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Motivation is a theoretical construct, used to explain behavior. It is the scientific word used to represent the reasons for our actions, our desires, our needs, etc. Motives are hypothetical constructs, used to explain why people do what they do. A motive is what prompts a person to act in a certain way or at least develop an inclination for specific behavior.[1] For example, when someone eats food to satisfy the need of hunger, or when a student does his/her work in school because they want a good grade. Both show a similar connection between what we do and why we do it. According to Maehr and Meyer, "Motivation is a word that is part of the popular culture as few other psychological concepts are".[2] Wikipedia readers will have a motive (or motives) for reading an article, even if such motives are complex and difficult to pinpoint. At the other end of the range of complexity, hunger is frequently the motive for seeking out and consuming food.

A collage of motivation examples.


Types of theories and models[edit]

Motivation theories can be classified on a number of basis.

Monist and pluralistic motivational theories[edit]

A class of theories about why people do things seeks to reduce the number of factors down to one and explain all behaviour through that one factor. For example, economics has been criticized for using self-interest as a mono-motivational theory. [4] Mono-motivational theories are often criticized for being too reductive or too abstract.

Conscious and unconscious motivations[edit]


A number of motivational theories emphasize the distinction between conscious and unconscious motivations.

A conscious motivation is a form of motivation that people recognize and are aware of it themselves.[6]

Unconscious motivation refers to hidden or unknown desires that makes people push themselves to achieve their goal. In evolutionary psychology, the "ultimate", unconscious motivation may be a cold evolutionary calculation, the conscious motivation could be more benign or even positive emotions. For example, while it may be in the best interest of a male's genes to have multiple partners and thus break up with or divorce one before moving onto the next, the conscious rationalization could be, "I loved her at the time". [7]

Freud is associated with the idea that human beings have many unconscious motivations that cause them to make important decisions because of these unconscious forces, such as choosing a partner. According to Freud and his followers, majority of the how people in different situations/environments are the result of desires, impulses, and memories that have been imprinted into an individual unconscious state, however it would still influence their performances or actions.[8]

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."

Psychological theories and models[edit]

Motivation can be looked at as a cycle where thoughts influence behaviors, and behaviors drive performance, performance impacts thoughts and the cycle begins again. Each stage of the cycle is composed of many dimensions including attitudes, beliefs, intentions, effort, and withdrawal which can all affect the motivation that an individual experiences.

Rational motivations[edit]

The idea that human beings are rational and human behavior is guided by reason is an old one. However, recent research (on Satisficing for example) has significantly undermined the idea of homo economicus or of perfect rationality in favour of a more bounded rationality. The field of behavioural economics is particularly concerned with the limits of rationality in economic agents.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation[edit]

Motivation can be divided into two types: intrinsic (internal) motivation and extrinsic (external) motivation.

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is the self-desire to seek out new things and new challenges, to analyze one's capacity, to observe and to gain knowledge.[9] It is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual rather than relying on external pressures or a desire for reward. Intrinsic motivation has been studied since the early 1970s. The phenomenon of intrinsic motivation was first acknowledged within experimental studies of animal behavior. In these studies, it was evident that the organisms would engage in playful and curiosity driven behaviors in the absence of reward. Intrinsic motivation is a natural motivational tendency and is a critical element in cognitive, social, and physical development.[10] 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.[11] Students are likely to be intrinsically motivated if they:

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation refers to the performance of an activity in order to attain a desired outcome and it is the opposite of intrinsic motivation.[9] Extrinsic motivation comes from influences outside of the individual. Common extrinsic motivations are rewards (for example money or grades) for showing the desired behavior, and the threat of punishment following misbehavior. Competition is in an extrinsic motivator because it encourages the performer to win and to beat others, not simply to enjoy the intrinsic rewards of the activity. A cheering crowd and the desire to win a trophy are also extrinsic incentives.[12]

Comparison between Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivation
Comparison of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

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.[13] However, another study showed that third graders who were rewarded with a book showed more reading behavior in the future, implying that some rewards do not undermine intrinsic motivation.[14] While the provision of extrinsic rewards might reduce the desirability of an activity, the use of extrinsic constraints, such as the threat of punishment, against performing an activity has actually been found to increase one's intrinsic interest in that activity. In one study, when children were given mild threats against playing with an attractive toy, it was found that the threat actually served to increase the child's interest in the toy, which was previously undesirable to the child in the absence of threat.[15]

For those children who received no extrinsic reward, self-determination theory proposes that extrinsic motivation can be internalized by the individual if the task fits with their values and beliefs and therefore helps to fulfill their basic psychological needs.

