Understanding Eating in Australian Adults. | MyPaperHub

Basic Perspectives of Motivation: Evaluating five Perspectives for Understanding Eating in Australian Adults.


People who consume whole grains, vegetables, and fruits as their primary foods live a healthier and longer life as compared to those who eat fat saturated and added sugars foods. Consumption of these unhealthy foods can be linked to severe health conditions like obesity as well as mortality. The paper's main aim to find out the most appropriate perspective to explain what motivates people to eat healthily or not. The angles that were looked at include the evolutionary, psychodynamic, behavioural, cognitive and hierarchy of needs perspectives. The study found the behavioural view to be the most appropriate in understanding motivation related to eating. The study, therefore, recommends the use of behavioural perspective in understanding eating habits.


Keywords: Obesity, behaviour, Evolutionary perspective, Psychodynamic perspective, Expectancy, Cognitive perspective, psychology


Perspectives of Motivation

According to Burton et al. (2015), obesity is a health condition where a person accumulates a lot of body fat that might be detrimental to their health. The Body Mass Index (BMI) for an individual is considered obese if its 30 and above. Some of the symptoms indicating obesity are, trouble sleeping, varicose veins, shortness of breath, Sleep apnea, gallstones, Osteoarthritis in weight-bearing joints, and skin problems. The risk factor of being obese is an occurrence of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases. Statistics indicate that 2 in 3 adults are overweight or obese in Australia which forms the basis of the need to understand the issue from a psychological perspective. The paper will look at five perspectives of motivation in understanding the eating habits that might lead to or inhibit obesity. The research will recommend the best perspective to be used in interpreting the disorder, and why people choose to eat what they eat.

First, we will look at the evolutionary perspective. The perspective was first laid out by Charles Darwin. From this perspective, behaviours are not consciously constructed but are instinctual and form their basis on what is the most advantageous when it comes to passing genes to the next generation. Evolutionary psychology is, therefore, an approach to psychological science where results and principles are drawn from anthropology, neuroscience, cognitive science and evolutionary biology and then combined with the rest of psychology to project human nature (Burton et al., 2012).

According to this psychology, people are driven to engage in activities and behaviours that maximize their genetic fitness. Therefore, a mutation in genetics has capabilities of changing both physical and behavioural traits. Any animal, humans included, follow a certain way that improves their reproductive success thus resulting in a social process (behaviour) that ensures maximization of genetic fitness (Burton et al., 2012). The assumption could explain the reason why some people see the need to go to the gym. They are motivated to stay fit hence the need to exercise regularly.

The proposition that instincts drive human behaviour, however, has a limitation in that some behaviours are not instinct driven but are learnt. The theory, therefore, could partially explain why people prefer fast foods because of the perceived sweetness. Choice of eating healthy could be as a result of learning the benefits of it and the downside of poor eating habits.

According to the perspective, behaviour is driven by many survival instincts. Several instincts are proposed which included mother’s protection for her baby, hunting prey, and fondness for sugar. The theory is, however, more suitable when explaining behaviours related to reproduction and development of human beings and animals, rather than explaining eating habits. As seen in Burton et al. (2012), most research done on this perspective focuses on reproduction and the behaviours surrounding the process. Hence the evolutionary perspective is not a sufficient theory to explain eating behaviours.

The second perspective to look at is the psychodynamic perspective of motivation. The perspective identifies motivation as a biological aspect where people’s motives reflect their animal heritage which is characterized by a drive (Burton et al., 2012). Originating from the works of Sigmund Freud, the theory has evolved with a view that includes an emphasis on physical processes and actions that are done unconsciously. An example of processes is fears and wishes which we are not aware.

Psychodynamic perspective has three fundamental assumptions. The first one is that majority of psychological processes take place outside of conscious. Many mental activities like motives, feelings, and memories are therefore inaccessible to the consciousness (Burton et al., 2012).  With this, we can infer that eating is an unconscious activity. The second assumption is that early experiences in life are critical in the construction of one’s personality and motivation. The third and final assumption is that nothing in the mental life of a human being happens by chance. According to this assumption, nothing like random feeling, thought, behaviour or motive. Instead, all these feelings, thoughts, motivations and expressed actions stem from a combination of identifiable psychological and biological processes (Burton et al., 2012).

Psychodynamic perspective, therefore, explains motivation basing the argument on life experiences from childhood through maturity. The theory also explains what motivates people to do what they do in life like achieve specific goals which consist of competitiveness that is unconscious in human beings. However, it fails to shed light on why people choose to eat certain foods and not others. Also, the perspective suggests that people do not have free will and that motivations are predetermined.

Therefore, it can be used to explain the fact that an individual may choose to eat fast food because during their formative year this was the meal that they ate. However, the theory is not sufficient in understanding the eating behaviour hence not the best perspective to use.

