Unit 8: Motivation and the Internet

According to Huitt, motivation is defined as an internal state or condition that activates behavior and gives it direction, a desire or want that energizes and directs goal-oriented behavior, or an influence of needs and desires on the intensity and direction of behavior. There are seven different types of motivation:

  1. Stimulus Response: Motivation to respond to an external stimulus, obtain a conditioned positive response, or avoid a conditioned negative response.
  2. Social: Motivation to achieve or maintain social affiliation, social acceptance, or a sense of belonging.
  3. Biological: Motivation to activate senses, decrease hunger, thirst, or discomfort, and maintain homeostasis.
  4. Cognitive: Motivation to maintain attention to something interesting or threatening, to develop meaning or understanding, to solve a problem or figure something out, or to make a decision.
  5. Affective: Motivation to increase feeling good or bad, or to increase security or decrease threats to security.
  6. Conative: Motivation to meet a goal, obtain personal achievement, or develop or maintain self efficacy.
  7. Spiritual: Motivation to increase understanding of purpose of one’s life, connect self to ultimate unknown, or to appreciate self in relation to the universe.

All of these sources of motivation influence the way that we use the internet. For example, if you hear your phone buzz and you check it, you were just motivated by stimulus response. If you’ve ever logged on Facebook to see what your friends are up to, you were motivated to log on for social reasons. If you’ve ever logged onto Facebook just out of boredom, you were motivated by biological reasons to relieve your boredom. If you’ve ever caught yourself reading a news story online, you were motivated by cognitive reasons to develop understanding. All of the types of motivation can be applied to the internet, and everything else we do as well.

For a day, I recorded all of the times I went online, and my primary motivations for doing so. I was motivated by each different type, except for spiritual.The most common motivator for me was definitely stimulus response. There were many times that I accessed the internet only because I got a notification prompting me to, and I wouldn’t have done it otherwise. I noticed that I had different motivations depending on the type of activity I was doing on the internet as well. While doing schoolwork, my most common motivations were definitely cognitive and conative. While I was using social media and texting, the most common motivations were social and biological. I also had a few other miscellaneous uses of the internet that were motivated by biological, affective, and conative motives. I think my motivations are so varied because I was balancing school work, work, and using social media at the same time.

Many professors today are banning the use of laptops in class because they believe that students can’t ignore their motivations to check social media or use them for other distractions. What most professors don’t realize however, is that even before the internet, students found ways to distract themselves in lectures. In the 1990’s students distracted themselves in classes with newspapers, and by talking to their classmates. There were even incidents reported where a student had a pizza delivered to class, and another where two students were passionately making out in the back of the class. Compared to these distractions, laptops seem like a mild distraction at best.

Another reason professors have banned laptops in class is because they think that when students get bored in class, they will log onto their laptops instead of continuing to try to pay attention. However, student boredom in lectures is also not a new phenomenon. A study done in 1989 found that academic boredom happens when a student’s need for a high degree of stimulation is not met. Given the passive nature of lectures, boredom is inevitable because there is little stimulation.

Professors need to realize that using laptops in class has many benefits. For one, laptops help facilitate better note taking and information gathering. Students can type notes faster than they can write them, which improves the quality of their notes and leads to better test performance. In addition, laptop use is good because students can look up readings or other information relevant to lecture. In a survey, students disagreed that laptops take away from overall satisfaction of their learning experience. In fact, school related laptop use was associated positively with academic satisfaction.

Many professors today are allowing laptops in their lectures because they see the benefits it has to offer. They also realize that even if laptops weren’t allowed, students would still find ways to distract themselves. For example, notebooks can also be misused by students doodling in them. You don’t see anyone threatening to ban notebooks, though.

Laptops have many uses in the classroom, as well as many uses outside of the classroom. One of the more popular uses for laptops outside of the classroom is to binge watch shows on Netflix. Buzzfeed actually made a good video showing what it’s like to binge watch a TV show, click HERE to watch it for yourself. The video demonstrates how if you’re not careful, binge watching a TV show could consume your whole life.

Why exactly do people find themselves spending hours at a time watching Netflix? It’s something I’ve always wondered, and a topic that Professor Gernsbacher covered in one of her lectures. Professor Gernsbacher explains that people today binge watch TV shows like people used to binge read novels before the internet, for the following reasons:

  1. It’s fun
  2. It’s available- you don’t have to wait an entire week for a new episode, it’s all right in front of you.
  3. It allows developing deeper connections with the characters. When episodes are watched in rapid succession, viewers can bond with characters quicker.
  4. It’s already paid for.
  5. It’s usually commercial free. Commercials interrupt the flow of the show, but this isn’t an issue on Netflix.
  6. It’s what many young people did as children.
  7. It’s what everyone else is doing.
  8. It provides community. People who watch the same TV shows have an instant bond.
  9. It enables a shared culture.
  10. It’s becoming culturally acceptable.
  11. To not be left out.
  12. To find out what happens next- episodes always seem to leave you with a cliff hanger, making it hard to stop watching after an episode is done.

While I think all of the reasons presented by Professor Gernsbacher are reasons I have also found myself watching Netflix for hours at a time, I think the biggest motivator for me personally is the fact that it’s usually commercial free. Watching shows on regular TV is not as fun because it seems like every five minutes it’s being interrupted by commercials. The worst is when it’s the same few commercials being repeated over and over every commercial break and by the end of the show you feel like you could repeat them word for word.

Commercials also take extra time to get through. Netflix is nice because each show takes less time to finish. Watching a show that would take an hour on regular TV only takes about 45 minutes or so on Netflix because all of the ads are cut out. This helps me stay connected and interested because the show isn’t constantly interrupted. When I watch shows with ads, I always find myself forgetting details from before the commercial break when the show jumps back in. I also find myself losing interest faster and not being able to watch as much at a time on regular TV because I get tired of watching the same ads over and over.


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