Operant conditioning

Operant conditioning, a term coined by B.F. Skinner, is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behaviour. Skinner believed that internal thoughts and motivations could not be used to explain behaviour; instead to look at external, observable causes of human behaviour. His theory explained how we acquire the range of learned behaviors we exhibit each and every day.[16]

Push and pull[edit]

Push motivations are those where people push themselves towards their goals or to achieve something, such as the desire for escape, rest, and relaxation, prestige, health and fitness, adventure, and social interaction.[17] However, with push motivation it's also easy to get discouraged when there are obstacles present in the path of achievement. Push motivation acts as a willpower and people's willpower is only as strong as the desire behind the willpower. [18]

Pull motivations is another type of motivation that is much stronger than push motivation. "Some of the factors are those that emerge as a result of the attractiveness of a destination as it is perceived by those with the propensity to travel. They include both tangible resources, such as beaches, recreation facilities, and cultural attractions, and traveler's perceptions and expectation, such as novelty, benefit expectation, and marketing image."[17] Push motivation can be seemed as the desire to achieve a goal so badly that it just seems that goal are pulling us to it.


The self-control aspect of motivation is increasingly considered to be a subset of emotional intelligence; it is suggested that although a person may be classed as highly intelligent (as measured by many traditional intelligence tests), they may remain unmotivated to pursue intellectual endeavours. Vroom's "expectancy theory" provides an account of when people may decide to exert self-control in pursuit of a particular goal.


Main article: Drive theory

A drive or desire can be described as a deficiency or need that activates behavior that is aimed at a goal or an incentive.[19] These drives 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. Another basic drive is the sexual drive which like food motivates us because it is essential to our survival.[20] The desire for sex is wired deep into the brain of all human beings as glands secrete hormones that travel through the blood to the brain and stimulates the onset of sexual desire.[20] The hormone involved in the initial onset of sexual desire is called dihydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).[20] The hormonal basis of both men and women's sex drives is testosterone.[20] Men naturally have more testosterone than women do and so are more likely than woman to think about sex, have sexual fantasies, seek sex and sexual variety (whether positions or partners), masturbate, want sex at an early point in a relationship, sacrifice other things for sex, have permissive attitudes for sex, and complain about low sex drive in their partners.[20]

Motivation Propeller

Incentive theory[edit]

Incentive theory is exactly what it sounds like it is, its an incentive or motive to do something. The most common incentive would be a reward. Rewards can be tangible or intangible, and is presented generally after the occurrence of the action or behavior that one is trying to correct or cause to happen again. This is done by associating positive meaning to the behavior and or action. Studies show that if the person receives the reward immediately, the effect is greater, and decreases as delay lengthens. Repetitive action-reward combination can cause the action to become a habit.[21] Motivation comes from two sources: oneself, and other people. (Refer to Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivation for more information)

"Reinforcers and reinforcement principles of behavior differ from the hypothetical construct of reward."[22] A reinforcer is anything that follows an action, with the intentions that the action will now occur more frequently.Positive reinforcement is demonstrated by an increase in the future frequency or magnitude, this is due to the fact that in the past such action was followed by a reinforcing stimulus. Positive reinforcement involves a stimulus change consisting of the presentation or magnification of a positive stimulus following a response. Negative reinforcement involves stimulus change consisting of the removal of a stimulus following a response. From this perspective, the concept of distinguishing between intrinsic and extrinsic forces is irrelevant.

