Psychology Wiki
Line 212: Line 212:
== See also ==
== See also ==
* [[Positive thinking]]
* [[Behavior]]
* [[Behavior]]
* ''[[Death, Desire and Loss in Western Culture]]'' by [[Jonathan Dollimore]]
* ''[[Death, Desire and Loss in Western Culture]]'' by [[Jonathan Dollimore]]

Revision as of 20:07, 7 September 2006

Assessment | Biopsychology | Comparative | Cognitive | Developmental | Language | Individual differences | Personality | Philosophy | Social |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |

Cognitive Psychology: Attention · Decision making · Learning · Judgement · Memory · Motivation · Perception · Reasoning · Thinking  - Cognitive processes Cognition - Outline Index

This article is in need of attention from a psychologist/academic expert on the subject.
Please help recruit one, or improve this page yourself if you are qualified.
This banner appears on articles that are weak and whose contents should be approached with academic caution


In psychology, motivation is the driving force behind all actions of human beings, animals, and lower organisms. It is an internal state that activates behavior and gives it direction. Emotion is closely related to motivation, and may be regarded as the subjectively experienced component of motivational states.

Psychobiology of drives


At the next level are motivations that have an obvious biological basis but are not required for the immediate survival of the organism. These include the powerful motivations for sex, parenting and aggression: again, the physiological bases of these are similar in humans and other animals, but the social complexities are greater in humans (or perhaps we just understand them better in our own species). In these areas insights from behavioral ecology and sociobiology have offered new analyses of both animal and human behaviour in the last decades of the twentieth century, though the extension of sociobiological analyses to humans remains highly controversial. Perhaps similar, but perhaps at a rather different level, is the motivation for new stimulation - variously called exploration, curiosity, or arousal-seeking. A crucial issue in the analysis of such motivations is whether they have a homeostatic component, so that they build up over time if not discharged; this idea was a key component of early twentieth century analyses of sex and aggression by, for example, Freud and Konrad Lorenz, and is a feature of much popular psychology of motivation. The biological analyses of recent decades, however, imply that such motivations are situational, arising when they are (or seem to be) needed to ensure an animal's fitness, and subsiding without consequences when the occasion for them passes.

Drive theory

Appetite and thirst



Regulation of Behavior

Rewards and incentives




Secondary goals

These important biological needs tend to generate more powerful emotions and thus more powerful motivation than secondary goals. This is described in models like Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs. A distinction can also be made between direct and indirect motivation: In direct motivation, the action satisfies the need, in indirect motivation, the action satisfies an intermediate goal, which can in turn lead to the satisfaction of a need. In work environments, money is typically viewed as a powerful indirect motivation, whereas job satisfaction and a pleasant social environment are more direct motivations. However, this example highlights well that an indirect motivational factor (money) towards an important goal (having food, clothes etc.) may well be more powerful than the direct motivation provided by an enjoyable workplace. Motivation, as Stephen Robbins (2000) says, is included one component of performance, that is performance is ability times motivation.


The most obvious form of motivation is coercion, where the avoidance of pain or other negative consequences has an immediate effect. When such coercion is permanent, it is considered slavery. While coercion is considered morally reprehensible in many philosophies, it is widely practiced on prisoners, students in mandatory schooling, 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. Successful coercion sometimes can take priority over other types of motivation.

Social and self regulation

Self control

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. Victor Vroom's "expectancy theory" provides an account of when people will decide whether to exert self control to pursue a particular goal. Self control is often contrasted with automatic processes of stimulus-response, as in the behaviorist's paradigm of B.F. Skinner.

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 encouarge 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 an animal by giving them treats when they perform a trick correctly. The treat motivates the animal to perform the trick consistently, even later when the treat is removed from the process.

Maslow's Theory

Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of human needs theory is the most widely discussed theories of motivation.

The theory can be summarized as thus:

  • Human beings have wants and desires which influence their behaviour, only unsatisfied needs can influence behaviour, satisfied needs cannot.
  • 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 after only when the lower level need is at least minimally satisfied.
  • Further by the hierarchy, the more individuality, humanness and psychological health a person will show.

The needs, listed from basic to more complex are as follows:

Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory

Frederick Herzberg's two factor theory, concludes that certain factors in the workplace result in job satisfaction, while others lead to dissatisfaction.

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) which do not give positive satisfaction, although dissatisfaction results from their absence.

The theory is sometimes called the Motivator-Hygiene Theory.

Aldelfer’s ERG Theory

Created by Clayton Alderfer, Maslow's heirarchy of needs was expanded, leading to his ERG theory (Existence, Relatedness and Growth). Physiological and safety, the lower order needs, were placed in the Existance category. Love and self esteem needs were placed in the Relatedness category. The Growth category contained the self actualization and self esteem needs.

Cognitive dissonance

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 toward 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.

Social conformity


McClelland's Achievement Motivation Theory

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.
  • Need for affiliation.

Goal setting and goal theory



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.

Early programming

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.


Data by Harold Chugani on brain activity, 1996 (click image for source details). The red dots show activity in the frontal cortex, the "youngest" region in the human brain from an evolutionary perspective. It is important for analysis and creativity. The blue curve, copied from another diagram of the same source, shows the development of brain volume through childhood. As can be seen from the data, brain activity in children is much higher than in adults, making early influences critical for motivation in later life.


