Learning, An Aspect of Cognition, Emotion and Motivation


Individual learning ability is highly influenced by a number of factors. It is highly determined by individual emotions where positive emotions promote learning while negative emotions reduce the urge for learning. Learning is also influenced by motivation. Motivation plays a great role in enhancing learning. Moreover individual ability to learn is highly influenced by his or her cognitive ability. In addition, learning plays a great role in building cognition. Learning is an aspect of cognition, emotion and motivation which had been highly researched on in the past. This paper focuses on determining how learning is influenced or has influenced cognition, emotions and motivation.


Emotion refers to the primary psychological systems controlling adaptation of aperson to environmental and personal demands. They are regarded to be subjective multidimensional constructs and experiences with physiological, effective, motivational, cognitive and expressive components. According to Meyer and Turner (2006), emotions are carefully associated to physiological, cognitive, motivational and behavioral processes, thus, they are usually essential for achievement and learning. They might disrupt, terminate or initiate information result and dispensation in selective processing of information or they might arrange recall. Emotions are closely involved in almost every aspect of learning and teaching process. It is therefore important according to Glaser-Zikuda, Stuchlikova and Janik (2013) to understand emotions nature in the school context. In the Glaser-Zikuda, Stuchlikova and Janik (2013) perspective, the interaction between cognitive, motivation and emotion in human life, particularly in classroom and school context is highly complex. Emotion might be perceived as general responses to experiences with instruction and learning, with a social setting, and with demands of achievement, results and feedback. Emotions influence learning and teaching in both negative and positive ways. Emotions of students play an essential role in learning based on self-concept, goal orientation, and motivation, as well as in social relations. The learning outcomes and processes are impacted by emotions, though they might as well evoke emotions. It is thus essential to clarify how emotions are impacted by the teacher expertise and behavior and by the learning environment.

Emotion contains a significant influence on the human cognitive processes that include problem solving, perception, reasoning, attention, memory and learning. According to Glaser-Zikuda, Stuchlikova and Janik (2013), emotions had specifically strong impact on attention, particularly modulating attention selectivity and motivating behavior and action. This executive and intentional control is intimately connected to learning processes. According to Olsson (2003), emotions contain an influence on achievement and learning, mediated by motivation, self-regulation, and attention, therefore directing an individual away from or towards learning matters in learning circumstances. Moreover, it has been demonstrated that student’s perception of self-regulation is considerably positively associated with positive emotions, while observed external regulation is associated with negative emotions. The experience of autonomy and competence in learning has been identified to be significant for self-determination and self-regulation. Emotions are also associated to interest. The positive effect on learning interest has been people subject areas and knowledge domains. Interest contains feeling-associated valence and value-associated valence. It is highly related with intrinsic pleasure and motivation, and it is closely connected to all self-determined activity.

According to Meyer and Turner (2006), the effect of emotions on learning might be negative as well as positive in nature, though its association with learning is not very direct. For instance, anxiety test is approximately perceived as an incapacitating emotion, though research demonstrates that there are two constituents of the anxiety test. One of these constituents degrades the academic performance and the other is related with elevated stimulation, that associate to performance in nonlinear u-curve and this might facilitate performance and learning. This implies that emotions impact the process of leaning in very diverse modes that include interpersonal and intrapersonal effects. The effects of interpersonal emotions on learning are related with the emotions influence on social perception and social judgment, with the effect of social setting on emotional experience and expression. It can also be related with emotions role in dissolving, maintaining and creating social associations and with the nonverbal and verbal emotion communication in social learning conditions. Humor and enjoyment can revitalize climate of learning in the classroom, though when the students are in laughter bits, it might act as a distractor for various students that cannot concentrate on the consequent learning.


Motivation is regarded as the willingness and desire to do something, the situation of being eager to work or act, an influence or force which causes a person to do something. According to Kusurkar et al. (2012), motivation can be a precondition of engagement of learner. For instance, due to a long-term credentials goal, learner can be motivated to participate in courses. Motivation can in addition be a feeling of success or satisfaction when participating in valuable learning. Either way, student engagement and motivation are closely associated to student learning elements, which can have an influence on learning outcomes.  Motivation plays an essential role in learning. According to Asvio, Arpinus and Suharmon (2017), motivation to learn refers to the process which provides the learning spirit, behavior persistence and direction. Motivated behavior refers to the behavior which is enduring, focus and full of energy. Learning motivation is the general driving force in the students who provide direction and lead on learning activities. Therefore, motivation is created from the need to attain the goal (Asvio, Arpinus & Suharmon, 2017).

