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

Tutorial 05: Functionalist theory and self-tracking

Resource type: this resource contains a tutorial or tutorial notes.

This is the fifth tutorial for the motivation and emotion unit of study.


This tutorial:

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

Functionalist theoryEdit

  1. Models of motivation considered so far don't really reflect 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 on motivation (Clary & Snyder, 1999) suggests that:
    1. Behaviour serves different functions (or goals) for different people
    2. The match between a person's motivations and outcomes determines their level of satisfaction and likelihood of continuing the behaviour.
  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 motivation 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 mind-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. (Note: Factor analytic research by Neill (2008) has not found psychometric support for this factor, but it has for the other five factors).
  5. Complete the University Student Motivation survey
  6. According to a functionalist perspective (Clary & Snyder, 1999) on motivation (e.g., see volunteer motivation), a good match between motivations and outcomes leads to satisfaction and retention (or intention to continue), whereas motivations not matched by 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?
(They are self-tracking tools.)
What are they for?
(Learning about ourselves.)


  1. 21st century mobile applications offer a bewildering array of self-monitoring life data recording and analysis tools.
  2. What is self-tracking? (Define and provide examples) (see Quantified Self)
  3. What self-tracking do you do? What have you discovered? What are you curious to try?
  4. 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)
  5. Discuss:
    1. What are the potential benefits?
      (e.g., for trackable goals we can obtain a steady, relevant, valid data stream as feedback and thereby have access to powerful tool for facilitating change and growth)
    2. What are the potential problems?
      (e.g., does self-tracking externalise the motivation?)

Google ScholarEdit

Demonstration of Google Scholar search tips:

  1. Citation rates
  2. Author search
  3. Linking to libraries
    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
  4. Storing citations (saving to My Library)
  5. APA style citations
  6. Setting up alerts

More Google Scholar info:

  1. About
  2. Search tips

Other possibly useful search strategies:

  1. Identify key journals
    1. Topic-specific - e.g., Motivation and Emotion
    2. Major review journals and review articles - e.g., Annual Review of Psychology or including 'review in title' in the search
  2. Source relevant textbook citations


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 alsoEdit


External linksEdit