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Gordon Allport was one of the first researchers to draw a distinction between Motive and Drive. He suggested that a drive forms as a reaction to a motive, which may outgrow the motive as the reason for a behavior. The drive then becomes autonomous and distinct from the motive, whether the motive was instinct or something else. The idea that drives can become independent of the original motives for a given behavior is known as functional autonomy.
Allport gives the example of a man who seeks to perfect his task or craft. His original motive may be a sense of inferiority engrained in his childhood, but his diligence in his work and the motive it acquires later on is a need to excel in his chosen profession, which becomes the man's drive. Allport says that the theory "avoids the absurdity of regarding the energy of life now, in the present, as somehow consisting of early archaic forms (instincts, prepotent reflexes, or the never-changing Id). Learning brings new systems of interests into existence just as it does new abilities and skills. At each stage of development these interests are always contemporary; whatever drives, drives now."
Another example of functional autonomy is when the original motive of making money to buy goods becomes a drive, in which making money becomes an end in itself.
In clinical context
- Allport, G. W. (1937). The American Journal of Psychology, 50, pp. 141-156.