Title

The difference between meaningful and psychologically rewarding occupations: Findings from two pilot studies

Location

New River Room B

Start Time

2-10-2015 3:00 PM

End Time

2-10-2015 4:30 PM

Session Type

Research Paper

Abstract

Introduction: It has been suggested that meaningful occupations are healing because they activate the dopaminergic neural pathways in the brain (Gutman & Schindler, 2007). In our two pilot studies, we investigated weather: 1) self-selected meaningful occupations activated the dopaminergic neural pathways as hypothesized, and 2) there were differences in the type of occupations that were perceived by study participants to be; a) meaningful, b) psychologically rewarding (likely to activate the dopaminergic or reward neural pathways), and/or c) both meaningful and psychologically rewarding. Method: Twenty one individuals participated in the two studies. All participants were adults and were either associated with a University in Midwest USA or were occupational therapists. Both studies were conducted using repeated measures designs (Portney & Watkins, 2009). In study number one, participants chose occupations that were meaningful to them under the guidance of the principal investigator (PI) using the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (McColl, Paterson, Davies, Doubt, & Law, 2000) and the Assessment and Intervention Instrument for Instrumentalism in Occupational Therapy (Ikiugu, 2007). Each study participant was video-recorded participating in a chosen meaningful occupation. Participants' brains were scanned on the functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanner under 4 conditions: watching themselves on video participating in the chosen meaningful occupation; watching themselves on video participating in a rote exercise; 3 receiving verbal stimulation related to meaningful occupation; and 4) receiving verbal stimulation related to universally recognized rewarding stimuli. Data were analyzed using a General Linear Model to determine if reward neural pathways were activated when participants watched themselves participating in meaningful occupations or receiving verbal stimulation related to their meaningful occupations.

In study number two, data were gathered using the Experience Sampling method (Scollon, Kim-Prieto, & Diener, 2003; Trull & Ebner-Priemer, 2009), the Brief Mood Introspection Survey (Mayer & Gaschke, 1988), and Evaluation of Meaningful Activity Survey (Goldberg, Brintnell, & Goldberg, 2002). When cued on the phone, participants wrote down the occupation in which they were engaged, with whom, their perception of the type of occupation (whether fun, obligatory, etc.) and responded to the BMIS and EMAS items. Discriminant analysis was conducted to determine the occupation types that were associated with positive mood (psychologically rewarding) and that were associated with the most meaning (as indicated by the EMAS scores). Findings: Self-selected meaningful occupations did not activate the reward neural pathways as hypothesized in the first study. In the second study, mood and meaningfulness were able to discriminate between occupation types. Fun occupations elicited the most positive mood (likely psychologically rewarding), especially when they were mentally stimulating and were performed with other people. Conclusion: There seemed to be characteristics that were common to both meaningful and psychologically rewarding occupations (both were mentally stimulating and fostered connection with other people). There were characteristics that were distinct to each type of occupation. Psychologically rewarding occupations tended to be perceived as fun, while physically stimulating occupations tended to be perceived as meaningful. A larger study with a more representative sample is being planned in an attempt to verify these findings.

References

Goldberg, B., Brintnell, E. S., & Goldberg, J. (2002). The relationship between engagement in meaningful activities and quality of life in persons disabled by mental illness. Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, 18(2), 17-44.

Gutman, S., & Schindler, V. (2007). The neurological basis of occupation. Occupational Therapy International, 14(2), 71-85.

Ikiugu, M. N. (2007a). Psychosocial conceptual practice models in occupational therapy: Building adaptive capability. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier/Mosby.

Mayer, J. D, & Gaschke, Y. N. (1988). The experience and meta-experience of mood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 102-111.

McColl, M. A., Paterson, M., Davies, D., Doubt, L., & Law, M. (2000). Validity and community utility of the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 67, 22-30.

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Oct 2nd, 3:00 PM Oct 2nd, 4:30 PM

The difference between meaningful and psychologically rewarding occupations: Findings from two pilot studies

New River Room B

Introduction: It has been suggested that meaningful occupations are healing because they activate the dopaminergic neural pathways in the brain (Gutman & Schindler, 2007). In our two pilot studies, we investigated weather: 1) self-selected meaningful occupations activated the dopaminergic neural pathways as hypothesized, and 2) there were differences in the type of occupations that were perceived by study participants to be; a) meaningful, b) psychologically rewarding (likely to activate the dopaminergic or reward neural pathways), and/or c) both meaningful and psychologically rewarding. Method: Twenty one individuals participated in the two studies. All participants were adults and were either associated with a University in Midwest USA or were occupational therapists. Both studies were conducted using repeated measures designs (Portney & Watkins, 2009). In study number one, participants chose occupations that were meaningful to them under the guidance of the principal investigator (PI) using the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (McColl, Paterson, Davies, Doubt, & Law, 2000) and the Assessment and Intervention Instrument for Instrumentalism in Occupational Therapy (Ikiugu, 2007). Each study participant was video-recorded participating in a chosen meaningful occupation. Participants' brains were scanned on the functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanner under 4 conditions: watching themselves on video participating in the chosen meaningful occupation; watching themselves on video participating in a rote exercise; 3 receiving verbal stimulation related to meaningful occupation; and 4) receiving verbal stimulation related to universally recognized rewarding stimuli. Data were analyzed using a General Linear Model to determine if reward neural pathways were activated when participants watched themselves participating in meaningful occupations or receiving verbal stimulation related to their meaningful occupations.

In study number two, data were gathered using the Experience Sampling method (Scollon, Kim-Prieto, & Diener, 2003; Trull & Ebner-Priemer, 2009), the Brief Mood Introspection Survey (Mayer & Gaschke, 1988), and Evaluation of Meaningful Activity Survey (Goldberg, Brintnell, & Goldberg, 2002). When cued on the phone, participants wrote down the occupation in which they were engaged, with whom, their perception of the type of occupation (whether fun, obligatory, etc.) and responded to the BMIS and EMAS items. Discriminant analysis was conducted to determine the occupation types that were associated with positive mood (psychologically rewarding) and that were associated with the most meaning (as indicated by the EMAS scores). Findings: Self-selected meaningful occupations did not activate the reward neural pathways as hypothesized in the first study. In the second study, mood and meaningfulness were able to discriminate between occupation types. Fun occupations elicited the most positive mood (likely psychologically rewarding), especially when they were mentally stimulating and were performed with other people. Conclusion: There seemed to be characteristics that were common to both meaningful and psychologically rewarding occupations (both were mentally stimulating and fostered connection with other people). There were characteristics that were distinct to each type of occupation. Psychologically rewarding occupations tended to be perceived as fun, while physically stimulating occupations tended to be perceived as meaningful. A larger study with a more representative sample is being planned in an attempt to verify these findings.