Reference : The uncertainty processing theory of motivation
Scientific journals : Article
Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Neurosciences & behavior
The uncertainty processing theory of motivation
Anselme, Patrick mailto [Université de Liège - ULg > Département des sciences cognitives > Neuroscience comportementale et psychopharmacologie expér. >]
Behavioural Brain Research
Elsevier Science
Yes (verified by ORBi)
The Netherlands
[en] Dopamine ; Motivation ; Uncertainty
[en] Most theories describe motivation using basic terminology (drive, ‘wanting’, goal, pleasure, etc.) that fails to inform well about the psychological mechanisms controlling its expression. This leads to a conception of motivation as a mere psychological state ‘emerging’ from neurophysiological substrates. However, the involvement of motivation in a large number of behavioural parameters (triggering, intensity, duration, and directedness) and cognitive abilities (learning, memory, decision, etc.) suggest that it should be viewed as an information processing system. The Uncertainty Processing Theory (UPT) presented here suggests that motivation is the set of cognitive processes allowing organisms to extract information from the environment by reducing uncertainty about the occurrence of psychologically significant events. This processing of information is shown to naturally result in the highlighting of specific stimuli. The UPT attempts to solve three major problems: (i) how motivations can affect behaviour and cognition so widely, (ii) how motivational specificity for objects and events can result from nonspecific neuropharmacological causal factors (such as mesolimbic dopamine), and (iii) how motivational interactions can be conceived in psychological terms, irrespective of their biological correlates. The UPT is in keeping with the conceptual tradition of the incentive salience hypothesis while trying to overcome the shortcomings inherent to this view.

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