Introduction

Introduction

A photograph shows a crowd  at the site of the Boston Marathon bombing immediately after it occurred. Debris is scattered on the ground, several people appear to be injured, and several people are helping others.
Emotions can change in an instant, especially in response to an unexpected event. Surprise, fear, anger, and sadness are some immediate emotions that people experienced in the aftermath of the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. What are emotions? What causes them? What motivated some bystanders to immediately help others, while other people ran for safety? (credit: modification of work by Aaron "tango" Tang)

What makes us behave as we do? What drives us to eat? What drives us toward sex? Is there a biological basis to explain the feelings we experience? How universal are emotions?

In this chapter, we will explore issues relating to both motivation and emotion. We will begin with a discussion of several theories that have been proposed to explain motivation and why we engage in a given behavior. You will learn about the physiological needs that drive some human behaviors, as well as the importance of our social experiences in influencing our actions.

Next, we will consider both eating and having sex as examples of motivated behaviors. What are the physiological mechanisms of hunger and satiety? What understanding do scientists have of why obesity occurs, and what treatments exist for obesity and eating disorders? How has research into human sex and sexuality evolved over the past century? How do psychologists understand and study the human experience of sexual orientation and gender identity? These questions—and more—will be explored.

This chapter will close with a discussion of emotion. You will learn about several theories that have been proposed to explain how emotion occurs, the biological underpinnings of emotion, and the universality of emotions.

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