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AP Psychology Unit 8: Motivation and Emotion

AP Psychology Unit 8: Motivation and Emotion

Motivation and emotion are two interrelated topics in psychology that have fascinated researchers for decades. Motivation refers to the driving force behind behavior, while emotion refers to the subjective experience that accompanies behavior. In AP Psychology Unit 8, students explore the various theories and concepts related to motivation and emotion, including the biological, social, and cognitive factors that influence these processes.

Theories of Motivation

There are a variety of theories that seek to explain motivation in humans and animals. Some of the most influential theories in the field include:

Drive Reduction Theory

Drive reduction theory suggests that motivation stems from the need to reduce physiological drives (such as hunger or thirst) that arise from a lack of homeostasis in the body. Once a physiological need has been met, the corresponding drive is reduced, which leads to a state of satisfaction.

Incentive Theory

Incentive theory proposes that people are motivated by the incentives or rewards that they anticipate receiving as a result of their behavior. These rewards can be either intrinsic (such as personal satisfaction or a sense of accomplishment) or extrinsic (such as money or other tangible benefits).

Cognitive Theories

Cognitive theories of motivation suggest that people are motivated by their beliefs, expectations, and values. They may seek out new experiences or challenges in order to satisfy a need for autonomy, competence, or relatedness.

Biological Factors in Motivation and Emotion

While psychological theories can explain some aspects of motivation and emotion, they do not account for the important role that biology can play in these processes. Several key biological factors that influence motivation and emotion include:


Hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, and cortisol can affect mood, anxiety, and motivation. For example, high levels of cortisol are associated with stress and a decreased ability to cope with challenges.


Neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine can impact motivation, pleasure, and arousal. For example, dopamine is believed to play a critical role in the brain’s reward system and may be involved in addiction and other compulsive behaviors.

Brain Structures

Certain regions of the brain, such as the amygdala and the hypothalamus, are known to be involved in emotional processing and the regulation of basic physiological functions like eating and sleeping. Damage to these areas can lead to disturbances in these processes.

Emotions and Affect

Emotions are complex phenomena that can be difficult to study in a laboratory setting. Nevertheless, researchers have made significant progress in understanding the various factors that contribute to emotional experience, including:

Cognitive Appraisals

Cognitive appraisals refer to the way that people interpret and evaluate their experiences. For example, people may experience fear if they perceive a situation as threatening.

Physiological Responses

Emotions are often accompanied by physiological responses such as increased heart rate, sweating, and changes in breathing. These responses are thought to be part of the body’s automatic response to stress and threat.

Social and Cultural Factors

Emotions are also influenced by social and cultural factors, such as the norms and values of one’s community. For example, different cultures may have different norms regarding the expression or suppression of emotion.


In conclusion, AP Psychology Unit 8 provides a fascinating look at the complex interplay between motivation and emotion. From psychological theories and models to biological factors and cultural influences, students will gain a comprehensive understanding of the various factors that shape these fundamental aspects of human experience. Whether you’re a psychology student, a professional researcher, or simply someone interested in the workings of the human mind, AP Psychology Unit 8 is sure to provide a wealth of insights and knowledge.