Besides the very direct approaches to motivation, beginning in early life, there are solutions which are more abstract but perhaps nevertheless more practical for self-motivation. Virtually every motivation guidebook includes at least one chapter about the proper organization of one's tasks and goals. It is usually suggested that it is critical to maintain a list of tasks, with a distinction between those which are completed and those which are not, thereby moving some of the required motivation for their completion from the tasks themselves into a "meta-task", namely the processing of the tasks in the task list, which can become a routine. The viewing of the list of completed tasks may also be considered motivating, as it can create a satisfying sense of accomplishment.

Most electronic to-do lists have this basic functionality, although the distinction between completed and non-completed tasks is not always clear (completed tasks are sometimes simply deleted, instead of kept in a separate list).

Other forms of information organization may also be motivational, such as the use of mindmaps to organize one's ideas, and thereby "train" the neural network that is the human brain to focus on the given task. More simpler forms of idea notation such as simple bullet-point style lists may also be sufficient, or even more useful to less visually oriented persons.

One interesting aspect that has been somewhat neglected by sociology is the addictive nature of some role playing games (especially computer role-playing games), which work with a system of experience points and "levels" to motivate the player to keep going; when he has gained enough points, he can advance to the next level, thereby getting new abilities and a higher status in the community, if any. While many electronic motivation systems have a basic concept of priorities, few explore the possibility of using actual scores as a motivational factor. However, some online communities that have nothing to do with gaming use similar systems; notably, the Everything2 collaborative writing community employs a complex voting/experience system. Perhaps such systems can also be used on a smaller scale.


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 not well understood, and their legal status often makes open experimentation difficult. It is a fact that some of history's most productive artists have also been drug users, although it is not clear whether this correlation is also of a causative nature.

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.

Applications in education and instructional design

Motivation is of particular interest to Educational psychologists because of the crucial role it plays in student learning. However, the specific kind of motivation that is studied in the specialised setting of education differs qualitatively from the more general forms of motivation studied by psychologists in other fields.

Motivation in education can have several effects on how students learn and their behavior towards subject matter (Ormrod, 2003). It can:

  1. Direct behavior toward particular goals
  2. Lead to increased effort and energy
  3. Increase initiation of, and persistence in, activities
  4. Enhance cognitive processing
  5. Determine what consequences are reinforcing
  6. Lead to improved performance.

Because students are not always internally motivated, they sometimes need situated motivation, which is found in environmental conditions that the teacher creates.

There are two kinds of motivation:

  • Intrinsic motivation occurs when an individual is internally motivated to do something because it either brings them pleasure, they think it is important, or they feel that what they are learning is morally significant.
  • Extrinsic motivation comes into play when a student is compelled to do something or act a certain way because of factors external to themselves (like money or good grades).

Note also that there is already questioning and expansion about this dichotomy on motivation, e.g., Self-Determination Theory.

Applications in gaming and game design

Applications in business

At lower levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, such as Physiological needs, money is a motivator, however it tends to have a motivating effect on staff that lasts only for a short period (in accordance with Herzberg's two-factor model of motivation). At higher levels of the hierarchy, praise, respect, recognition, empowerment and a sense of belonging are far more powerful motivators than money, as both Abraham Maslow and Douglas McGregor's Theory X and theory Y have demonstrated vividly.

Maslow has money at the lowest level of the hierarchy and shows other needs are better motivators to staff. McGregor places money in his Theory X category and feels it is a poor motivator. Praise and recognition are placed in the Theory Y category and are considered stronger motivators than money.

  • Motivated employees always look for better ways to do a job.
  • Motivated employees are more quality oriented.
  • Motivated workers are more productive.

Scientific Management

Scientific management is a philosophy and set of methods that stressed the scientific study and organization of work at operational level for improving efficiency. It is associated with F.W. Taylor who is called the “father of Scientific Management.”

Scientific Management has contributed the following techniques that are used even today:

  • Scientific method of doing work.
  • Planning tasks.
  • Standardization.
  • Specialization and division of labour.
  • Time and motion studies.

This approach has been criticised that David Mcclelland dehumanized workers by treating them as mere factors of production. David believed that workers could be motivated by mere need for money i.e. C=economic gains by the form of higher wages. In reality, workers need sense of job security, social fulfillment and a challenging job, other than a good pay.

Human Relations Model

Elton Mayo found out that the social contacts a worker has at the workplace are very important and that boredom and repetitiveness of tasks lead to reduced motivation. Mayo believed that workers could be motivated by acknowledging their social needs and making them feel important. As a result, employees were given freedom to make decisions on the job and greater attention was paid to informal work groups. Mayo named the model the Hawthorne effect. The problem with his model is undue reliance on social contacts at work situations for motivating employee

See also


  • Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. "Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior". New York: Plenum, 1985.
  • Ormond, Jeanne Ellis. "Educational Psychology: Developing Learners" Fourth Edition. Merrill Prentice Hall, 2003.
  • Spevak, P. A., Ph.D. & Karinch. "Empowering Underachievers" First Edition. New Horizon Press, 2000.

Further reading

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).