Conation is a term that stems from the Latin conatus, meaning any natural tendency, impulse, striving, or directed effort. Conative is one of three parts of the mind, along with the affective and cognitive. In short, the cognitive part of the brain measures intelligence, the affective deals with emotions and the conative drives how one acts on those thoughts and feelings.
The term conation is no longer widely known—it is in “The 1,000 Most Obscure Words in the English Language”, defined as “the area of one’s active mentality that has to do with desire, volition, and striving”, but a closer look turns up several references to conation as the third faculty of the mind.
Conation is defined by Funk & Wagnalls Standard Comprehensive International Dictionary (1977) as “the aspect of mental process directed by change and including impulse, desire, volition and striving”, and by the Living Webster Encyclopedia Dictionary of the English Language (1980) as “one of the three modes, together with cognition and affection, of mental function; a conscious effort to carry out seemingly volitional acts”.The Encyclopedia of Psychology “Motivation: Philosophical Theories” says, “Some mental states seem capable of triggering action, while others—such as cognitive states—apparently have a more subordinate role [in terms of motivation] … some behavior qualifies as motivated action, but some does not”.