Perseverative Functional Autonomy

The more elementary of the two levels of functional autonomy is perseverative functional autonomy. Allport borrowed this term from the word "perseveration," which is the tendency of an impression to leave an influence on subsequent experience. Perseverative functional autonomy is found hi animals as well as humans and is based on shnple neurological principles. An example of perseverative functional

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autonomy is a rat that has learned to run a maze in order to be fed but then continues to run the maze even after it has become satiated. Why does it continue to rim? Allport would say that the rat runs the maze just for the fun of it.

Allport (1961) listed other examples of perseverative functional autonomy that involve human rather than animal motivation. The first is an addiction to alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs when there is no physiological hunger for them. Alcoholics continue to drink although their current motivation is functionally independent from their original motive.

Another example concerns uncompleted tasks. A problem once started but then interrupted will perseverate, creating a new tension to finish the task. This new tension is different from the initial motivation. For example, a college student is offered 10 cents for every piece of a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle she successfully puts together. Assume that she does not have a preexisting interest in solving jigsaw puzzles and that her original motivation was solely for the money. Also assume that her monetary reward is limited to $45, so that after she has completed 450 pieces, she will have maximized her pay. Will this student finish the remaining 50 pieces in the absence of monetary reward? If she does, then a new tension has been created and her motive to complete the task is functionally autonomous from the original motive of getting paid.

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