This will mainly be a compilation of sourced ideas

Overall, there are two kinds of emotional motivations: pleasant (will be referred to as “positive”) and painful (will be referred to as “negative”).

Punishment versus Reinforcement

Punishment: To decrease the probability of a behavior occurring in the future—it discourages the target behavior.

Reinforcement: To increase the probability of a behavior occurring in the future—it encourages the target behavior.

“Positive” vs. “Negative”

Positive: when something is added, or introduced.

Negative: when something is subtracted, or removed.

Positive Reinforcement vs. Negative Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement: To introduce something desirable to increase the probability of the target behavior in the future.

Negative reinforcement: To remove something undesirable to increase the probability of the target behavior in the future.

Positive Punishment vs. Negative Punishment

Positive Punishment: To introduce something undesirable after a behavior to reduce the probability of the target behavior in the future.

Negative Punishment: To remove something desirable after a behavior to reduce the probability of the target behavior in the future.

Negative Emotional Motivations Guilt and Shame

There are many misconceptions about guilt and shame. Many are them are perpetuated by those who try to use these feelings to keep us down and hold us back. I will not name who does this to us but if you examine your life it will become very obvious. In fact, under this post I would love to hear from you about the creative ways these feelings have been used against you. Guilt and shame are tricky feelings that cause so much unnecessary suffering. Nearly identical in the way they work within us, guilt and shame generally form a single complex. But while it is possible to feel guilt without shame, we cannot feel shame without guilt. The way to distinguish them is this: Guilt is the feeling that follows a perceived wrongdoing. “I did wrong.” Shame is the feeling that we, ourselves, are made “wrong” or “bad” for what we perceive we did. It relates to the energy of every emotion from apathy through pride. Shame, on the other hand, is a grief related feeling.

Shame has been called our “most dreaded emotional experience. Whether we suffer shame ourselves or witness shame in others, who among us actively seeks the experience defined as “believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging—something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection”?

Shame and Motivation to Change

Shame may well deserve its bad rap, with repercussions ranging from the inconvenience of ineffective workplace team performance to using shame as a way to manipulate others to the lifelong debilitating shame resulting from childhood trauma. Shame researchers such as Brown(link is external) make compelling arguments for why we should be careful not to let shame rule our lives, and why guilt may be a preferable negative emotion, as it focuses our attention on specific events or behavior rather than the self. But is shame always bad for us? Maybe not, at least not if we are interested in self-change. Shame as a predictor of wanting to change: The authors of “Shame and the Motivation to Change the Self” (Emotion, December 2014) found that feeling shame was a stronger predictor than guilt or regret for motivation for positive self-change. They offer the following definitions of guilt and shame (emphases added):

  • Guilt arises when a person focuses on what specifically he or she did wrong (‘I did a bad thing’), often results when one has harmed an important relationship, and generally motivates reparative motivations including efforts to apologize for, fix, or undo the blameworthy act.”
  • Shame has a more dispositional focus in which people attend to negative aspects of the self (‘I was a bad person’) and has been linked to distancing motivations aimed at escaping the blameworthy event or hiding from public view.”

The researchers looked at to what extent emotions predicted

  • wanting to change oneself (the “urge to be a better person,” wanting to change completely or change aspects of one’s personality);
  • the desire for reparation (feeling the need to apologize or otherwise take action to “make things better”); and
  • the urge to distance oneself (wanting to hide or remove oneself from a shameful situation).

They found that shame “was uniquely associated with the motivation to change the self above and beyond moral self-blame and harm to others.” Why would shame more so than guilt predict a desire for self-change? One possibility raised in the study is that because we feel the need to apologize and make reparations when we feel guilty, we may be less motivated to make lasting changes in ourselves. 

Shame and the Motivation to Change the Self

Two studies examining people’s lived experiences of self-conscious emotions, particularly shame, in motivating a desire for self-change. Study 1 revealed that when participants recalled experiences of shame, guilt, or embarrassment, shame and, to some degree, guilt predicted a motivation for self-change. Study 2 compared shame, guilt, and regret for events and found that although shame experiences often involved high levels of both regret and guilt, it was feelings of shame that uniquely predicted a desire for self-change, whereas regret predicted an interest in mentally undoing the past and repairing harm done.

