Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Friday, May 26, 2023

A General Motivational Architecture for Human and Animal Personality

Del Giudice, M. (2022).
Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 144, 104967.


To achieve integration in the study of personality, researchers need to model the motivational processes that give rise to stable individual differences in behavior, cognition, and emotion. The missing link in current approaches is a motivational architecture—a description of the core set of mechanisms that underlie motivation, plus a functional account of their operating logic and inter-relations. This paper presents the initial version of such an architecture, the General Architecture of Motivation (GAM). The GAM offers a common language for individual differences in humans and other animals, and a conceptual toolkit for building species-specific models of personality. The paper describes the main components of the GAM and their interplay, and examines the contribution of these components to the emergence of individual differences. The final section discusses how the GAM can be used to construct explicit functional models of personality, and presents a roadmap for future research.


To realize the dream of an integrated science of personality, researchers will have to move beyond structural descriptions and start building realistic functional models of individual differences. I believe that ground-up adaptationism guided by evolutionary theory is the way of the future (Lukaszewski, 2021); however, I also believe that the effort spent in teasing out the logic of specific mechanisms (e.g., the anger program; Lukaszewski et al., 2020; Sell et al., 2017) will not pay off in the domain of personality without the scaffolding of a broader theory of motivation—and an architectural framework to link the mechanisms together and explain their dynamic interplay.

In this paper, I have built on previous contributions to present the initial version of the GAM, a general motivational architecture that can be adapted to fit a broad range of animal species. The framework of the GAM should make it easier to integrate theoretical and empirical results from a variety of research areas, develop functional models of personality, and—not least—compare the personality of different species based on explicit functional principles (e.g., different sets of motivational systems, differences in activation/deactivation parameters), thus overcoming the limitations of standard factor-analytic descriptions. As I noted in the introduction, the GAM is intended as a work in progress, open to integrations and revisions. I hope this proposal will stimulate the curiosity of other scholars and spark the kind of creative, integrative work that can bring the science of personality to its well-deserved maturity.