Another principle of reinforcement is intermittent reinforcement this is the off-and-on use of reinforcement. It is very effective in locking in behaviors that precede it. This way of reinforcement prevents that the reward lose its value. Although, through intermittent reinforcement it can also become hard to later modify a behavior. "Dr. Skinner actually mapped out schedules of reinforcement in thousands of studies showing how the strength of reinforcement changed as a function of how often the reinforcer occurred."[23]

Applying proper motivational techniques can be much harder than it seems, especially because its different for every person. Take note that when creating a reward system, it can be easy to reward A, while hoping for B, and in the process, reap harmful effects that can jeopardize your goals.[24]

Incentive theory in psychology treats motivation and behavior of the individual as they are influenced by beliefs, such as engaging in activities that are expected to be profitable. Incentive theory is promoted by behavioral psychologists, such as B.F. Skinner. Incentive theory is especially supported by Skinner in his philosophy of Radical behaviorism, meaning that a person's actions always has social ramifications: and if actions are positively received people are more likely to act in this manner, or if negatively received people are less likely to act in this manner.

Incentive theory distinguishes itself from other motivation theories, such as drive theory, in the direction of the motivation. In incentive theory, stimuli "attract", a person towards them, and push them towards the stimulus. In terms of behaviorism, incentive theory involves positive reinforcement: the reinforcing stimulus has been conditioned to make the person happier. As opposed to in drive theory, which involves negative reinforcement: a stimulus has been associated with the removal of the punishment—the lack of homeostasis in the body. For example, a person has come to know that if they eat when hungry, it will eliminate that negative feeling of hunger, or if they drink when thirsty, it will eliminate that negative feeling of thirst.[25]

Escape-seeking dichotomy model[edit]

Escapism and seeking are major factors influencing decision making. Escapism is a need to breakaway from a daily life routine, turning on the television and watching an adventure film, whereas seeking is described as the desire to learn, turning on the television to watch a documentary. Both motivations have some interpersonal and personal facets for example individuals would like to escape from family problems (personal) or from problems with work colleagues (interpersonal). This model can also be easily adapted with regard to different studies.

Drive-reduction theory[edit]

There are a number of drive theories. The Drive Reduction Theory grows out of the concept that people have certain biological drives, such as hunger. As time passes the strength of the drive increases if it is not satisfied (in this case by eating). Upon satisfying a drive the drive's strength is reduced. The theory is based on diverse ideas from the theories of Freud to the ideas of feedback control systems, such as a thermostat.

Drive theory has some intuitive or folk validity. For instance when preparing food, the drive model appears to be compatible with sensations of rising hunger as the food is prepared, and, after the food has been consumed, a decrease in subjective hunger. There are several problems, however, that leave the validity of drive reduction open for debate. The first problem is that it does not explain how secondary reinforcers reduce drive. For example, money satisfies no biological or psychological needs, but a pay check appears to reduce drive through second-order conditioning. Secondly, a drive, such as hunger, is viewed as having a "desire" to eat, making the drive a homuncular being—a feature criticized as simply moving the fundamental problem behind this "small man" and his desires.

Drive reduction theory cannot be a complete theory of behavior, or a hungry human could not prepare a meal without eating the food before he finished cooking it. The ability of drive theory to cope with all kinds of behavior, from not satisfying a drive (by adding on other traits such as restraint), or adding additional drives for "tasty" food, which combine with drives for food in order to explain cooking render it hard to test.

Harry Harlow believes learning as dependent upon drive reduction is false, that internal drive as such is a variable of little im- portance to learning, and that this small importance steadily decreases as we ascend the phyletic scale and as we investigate learning problems of progressive complexity. Finally, he takes the position that drive-reduction theory orients learning psychologists to attack problems of limited importance and to ignore the fields of research that might lead us in some foreseeable future time to evolve a theoretical psychology of learning that transcends any single species or order.[26]

Cognitive dissonance theory[edit]

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 themselves regarding a purchase, feeling in retrospect that another decision may have been preferable. Their feeling that another purchase would have been preferable is inconsistent with their action of purchasing the item. The difference between their feelings and beliefs causes dissonance, so they seek to reassure themselves.

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.

