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What Is Arousal In Psychology

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Definition Of Optimal Arousal Theory

Misattribution of Arousal (Definition Examples)

Why are some people motivated to push through a hard task while others are too stressed to continue? Robert Yerkes and John Dodson studied this question. Based on their research, they developed the optimal arousal theory .

What is arousal in psychology? In Yerkes and Dodson’s theory, arousal is the state of being alert, stimulated, and motivated. OAT is a theory that explains what causes motivation: the desire to engage in a task. Motivation is the difference between “I can do this!”, and “I can’t do this. It’s too hard!”


Yerkes and Dodson said that motivation is related to our level of arousal. They believed that our level of arousal determines our motivation. There is a negative and positive side to this. If we are aroused or stimulated too little or too much , we will lack enough motivation to do the task. If we are aroused or stimulated just enough , we will be motivated to engage in the task.

Liana is a novice rock climber and shes trying to find her next climb spot. She has three spots in mind that she wants to check out. The first spot took her an hour to finish, but she was left unsatisfied because she felt like it was too easy. The second spot she tried was too difficult and she left because she felt frustrated. The last spot was perfect for Liana because it took her around 2 hours, but it was exactly right in terms of difficulty. Liana chooses the second spot as her new location for climbing!

Effects Of Arousal On Sporting Performance

If the performer perceives arousal levels to be positive it will have a positive impact on performance . However if the changes are viewed as negative it will increase both somatic and cognitive state anxiety. Choking occurs in high-pressure situations and this heightened state cause extreme nervous and performance catastrophe.

How To Change Your Arousal And Motivation

A person with low arousal needs might be motivated to pursue simple activities such as crocheting or watching a movie in order to maintain their arousal levels. An individual with high arousal needs, on the other hand, might be motivated to seek risky or thrilling activities such as motorcycle racing or skydiving in order to maintain their ideal levels.

If you need to raise your arousal levels, you might:

  • Engage in physical activity
  • Try something new and exciting
  • Watch an action-packed movie

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What Is The Arousal Theory Of Motivation

The Arousal Theory of Motivation suggests that we seek a balance between stimulation and relaxation. Like the Yerkes-Dodson Law, we are finding that sweet spot where we feel our best. Too much stimulation and arousal and we will seek out less arousing activities and relax. Too little stimulation and arousal and we will seek out thrilling or challenging activities.

This might explain why you might find yourself wanting to go out and see people more than you ever have before after months of lockdowns, or why you prefer to rest and relax after a big night on the town. If were not in that sweet spot of arousal, we are motivated to balance things out and get there.

Effect Of High Vs Low Arousal On Risk Preference

Arousal Theory of Motivation: AP® Psychology Review

Analyses revealed a significant main effect of arousal on predicting risky choices, F = 4.47, p = 0.03. Participants in the high arousal condition selected the riskier option more often than did participants in the low arousal condition 3,4 . A main effect of gender was also found, F = 3.7, p< 0.05. Males made more risky choices than females . Finally, the interaction effect between arousal and gender was not significant in predicting risky choice .

FIGURE 2. Proportion of risky choices for each trial in the high arousal and low arousal conditions. Proportions were calculated as the number of choices of the risky lottery summed across participants, divided by the number of participants in that condition.

Ratings provided during the affective experience task revealed that the high and low arousal groups differed in the experienced arousal, confirming that the arousal manipulation was effective. However, they also differed in valence. For this reason, we performed the regression model again introducing valence ratings as a covariate. Valence ratings did not influence risky choice directly and the effect of arousal on risk preference was still significant, F = 4.51, p = 0.03.

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Can Arousal Carry Affective Value

In the usual characterization of affect, arousal and valence are seen as independent dimensions. However, Michael Robinson proposes that, in fact, valence is not independent of arousal . Specifically, high arousal triggers a defensive reaction, which is initially negative, whereas low arousal triggers an appetitive reaction, which is initially positive . In demonstrating this principle, Robinson et al. asked participants to evaluate emotional pictures that varied orthogonally in arousal and valence. They found that high arousing negative and low arousing positive pictures were evaluated faster and more accurately compared to high arousing positive and low arousing negative pictures. Thus, high arousal appears to carry a negative value, and low arousal a positive value. Another demonstration of this implicit valence-arousal relationship found that advertisements were rated more negatively after writing about exciting events than after writing about less exciting events . The authors conclude that high arousal can lead to negative evaluations, although it was not clear that the valence of the induced affective states was adequately assessed.

Factors Affecting Level Of Arousal

The factors that facilitate a person to perform at an optimal level are variable and peculiar to the individual, however, certain elements are often common, such as:

  • workload
  • task familiarity and past experience
  • circadian rhythm
  • degree of associated risk if failure occurs
  • personal, and crew, motivation

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Critiques In Motivation Theory

Of course, these theories, along with other theories of motivation, dont explain everything. A hungry vegetarian may know that theyll enjoy the taste of a cheeseburger, but they will opt to stay hungry until they get to the next fast food place where there are more vegetarian-friendly options. Someone might choose mountain biking over going clubbing, even though both of these activities promise a high level of arousal. And we may push ourselves to go out and stimulate our senses even when we are tired or just want to relax.

