seeking a reward in return. One example of intrinsic motivation may be working at or spending time volunteering at an NGO, knowing that you won’t receive any type of economic compensation.

Extrinsic motivation, however, is driven by the rewards or benefits that we receive in exchange (or avoiding a punishment) for doing something. Think about when someone works extra hard to get a raise at work. In this case, they aren’t working hard for an internal desire to succeed, but rather to receive an economic benefit. There are a number of differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, but the main difference is the expectation of receiving benefits or avoiding punishment.

The same task or action can be extrinsically motivated for some and intrinsically motivated for others. For example, there are some people who go to the gym to get something out of it: to lose weight, while others work out for the exercise itself.

This article will focus on intrinsic motivation. Find out its essential aspects and how to improve it.

Intrinsic motivation: Characteristics

  • You can influence intrinsic motivation: You may find that sometimes it’s hard to figure out what challenges will help you get the most from yourself. However, there is always time to find activities that pique your interest.
  • Rewards can make intrinsic motivation disappear: It’s been shown in a number of experiments and cultures that paying for certain tasks may cause a decrease in performance. How can this be possible? According to the theory of overjustification, interest in a job decreases if we are rewarded extrinsically. For example, if you like to draw and you are paid for your word as an illustrator, you may find that your passion starts to feel like an obligation.
  • There are also rewards that strengthen intrinsic motivation: What we said in the previous point is true (reward can have a negative effect on motivation), it’s also true that receiving gratification from people we care about can help strengthen motivation.
  • The difficult of a task affects intrinsic motivation: Challenges teach us to be perseverant and develop our skills as well as possible.We need to be able to believe that it’s possible to overcome any challenge that we’re presented with. On the other hand, tasks that are too easy will be boring and might not be interesting to us. Once you find the perfect balance, you can enjoy the task and get “into the swing of things”, as Csikszentmihalyi says (we’ll talk more about him in the last section).

Intrinsic Motivation: Application and Examples

Intrinsic motivation at schools

Learning, especially at school, is made up of a variety of subjects, some of which may seem more interesting than others. Facing these more challenging subjects can be difficult, and even the subjects that you like can make you feel unmotivated sometimes. What can you do you keep yourself from feeling this lack of motivation?

First, it’s important to reinforce good, productive behavior and reward studying and other activities that are beneficial to learning. Rather than threats and punishment, using positive reinforcement will help associate studying with positive experiences, helping to improve motivation. It’s important to try to make learning a fun activity, rather than a means to an end. The importance of motivation in learning is endless.

It’s easier to learn effectively if you value what you’re learning, spark a curiosity for the information, create good study habits, connect to the content, and find a way to make it relevant to your daily life.

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation at work

Intrinsic motivation at work is one of the keys to success in a work environment. We all know the familiar sensation of watching the clock move minute by minute until you can finally start the weekend. However, you’ve probably also realized that when this happens, your productivity drops and you have poorer results. These situations can make you feel even less motivated to work.

Having the job of your dreams may not be as easy as you thought, but luckily there are ways to help you become more motivated at work like taking breaks, being friendly with co-workers, keeping yourself from falling into a rut, and changing up your daily tasks.

Taking some time to dedicate to altruistic activities or activities that help others and not yourself, can also improve motivation in the office. Corporate social responsibility can benefit not only those who are receiving the direct benefits but also those who offer the help.

There are other techniques that many companies use to improve motivation among their workers, like giving them an opportunity to develop personal projects, paying for educational or advancement opportunities, and recognizing a job well-done. Happy, smiling workers are more productive and useful than employees who race out the door at the end of the day.

Intrinsic motivation in daily life

There are a number of situations that we come across in our daily lives that we could do easier and better if we had intrinsic motivation. For example, maybe you would spend more time cooking and creating healthy masterpieces if you enjoyed it, rather than cooking just to eat the next day.

Personal relationships also play a large role in our intrinsic motivation. Creating bonds with other people motivates us to take up new activities or do something you’ve never done. Going out with friends to eat or see a movie are powerful motivators that will help you get to an art exhibit or other show that you’ve never seen before.

Intrinsic motivation: Benefits

  • Improves productivity: Intrinsic motivation helps us have more original ideas and be more creative in our decision making. Because of this, we tend to get less tired when working on tasks with a positive attitude.
  • Improves well-being: Knowing which activities makes you happy means that you can spend more time doing them, rather than doing something that you dread. Working on tasks that you enjoy can become an endless fountain of personal and professional satisfaction.
  • Raises self-esteem and self-efficiency: The amount of effort that you spend on tasks that motivated you are usually reinforced by significant progress and can make you feel competent and satisfied with your work. Who doesn’t like seeing progress being made on their work?
  • Makes you more independent: Intrinsic motivation pushes you to learn more about the areas and activities that you enjoy and are interested in, which means working without anyone telling you to and taking initiative when starting something new.
  • It’s longer lasting than extrinsic motivation: It’s common for motivation to subside once you’ve reached your initial goal. If your motivation extrinsic, you might not feel the need to continue working hard after you finish your last final. However, if you actually enjoy learning the material, you’ll be able to get more out of every class, even when your exams have finished for the semester.

