In the NY Times a couple of days ago, there was an article written by an economist explaining why people sometime make bad decisions. He obviously understands that evolutionary pressures have shaped our minds - shaped them to survive long enough to pass their genes on to the next generation, not shaped them to be happy. He posits that happiness is usually only fleeting, and its allure is held in front of the mind like a carrot; he suggests that our minds are wired to be anxious and unhappy as the prime motivating factor in people's lives.
There is a lot wrong with his article, but the things it got right got me thinking. I agree that happiness for most people lasts a much shorter time than being anxious or unhappy, and I know that most people instinctively move towards carrots and away from sticks. Most people. What about those who aren't neuro-typical? People with flat affect, a smaller than average amygdala, a low fear response, have been shown conclusively to not react (not nearly as much anyway) to metaphorical sticks. It is no use using punishment as a means of changing the behaviour of someone with an antisocial personality disorder - there has to be a carrot dangling somewhere. Those with BPD and other disorders associated with anxiety do experience the stick, but it is beating them in every direction depending on which way the wind is blowing.
So is the reason that those with flat affect, and those who are overanxious, have difficulty with long term objectives simply that the motivation is too low or the direction the motivation is never in the same direction for more than 5 minutes?