Cognition in Human Motivation and Learning

Cognition in Human Motivation and Learning

Cognition in Human Motivation and Learning

Cognition in Human Motivation and Learning

Excerpt

Walter Mischel Stanford University

Given the crucial theoretical role of the concept of reinforcement in psychology, it is surprising how little has been learned until recently about how the mental representation of rewards and outcomes affects the individual's pursuit of them. I have been interested in the problem of reward representation especially when people are attempting to delay immediate smaller gratification for the sake of more desirable but deferred goals. The research I report here focuses on the studies my associates and I have been conducting to understand more deeply how the mental representation of the relevant rewards in a contingency might influence voluntary delay for those outcomes.

Freud (1911) analysis of the transition from primary to secondary process provides one of the few theoretical discussions of how delay of gratification may be bridged. The psychoanalytic formation suggests that ideation arises intially when there is a block or delay in the process of direct gratification discharge (Rapaport, 1967). During such externally imposed delay, Freud suggested, the child constructs a "hallucinatory wish-fulfilling image" of the need-satisfying object. As a result of frequent association of tension reduction with goal objects, and the development of greater ego organization, the imposed delay of satisfying objects gradually results in the substitution of hallucinatory satisfactions and other thought processes that convert "free cathexes" into "bound cathexes" (Freud, 1911; Singer, 1955). Unfortunately . . .

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