All this talk of intrinsic motivation shouldn’t overlook the importance of extrinsic motivation! For example, a company can’t lower the wages of its employees because they would probably find work elsewhere.

It’s also possible to have both types of motivation. You can start an activity like yoga with the hopes of feeling more relaxed and less anxious, but end up going because you really love it. The best way to achieve this is to stay away from making external or separate rewards your main goal.

How can you develop intrinsic motivation? 5 tips

1. Avoid routine

Monotony causes boredom and can make you tired and lazy. For example, if you like to go running in the morning to wake up and get ready for the day, try to take a new route and explore the area! Adding an extra challenge can help keep you interested in running (not to mention that it’s a great way to train your brain in the city! -along with brain games, of course-)

2. Keep a positive attitude

It’s important to work to reach your goals without putting too much pressure on yourself to be the best. Trusting yourself is crucial to your overall wellbeing. It is also important remember that the key to intrinsic motivation is enjoying the activity itself, not the potential outcome that it may bring. Try to do what you need to do without any negativity or pressure.

3. Set realistic goals

Trying to reach unrealistic goals will end up being counterproductive and can cause you to lose your intrinsic motivation. Be critical of your goals and evaluate whether or not is a realistic goal that you’ll be able to accomplish. It’s better to focus on what you can improve and activities that will help you improve than to get stuck on things that went wrong.

4. Reward yourself

We’ve already said that intrinsic motivation isn’t about the rewards, but recognizing when you’ve done a good job and letting yourself feel good about it is essential to continuing to have the intrinsic motivation that allowed you to get there. You can even think about indulging every once in awhile as a little reward.

5. Spend time with like-minded people

If you love dancing, find a group of friends who you can dance with and make new choreography. It’s important to share your experiences with other people who enjoy the same activities. Luckily, we live in a time where it’s easy to find groups for any type of activity.

Intrinsic Motivation: Authors

-Abraham Maslow

Maslow is one of the most relevant theories when it comes to motivation. This humanist psychologist is especially known for having created Maslow’s Pyramid that provides a hierarchy of human needs. Intrinsic motivation is particularly linked to the top of the pyramid, based on the necessities of self-realization. This is where we are able to reach maximum existence and develop our potential.

Albert Bandura

This psychologist created the theory of self-efficacy, which is the idea that a person’s opinion about the execution of a task depends on their expectations of success, perseverance, and how much they dedicate to it. For example, if you see that after spending time and working to improve, your Spanish or French improves, you’ll feel proud and able to perfect the language at some point.

Eduard Deci and Richard Ryan

These two psychologists worked together to create the theory of self-determination, which is the idea that we do activities that we enjoy, rather than those that we don’t enjoy and aren’t interested in. This theory is especially relevant and applied to athletics. It is important to be independent when making decisions.

-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

This specialist in positive psychology is dedicated to studying the state of flow that takes place when we focus on a task that is neither too easy nor too difficult. In these situations, you tend to lose the sense of time and can spend hours on a single task. A common example of this is when a painter is completely absorbed in their work and they lose track of time.

Csikszentmihalyi is an expert in creativity and has interviewed a number of experts in order to better understand their flow. In this video, he will explain part of his discoveries and the importance of intrinsic motivation.

Thanks for writing! If you have any questions, leave me a comment below 🙂

This article was originally written in Spanish and translated to English.

Negative Emotions: How Can Anger Be Beneficial?

Anger, sadness, ego and despair are some of the negative emotions that we all associate ourselves to, especially during trying and struggle days. As human nature, we tend to get more and more sucked into our negative emotions, but did you know these negative emotions can actually help us.Yes! You might be thinking I am making this up but it’s true, psychologist have provided us with evidence that as humans we need a goal, a drive to keep us motivated and these negative emotions can help us do that.

Negative Emotions

To understand how negative emotions may help us, we first need to define what is a positive emotion? According to Cohen and Fredrickson (2009), positive emotions are positive feelings of joy, interest, contentment and love which arise from desirable situations. So positive emotions are happy feelings, but can a person have positive emotions 24×7? Is that even natural? And what happens if we always experience positive emotions? In a nutshell, being positive is good, but experience positive emotions always is not a typical behavior. This implicates that we are suppressing our negative emotions and are not expressing it, which in time will portray inverse effects on our body and brain.

