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Though the role of motivation with respect to temperature may seem obvious to many psychologists and physiologists, it may not be so apparent to other disciplines. Let me first give a definition of motivation (a construct with many interpretations) that reflects a behavioral rather than a mentalistic viewpoint. Motivation is composed of specifiable and measurable variables, which account for what is called "behavioral thermoregulation." In addition to physiological thermoregulation, an individual acts or behaves in ways to maintain or recover the homeostatic equilibrium that physiological reflexes also maintain or recover. In control system terminology, both types of thermoregulation are negative feedback systems.

In such a context, motivation consists of two classes of variables. One may be called potentiation, the other consequation. Potentiation may consist of foregoing food or drink or suffering pain or discomfort. Consequation may consist of ingesting food or drink, or averting pain or discomfort. It is more likely that some act will occur or reoccur if it is followed contingently by a consequence (reinforcer) that is strengthened by a corresponding potentiator (drive). In everyday language, potentiators are called motives and consequences are called incentives. (An another type of motivation, not considered in this paper, an aversive consequence (punishment) will make the act it follows less likely to occur or reoccur.)

How does this model of motivation apply to behavioral thermoregulation? Briefly, a person behaves in a way that ambient and skin or body temperature is increased, reduced, or maintained -- the consequence that makes that behavior more likely. Generally, a deviant external temperature, cold or heat, is the potentiator. Two kinds of behavior are involved in behavioral thermoregulation. One is behavior that acts on the environment. The other is behavior that is largely self-contained.