AP Psychology: Motivation, Emotion, and Personality Notes

Key Takeaways: Motivation, Emotion, and Personality 

  1. Various theories of motivation strive to explain why people behave in certain ways by exploring the roles of instincts, internal and external rewards, the desire to maintain a certain level of arousal, the drive to reduce uncomfortable states, and the urge to fulfill physiological and psychological needs.
  2. Some types of motivation, like hunger and sex, have been the subject of extensive psycho- logical research, which has sometimes produced controversial findings. 
  3. Stress comes in a variety of forms, which can be either positive (eustress) or negative (distress), depending on the characteristics of individuals, their circumstances, and their coping abilities. 
  4. Emotions consist of physiological, behavioral, and cognitive components. Psychologists primarily rely on three key theories to explain emotional responses. 
  5. Personality theories are ways of describing the qualities of people that make them unique individuals. Type and trait theories seek to classify people or specific parts of their personality. The behavioral perspective says that people are a product of their environment, while the biopsychological perspective says that people are a product of their genes. The social cognitive perspective says that personality and environment influence each other, and the humanistic perspective focuses on the positive and healthy aspects of personality. 
  6. The psychoanalytic perspective is a controversial theory of personality that has evolved over time. Psychoanalysts use unconscious instincts and desires to explain thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. 
  7. Psychologists use objective and projective tests to study personality. Objective tests are questionnaires that reveal personality traits, but care must be taken to ensure their internal and external validity. Projective tests seek to reveal unconscious thoughts through the use of ambiguous images, but critics feel these tests reveal more about recent experiences or conscious thoughts than unconscious feelings. 
  8. Culture has an impact on the way personality develops. In particular, collectivist and individualistic cultures differently affect personal thoughts, behaviors, and values..

Key Terms: Motivation, Emotion, and Psychology


  • Motivation: Processes that initiate, direct, and sustain behavior.
  • Extrinsic motivation: Motivation driven by an external reward or punishment.
  • Intrinsic motivation: Motivation driven by internal factors such as enjoyment and satisfaction.
  • Approach-approach conflicts: Conflicts in which you must decide between desirable options.
  • Avoidance-avoidance conflicts: Conflicts in which you must decide between undesirable options.
  • Approach-avoidance conflicts: Conflicts in which you must decide between options with both desirable and undesirable features.
  • Instincts: Inborn, fixed patterns of behavior that present in response to certain stimuli and are often species-specific.
  • Instinct theory: A theory, based on the work of Darwin, stating that people perform certain behaviors due to instincts developed through generations of evolution.
  • Drive: A state of unrest or irritation that energizes particular behaviors to alleviate it.
  • Primary drives: Innate needs that are found in all humans and animals and are vital to survival, such as the needs for food, water, and warmth.
  • Homeostasis: A dynamic state of equilibrium maintained by fulfilling drives and regulating internal conditions such as body temperature and blood pressure.
  • Secondary drives: Needs, such as money and social approval, that are learned through experience.
  • Drive-reduction theory: A theory stating that imbalances to your body’s internal environment generate drives that cause you to act in ways that restore homeostasis.
  • Arousal: The physiological and psychological state of being active and alert, as reflected by factors like heart rate, muscle tone, brain activity, and blood pressure.
  • Arousal theory: A theory stating that individuals are motivated to perform behaviors in order to maintain an optimal arousal level, typically a moderate level.
  • Yerkes-Dodson law: A moderate level of arousal allows for optimal performance, though this optimal level can vary based on the individual and the nature of the task.
  • Incentive theory: A theory of motivation stating that behaviors are motivated by the desire to attain rewards and avoid punishments.
  • Need: An internal desire or deficiency that can motivate behavior.
  • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: A theory that classifies needs into five categories, ranked by priority from lowest to highest: physiological, safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization.
  • Self-actualization: The last level in Maslow’s hierarchy, this need is met when individuals accept themselves and attain their full potential.
  • Obesity: A medical condition characterized by a body mass index of greater than 30 and associated with various health problems, such as an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
  • Sex drive: An example of a primary drive, it describes how motivated an individual is to partake in sexual behavior.
  • Sexual orientation: A person’s identity in relation to the group or gender to which they are attracted; most commonly homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, or asexual.

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