bindra, 1969

Another of the older #papersIlike is this absolute classic, Dalbir Bindra’s paper to the 1969 Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, “The Interrelated Mechanisms of Reinforcement and Motivtion, and the Nature of Their Influence on Response.”

You can tell by the title it’s a GIGANTIC NERD PAPER, and many of you won’t care at all, but it’s really important that *I* understand it so that you don’t have to!

Bindra uses experimental comparative psychology (rats) to lay out the idea that the primary function of reinforcing events (punishment or reward, etc) is not behavioral response reinforcement, but the creation of motivational states! That is, all events that you might think of as “reinforcing” are, in fact, MOTIVATING.

The importance lies in the attention he’s paying to the internal state of the organism; rather than monitoring simply the behavior and its relationship to external events, he’s recognizing that those behaviors are created by an internal motivational mechanism that is influenced by the presence of reinforcing – read: motivating – stimuli.

He goes on to describe how this means that some motivational states are not drives, as has been traditionally thought, but INCENTIVE MOTIVATION STATES.

Now, it takes him 37 dense pages to say what I just summarized, so if I’ve whet your appetite for more (<-- motivating), go and read the whole thing! And gosh, if you like that, you should read his 1974 paper, in which: (1) He specifies separate mechanisms for producing visceral-regulatory, instrumental, and transactional responses. OoooOOOOOooh! (2) He proposes that a “central motive state” (CMS) interacts with stimuli to generate new, motivated behavior shaped by the relationship (in space, time, and circumstance) between organism and stimulus. The interaction also leads to enhanced or diminished reinforcement, depending on the intensity of the stimulus and the level of deprivation or satiation of the CMS. (3) And, well I’ll just quote: “…[T]he central motive state is generated directly by organismic-state and incentive variables, and, once generated, ‘feed forward’ to make certain particular environmental stimuli so potent that the animal must act in relation to them rather than any other stimuli.” If that’s what going on with the sexual excitation system, it tells us how to ask questions about the basic functioning of the sexual response mechanism. I mean, right?? It changes EVERYTHING when you think about women’s sexuality this way, rather than in the traditional terms of “drive,” with sexual desire equivalent to hunger. Love. It.