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Motivation is a word used to refer to the reason or reasons for engaging in a particular behavior, especially human behavior as studied in psychology and neuropsychology. It is the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal and elicits, controls, and sustains certain goal directed behaviors. For instance: An individual has not eaten, he or she feels hungry, and as a response he or she eats and diminishes feelings of hunger. There are many approaches to motivation: physiological, behavioural, cognitive, and social.

Motivation may be rooted in a basic need to minimize physical pain and maximize pleasure, or it may include specific needs such as eating and resting, or for a desired object. Conceptually, motivation is related to, but distinct from, emotion.

These reasons may include basic needs such as food or a desired object, goal, state of being, or ideal. The motivation for a behavior may also be attributed to less-apparent reasons such as altruism or morality. According to Geen,[1] motivation refers to the initiation, direction, intensity and persistence of human behavior.


Motive is the root word of motivation.

History of the concept

Philosophers have addressed the issue of motivation in order to explain why people think or act, feel or behave in the ways they do. Jeremy Bentham, for example argued that people are primarily hedonistically in An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation:

“Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain, and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do” (Bentham 1789).

Main article: Philosophy of motivation

Types of motivation

The different types of motivation can be discussed with relation to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs which is a theory that Abraham Maslow proposed in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation, which he subsequently extended. His theory contends that as humans meet 'basic needs' and overcome deprivation, they seek to satisfy successively 'higher needs' that occupy a set hierarchy.

[[Image:Maslow's hierarchy of needs.png|thumb|right|400px|This diagram shows Maslow's hierarchy of needs, represented as a pyramid with the more primitive needs at the bottom

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is often depicted as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the four lower levels are grouped together as deficiency needs associated with physiological needs, while the top level is termed growth needs associated with psychological needs. While deficiency needs must be met, growth needs are continually shaping behaviour. The basic concept is that the higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus once all the needs that are lower down in the pyramid are mainly or entirely satisfied. Growth forces create upward movement in the hierarchy, whereas regressive forces push prepotent needs further down the hierarchy.

Physiological motivation

Basic physiological needs for food drink sleep and activity etc have to be met on a regular basis:

Cognitive motivation

Social motivation

Motivational concepts

Reward and reinforcement

A reward, tangible or intangible, is presented after the occurrence of an action (i.e. behavior) with the intent to cause the behavior to occur again. This is done by associating positive meaning to the behavior. Studies show that if the person receives the reward immediately, the effect would be greater, and decreases as duration lengthens. Repetitive action-reward combination can cause the action to become habit.

Rewards can also be organized as extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic rewards are external to the person; for example, praise or money. Intrinsic rewards are internal to the person; for example, satisfaction or accomplishment.

Some authors distinguish between two forms of intrinsic motivation: one based on enjoyment, the other on obligation. In this context, obligation refers to motivation based on what an individual thinks ought to be done. For instance, a feeling of responsibility for a mission may lead to helping others beyond what is easily observable, rewarded, or fun.

A reinforcer is different from reward, in that reinforcement is intended to create a measured increase in the rate of a desirable behavior following the addition of something to the environment.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation refers to motivation that is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual rather than relying on any external pressure. Intrinsic motivation is based on taking pleasure in an activity rather than working towards an external reward. Intrinsic motivation has been studied since the early 1970s. Students who are intrinsically motivated are more likely to engage in the task willingly as well as work to improve their skills, which will increase their capabilities.[2] Students are likely to be intrinsically motivated if they:

  • attribute their educational results to factors under their own control, also known as autonomy,
  • believe they have the skill that will allow them to be effective agents in reaching desired goals (i.e. the results are not determined by luck),
  • are interested in mastering a topic, rather than just rote-learning to achieve good grades.

Extrinsic motivation refers to the performance of an activity in order to attain an outcome, which then contradicts intrinsic motivation. It is widely believed that motivation performs two functions. The first is often referred as to the energetic activation component of the motivation construct. The second is directed at a specific behaviour and makes reference to the orientation directional component. Extrinsic motivation comes from outside of the individual. Common extrinsic motivations are rewards like money and grades, and threat of punishment. Competition is in general extrinsic because it encourages the performer to win and beat others, not simply to enjoy the intrinsic rewards of the activity. A crowd cheering on the individual and trophies are also extrinsic incentives. The concept of motivation can be instilled in children at a very young age, by promoting and evoking interest in a certain book or novel. The idea is to have a discussion pertaining the book with young individuals, as well as to reward them.

