We talk a lot about motivation, personal effectiveness, and performance, and we are used to believing that the best results are achieved with the highest level of motivation, but is this true? How motivated should a person be to achieve maximum success? The Yerkes-Dodson Law answers these questions.

What is the essence of the law?

The Yerkes-Dodson law states that the best results are achieved with an average level of motivation. That is, there is a boundary (the optimum of motivation) up to which motivation increases and after which it begins to decrease. Visually, this can be represented as a parabola:

The Yerkes-Dodson law includes two laws. The first is described above, and the second says that the higher the difficulty of the task performed, the lower the optimal level of motivation, and vice versa: the lower the difficulty, the stronger the optimal motivation. You will understand why this is so by reading about the reasons for the maximum effectiveness of average motivation.yerkes dodson law

Reasons why the Yerkes-Dodson law works

As early as 1908, Yerkes and Dodson found in their experiments that when animals were trained to pass a maze, the most effective motivation was a medium degree (the motivation was set by the intensity of the electric shocks). Why does this happen?

Before the point of optimum is reached, motivation grows according to the laws we all know: the stronger the need for the task, the better we cope with it.

But after reaching the optimum point, we experience emotional stress: we get worried, tense, and stressed. And, of course, due to these circumstances, our performance drops. So the higher our motivation after the optimum point, the worse we perform.

Practical application of the Yerkes-Dodson law

We have already talked about the experiment with animals, but the research has not been done only with them. Of course, humans were not taught to pass through a labyrinth and were not electrocuted, but the pattern that Yerkes and Dodson speak of was also revealed about humans.

People were asked to complete a task for a certain material reward. As the amount increased, so did the participants’ interest, and they did better at the task. But up to a certain point.

When the amount of the reward became large enough, people became nervous and worried, which prevented them from coping with the task. This experience confirmed the validity of the Yerkes-Dodson law.

It has been experimentally determined that the optimal motivation for simple tasks is 7-8 points on a ten-point scale, for tasks of medium difficulty – about five points, and difficult tasks – 2-3 points.

Given the above, pay attention to what level of motivation needs to be achieved.

For example, if you are the boss and assign a difficult task to your subordinate, then “motivating” him by firing or depriving him of a bonus in case of failure will not be the best solution. Such motivation will only prevent the performance of a difficult task.

And don’t forget to keep track of how you motivate yourself. Perhaps somewhere you lack motivation, and perhaps somewhere there is too much. Strive to reach the optimum, so that you can achieve the best results!