Content theories[edit]

The content theory was one of the earliest theories of motivation. Content theories can also be referred to needs theories, because the theory focuses on the importance of what motivates us (needs). In other words they try to identify what our "needs" are and how they relate to motivation to fulfilled those needs. Another definition could be defined by Pritchard and Ashwood, is the process used to allocate energy to maximize the satisfaction of needs.[27]

Maslow's hierarchy of needs[edit]

Content theory of human motivation includes both Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs and Herzberg's two-factor theory. Maslow's theory is one of the most widely discussed theories of motivation. Abraham Maslow believed that man is inherently good and argued that individuals poses a constantly growing inner drive that has great potential. The needs hierarchy system, devised by Maslow(1954), which is a commonly used scheme for classifying human motives.[28]

Maslows Hierarchy Pyramid


The American motivation psychologist Abraham H. Maslow developed the hierarchy of needs consisting of five hierarchic classes. According to Maslow, people are motivated by unsatisfied needs. The needs, listed from basic (lowest-earliest) to most complex (highest-latest) are as follows:

[30] The basic requirements build upon the first step in the pyramid: physiology. If there are deficits on this level, all behavior will be oriented to satisfy this deficit. Essentially, if you have not slept or eaten adequately, you won't be interested in your self-esteem desires. Subsequently we have the second level, which awakens a need for security. After securing those two levels, the motives shift to the social sphere, the third level. Psychological requirements comprise the fourth level, while the top of the hierarchy consists of self-realization and self-actualization.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory can be summarized as follows:

Herzberg's two-factor theory[edit]

Main article: Two-factor theory

Frederick Herzberg's two-factor theory 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:

Herzberg concluded that job satisfaction and dissatisfaction were the products of two separate factors: motivating factors (satisfiers) and hygiene factors (dissatisfiers). Some motivating factors (satisfiers) were: Achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility, advancement, and growth. Some hygiene factors (dissatisfiers) were: company policy, supervision, working conditions, interpersonal relations, salary, status, job security, and personal life.[1]

Motivator-Hygiene Factors

The name hygiene factors is used because, like hygiene, the presence will not improve health, but absence can cause health deterioration.
Herzberg's theory has found application in such occupational fields as information systems and in studies of user satisfaction such as computer user satisfaction.

Alderfer's ERG theory[edit]

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 personal 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 as 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 theory[edit]

Since the early seventies Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan[citation needed] have conducted research that eventually led to the proposition of the self-determination theory (SDT). This theory focuses on the degree to which an individual’s behaviour is self-motivated and self-determined. SDT identifies three innate needs that, if satisfied, allow optimal function and growth: competence,[31][32] relatedness,[33] and autonomy.[34][35] These three psychological needs motivate the self to initiate specific behaviour and mental nutriments that are essential for psychological health and well-being. When these needs are satisfied, there are positive consequences, such as well-being and growth, leading people to be motivated, productive and happy. When they are thwarted, people's motivation, productivity and happiness plummet.[citation needed]

There are three essential elements to the theory:[36]

Temporal motivation theory[edit]

The latest approach in developing a broad, integrative theory of motivation is Temporal Motivation Theory.[37] Introduced in a 2006 Academy of Management Review article,[38] it synthesizes into a single formulation the primary aspects of several other major motivational theories, including Incentive Theory, Drive Theory, Need Theory, Self-Efficacy and Goal Setting. It simplifies the field of motivation and allows findings from one theory to be translated into terms of another. Another journal article that helped to develop the Temporal Motivation Theory, "The Nature of Procrastination,[39] " received American Psychological Association's George A. Miller award for outstanding contribution to general science.

Achievement motivation[edit]

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. The emphasis on performance seeks to integrate formerly separate approaches as need for achievement[40] with, for example, social motives like dominance. Personality is intimately tied to performance and achievement motivation, including such characteristics as tolerance for risk, fear of failure, and others.[41][42][43]

Achievement motivation can be measured by The Achievement Motivation Inventory, which is based on this theory and assesses three factors (in 17 separated scales) relevant to vocational and professional success. This motivation has repeatedly been linked with adaptive motivational patterns, including working hard, a willingness to pick learning tasks with much difficulty, and contributing success to effort.[44]

Achievement motivation was studied intensively by David C. McClelland, John W. Atkinson and their colleagues since the early 1950s.[45] Their research showed that business managers who were successful demonstrated a high need to achieve no matter the culture. There are three major characteristics of people who have a great need to achieve according to McClelland’s research.