Social psychological research has indicated that extrinsic rewards can lead to overjustification and a subsequent reduction in intrinsic motivation. In one study demonstrating this effect, children who expected to be (and were) rewarded with a ribbon and a gold star for drawing pictures spent less time playing with the drawing materials in subsequent observations than children who were assigned to an unexpected reward condition.[3] For those children who received no extrinsic reward, self-determination theory proposes that extrinsic motivation can be internalised by the individual if the task fits with their values and beliefs and therefore helps to fulfill their basic psychological needs.

Push and Pull

This model is usually used when discussing motivation within tourism context, so the most attention in gastronomic tourism research should be dedicated to this theory. Pull factors illustrate the choices of destinations by tourists, whereas push factors determine the desire to go on holiday. Moreover, push motives are connected with internal forces for example need for relaxation or escapism and pull factors in turn induce a traveller to visit certain location by external forces such as landscape, culture image or climate of a destination. Dann also highlights the fact that push factors can be stimulated by external and situational aspects of motivation in shape of pull factors. Then again pull factors are issues that can arise from a location itself and therefore ‘push’ an individual to choose to experience it. Since, a huge number of theories have been developed over the years in many studies there is no single theory that illustrates all motivational aspects of travelling. Many researchers highlighted that because motives may occur at the same time it should not be assumed that only one motive drives an individual to perform an action as it was presumed in previous studies. On the other hand, since people are not able to satisfy all their needs at once they usually seek to satisfy some or a few of them.


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.professor Victor Vroom's Yale School of Management "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 behavior 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 behavior. 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.

Punishment, coercion and negative reinforcement

The most obvious form of motivation is coercion, where the avoidance of pain or other negative consequences has an immediate effect. Extreme use of coercion is considered slavery. While coercion is considered morally reprehensible in many philosophies, it is widely practiced on prisoners, students in mandatory schooling, within the nuclear family unit (on children), and in the form of conscription. Critics of modern capitalism charge that without social safety networks, wage slavery is inevitable. However, many capitalists such as Ayn Rand have been very vocal against coercion[How to reference and link to summary or text]. Successful coercion sometimes can take priority over other types of motivation. Self-coercion is rarely substantially negative (typically only negative in the sense that it avoids a positive, such as forgoing an expensive dinner or a period of relaxation), however it is interesting in that it illustrates how lower levels of motivation may be sometimes tweaked to satisfy higher ones.

Theories of motivation

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

Main article: Theories of motivation

Factors affecting motivated performance

A number of factors can modify the effects of motivation:

Developmental aspects of motivation

Modern imaging has provided solid empirical support for the psychological theory that emotional programming is largely defined in childhood. Harold Chugani, Medical Director of the PET Clinic at the Children's Hospital of Michigan and professor of pediatrics, neurology and radiology at Wayne State University School of Medicine, has found that children's brains are much more capable of consuming new information (linked to emotions) than those of adults. Brain activity in cortical regions is about twice as high in children as in adults from the third to the ninth year of life. After that period, it declines constantly to the low levels of adulthood. Brain volume, on the other hand, is already at about 95% of adult levels in the ninth year of life.

Main article: developmental aspects of motivation

Disorders of motivation

Psychoneurology of motivation

Main article: Psychoneurology of motivation

Controlling motivation

The control of motivation is only understood to a limited extent. There are many different approaches of motivation training, but many of these are considered pseudoscientific by critics. To understand how to control motivation it is first necessary to understand why many people lack motivation.

Employee motivation

See also: Work motivation

Workers in any organization need something to keep them working. Most of the time, the salary of the employee is enough to keep him or her working for an organization. An employee must be motivated to work for a company or organization. If no motivation is present in an employee, then that employee’s quality of work or all work in general will deteriorate.

