increasing stress and motivation

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SuprunP

Senior Member
Ukrainian & Russian
Early in the 20th century the Yerkes-Dodson Law related increasing stress and motivation to an inverted U-shaped curve for work output; at the highest level of stress, output dropped to zero.
(Scientific American Mind; Volume 17, Number 5; Letters)

Does 'increasing' modify 'motivation' as well? Can it be said for sure?

Thanks.
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    It doesn't make any sense to me to think this phrase means "increasing stress and increasing motivation." The rest of the sentence implies that workers become completely unmotivated when their stress levels are too high.
     
    Last edited:

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Does 'increasing' modify 'motivation' as well?
    That is what we should expect from the word order. However, Wikipedia has this to say:
    The law dictates that performance increases with physiological or mental arousal, but only up to a point. When levels of arousal become too high, performance decreases.
    The author is relying on people knowing that that is what the law means, and is lazily failing to make his meaning and his expression coincide. Correct (assuming the terminology is correct: but see below) and clear would be:

    'The Yerkes-Dodson law expressed the relationship between increasing stress and motivation by means of an inverted U-shaped curve.'

    Another possibility is that the author intends the terms 'stress' and 'motivation' to be synonymous in context. In fact, it is difficult to avoid this conclusion in any case. Reading it consistently in this way would rescue his word order at the price of losing correct use of terms.
     
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    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    On second thoughts, if there is a valid psychological usage which makes the two terms 'stress' and 'motivation' synonymous or near-synonymous in this context, then it does makes sense for the adjective 'increasing' to apply to both.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    The original formulation of the law relates arousal to performance.
    The term 'motivation' seems to be nearer in meaning to 'arousal' than to 'performance'.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, I think what you imply is correct:

    The wording is misleading: he's got stress and motivation on the x-axis, and work output on the y-axis. As stress and motivation increases work output rises and then falls, hence the inverted-U-shaped graph.

    It's unhelpful to link motivation with stress, because when you're in the middle of a nervous breakdown your motivation is zero.
     
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