  1. They would prefer a work environment in which they are able to assume responsibility for solving problems.
  2. They would take calculated risk and establish moderate, attainable goals.
  3. They want to hear continuous recognition, as well as feedback, in order for them to know how well they are doing.[46]

Cognitive theories[edit]

The Cognitive Theory of motivation are derived from two basic theories which are the Goal-Setting Theory and the Expectancy Theory. The Goal-Setting Theory states the importance of setting a goal or which direction to aim for that goal in motivating an individual. As for the Expectancy Theory of Motivation states why and how people chooses to act in a certain way over another.[47]

Goal-Setting Theory[edit]

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. Good goal setting incorporates the SMART criteria, in which goals are: specific, measurable, accurate, realistic, and timely. An ideal goal should present a situation where the time between the initiation of behavior and the end state is close. This explains why some children are more motivated to learn how to ride a bike than to master 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.

Expectancy theory[edit]

Expectancy Theory was proposed by Victor H. Vroom in 1964, the Expectancy Theory explains the behavior process in which an individual selects a behavior option over another, and why/how this decision is made in relation to their goal.

There's also an equation for this theory which goes as follows: M=E*I*V or Motivation = Expectancy*instrumentality*valence[48] M(Motivation) is the amount an individual will be motivated by the condition or environment they placed themselves in. Which is based from the following hence the equation. E(Expectancy) is the person's perception that effort will result in performance. In other words, it's the person assessment of how well and what kind of effort will relate in better performance. I(Instrumentality) is the person's perception that performance will be rewarded or punished. V(Valence) is the perceived amount of the reward or punishment that will result from the performance.

Models of behavior change[edit]

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.

John W. Atkinson, David Birch and their colleagues developed the theory of "Dynamics of Action" to mathematically model change in behavior as a consequence of the interaction of motivation and associated tendencies toward specific actions.[49][50] The theory posits that change in behavior occurs when the tendency for a new, unexpressed behavior becomes dominant over the tendency currently motivating action. In the theory, the strength of tendencies rises and falls as a consequence of internal and external stimuli (sources of instigation), inhibitory factors, and consummatory in factors such as performing an action. In this theory, there are three causes responsible for behavior and change in behavior:

  1. Instigation (Ts) - increases tendency when an activity has intrinsic ability to satisfy;
  2. Inhibition (Taf) - decreases tendency when there are obstacles to performing an activity; and
  3. Consummation - decreases a tendency as it is performed.[51][52]

Thematic Apperception Test[edit]

Psychologists David C. McClelland and John W. Atkinson argued that motivation should be unconscious. They refined measures of motivation by means of content analysis of imaginative thought using, for example, the Thematic Apperception Test.'[6][53]

Intrinsic motivation and the 16 basic desires theory[edit]

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.[54][55] The 16 basic desires that motivate our actions and define our personalities are:

Attribution theory[edit]

The attribution theory is a theory developed by psychologist, Fritz Heider that describes the processes by which individuals explain the causes of their behavior and events.[56] A form of attribution theory developed by psychologist, Bernard Weiner describes an individual’s beliefs about how the causes of success or failure affect their emotions and motivations. Bernard Weiner’s theory can be defined into two perspectives: intrapersonal or interpersonal. The intrapersonal perspective includes self-directed thoughts and emotions that are attributed to the self. The interpersonal perspective includes beliefs about the responsibility of others and other directed affects of emotions; the individual would place the blame on another individual.[57]

Individuals formulate explanatory attributions to understand the events they experience and to seek reasons for their failures. When individuals seek positive feedback from their failures, they use the feedback as motivation to show improved performances. For example, using the intrapersonal perspective, a student who failed a test may attribute their failure for not studying enough and would use their emotion of shame or embarrassment as motivation to study harder for the next test. A student who blames their test failure on the teacher would be using the interpersonal perspective, and would use their feeling of disappointment as motivation to rely on a different study source other than the teacher for the next test.

Approach versus avoidance[edit]

Approach motivation is a motivation to experience a positive outcome. In contrast, avoidance motivation is a motivation not to experience a negative outcome.[6] Research suggests that, all else being equal, avoidance motivations tend to be more powerful than approach motivations. Because people expect losses to have more powerful emotional consequences than equal-size gains, they will take more risks to avoid a loss than to achieve a gain.[6]

Practical applications[edit]

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[edit]

Main article: Employee 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. People differ on a personality dimension called locus of control. This variable refers to individual's beliefs about the location of the factors that control their behavior. At one end of the continuum are high internals who believe that opportunity to control their own behavior rests within themselves. At the other end of the continuum there are high externals who believe that external forces determine their behavior. Not surprisingly, compared with internals, externals see the world as an unpredictable, chancy place in which luck, fate, or powerful people control their destinies.[58] 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.[59]