The truth is that the arousal theory of motivation is just one way to look at motivation, and it doesnt encompass every decision we make or action that we take. No theory does. But understanding each theory and what it entails can offer clues into why we behave the way we do, how we can change our behaviors, and how we can adjust our motivation to become the person that we want to be.

Factors That Influence Arousal Theory

Instincts, Arousal, Needs, Drives: Drive-Reduction and Cognitive Theories | MCAT | Khan Academy

There are many factors that can influence each person’s optimal arousal levels, including genetics, experience, and current mood.

Your arousal preferences, in general, may be specified by your genetic makeup, but environmental factors can also play a role in how you are feeling at any given moment. One person may have very low arousal needs while another individual might require very high levels.

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Existing Models Of Sensory Processing Disorders

There are several models categorizing sensory processing disorders. In her theory of sensory integration , Ayres was the first researcher to identify sensory processing as impacting typical development . According to the theory of SI, sensory processing affects two areas of performance: arousal regulation and motor performance. Ayres’ early research focused on hypersensitivity to input affecting emotion regulation, and discrimination difficulties affecting motor performance . While researching sensory processing difficulties in children with ASD, she later added hypo-responsiveness as a characteristic that is present in these children . In its early formulation, the theory of SI focused primarily on the proximal senses that is the tactile, proprioceptive and vestibular senses and their impact on development. When referring to sensory processing, most authors now include the visual, auditory, olfactory and gustatory systems, and many add interoception, or the sensitivity to or perception of what is going on inside one’s body.

Miller and colleagues provide an alternative categorization of sensory processing disorders. They describe three separate disorders: sensory modulation disorders, sensory-based motor disorders, and sensory discrimination disorders. Sensory modulation disorders are subdivided into sensory over-responsivity, sensory under-responsivity, and sensory seeking/craving. Sensory-based motor disorders are subdivided into dyspraxia and postural disorders.

How It Can Be Measured

Performance and aggression can be predicted from the effects of the environment on arousal, and the arousal does generalize to several environment factors most notably noise, heat and crowding. Unfortunately, arousal can be difficult to measure with confidence. Some measures used in research include:

  • Heart rate.
  • GSR or galvanic skin response, meaning electrical conductance of skin due to sweating.
  • Palm sweat index, reaction of palm sweat with a chemical.
  • urine secretion.

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Arousal And Anxiety Regulation

Because a large component of anxiety is physiological overarousal, the following considerations are relevant to the training of both anxiety and physiological arousal regulation. For anxious and overaroused individuals, various forms of relaxation training are the interventions of choice.

One form of relaxation training is called progressive muscle relaxation. Progressive muscle relaxation involves systematic decrements in the tension of the bodys skeletal muscles. Typically, an individual flexes and then relaxes one muscle group at a time, often using visual imagery to facilitate the effect. Breathing becomes a focus, with special attention paid to a slow and steady rate of breath and deep inhalations and exhalations. When executed properly, these processes slow heart rate and decrease neuronal firing in the skeletal muscles, with parallel arousal decrements in the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system.

In developing meditation skills, regular practice is imperative, and patience and gentleness are critical, because it is extremely difficult to detach from mental chatter. Finding a regular time and place for meditation practice often augments the process, but it is important that an athlete experience the setting for meditation as comfortable and peaceful. The duration of meditation practice is often specific to individual tolerance levels, but early practice sessions generally should be kept to shorter lengths .

How To Achieve Optimal Arousal & Motivation

A Very Special Thanks â Peter Granger

The key to achieving your optimal level of arousalwhich results in your maximum level of performance and motivationis to first identify your arousal threshold. Once you’ve identified your personal level of arousal, the next step is to seek experiences that keep you at your optimal arousal. Only then will you maximize your motivation.

When searching for your ideal level of mental alertness, take note of the things that either invigorate your or tire you out. When do you feel demotivated and lethargic? When this happens you’ve probably reached your lower bound. When do you feel stressed and demotivated? This might be the threshold of your upper bound.

Once you’ve identified where your optimum level is, assess which actions you took increased or decreased your alertness. Did taking on more complex tasks at work motivate you or stress you out? Questions like these indicate what you can do to increase or decrease your arousal to keep it within your defined limits.

Overall, the key is balance. Work hard and take on complex tasks, sure, but don’t forget to take it easy from time-to-time. While it seems counterintuitive, periods of hard work followed by periods of rest and recovery actually lead to higher levels of motivation.

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Do Men And Women Experience Sexual Arousal Differently

According to research, they do. Studies of male and female sexual response when prompted to view arousing subliminal images have found that women experienced less arousal then men in those conditions. One theory to explain this and similar findings: For women, an unfamiliar man, even an attractive one, may appear threatening, and in evolutionary terms, a woman would be expected to be more selective about partners, as opposed to men, who may be more likely to allow themselves to be aroused by any attractive potential partner.

