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Because motivation is a core concern of psychology most of the main theoretical approaches to the subject have developed their own theories of motivation.

Drive Reduction TheoriesEdit

Main article: Drive reduction theories of motivation

There are a number of drive theories. The Drive Reduction Theory grows out of the concept that we have certain biological needs, such as hunger. As time passes the strength of the drive increases as it is not satisfied. Then as we satisfy that drive by fulfilling its desire, such as eating, the drive's strength is reduced. It is based on the theories of Freud and the idea of feedback control systems, such as a thermostat.

There are several problems, however, that leave the validity of the Drive Reduction Theory open for debate. The first problem is that it does not explain how Secondary Reinforcers reduce drive. For example, money does not satisfy any biological or psychological need but reduces drive on a regular basis through a pay check second-order conditioning. Secondly, if the drive reduction theory held true we would not be able to explain how a hungry human being can prepare a meal without eating the food before they finished cooking it.

However, when comparing this to a real life situation such as preparing food, one does get hungrier as the food is being made (drive increases), and after the food has been consumed the drive decreases. The only reason the food does not get eaten before is the human element of restraint and has nothing to do with drive theory. Also, the food will either be nicer after it is cooked, or it wont be edible at all before it is cooked.

Cognitive dissonance theoryEdit

Main article: Cognitive dissonance
Main article: Cognitive dissonance theories of motivation

Suggested by Leon Festinger, cognitive dissonance occurs when an individual experiences some degree of discomfort resulting from an inconsistency between two cognitions: their views on the world around them, and their own personal feelings and actions. For example, a consumer may seek to reassure himself regarding a purchase, feeling, in retrospect, that another decision may have been preferable. His feeling that another purchase would have been preferable is inconsistent with his action of purchasing the item. The difference between his feelings and beliefs causes dissonance, so he seeks to reassure himself.

While not a theory of motivation, per se, the theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. The cognitive miser perspective makes people want to justify things in a simple way in order to reduce the effort they put into cognition. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, or actions, rather than facing the inconsistencies, because dissonance is a mental strain. Dissonance is also reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying. It is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology.

Affective-Arousal TheoriesEdit

Need Achievement TheoryEdit

David McClelland’s achievement motivation theory envisages that a person has need for three things but people differ in degree in which the various needs influence their behavior: Need for achievement, Need for power, and Need for affiliation

Main article: Achievement motivation

Interests TheoryEdit

Generally people will do what interests them. If a person has a very strong interest in one an area then obtaining outcomes in that area will be very strongly reinforcing relative to obtaining outcomes in areas of weak interest. Holland Codes are used in the assessment of interests as in Vocational Preference Inventory (VPI; Holland, 1985).

Main article: Interests theory of motivation

Need TheoriesEdit

Motivation, as defined by Pritchard and Ashwood, is the process used to allocate energy to maximize the satisfaction of needs.[1]

Murry's sytem of needsEdit

Main article: Murray's system of needs

In 1938 Henry Murray published Explorations in Personality[2], his system describing personality in terms of needs. For Murray, human nature involved a set of universal basic needs, with individual differences on these needs leading to the uniqueness of personality through varying dispositional tendencies for each need. In other words, specific needs are more important to some than to others. Frustration of these psychogenic (or psychological) needs plays a central role in the origin of psychological pain.[3]

Murray differentiated each need as unique, but recognised commonalities among the needs. Behaviors may meet more than one need: for instance, performing a difficult task for your fraternity may meet the needs of both achievement and affiliation.

Need Hierarchy TheoryEdit

Main article: Maslow's hierarchy of needs

The content theory includes the hierarchy of needs from Abraham Maslow and the two- factor theory from Herzberg. Maslow's theory is one of the most widely discussed theories of motivation.

