While watching the killer whales and dolphins perform at the San Diego waterworld, I wondered what motivates these animals to display such acquired skills. I understand that it is the food that they get which prompts such abnormal behavior. But where did the process of learning triggered in those primitive brains. I believe it is the Dopaminergic neurons that are responsible for the learning behavior. These neurons have a predictive error response, which means they give a good stimulus to the brain in a reward comes along. But if expected rewards are not obtained it causes depression. This is known as motivation to us. If we get good results in a job we get motivated to do it. If not we get depressed. So, logically we always do something which gives maximum reward, that is, we always try do something we are good at. Wikipedia article -- "In nature, we learn to repeat behaviors that lead to maximizing rewards. "
This is true even for animals. They repeat the behavior which rewards them (reward is food). This is the reason why these wild creatures can be made to jump through hoops, because their Dopamine gets triggered if they do.
Now, comes the philosophical angle to it. In Bhagvad Gita, Lord Krishna asks Arjun not to think about rewards and just do his job. Thee were innumerabl conjectures by many people over many years. Some say that it makes the job more efficient if there is no expectation of the outcome. Some say that it frees the mind from the sense of lust, greed and material gain. But I believe it might have a more profound connotation. It asks humans not to behave as an animal. This is of extreme importance. By refusing to accept the Dopamine induced reward system inherited from our beastly ancestry, we would be transcending to a higher level of consciousness.