What can negative emotions teach us?

According to Psychology Today’s article ‘Beyond Happiness: The Upside of Feeling Down’ by Matthew Hutson, our perception of negative emotions is emphasized on the word negative, but they don’t necessarily have to have a negative impact on our lives. Negative emotions can help identify where our troubles are and how to fix them. Similarly, in 2015, Huffington Post published an article ‘How To Turn Negative Emotions Into Your Greatest Advantage’ stated that negative emotions actually act as a catalyst for positive experiences and positive realization if we learn to respond to them in the right manner.

We have established the fact that negative emotions can actually act as a driving force in our lives. Now, let’s try to understand the technique so that your negative emotions can help you.

The first and the foremost aspect of understanding negative emotion is to recognize and express your negative emotions. Hiding your emotions is not going to do any good for you. It’s perfectly normal to feel angry, upset, embarrassed, or any other emotion on a daily basis. If you’re not sure how to express these emotions, think about talking to a therapist. 

What’s the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist? 

Secondly, it is essential to identify each negative emotion as an incentive to change yourself into a better person. We have negative emotions to be more aware of our situation and to try to improve them further. If you’re not sure where your negative emotions are coming from, try to think about when you started feeling them. Knowing what’s causing these feelings is essential to using them to your benefit. 

Finally, know that negative emotions have an unseen power. Psychologist Julie Norman in her book ‘The Positive Power Of Negative Thinking’ mentions that in her experience, she saw that pessimists were able to thrive because they turned a negative emotion, like anxiety, into action. Think about if you were able to turn every feeling of anger or anxiety into a productive moment in your life!

Optimism vs. pessimism 

How can you use negative emotions to your benefit?

  • Negative emotions and relationships: we have the maturity to understand that any positive or negative act has an inverse effect on our relationships. But in a study conducted in 2008, ‘The Positives of Negative Emotions: Willingness to Express Negative Emotions Promotes Relationships’, it was concluded that expressing negative emotions are connected to facilitate positive relationship outcome increasing intimacy and bridging close relations. Remember that fighting doesn’t mean that the relationship is doomed. Arguing allows for communication and can be beneficial for relationships. 
  • Anger:  Feeling angry about situations or people is inevitable, but anger can actually bring about the creative side in you. In a journal  ‘A Dynamic Perspective on Affect and Creativity’, the authors studied participants on their negative and positive emotions. The study asked their participants to rate their emotions at the beginning and at the end of the day, it was noted that individuals who initially started their day with negative emotions and ended with positive emotions, had the most creative output. How is this possible? The article further stressed that the participants reported that when they channeled their negative emotion of anger into their work, a creative outcome was achieved.
  • Negative emotions from embarrassment or shame: We all have gone through that feeling of humiliation, shame, and embarrassment. That feeling that arises when someone says “you’re not good enough”. Initially, our negative emotions stir up and the feeling of despair sets in but gradually feelings of  “I will show them that I can do it” or “I will prove myself to them” accelerate and that is the positiveness that is achieved due to channeling our negative emotions.
  • Using ego as a positive tool: Ego has a negative connotation to it, the evils of ego have the power to either destroy someone or make someone. What is the ego? In short, ego defines the ‘I’ or ‘the self’, your self-perception. So just like other negative emotions, we have discussed, the ego can do us great harm, having a large ego or thinking we are greater than others takes us downhill. But funneling our ego during troubled times, such as when we think too little of ourselves is transforming our negative emotions to a positive stride. It is this ego” that helps us grow and raise our spirits high during low times. Once again it depends on our perception of a negative emotion. An individual needs ego to help them build their self-confidence and know their worth. But to be able to balance their ego is significant.

It is easy to get trapped in between our negative emotions, but to know that you are in total control of yourself and that you have the ability to transform your negative emotions to positive emotions is crucial. Here are some tips to help you regulate your emotions:

  • Know what your mind is trying to tell you about your negative emotions. Accept it and express it.
  • Be mindful and aware of what’s going on. Don’t let the situation take the best from you.
  • Don’t let your negative emotions drive you instead you driving your negative emotions to something positive.
  • A regular self-report helps you balance your emotions and keep them in check. 
  • Have friends and family around you during emotional times, listen to them. Your good wishes will always help you reignite the spark that you need to change your negative emotion to a positive outcome.
  • These are trying and tiring times and know that these too shall pass.
  • Change your attitude and reconstruct your negative emotions to something beneficial for yourself.

Focus on the positive side of your negative emotions, remember that the term negative emotions don’t mean it’s not good for you. You can do it!