Self-conscious emotions are cognition-dependent and help to regulate people’s interpersonal behavior. Self-conscious emotions such as shame require reflection on how one is being perceived and evaluated by other people, and involve the internalizing the expectations of others. Where the outcome is considered a failure an internal attribution would evoke shame, while a successful outcome would evoke pride. Shame is usually compared to guilt in terms of negative self-conscious emotions. To evoke shame, rather than guilt, two other attributions are important. First, the internal attribution is judged to be concerned with something stable and fixed about the individual, for example ability. This is contrasted with an `unstable’ and unfixed characteristic such as effort. The eliciting of shame involves attributions to the entire self (or `global’ self), rather than to just one part of the self. Shame also differs from embarrassment. Shame is elicited by the realization that others regard oneself as deficient, while embarrassment stems from the awareness that others’ view one’s presentation of self as inappropriate. Shame is generally accompanied by embarrassment but the converse is not, as a rule, true. Research on self-conscious emotions has developed in recent years, there has been work on positive social emotions, particularly pride. However, the role of the negative self-conscious emotions, in particular shame, has been less developed. Negative emotions are important to study in terms of motivation for at least two reasons. First, negative emotions are linked more strongly to specific action orientations than is the case with positive emotions which implies that different negative emotions should be distinguished from each other. Second, negative emotions are more intensely felt than positive emotions and within the range of negative emotions, there are differing levels of intensity. Shame is the most intensely felt of the negative self-conscious emotions, more than guilt, embarrassment, and humiliation. The strength of the felt emotion will have an impact on motivational force. Motivation is conceptualized through goal setting theory and shame’s role in the goal situation, goal commitment and goal achievement is identified. The analysis and framework presented here identifies the conditions in goal-setting which are likely to increase the probability of shame feelings and further, how, contrary to models of shame emphasizing withdrawal behavior, the conditions under which shame may generate a higher likelihood of prosocial behavior. It is argued that through the goals setting process, implicitly use negative emotions such as shame to highlight the significance of appropriate behavior, but that this must be done at relatively mild levels. The threat or experience of shame must not be so distressing that they impair the relationship and that shame is used as a means of socialization rather than an end-in-itself.

Alternatively, Negative and Positive could be used as a team method; such as Negative to get things started, but understanding it is Positive that keeps things going. “Push-Pull Motivation” which seems to be the foundation of Pavlok’s habit change method.

According to Robert Evans Wilson Jr. shame can be an effective motivator, would I recommend using it to motivate others? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Shame is extremely motivating when it comes to eliminating unwanted behavior, but at the same time it is also a de-motivator. Shame is so powerful, it can make someone feel worthless and completely shut them down. Shame hits like a fist, and when it comes during childhood, some people spend the rest of their lives trying to recover from it. Motivate instead with understanding and kind explanation.

Motivation in pursuit of values should be from positive emotions, not from negative ones.
Assuming that the pursuit of values is the norm of every day life (what we do most of the time), and disasters are exceptional and rare, motivation from negative emotions should only be present in exceptional cases of correcting a mistake, or when you try to deal with some disaster – but not on the form of daily basis.

Shame reflects a decrease in stature while pride is the emotion reflecting an increase in stature. Shame is the inevitable result of self-awareness, introspection, and self-appraisal. It makes us aware of our limitations. Shame is an intrinsic punishment for bad behavior. It provides an incentive (as a negative sanction) to work to increase stature. It has the potential to spur us on to our greatest human achievements. We may fear criticism, rejection or abandonment as a result of our shameful behavior. If this spurs us on to constructive action, it is helpful. If it becomes overwhelming and prevents us from talking about our feelings or taking action, then it is dangerous. Shame lurks in the gap between what is and what ought to be. By alerting us to times when we failed to do our best, it can help us improve. However, if we ruminate on our shortcomings, it can distract us from taking constructive action. This can lead to a cycle of self-destructive behavior. Please get competent help if you are caught in such a destructive cycle.

The Paradox of Shame

While pride is our emotional reward for doing good, shame is our emotional punishment for doing bad. Unfortunately, if our shame is too intense, or if we become depressed or obsessed with our digression, it can be debilitating and counterproductive. Consider shame as a slap on the wrist, examine what you did wrong, and take constructive steps to improve and move forward.

