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Thread: What motivates human behavior?

  1. #1
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    What motivates human behavior?

    Namaste,

    Is it 'avoiding discomfort' that motivates all human behavior? Humans act based on their needs and in one way, they can be said to act in order to avoid discomfort as unsatisfied needs lead to discomfort.

    On this topic, someone writes:

    I tend to think that humans are inherently prone to instinctive actions (I use this word to avoid the labelling of good and bad, at least for now!), and thus any rule or policy goes against their will. It would be adhered to as long as the individual and collective needs (as aligned to the self) are satisfied. And perhaps that is why we see societies evolve to the everchanging needs and desires of the sub groups contained within.

    I dont want to delve too much into imagined situations but the basic premise of this thread is to suggest that the instinctive nature of humans is to seek pleasure and avoid pain (dianetics anybody?), in whatever form and substance it may be. That is why we find even those purported of high morals and ethics falter at times.

    The primal nature of humans. Avoid discomfort - no holds barred.
    Do you agree?
    jai hanuman gyan gun sagar jai kapis tihu lok ujagar

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    Re: What motivates human behavior?

    Namaste,

    I explain the paragraph given in the OP in the following manner:

    1. Needs give rise to instincts and instinctual behavior.


    2. Needs of an individual are always at a compromise when in perspective of the needs of a society at large. Thus rules and regulations are created.


    3. Thus needs and instinctual behavior of an individual can be stated to be on a conflict with rules and regulations.


    4. But the rules will be adhered to, because such rules and regulations result in better satisfaction of some needs of an individual than operating individually, and yet some other needs can themselves be satisfied only by confirming to rules and regulations!


    5. As long as the needs of individuals in a society remain static, the society does not change. But this is hardly so. The society is dynamic and ever-changing because needs of its members is in change constantly.


    From the above deductions, 2 conclusions can be drawn:


    That the function of a 'manmade society' is to cater to the (ever-changing) needs of its individuals such that they avoid discomfort.


    And individuals, though acting on their needs, are focussed on avoiding discomfort, which is why they adhere to rules and regulations.

    If you have any alternative perspectives and insights on what motivates human behavior, please share.
    jai hanuman gyan gun sagar jai kapis tihu lok ujagar

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    Re: What motivates human behavior?

    Namaste Viraja

    Hari Om

    Quote Originally Posted by Viraja View Post
    Namaste,

    Is it 'avoiding discomfort' that motivates all human behavior?
    Human beings are rationale animals - thus they know what may lead to (bodily)happiness/comfort and which action may result in (bodily)discomfort/pain. Humans thus act in a way to maximize their (bodily)happiness/comfort and minimize (bodily)discomfort/pain. By and large, this is a common observation - even at the cost of following an ethical life. Rarely does one come across an individual who is willing to let-go of his (bodily)happiness/comfort and knowingly embrace (bodily)discomfort/pain for a higher ideal.

    Om Namah Shivay

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    Re: What motivates human behavior?

    Namaste,

    How about those voluntarily embracing pain for a greater cause? Like firefighters for instance. Their behavior cannot be described by 'avoid discomfort' category?! It seems humans do not act on the basis of avoiding discomfort alone, afterall... Any thoughts on how to define human behavior then?
    jai hanuman gyan gun sagar jai kapis tihu lok ujagar

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    Re: What motivates human behavior?

    Vannakkam Viraja: I think it's complicated. There are many factors, and also levels or maturity of the souls who inhabit these bags o' nine holes. So immture souls (reflected as immature people) are motivated by instinctive drives like greed, lust, pleasure, fear of discomfort, etc. Their awareness spins in lower chakras.

    But then there are more mature souls who view all that stuff (or try to) as necessary but not in the overwhelming way of the previous type. They understand intuitively or by logic that there are benefits from the opposite traits. In other words, they've reached the muladara and Ganesha's guidance, can see ethica, and try to act ethically. They care less about being uncomfortable, and are decent net contributers to society. They give.

    And then ... there are the yogis, sadhaks, etc, the serious spiritual aspirants, awareness well established in higher chakras, modest, humble, and motivated by a drive for Self-realisation.

    So, what motivates humans varies, depending on the qualities of each individual. We can't make sweeping generalisations.

    Aum Namasivaya

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    Re: What motivates human behavior?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eastern Mind View Post
    Vannakkam Viraja: I think it's complicated. There are many factors, and also levels or maturity of the souls who inhabit these bags o' nine holes. So immture souls (reflected as immature people) are motivated by instinctive drives like greed, lust, pleasure, fear of discomfort, etc. Their awareness spins in lower chakras.

