Motivation and emotion/Tutorials/Functionalist theory and self-tracking

Tutorial 05: Functionalist theory and self-tracking
This is the fifth tutorial for the motivation and emotion unit of study.



This tutorial:

  1. explores practical applications of motivational theory using:
    1. functionalist theory of motivation with university student motivations as an example
    2. self-tracking as a form of feedback and self-monitoring
  2. demonstrates use of Google Scholar to identify the top references on a topic

Functionalist theory

  1. Models of motivation considered so far (e.g., models of needs) mostly don't really recognise two issues:
    1. People may perform the same behaviour but with different motivations
    2. There is often more than one motivation (reason) why someone performs a behaviour
  2. The functionalist perspective (Clary & Snyder, 1999) proposes that:
    1. Behaviour serves different functions (or goals) for different people
    2. The match between a person's motivations and outcomes determines satisfaction and likelihood of continuing
  3. For example, consider:
    1. "Why are you at university?"—or, more generally,
    2. “Why do students go to uni?”
  4. Develop a class mind-map of the main underlying motivations for attending university. Try to think and respond really honestly - why are students really at university? Answers are likely to cover a wide range of human motives, but as the map develops, look for underlying themes and group similar motivations together. Past experience with this exercise and previous research with UC students has suggested that the motivations are likely to fall within these six categories:
    1. Career/Qualifications - for the degree, so I can get a better job etc.
    2. Self-Exploration/Learning - for the learning, curiousity, knowledge-seeking etc.
    3. Social Opportunities - to meet people, make and explore friendships, enjoy social environment
    4. Altruism - to become better able to help people, help society, help the planet etc.
    5. Social Pressure - expectations of family, friends, society etc.
    6. Rejection of Alternatives - better than doing nothing, working etc.
  5. Complete the University Student Motivation survey
  6. A good match between motivations and outcomes leads to satisfaction and retention (or intention to continue), whereas motivations not matched by achieving corresponding outcomes leads to low satisfaction and risk of drop-out.
  7. The take-home messages from the functional perspective on motivation are that:
    1. Motivations are multiple and complex
    2. Motivational profiles differ between people
    3. The match between our motivations and outcomes predicts satisfaction which predicts our likelihood to continue


What are these objects?
(mirror, bullet-journal, pedometer, mood ring, scales, blood pressure, heart rate variability, fitbit, fuelband)
(they are self-tracking tools)
What are they for?
(learning about and improving ourselves)
  1. 21st century mobile applications offer an increasing array of self-monitoring tools. This presents an opportunity and a challenge: How can optimal use be made of self-tracking?
  2. Discuss:
    1. What is self-tracking?
    2. What are some examples of self-tracking? What self-tracking do you do? What are you curious to try?
  3. Watch:
    1. The quantified self (Gary Wolf, TED@Cannes, 2010, YouTube, 4:49 mins)
    2. The quantified self: Data gone wild? (PBS NewsHour, 2013, YouTube, 5:45 mins)
  4. Discuss:
    1. What are the potential benefits?
      (e.g., self-awareness, steady stream of data-driven feedback can facilitate goal pursuit)
    2. What are the potential problems?
      (e.g., externalises motivation, could heighten distress)

Google Scholar


To help identify the best academic resources about a target topic, try these Google Scholar search tips:

  1. Citation rates - focus on sources with high citation rates (# of citations / years since published)
  2. Authors - check the publications by top authors on the topic
  3. Related articles - for top sources, check out "related articles"
  4. Link to libraries - sync search results to UC Library holdings for quick access to restricted publications
    1. Login using Google Account
    2. Settings: Three bars (top-left) - Settings - Library links
    3. Search for institution name ("UC Library" is the main one, but also "University of Canberra" for Proquest)
    4. Select target libraries
    5. Save
    6. Search results will now show links to full-text resources held in the institutional library
  5. Storing citations - save favourite publications to a folder. They can be found via My Library.
  6. APA style citations - double-quote button. Good start, but may need correcting, italics, and doesn't provide doi
  7. Setting up alerts - follow new publications about topics or authors of interest. "Create alert" at bottom of search.
  8. More Google Scholar info:
    1. About
    2. Search tips
  9. Other possibly useful search strategies:
    1. Include "review" or "meta-analysis" in the search to identify major reviews on the topic
    2. Search in key journals
      1. Topic-specific - e.g., Motivation and Emotion
      2. Major psychological review journals e.g., Annual Review of Psychology
    3. Scopus


Clary, E. G., & Snyder, M. (1991). A functional analysis of altruism and prosocial behavior: The case of volunteerism. In M. Clark (Ed.), Review of personality and social psychology: Vol 12. Pro-social behavior (pp. 119-148). Sage.

Clary, E. G., Snyder, M., Ridge, R. D., Copeland, J., Stukas, A. A., Haugen, J., Miene, P. (1998). Understanding and assessing the motivations of volunteers: A functional approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(6), 516-530.

Clary, E. G., & Snyder, M. (1999). The motivations to volunteer: Theoretical and practical considerations. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8(5), 156-159.



See also