Job characteristics model[edit]

The job characteristics Model (JCM), as designed by Hackman and Oldham attempts to use job design to improve employee motivation. They show that any job can be described in terms of five key job characteristics:[60][61]

  1. Skill Variety - the degree to which the job requires the use of different skills and talents
  2. Task Identity - the degree to which the job has contributed to a clearly identifiable larger project
  3. Task Significance - the degree to which the job has an impact on the lives or work of other people
  4. Autonomy - the degree to which the worker has independence, freedom and discretion in carrying out the job
  5. Task Feedback - the degree to which the worker is provided with clear, specific, detailed, actionable information about the effectiveness of his or her job performance

The JCM links the 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[edit]

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

{\text{MPS}}=\frac{\text{Skill Variety + Task Identity + Task Significance } }{\text{3} }{\text{ x Autonomy x Feedback}}

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.[62] 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.[62]

Employee recognition programs[edit]

Employee recognition is not only about gifts and points. It's about changing the corporate culture in order to meet goals and initiatives and most importantly to connect employees to the company's core values and beliefs. Strategic employee recognition is seen as the most important program not only to improve employee retention and motivation but also to positively influence the financial situation.[63] The difference between the traditional approach (gifts and points) and strategic recognition is the ability to serve as a serious business influencer that can advance a company’s strategic objectives in a measurable way. "The vast majority of companies want to be innovative, coming up with new products, business models and better ways of doing things. However, innovation is not so easy to achieve. A CEO cannot just order it, and so it will be. You have to carefully manage an organization so that, over time, innovations will emerge."[64]


Some authors, especially in the transhumanist movement, have suggested the use of "smart drugs", also known as nootropics, as "motivation-enhancers". These drugs work in various ways to affect neurotransmitters in the brain. It is generally widely accepted that these drugs enhance cognitive functions, but not without potential side effects.[65] The effects of many of these drugs on the brain are emphatically not well understood, and their legal status often makes open experimentation difficult.[citation needed]


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 specialized 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 how they behave towards subject matter.[66] 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.

If teachers decided to extrinsically reward productive student behaviors, they may find it difficult to extricate themselves from that path. Consequently student dependency on extrinsic rewards represents one of the greatest detractors from their use in the classroom.[67]

The majority of new student orientation leaders at colleges and universities recognize that distinctive needs of students should be considered in regard to orientation information provided at the beginning of the higher education experience. Research done by Whyte in 1986 raised the awareness of counselors and educators in this regard. In 2007, the National Orientation Directors Association reprinted Cassandra B. Whyte's research report allowing readers to ascertain improvements made in addressing specific needs of students over a quarter of a century later to help with academic success.[68]

Generally, motivation is conceptualized as either intrinsic or extrinsic. Classically, these categories are regarded as distinct.[69] Today, these concepts are less likely to be used as distinct categories, but instead as two ideal types that define a continuum:[70]

  1. Intrinsic motivation occurs when people are 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 significant. It has been shown that intrinsic motivation for education drops from grades 3-9 though the exact cause cannot be ascertained.[71] Also, in younger students it has been shown that contextualizing material that would otherwise be presented in an abstract manner increases the intrinsic motivation of these students.[72]
  2. Extrinsic motivation comes into play when a student is compelled to do something or act a certain way because of factors external to him or her (like money or good grades).

Cassandra B. Whyte researched and reported about the importance of locus of control and academic achievement. Students tending toward a more internal locus of control are more academically successful, thus encouraging curriculum and activity development with consideration of motivation theories.[73][74]

Academic motivation orientation may also be tied with one's ability to detect and process errors. Fisher, Nanayakkara, and Marshall conducted neuroscience research on children's motivation orientation, neurological indicators of error monitoring (the process of detecting an error), and academic achievement. Their research suggests that students with high intrinsic motivation attribute performance to personal control and that their error-monitoring system is more strongly engaged by performance errors. They also found that motivation orientation and academic achievement were related to the strength in which their error-monitoring system was engaged.[75]

Motivation has been found to be an important element in the concept of Andragogy (what motivates the adult learner), and in treating Autism Spectrum Disorders, as in Pivotal Response Therapy.