When motivating an audience, you can use general motivational strategies or specific motivational appeals. General motivational strategies include soft sell versus hard sell and personality type. Soft sell strategies have logical appeals, emotional appeals, advice and praise. Hard sell strategies have barter, outnumbering, pressure and rank. Also, you can consider basing your strategy on your audience personality. Specific motivational appeals focus on provable facts, feelings, right and wrong, audience rewards and audience threats.[4]

Job Characteristics Model

The Job Characteristics Model (JCM), as designed by Hackman and Oldham [5] attempts to use job design to improve employee motivation. They have identified that any job can be described in terms of five key job characteristics;

1. Skill Variety - the degree to which a job requires different skills and talents to complete a number of different activities

2. Task Identity - this dimension refers to the completion of a whole and identifiable piece of work versus a partial task as part of a larger piece of work

3. Task Significance - is the impact of the task upon the lives or work of others

4. Autonomy - is the degree of independence or freedom allowed to complete a job

5. Task Feedback - individually obtaining direct and clear feedback about the effectiveness of the individual carrying out the work activities

The JCM links these core job dimensions listed above to critical psychological states which results in desired personal and work outcomes. This forms the basis of this 'employee growth-need strength." The core dimensions listed above can be combined into a single predictive index, called the Motivating Potential Score.

Motivating Potential Score

The motivating potential score (MPS) can be calculated, using the core dimensions discussed above, as follows;

Jobs that are high in motivating potential must be high on at least one of the three factors that lead to experienced meaningfulness, and also must be high on both Autonomy and Feedback.[6] If a job has a high MPS, the job characteristics model predicts that motivation, performance and job satisfaction will be positively affected and the likelihood of negative outcomes, such as absenteeism and turnover, will be reduced.[6]

Drugs and motivation

Some authors, especially in the transhumanist movement, have suggested the use of "smart drugs", also known as nootropics, as "motivation-enhancers". The effects of many of these drugs on the brain are emphatically not well understood, and their legal status often makes open experimentation difficult.

Converging neurobiological evidence also supports the idea that addictive drugs such as cocaine, nicotine, alcohol, and heroin act on brain systems underlying motivation for natural rewards, such as the mesolimbic dopamine system. Normally, these brain systems serve to guide us toward fitness-enhancing rewards (food, water, sex, etc.), but they can be co-opted by repeated use of drugs of abuse, causing addicts to excessively pursue drug rewards. Therefore, drugs can hijack brain systems underlying other motivations, causing the almost singular pursuit of drugs characteristic of addiction.

Main article: Effect of drugs on motivation

Motivation in applied psychology settings

Main article: Motivation in clinical psychology
Main article: Motivation in educational psychology
Main article: Motivation in organizational psychology

Motivation in animals

Main article: Animal motivation

See also


  1. Geen, R. (1994). Human motivation: A psychological approach. Wadsworth Publishing.
  2. Wigfield, A., Guthrie, J. T., Tonks, S., & Perencevich, K. C. (2004). Children's motivation for reading: Domain specificity and instructional influences. Journal of Educational Research, 97, 299-309.
  3. Mark R. Lepper, David Greene and Richard Nisbet, “Undermining Children’s Intrinsic Interest with Extrinsic Reward; A Test of ‘Overjustification’ Hypothesis, ” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 28, 1973, 129‐37.
  4. Thomas, Jane. Guide to Managerial Persuasion and Influence. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004. Print.
  5. J.R. Hackman and G.R. Oldham. Work Redesign. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Education, Inc, 1980; pp 78-80.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Steel, Piers. Motivation: Theory and Applied. Boston, MA: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2012. Print. pp. 49

Further reading

Key texts



  • Bentham, J., (1789). An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation.
  • Deci, E. L. & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.
  • Ormond, J. E. (2003). Educational Psychology: Developing Learners, Fourth Edition. Merrill Prentice Hall.
  • Spevak, P. A. & Karinch. (2000). Empowering Underachievers, First Edition. New Horizon Press.

Additional material



  • Bernard, L. C., Mills, M. E., Swenson, L., & Walsh, R. P. (2006). An evolutionary theory of human motivation. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 131, 129-184. Full text

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
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Treating motivation problems
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Prominant workers in motivation
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Philosophy and historical views of motivation|-
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