Research in motivation is pivotal to such fields as educational psychology, social psychology, behavioral psychology, and most other subareas of psychology. Motivation is centrally concerned with the goals people set for themselves and with the means they take to achieve these goals. It is also concerned with how people react to and process information, activities directly related to learning. Motivation to process information is influenced by two major factors: the relevance of the topic to the person processing the information, which affects the willingness to think hard about the topic; and the need for cognition, or the willingness to think hard about varied topics, whether they are directly relevant or not. The relevance of a topic is central to people's motivation to learn about it.
For example, if the community in which a person lives experiences a severe budgetary crisis that will necessitate a substantial increase in property taxes, every resident in that community, home owners and renters alike, is going to be affected directly or indirectly by the increase. Because this increase is relevant to all the residents, they will, predictably, be much concerned with the topic and will likely think hard about its salient details. If, on the other hand, a community in a distant state faces such a crisis, residents in other communities, reading or hearing about the situation, will not have the motivation to do much hard thinking about it because it does not affect them directly.
The second category of motivation rests in the need of some individuals for cognition. Their inherent curiosity will motivate them to think deeply about various topics that do not concern them directly but that they feel a need to understand more fully. Such people are deliberative, self-motivated thinkers possessed of an innate curiosity about the world that surrounds them. They generally function at a higher intellectual level than people who engage in hard thinking primarily about topics that affect them directly. One of the aims of education at all levels is to stimulate people to think about a broad variety of topics, which they will do because they have an inherent curiosity that they long to satisfy.
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