The American motivation psychologist Abraham H. Maslow developed the Hierarchy of needs consistent of five hierarchic classes. It shows the complexity of human requirements. According to him, people are motivated by unsatisfied needs. The lower level needs such as Physiological and Safety needs will have to be satisfied before higher level needs are to be addressed. We can relate Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs theory with employee motivation. For example, if a manager is trying to motivate his employees by satisfying their needs; according to Maslow, he should try to satisfy the lower level needs before he tries to satisfy the upper level needs or the employees will not be motivated. Also he has to remember that not everyone will be satisfied by the same needs. A good manager will try to figure out which levels of needs are active for a certain individual or employee. The basic requirements build the first step in his pyramid. If there is any deficit on this level, the whole behavior of a human will be oriented to satisfy this deficit. Subsequently we do have the second level, which awake a need for security. Basically it is oriented on a future need for security. After securing those two levels, the motives shift in the social sphere, which form the third stage. Psychological requirements consist in the fourth level, while the top of the hierarchy comprise the self- realization So theory can be summarized as follows:

  • Human beings have wants and desires which influence their behavior. Only unsatisfied needs influence behavior, satisfied needs do not.
  • Since needs are many, they are arranged in order of importance, from the basic to the complex.
  • The person advances to the next level of needs only after the lower level need is at least minimally satisfied.
  • The further the progress up the hierarchy, the more individuality, humanness and psychological health a person will show.

The needs, listed from basic (lowest-earliest) to most complex (highest-latest) are as follows:

Herzberg's two-factor theoryEdit

Frederick Herzberg's two-factor theory of motivation, a.k.a. intrinsic/extrinsic motivation, concludes that certain factors in the workplace result in job satisfaction, but if absent, they don't lead to dissatisfaction but no satisfaction.The factors that motivate people can change over their lifetime, but "respect for me as a person" is one of the top motivating factors at any stage of life.

He distinguished between:

  • Motivators; (e.g. challenging work, recognition, responsibility) which give positive satisfaction, and
  • Hygiene factors; (e.g. status, job security, salary and fringe benefits) that do not motivate if present, but, if absent, result in demotivation.

The name Hygiene factors is used because, like hygiene, the presence will not make you healthier, but absence can cause health deterioration.

The theory is sometimes called the "Motivator-Hygiene Theory" and/or "The Dual Structure Theory."

Herzberg's theory has found application in such occupational fields as information systems and in studies of user satisfaction (see Computer user satisfaction).

16 basic desires theoryEdit

Steven Reiss developed his 16 basic desires theory of motivation.

Alderfer’s ERG theoryEdit

Clayton Alderfer, expanding on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, created the ERG theory. This theory posits that there are three groups of core needs — existence, relatedness, and growth, hence the label: ERG theory. The existence group is concerned with providing our basic material existence requirements. They include the items that Maslow considered to be physiological and safety needs. The second group of needs are those of relatedness- the desire we have for maintaining important interpersonal relationships. These social and status desires require interaction with others if they are to be satisfied, and they align with Maslow's social need and the external component of Maslow's esteem classification. Finally, Alderfer isolates growth needs' an intrinsic desire for personal development. These include the intrinsic component from Maslow's esteem category and the characteristics included under self-actualization.

Self-determination theoryEdit

Main article: Self-determination theory

Self-determination theory, developed by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, focuses on the importance of intrinsic motivation in driving human behavior. Like Maslow's hierarchical theory and others that built on it, SDT posits a natural tendency personal growth and development. Unlike these other theories, however, SDT does not include any sort of "autopilot" for achievement, but instead requires active encouragement from the environment. The primary factors that encourage motivation and development are autonomy, competence feedback, and relatedness.[4]


Main article: Self-control theory of motivation

The self-control of motivation is increasingly understood as a subset of emotional intelligence; a person may be highly intelligent according to a more conservative definition (as measured by many intelligence tests), yet unmotivated to dedicate this intelligence to certain tasks. Yale School of Management professor Victor Vroom's "expectancy theory" provides an account of when people will decide whether to exert self control to pursue a particular goal.

