Motivation pp 23-65 | Cite as

Sources of Spontaneity in Motivated Behavior

  • Philip Teitelbaum
  • Timothy Schallert
  • Ian Q. Whishaw


In the study of motivated behavior, the question often boils down to the locus and the nature of control of an action. In the eighteenth century, for instance, people took for granted that their behavior was largely voluntary, subject to the control of their will. Those human and animal actions which went on independently of voluntary control or awareness were a puzzle, and were called “spontaneous.” Thus, in 1751, Robert Whytt wrote:

Physiological writers have divided the motions of animals into voluntary, involuntary, and mix’d.

The voluntary motions are such as proceed from an immediate exertion of the active power of the will. The involuntary and mix’d motions, which last, though subject to the power of the will, yet are not ordinarily directed by it, may be aptly enough comprehended under the general denomination of SPONTANEOUS; since they are performed by the several organs as it were of their own accord, without any attention of the mind, or consciousness of an exertion of its active power: such are the motions of the heart, organs of respiration, stomach, guts, etc., which have been also distinguished by the name AUTOMATIC; though perhaps there is an impropriety in this term, as it may seem to convey the idea of a mere inanimate machine, producing such motions purely by virtue of its mechanical construction: a notion of the animal frame too low and absurd to be embraced by any but the most MINUTE philosophers! (Whytt, p. 229)


Physiological Psychology Experimental Neurology Postural Support Forward Locomotion Tail Pinch 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip Teitelbaum
    • 1
  • Timothy Schallert
    • 2
  • Ian Q. Whishaw
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignChampaignUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of LethbridgeLethbridgeCanada

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