A dog’s motivation seems straightforward: offer the dog a treat, and it will perform all sorts of tricks. Human motivations, however, are far more complicated. Food and sex motivate us, just like they do most animals, but we often do amazing, brave, horrifying, or death-defying things because of the importance we ascribe to intangible principles.

Millions of people around the world fast for religious or personal reasons, ignoring hunger. Some people enter eating contests, which challenge them to ignore their full stomachs and eat huge amounts of food. King Edward VIII of England gave up his throne to marry an American divorcée, and Roman Catholic priests give up sex for their calling. Why would people do these things? Food, sex, and achieve-ment are motivations for all of us, but motivation can also be as unique as each individual.

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