Drives and desires can be described as a deficiency or need that activates behaviour that is aimed at a goal or an incentive. These are thought to originate within the individual and may not require external stimuli to encourage the behaviour. Basic drives could be sparked by deficiencies such as hunger, which motivates a person to seek food; whereas more subtle drives might be the desire for praise and approval, which motivates a person to behave in a manner pleasing to others.

By contrast, the role of extrinsic rewards and stimuli can be seen in the example of training animals by giving them treats when they perform a trick correctly. The treat motivates the animals to perform the trick consistently, even later when the treat is removed from the process.

Broad theoriesEdit

The latest approach in developing a broad, integrative theory of motivation is Temporal Motivation Theory(TMT).[5] Introduced in a 2007 Academy of Management Review article, it synthesizes into a single formulation the primary aspects (including time as a fundamental term)[6] of several other major motivational theories, including Incentive Theory, Drive Theory, Need Theory, Self-Efficacy and Goal Setting. The original researchers note that, in an effort to keep the theory simple, existing theories to integrate were selected based on their shared attributes, and that these theories are still of value, as TMT does not contain the same depth of detail as each individual theory. However, it still simplifies the field of motivation and allows findings from one theory to be translated into terms of another.

Achievement Motivation is an integrative perspective based on the premise that performance motivation results from the way broad components of personality are directed towards performance. As a result, it includes a range of dimensions that are relevant to success at work but which are not conventionally regarded as being part of performance motivation. Especially it integrates formerly separated approaches as Need for Achievement with, for example, social motives like dominance. The Achievement Motivation Inventory is based on this theory and assesses three factors (in 17 separated scales) relevant to vocational and professional success.

Cognitive theoriesEdit

Goal-setting theoryEdit

Goal-setting theory is based on the notion that individuals sometimes have a drive to reach a clearly defined end state. Often, this end state is a reward in itself. A goal's efficiency is affected by three features; proximity, difficulty and specificity. An ideal goal should present a situation where the time between the initiation of behavior and the end state is close in time. This explains why some children are more motivated to learn how to ride a bike than mastering algebra. A goal should be moderate, not too hard or too easy to complete. In both cases, most people are not optimally motivated, as many want a challenge (which assumes some kind of insecurity of success). At the same time people want to feel that there is a substantial probability that they will succeed. Specificity concerns the description of the goal in their class. The goal should be objectively defined and intelligible for the individual. A classic example of a poorly specified goal is to get the highest possible grade. Most children have no idea how much effort they need to reach that goal. For further reading, see Locke and Latham (2002).

Models of behavior changeEdit

Social-cognitive models of behavior change include the constructs of motivation and volition. Motivation is seen as a process that leads to the forming of behavioral intentions. Volition is seen as a process that leads from intention to actual behavior. In other words, motivation and volition refer to goal setting and goal pursuit, respectively. Both processes require self-regulatory efforts. Several self-regulatory constructs are needed to operate in orchestration to attain goals. An example of such a motivational and volitional construct is perceived self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is supposed to facilitate the forming of behavioral intentions, the development of action plans, and the initiation of action. It can support the translation of intentions into action.

Psychoanalytic theories of motivationEdit

Main article: Psychoanalytic theories of motivation

Some psychologists believe that a significant portion of human behavior is energized and directed by unconscious motives. According to Maslow: "Psychoanalysis has often demonstrated that the relationship between a conscious desire and the ultimate unconscious aim that underlies it need not be at all direct [7]." In other words, stated motives do not always match those inferred by skilled observers. For example, it is possible that a person can be accident-prone because he has an unconscious desire to hurt himself and not because he is careless or ignorant of the safety rules. Similarly, some overweight people are not really hungry for food but for attention and love. Eating is merely a defensive reaction to lack of attention. Some workers damage more equipment than others because they harbor unconscious feelings of aggression toward authority figures.