Motivation according to Saeed and Zyngier (2012) is perceived as an essential element for and a pre-requisite of student involvement in learning. Student involvement in learning act as a way to promote student’s sound academic achievement. This is essential since authentic involvement might result to higher academic attainment in the entire life of a student. Motivation has also been found to guide the interest of learners into essential learning activities. A research conducted by Saeed and Zyngier (2012), demonstrated that students that are intrinsically motivated are more engaged and competent in their learning compared to students that are extrinsically motivated. The research also established that when the teacher fulfills needs of students for autonomy, relatedness and competence the student engagement and motivation is enhanced. The research demonstrated the relation between intrinsic motivation and authentic engagement of student. Engaged student were found to ensure they successfully finish their learning tasks and put extra concentration and effort in the full understanding of the content. Extrinsic motivation was also found to be a great boost to enhance learning success, especially in situations where intrinsic motivation is not working effectively. Intrinsic motivation was only found suitable among dedicated students and extremely frustrating among other students that may need extra push. Thus, the use of a combination of external and internal motivational strategies that include external support and incentives can improve learning in average student rather than using intrinsic motivation alone (Saeed & Zyngier, 2012).

Motivation is said to enhance learning in various ways. Motivation is said to direct students’ behavior toward specific goals. Setting goals is cited as one way to create motivation. Setting goals push learners to do what it takes to attain these goals. It therefore influences students’ choices especially regarding learning time management and efforts put in various subjects to enhance good performance. According to Kong (2009),goals of a student influence their effort and motivation in leaning. With goals of learning, students purposely study and put great effort in different subjects based on their desire to perform. In this case, students are more concerned about subject mastering and completing tasks and not anxious about comparison to others or failure. Motivation is also said to result in increased energy and effort, which learners disburse in actions that are directly associated to their goals and needs. Motivation determines if the student conduct a task wholeheartedly and enthusiastically or lackadaisically and apathetically.  Motivation also augments persistence in and initiation of activities, making it more probable for learners to start task at the exact time they wanted to do so. Motivation also makes it possible for a learner to continue pursuing a subject or a task until he or she has completed it as required. Thus, motivation can be said to increase the time a student spend on a task, which is a significant factor influencing their achievement and learning. In Gbollie and Keamu (2017) view, motivation influences cognitive processes of a learner, enhancing the learner’s ability to pay attention to their academic tasks, to enhance performance. Motivated students frequently make an effort to comprehend coursework and to think of how this can be applied in real life situation to solve real problems.

Motivation also determines learning outcome by establishing the consequences that are punishing and those that are reinforcing based on individual interest in life. According to Tella (2007), leaners who are frequently motivated to attain good academic performance find pride in grade improvement in their academic performance. However, leaners whose interest is more on sport get their pride in better sport performance than academic performance. This implies that motivation mostly works based on what one want or aspires in life. Leaners focusing fully on academic work should thus be motivated towards achieving their academic goals. This kind of motivation may be unrewarding when presented to learners whose interest is elsewhere(Tella, 2007).

According to Kusurkar et al. (2012), there are various motivation theories, with some centering on motivation quantity and others focusing on motivation quality. Motivation quantity can either be low or high, while motivation quantity relies on whether the motivation source is external or internal. According to Kusurkar et al. (2012), motivation self-determination theory (SDT) considers motivation quality to be extra significant compared to quality.  SDT supports that the more autonomous of self-determined the motivation is, the improved the observed results, including high academic performance. Motivation has been documented to influence academic performance in college, secondary and primary schools. A research conducted by Kusurkar et al.  (2012) also demonstrated a correlation between academic performance and relative autonomous motivation in medical education. In this case, the effect of motivation quality on performance was said to be positive to the student performance, especially with application of controlled motivation which is initiated by external sources and autonomous motivation that is initiated within a person. This is a clear indication that effective application of strategies to enhance well controlled external motivation and quality internal motivation can enhance learning, even in medical field that is known for complexity (Kusurkar et al., 2012). The research supports the proposition that motivation quality has a higher positive impact on learning compared to motivation quantity.


