Volition (psychology)
Volition or will
Will (philosophy)
Will, in philosophical discussions, consonant with a common English usage, refers to a property of the mind, and an attribute of acts intentionally performed. Actions made according to a person's will are called "willing" or "voluntary" and sometimes pejoratively "willful"...

is the cognitive process by which an individual decides on and commits to a particular course of action. It is defined as purposive striving, and is one of the primary human psychological functions (the others being affection [affect or feeling], motivation
Motivation is the driving force by which humans achieve their goals. Motivation is said to be intrinsic or extrinsic. The term is generally used for humans but it can also be used to describe the causes for animal behavior as well. This article refers to human motivation...

 [goals and expectations] and cognition
In science, cognition refers to mental processes. These processes include attention, remembering, producing and understanding language, solving problems, and making decisions. Cognition is studied in various disciplines such as psychology, philosophy, linguistics, and computer science...

 [thinking]). Volitional processes can be applied consciously, and they can be automatized as habits over time. Most modern conceptions of volition address it as a process of action control that becomes automatized (see e.g., Heckhausen and Kuhl; Gollwitzer; Boekaerts and Corno).

Willpower is the colloquial, and volition the scientific, term for the same state of the will; viz., an "elective preference". When we have "made up our minds" (as we say) to a thing, i.e., have a settled state of choice respecting it, that state is called an immanent volition; when we put forth any particular act of choice, that act is called an emanant, or executive, or imperative, volition. When an immanent or settled state of choice controls or governs a series of actions, we call that state a predominant volition; while we give the name of subordinate volitions to those particular acts of choice which carry into effect the object sought for by the governing or "predominant volition".

According to Gary Kielhofner's "Model of Human Occupation", volition is one of the three sub-systems that act on human behavior. Within this model, volition refers to a person's values, interests and self-efficacy (personal causation) about personal performance.

The book A Bias for Action by Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal
Sumantra Ghoshal
Sumantra Ghoshal was an academic and management guru. He was the founding Dean of the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, which is jointly sponsored by the Kellogg School at Northwestern University and the London Business School....

 discusses the difference between willpower and motivation. In doing so, the authors use the term volition as a synonym for willpower and describe briefly the theories of Narziss Ach and Kurt Lewin
Kurt Lewin
Kurt Zadek Lewin was a German-American psychologist, known as one of the modern pioneers of social, organizational, and applied psychology....

. While Lewin argues that motivation and volition are one and the same, the authors claim that Ach argues differently. According to the authors, Ach claims that there is a certain threshold of desire that distinguishes motivation from volition: when desire lies below this threshold, it is motivation, and when it crosses over, it becomes volition. Using this model, the authors consider individuals' differing levels of commitment with regard to tasks by measuring it on a scale of intent from motivation to volition. Modern writing on the role of volition, including discussions of impulse control (e.g., Kuhl and Heckhausen) and education (e.g., Corno), also make this distinction. Corno's model ties volition to the processes of self-regulated learning.

Conceptions of willpower are generally based on the assumption that we have rational
In philosophy, rationality is the exercise of reason. It is the manner in which people derive conclusions when considering things deliberately. It also refers to the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons for belief, or with one's actions with one's reasons for action...

control, and that the reduction of this control results in a lack of willpower. We can thus turn our rationality to serve our impulses or wishes, and sometimes have great willpower in pursuing them. For instance, an alcoholic can be very cunning in pursuing his desire to drink, and may display great determination in achieving this goal. Other times, however, he may know that this behavior is destroying his life, and may resolve for the moment to forgo it. Both resolutions may be explained with reference to willpower, depending on how rational his choices are in each case.

The observer's error is to assume that humans are essentially rational creatures, and that human will always serves that rationality. In fact, we are only partly rational, and often our will serves various motivations aside from reason.

External links

  • http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/weakness-will/ [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry: Weakness of Will]
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