    But then there are more mature souls who view all that stuff (or try to) as necessary but not in the overwhelming way of the previous type. They understand intuitively or by logic that there are benefits from the opposite traits. In other words, they've reached the muladara and Ganesha's guidance, can see ethica, and try to act ethically. They care less about being uncomfortable, and are decent net contributers to society. They give.

    And then ... there are the yogis, sadhaks, etc, the serious spiritual aspirants, awareness well established in higher chakras, modest, humble, and motivated by a drive for Self-realisation.

    So, what motivates humans varies, depending on the qualities of each individual. We can't make sweeping generalisations.

    Aum Namasivaya
    This is an excellent reply! It sounds absolutely correct and also gives food for thought.

    Thank you.

    But I still think human behavior is motivated by 'seeking pleasure' then, perhaps unique to its own individual disposition! And since seeking pleasure has its roots in avoiding discomfort, again we are back at square 1. Aren't we?
    Last edited by Viraja; 12 June 2015 at 10:30 AM.
    jai hanuman gyan gun sagar jai kapis tihu lok ujagar

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    Re: What motivates human behavior?

    Vannakkam Viraja: Frankly, I've always had difficulty with the belief that there is no such thing as altruism. Surely humans have some goodness in them. This was also a difference between Freud, and his student Jung. Freud held we were entirely driven by instinct, but Jung figured we went beyond. I'm with Jung.

    Still, individuals vary widely, as do beliefs about the degree of variance.

    Aum Namasivaya

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    Re: What motivates human behavior?

    You are right, EM ji. I tried to fit in altruism with 'avoiding discomfort' theme.... and thought maybe we can say one avoids discomfort within the confines of the best interests of the society... but then this does not 'always' become the case, is it not? Therefore what you say is very correct. But since this has been an open question for sometime, I have to admit I'm very interested in finding a 'key term' that could satisfactorily define human behavior - although such a term cannot be!

    Thank you for a wonderful clarification!
    jai hanuman gyan gun sagar jai kapis tihu lok ujagar

  9. #9

    Re: What motivates human behavior?

    I would disagree with the view that 1) humans are rational beings or 2) humans are motivated to avoid discomfort. Have you read the classic novel “Notes from the Underground“ by F Dostoyevsky ?
    Last edited by harih; 14 June 2015 at 02:22 AM.

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    Re: What motivates human behavior?

    Namaste ji,

    Very interesting topic, thank you Viraja ji.

    I would like to take some of the suggestions made earlier and move them forward a bit further. It depends on what you mean when you ask the question, what are you defining as 'human'?

    These vehicles we experience the world through are living, material beings; animals. If one reduces all the behaviors of all forms of life to their most basic drives, the thing that fuel what is called 'instinct', there appear to be two: Survival and Propagation. Any behavior the human animal engages in on an instinctive level can be said to be rooted here. How does a living creature know or learn that something is going to help or hurt its survival or chances for propagation of the species? Helpful things bring pleasure, harmful things bring discomfort.

    Different forms of life evolve strategies over time that help to increase their chances at success. Some are solitary in habit, some are social and roam in groups. Those that roam in groups always form a social structure and ranking system to one level or another, to allow them to work as a cohesive whole thus bettering the odds for success of all members of that group than if they were solitary. The social structures in some species are more developed than in others.

    Are altruism or empathy, then, necessarily instinctive behaviors? At first, looking at nature it seems not. But a deeper look shows that it is a successful strategy in its own right at times. An example are Bonobos. They are at least as closely related to Humans as are Chimpanzees, and they look much the same. But while chimpanzees are martial, patriarchal hoarders with a penchant for war and violence, Bonobos are matriarchal and empathic. They have been shown again and again to not hoard resources and will in fact share food with another before partaking themselves even if they too are hungry. Chimpanzees hunt, Bonobos are vegetarians. But even in the tribal societies of Chimpanzees we see empathy, it is simply usually reserved for individuals within a group. This is just one example.

    So, yes, if you're asking what drives the animal we call human, or any other form of material life, the answer most definitely is avoiding discomfort and chasing pleasure. So, what makes us different than this, because there is clearly a difference and it's been defined above already. Acting outside of your own self interest as an animal. Confronting and acting against instinct. The difference is intellect, the ability to reason and discriminate. Consciousness outside of the animal. Please don't mistake me for saying it is unique to humans, though I would say different forms of life do seem to be more intellectually able than others, and even some currently looking through a human form are better at it than others.

    This all brings the question, 'What drives the soul's intellect?'

    ~Pranam
    ~~~~~
    What has Learning profited a man, if it has not led him to worship the good feet of Him who is pure knowledge itself?
    They alone dispel the mind's distress, who take refuge at the feet of the incomparable one.
    ~~Tirukural 2, 7

    Anbe Sivamayam, Satyame Parasivam

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