On Motivational Readiness

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The construct of motivational readiness is introduced and explored. Motivational readiness is the willingness or inclination, whether or not ultimately realized, to act in the service of a desire. Building on prior relevant conceptions that include, among others, animal learning models (Hull, 1943; Spence, 1956; Tolman, 1955) and personality approaches (e.g., Atkinson, 1964; Lewin, 1935), a general theory of motivational readiness is presented. Major parameters of this theory include the magnitude of a Want state (i.e., individual’s desire of some sort) and the Expectancy of being able to satisfy it. The Want is assumed to be the essential driver of readiness: Whereas some degree of readiness may exist in the absence of Expectancy, all readiness is abolished in the absence of desire (Want). The concept of incentive is conceptualized in terms of a Match between the contents of the Want and perceived situational affordances. Whereas in classic models incentive was portrayed as a first-order determinant of motivational readiness, it is depicted here as a second-order factor that affects readiness via its impact on the Want and/or the Expectancy. A heterogeneous body of evidence for the present theory is reviewed, converging from different domains of psychological research. The theory’s relation to its predecessors and its unique implications for new research hypotheses are also discussed.

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