According to Alkhalifa (2005) there are two primary change dimensions which are at play every time a learner is presented with learning materials. One regards cognitive processes which are provoked in the learning of a task. In Alkhalifa (2005) view, this can be basically visual, complex needs that are kinds of mental representation, overworks working memory, can be impacted by individual differences or emotional states, or can be a reasoning task. The other change dimension that can influence learning is related to the degree of complexity of material presented where some components might be defined based on other primary concepts. According to Langley (2016), people profit from low learning level of form researched by the behaviorists, where in study on persuading classifiers from reaction controllers and recognition of patterns for execution is considerably relevant. However, improvement also happens on tasks which need high degree of mental processing, and they seem to engage very varying processes and structures for both learning and performance compared to the ones, which were shared with pigeons and rats. For instance, natural language depends on pragmatic, semantic, and syntactic structure of knowledge and mechanisms, which work over every form of content. In Langley (2016) views, understanding of language entails the incremental meaning construction from previous context and sentences, whereas generation of language works in opposite direction, decoding intended context and meaning into sentences.Acquisition of language is liable for mastering these abilities. This in humans clearly entails lower-level learning processes to recognize specific phrase turns and words. Learning ability expands as one is exposed to more complex learning tasks.

Another cognitive systems model feature lies in stressing on the use and representation of rich mental structures. For instance, mechanisms of reasoning characteristically create proof trees which postulate how one can develop a conclusion from particular elements via inference steps series. Correspondingly, methods planning create chains of action which if conducted would change initial states, into states which attains particular goals. For instance, understanding language changes one sentence into a depiction of their meaning, comprising implied element which were not said. These processes according to Langley (2016) utilize formalisms that include frames, production rules and logic as the building blocks for creating these interlinked structures. Learning is also said to entails the development of novel cognitive structures with each subject employing its own unique methods and principles. For instance, understanding simple chemical elements assist in developing more complex and stable chemical compounds by relating the simple elements. Thus, learning in human is cumulative such that it takes advantage of the known knowledge to expand to the unknown. Both synthetic and human cognitive systems changes over time and thus, learning in the future should and can take benefit from structure which have been obtained from previous experience (Langley, 2016).

This discussion can be summarized by use of cognitive school perspective which claims that learning refers to an active process that entails the reorganization and acquisition of the cognitive structures via which, humans store and process information. In this process, a learner is perceived as an active partaker in the knowledge integration and acquisition process. This theory according to Yilmaz (2011) describes acquisition of knowledge as a mental activity that entails internal structuring and coding by the learner, and proposes that learning takes place best under situations which are affiliated with human cognitive design. Thus, more learning is what assists in developing human cognition and it highly determines the level to which individual cognition can grow (Yilmaz, 2011).

Relation of Motivation, Emotion and Cognition in Learning

The study of leaning, motivation and emotion is deeply entwined. According to Olsson (2003), it is considerably hard to exclusively consider one without the other. Emotion, and the carefully affiliated concept of motivation, provides reason, direction and content to the process of learning. They offer some of the primary components on which depend on learning. According to Meyer and Turner (2006), learning could not be there without motivation and emotion. States of emotion are integral sections of the adaptive learning process that involves attaching value to events and subjects, according to a set of needs. Motivation and emotion associate to internal states which are pertinent in the goals management. For instance, motivational has been described as coordinating and modulating influences on the composition, vigor and direction of behavior. Emotion in line with this perceptive is perceived as an evaluating reaction of an event as significant to a goal; it is optimistic when the goal is unconventional, and negative when the goal is obstructed. It has therefore been argued that the chief emotions function in a learning view is to decouple the person from the need to react unconditionally. Emotion in addition embodies a vital section of the learning process by inducing relations, which are created between stimuli, their behavioral and combinations responses.

The influence of emotion in learning can also be described by the flow theory. According to the flow theory, optimal experiences of learning are intrinsically motivated and associated to improved cognitive processing and positive emotions. According to Meyer and Turner (2006), when people are experiencing flow based on the flow theory, they demonstrate clear goals and work toward attaining them. They also show a balance between the activity challenges and their aptitude to meet them. This demonstrated motivational value of ideal challenge from the literature of risk taking. Moreover, the skill and challenge levels appeared to be voluntarily accessible via both student classroom and self-report observation. Cognition on the other hand seems to be the product of learning enhanced through positive emotions and motivation. Advancing in individual knowledge assist in further development of their cognitive structure. Thus, cognition in learning seems to be a product of learning promoted through motivation and creating of positive emotions in learning.

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