The Dangers of Shame

A question was posed to a violent criminal in prison: “What do you want so badly that you would sacrifice everything in order to get it” The answer given was “Pride, dignity, self-esteem . . . and I would kill every [person] in that cell-block if I have to in order to get it.” Shame and humiliation often motivate violence to others and to the self. People become ashamed that their original shame is caused by such a trivial matter. The more trivial the cause of the shame, the more shameful it becomes to acknowledge that is what you feel ashamed about.

Two studies demonstrated that greater identification with a group was associated with more positive emotions for members who conformed with versus violated the group’s norms. These effects were found with injunctive norms, which specify what members should do or what they ideally would do, but emerged less consistently with descriptive norms, which specify what members typically do. Descriptive norms affected emotional responses when they acquired identity-relevance by differentiating an important ingroup from a rival outgroup. For these descriptive norms, much like injunctive norms, greater identification yielded more positive emotions following conformity than violation. The authors suggest that positive emotions and self-evaluations underlie conformity with the norms of self-defining groups.
Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

The fundamental dichotomy suggested here (intrinsic vs. extrinsic) posits that motivations can be distinguished as either arising within and through the individual as a self-regulated phenomenon or by imposition from external sources or structures without a sense of free adoption or adaptation by the subject persons.

From Alexander Kjerulf at

“Social value orientations are based on the assumption that individuals pursue different goals when making decisions for which the outcomes affect others. Social psychologists generally distinguish between five types of social value orientations. The main difference between each category is the extent to which one cares about his or her own payoffs and that of the other in social dilemma situations.

  • Altruistic: Desire to maximize the welfare of the other
  • Cooperative: Desire to maximize joint outcomes
  • Individualistic: Desire to maximize own welfare with no concern of that of the other
  • Competitive: Desire to maximize own welfare relative to that of the other
  • Aggressive: Desire to minimize the welfare of the other

Why Extrinsic Motivation Doesn’t Work

From Alfred Kohn: “If a reward — money, awards, praise, or winning a contest — comes to be seen as the reason one is engaging in an activity, that activity will be viewed as less enjoyable in its own right.” (

“extrinsic motivation has some serious drawbacks:

1. It’s not sustainable – As soon as you withdraw the punishment or reward, the motivation disappears.

2. You get diminishing returns – If the punishment or rewards stay at the same levels, motivation slowly drops off. To get the same motivation next time requires a bigger reward.

3. It hurts intrinsic motivation – Punishing or rewarding people for doing something removes their own innate desire to do it on their own. From now on you must punish/reward every time to get them to do it.”

Factors that Promote Intrinsic Motivation

“What enhances intrinsic motivation? This webpage cites some research and lists the factors that create and sustain intrinsic motivation:

  • Challenge – Being able to challenge yourself and accomplish new tasks.
  • Control – Having choice over what you do.
  • Cooperation – Being able to work with and help others.
  • Recognition – Getting meaningful, positive recognition for your work.
  • Happiness at work – People who like their job and their workplace are much more likely to find intrinsic motivation.
  • Trust – When you trust the people you work with, intrinsic motivation is much easier.”

The Benefit of Challenge with Care

Do what is hard, challenge all that is wrong, but do it out of care as much as possible as well as try to not do it out of hate or anger as much as possible. It is better to offer new truth as a gift others can open for themselves than to use new truth as a weapon to attack them with just to prove we are right. In a challenge or argument people early are as open to information if they are punched in the face with the truth and since we actually care about humanity we are better served in offering new truth with the attitude of our humanism as much as possible even when challenging others.

This is about our approach to people we are arguing with that we should be trying to inform them not out to belittle or character attack by means of evidence. It’s not saying don’t challenge them or stop showing them stuff that will challenge what they think. We can and should tell even hard truths but out of a care to help not hurt. Exposing lies is caring and letting others rune their lives because of Lies we never try to challenge is not helpful.

Unconditional Positive Regard: Towards Positive Change and Relating

When we talk to loved ones its supportive if we can talk with them not at them using unconditional positive regard and other nonviolent communication. Practicing unconditional positive regard means accepting and respecting others as they are without judgment or evaluation. People also nurture our growth by being accepting—by offering us unconditional positive regard. This is an attitude of grace, an attitude that values us even knowing our failings. It is a profound relief to drop our pretenses, confess our worst feelings, and discover that we are still accepted. In a good marriage, a close family, or an intimate friendship, we are free to be spontaneous without fearing the loss of others’ esteem.

The 4-Part Nonviolent Communication (NVC) Process Developed by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.

Here is the link: