Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Motivating only half our bodies.

Schmidt et al. do a simple experiment to show that motivation need not be a person-level concept, our left and right hemispheres can be separately motivated:
Motivation is generally understood to denote the strength of a person’s desire to attain a goal. Here we challenge this view of motivation as a person-level concept, in a study that targeted subliminal incentives to only one half of the human brain. Participants in the study squeezed a handgrip to win the greatest fraction possible of each subliminal incentive, which materialized as a coin image flashed in one visual hemifield. Motivation effects (i.e., more force exerted when the incentive was higher) were observed only for the hand controlled by the stimulated brain hemisphere. These results show that in the absence of conscious control, one brain hemisphere, and hence one side of the body, can be motivated independently of the other.


  1. Didn't Sperry and Gazzaniga reach this conclusion decades ago with split-brain patients?

  2. I should have pointed out that the distinctive feature of this study was showing the unconscious effect, not the split brain effect.