Psychotherapists point out that some behavior is so automatic that the reasons for it are not available in the individual's conscious mind. Compulsive cigarette smoking is an example. Sometimes maintaining self-esteem is so important and the motive for an activity is so threatening that it is simply not recognized and, in fact, may be disguised or repressed. Rationalization, or "explaining away", is one such disguise, or defense mechanism, as it is called. Another is projecting or attributing one's own faults to others. "I feel I am to blame", becomes "It is her fault; she is selfish". Repression of powerful but socially unacceptable motives may result in outward behavior that is the opposite of the repressed tendencies. An example of this would be the employee who hates his boss but overworks himself on the job to show that he holds him in high regard.

Unconscious motives add to the hazards of interpreting human behavior and, to the extent that they are present, complicate the life of the administrator. On the other hand, knowledge that unconscious motives exist can lead to a more careful assessment of behavioral problems. Although few contemporary psychologists deny the existence of unconscious factors, many do believe that these are activated only in times of anxiety and stress, and that in the ordinary course of events, human behavior — from the subject's point of view — is rationally purposeful.

Intrinsic motivation and the 16 basic desires theoryEdit

Starting from studies involving more than 6,000 people, Professor Steven Reiss has proposed a theory that found 16 basic desires that guide nearly all human behavior.[8][9] The 16 basic desires that motivate our actions and define our personalities as:

See alsoEdit

References & BibliographyEdit

  1. R. Pritchard & E. Ashwood (2008). Managing Motivation, New York: Taylor & Francis Group.
  2. Murray, H. A. (1938). Explorations in personality. New York: Oxford University Press
  3. Template:Vcite book
  4. Deci, Edward L.; & Ryan, Richard M. (1985). 'Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior', New York: Plenum.
  6. (2007). The nature of procrastination: A meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure. Psychological Bulletin 133 (1): 65–94.
  7. Maslow, Motivation and Personality, p. 66.
  8. New Theory of Motivation Lists 16 Basic Desires That Guide Us. Research News. Ohio State. URL accessed on 2012-06-02.
  9. (March 5, 2002) Who am I? The 16 Basic Desires that Motivate Our Actions and Define Our Personalities, Berkley Trade. URL accessed 2012-06-02.

Key textsEdit



Additional materialEdit



External linksEdit

Types of Motivation
Intrinsic motivation | Extrinsic motivation | Physiological motivation  | Safety and motivation | Love and motivation | Esteem and motivation | Self-actualization and motivation |Self esteem and motivation | Incentives | [[]] | [[]] | |[[]] |[[]] | [[]] |[[]] |[[]] | [[]] | [[]] |[[]] |[[]] |
Aspects of motivation
Instincts | Drives | Goals | Needs | Temptation | [[]] | [[]] | [[]] | [[]] | [[]] |[[]] |[[]] |[[]] |[[]] |[[]] |[[]] |[[]] |[[]] |[[]] |
Motivation theory
16 basic desires theory of motivation | Achievement motivation | ERG Theory  | Drive reduction theory | Two factor theory | Maslow's hierarchy  | Murray's system of needs |[[]] | Self-control theory of motivation | [[]] |
Neuroanatomy of motivation
Hippocampus | [[]] | [[]] |[[]] | [[]] | [[]] | [[]] | [[]] |[[]] |
Neurochemistry of motivation
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Motivation in educational settings
Educational incentives | [[]] | [[]] | [[]] | [[]] |[[]] | [[]] |
Motivation in organizational settings
Monetary incentives | Performance related pay | [[]] | [[]] | [[]] |[[]] | [[]] |
Motivation in clinical settings
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Assessment of motivation
[[]] | [[]] | [[]] | Motivational interviewing |[[]] |[[]] |[[]] |[[]] |[[]] |[[]] |
Treating motivation problems
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Prominant workers in motivation
Apter |[[]] | Alderfer |Herzberg  |Maslow |McClelland | Henry Murray | [[]] | Vroom |
Philosophy and historical views of motivation|-
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