Effects Of Physiological Arousal On Cognition

The effects of physiological arousal on cognition cause individuals to be active, attentive, or excited.The term “physiological” refers to physiology and concerns the normal functioning of an organism. Physiological arousal refers to features of arousal reflected by physiological reactions, such as escalations in blood pressure and rate of respiration and lessened activity of the gastrointestinal system.These terms are what allow for the effects physiological arousal has on cognition itself.

Cognition is internal mental representations best characterized as thoughts and ideas- resulting from and involved in multiple mental processes and operations including perception, reasoning, memory, intuition, judgement and decision making. While cognition is not directly observable, it is still amenable to study using the scientific method. Cognition is also something that plays a fundamental role in determining behavior. Goes into explaining cognitive functions and how they are internal and inferred from behavior using measure like accuracy in performing a task like recalling a list of words of the time taken to find some word on a page of text.The study of cognitive functions derive from the information processing approach which argues that these functions involve operations occurring at various processing stages is typically based on a model of cognitive function of interest.

Anticipated behaviors examples

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How Does The Female Orgasm Benefit Relationships

Orgasms enhance a womanâs sexual pleasure, and the sexual satisfaction of their partners. But the female orgasm benefits relationships in other, more subtle ways. Women who report more orgasms with a partner, research suggests, may be more genetically compatible with that person. Women who have more orgasms with a certain partner also tend to evaluate that person as more creative, confident, and funny. These factors all lead to stronger bonding between two partners.

Thecovariation Of Manipulations Of Arousal And Affect:

Arousal, Anxiety, & Stress | CSCS Ch 8

Within the arousal domain, Thayer has explicated twoorthogonal factors that can be related to dimensions of affect: energeticarousal and tense arousal. Energetic arousal and positive affect covarystrongly as do tense arousal and negative affect. Thayer found thatenergetic arousal varies diurnally along with positive affect. Loftus found that an exercise induction tendedto increase positive affect while negative affect remained unaffected. Bothenergetic and tense arousal increased as a result of the exercise inductionalso. This result was in contrast to an earlier study performed by Thayer thatsuggested exercise increased energetic arousal and decreased tense arousal.

Although the exact nature of the relationship between positive/negative affectand low/high or energetic/tense arousal has yet to be clearly delineated, itis clear that many manipulations of affect also are manipulations of arousal.The negative affect experienced while watching a horror movie is accompanied byan increase in tense arousal. The positive affect associated with a livelyparty is also associated with an increase in energetic arousal. It is thisconfounding of affective manipulations with arousal manipulations that webelieve may account for at least part of the inconsistent findings within the study of mood-state dependent effects. In addition, it islikely that the so-called mood intensity effects are more attributable to theeffects of the arousal levels present in the experiments than the affect.

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How The Arousal Theory Of Motivation Works

Each and every person has a specific level of mental alertnessknown as arousalthat results in optimal levels of motivation. When your arousal level drops below your optimal threshold, you become demotivated until your arousal spikes. At the same time, if your mental alertness becomes too high, you also become demotivated until your arousal drops back to your desired level.

Arousal can be stimulated by any number of things or actions, but it always results in higher or lower motivation. Meaningful work, a night out with friends, or a fun new activity are all things that can spike arousal and therefore motivation. For example, if you become demotivated at work, you might spike your mental alertness by taking on new and complex tasks, which in turn motivates you to work harder and get that promotion you deserve.

However, if you become overstimulated your mental alertness can spike too high, which decreases performance and motivation. This is known as the Yerkes-Dodson Law. For example, if you’re working hard on the job and taking on tasks that are new and complex, you may become overstimulated and burn out. To combat this, you might take a long weekend to recharge, giving yourself time to lower your arousal back to optimal levels.

Overall, this motivational theory states the following:

How Often Do People Achieve Orgasm

Research suggests that only about one in four women regularly reach orgasm during vaginal sex, while more than three quarters of men do. For males and females alike, orgasm is achieved faster and more reliably through masturbation. There are distinct health benefits in orgasm, including higher levels of oxytocin, which promotes bonding between partners, and increased blood flow to the brain.

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How To Help Your Daughter

  • Be Responsive- Listen when your daughter is talking to you. Stop multi-tasking, put away your phone and turn off the TV. Take action if you need to. Sometimes this means giving your daughter a hug. Other times it means holding a boundary with her.
  • Validate- When your daughter shares her emotions with you, actively recognize those emotions. You dont need to judge or solve the emotion. Just strive to show your daughter that you love her and understand what she is feeling.
  • Be Consistent- This one is hard for parents. We are imperfect humans and make mistakes. Do your best to respond to situations the same way you did before. If you need to change your response, talk with your daughter and explain what to expect going forward. Then be consistent. Some areas to be consistent in:
      • Holding boundaries
      • Providing Clear Expectations
      • Giving Praise

    This process of healing through reconditioning is possible. It requires concerted, consistent, effort, and lots of time to achieve, but it is absolutely possible to alter our baselines of arousal as it manifests in our attachment style. -written by Allen Richards, CSW, Therapist at Sunrise Residential Treatment Center

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