The third of the perspectives is behavioural. Human beings just like any other living organism have needs that must be met for them to survive. Examples of these needs include food, water, and sleep. If there is a deprivation of any of these, it motivates the person to act to meet the need. Homeostasis is the state in which all the person needs are met; this is about food, sleep, and water. Therefore, the desire for homeostasis is what motivates and drives people ("PSY2020 Module 1 - Basic concepts in motivation", 2018)

The perspective is based on several theoretical models, but the one that stands out the most is that of Clark Hull. Hull’s model argues that drive to doing something is general; however, motives like sex, hunger, thirst may intensify the drive level of a person. Usually, drive initiates behaviour and with an increase in drive comes an increase in activity (Burton et al., 2012). Drive is stirred by a driving stimulus which leads to specific actions that will satisfy the particular need. For example, an increase in stress level causes depression, and for some people causing them to eat more and as a result they become obese.

The theory is a clear perspective explaining why individuals are motivated to eat. As seen earlier, hunger drives an individual to seek food that they will eat and resolve the imbalance of the homeostasis. It is appropriate to infer that eating depends on an adequate drive. An increase in the intensity of hunger would increase the drive to look for food to eat.

In explaining why an individual may choose to eat fast food over the healthy food we look at the incentive aspect of the behavioural perspective (Burton et al., 2012). Fast food can be viewed as having reward elements that an individual is willing to sacrifice dieting to get the satisfaction. An individual may also be willing to give up fast food for healthy ones because there is the reward of a lifestyle that is more fulfilling than the simple pleasure of fast food which would later become harmful.

The fourth perspective is the cognitive theory of psychology. The perspective is affected by expectations and attributions of an action. The supporters of this theory explain that expectations one may have will guide their behaviour especially in ways that would result in desirable outcomes. The perspective is rooted in two factors which are information available and the individual’s past experiences. The theory of expectation, therefore, explains why one decides to take one option over the other. The cognitive perspective of motivation falls under several important theories which are expectancy-value, goal-setting, intrinsic motivation, self-determination and implicit motives theories (Burton et al., 2012).

Expectancy-value is that which an individual is hoping to receive hence a combination of behaviours that will lead to achieving the goal. The theory has been used to explain the behaviour of hard work in the workplace.

Goal-setting identifies that most goals set regulate human action in achieving it (Burton et al., 2012). The theory can be used to explain the need to lose weight where an obese individual sets certain goals. For him/her to achieve them, he/she will need to make specific behavioural changes like going to the gym on a daily basis, watching out what they eat and many others. Intrinsic motivation is the enjoyment of pleasure that comes with engaging in a particular activity. Self-determination theory explains that people’s intrinsic motivation grows when the need for competence, relatedness, and autonomy are taken care of. Finally, under implicit motives, the theory focuses on the motives expressed outside of human consciousness.

It is clear that the theory cannot be used to explain why people eat and why others prefer healthy foods over fast foods or vice versa. The theory explains behaviours like why some people are high achievers. When looking at obesity from this perspective, we can only look at what motivates people to live a healthy life. The theory, therefore, limits the subject and cannot be able to explain the subject widely.

The fifth and final theory is the hierarchy of needs. Abraham Maslow first developed the approach in the quest to understand the behaviour of human beings. He proposed that specific needs drive people and when that need is achieved, one moves on to the next. He developed a model that composed of five stages of needs. The needs start with basic then end with the ones that an individual can live without but pursue them anyway as they have achieved the basic. The five stages are physiological needs, safety and security, love and belonging, self-esteem and finally self-actualization (Burton et al., 2012).

Like the fourth perspective, the hierarchy of needs theory is a goal-oriented process where one is motivated to achieve one thing as it has expected results. The difference for this perspective is that it explains human behaviour and motivation in general. Unlike the cognitive theory that describes a single action of a set of practice, the hierarchy of needs perspective explains why human beings act the way they do. For example, an individual may be motivated to work harder at his/her workplace to get a promotion that comes with more salary and a better reputation.

Maslow’s theory explains why people need to achieve the goals they set and scale in life, unlike other approaches that define a set of behaviours that are directed in achieving a single goal. The theory explains the whole life of a human being and what motivates them (Burton et al., 2012).

It is for this reason that it cannot be the appropriate perspective for understanding why people choose to eat certain foods and not the other. The only explanation the theory can provide is why people eat, which is because it is a basic need and falls under the first stage of the approach.


In conclusion, the five perspectives of motivation in psychology are important in understanding eating and disorders associated with it like obesity. The essay has looked at the five perspectives that can be used to explain the motivation since it is crucial to understand the underlying motivation to be able to find a cure for eating disorders. From the study, it is correct to infer that evolutionary perspective is not sufficient in explaining the disorder as it looks at behaviours driven by instincts, neither is psychodynamic perspective as it is more of a personality perspective. The cognitive psychology and the hierarchy of needs perspectives are goals oriented therefore leaving behavioural perspective as the most appropriate perspective when investigating eating habits. Behavioural perspective is the one that directly relates to eating habit and many other hence the most suitable.

English used: British English

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