Doyle and Moeyn have noted that traditional methods tended to use anxiety as negative motivation (e.g. use of bad grades by teachers) as a method of getting students to work. However, they have found that progressive approaches with focus on positive motivation over punishment has produced greater effectiveness with learning, since anxiety interferes with performance of complex tasks.[76]

Indigenous education and learning[edit]

For many indigenous students (such as Native American children), motivation may be derived from social organization; an important factor educators should account for in addition to variations in Sociolinguistics and Cognition.[77] While poor academic performance among Native American students is often attributed to low levels of motivation, Top-down classroom organization is often found to be ineffective for children of many cultures who depend on a sense of community, purpose, and competence in order to engage.[78] Horizontally-structured, community-based learning strategies often provide a more structurally supportive environment for motivating indigenous children, who tend to be driven by “social/affective emphasis, harmony, holistic perspectives, expressive creativity, and nonverbal communication.”[79] This drive is also traceable to a cultural tradition of community-wide expectations of participation in the activities and goals of the greater group, rather than individualized aspirations of success or triumph.[80]

In some indigenous communities, young children can often portray a sense of community-based motivation through their parent-like interactions with siblings.[81] Furthermore, it is commonplace for children to assist and demonstrate for their younger counterparts without being prompted by authority figures. Observation techniques and integration methods are demonstrated in such examples as weaving in Chiapas, Mexico, where it is commonplace for children to learn from "a more skilled other" within the community.[82] The child's real responsibility within the Mayan community can be seen in, for example, weaving apprenticeships; often, when the "more skilled other" is tasked with multiple obligations, an older child will step in and guide the learner.[82] Sibling guidance is supported from early youth, where learning through play encourages horizontally-structured environments through alternative educational models such as "Intent Community Participation."[83] Research also suggests that that formal Westernized schooling can actually reshape the traditionally collaborative nature of social life in indigenous communities [84] This research is supported cross-culturally, with variations in motivation and learning often reported higher between indigenous groups and their national Westernized counterparts than between indigenous groups across international continental divides.[85]

Self-determination in education[edit]

Self-determination is the ability to make choices and exercise a high degree of control, such as what the student does and how they do it (Deci et al., 1991; Reeve, Hamm, & Nix, 2003; Ryan & Deci, 2002). Self-determination can be supported by providing opportunities for students to be challenged, such as leadership opportunities, providing appropriate feedback and fostering, establishing and maintaining good relationships between teachers and students. These strategies can increase students' interest, competence, creativity and desire to be challenged and ensure that students are intrinsically motivated to study. On the other hand, students who lack of self-determination are more likely to feel their success is out of their control. Such students lose motivation to study, which causes a state of "helpless learning". Students who feel helpless readily believe they will fail and therefore cease to try. Over time, a vicious circle of low achievement develops.

Physical activity in education[edit]

Physical activity is body movement that works your muscles and requires more energy than resting. According to a blog by the American Intercontinental University, college students should make time for exercise to maintain and increase motivation. AIU states that regular exercise has impeccable effects on the brain. With consistent running routines, there are more complex connections between neurons, meaning the brain is able to access its brain cells more flexibly. By performing well physically, motivation will be present in education because of how well the brain is performing. After exercising, the brain can have more desire to obtain knowledge and better retain the information. In addition, exercise can relieve stress. Exercising can ease anxiety and relieve negative effects of stress on the body. Without stress factors, individuals can perform better and more efficiently, since their minds will have a more positive outlook. This positive mood will help keep students motivated and more open and willing to succeed academically. Lastly, exercise increases focus and concentration that could also help students maintain their motivation and focus on their studies. AIU claims that exercise may have improved the students’ ability to participate and retain information during the class after they had exercised. Being able to retain information and being willing to participate keeps students motivated and performing well academically.[86]

Healthy sleeping habits in education[edit]

Sleep is a natural periodic state of rest for the mind and body. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, it is important and essential for students to obtain the right amount of sleep in order to succeed in academics. AASM states that getting good nights of sleep is one of the best ways to maximize performance on finals. It is possible that the more chaotic and sporadic one’s sleeping schedule is, the harder it will be for that individual to get an A or B on an exam. Dr. Kushida from AASM proclaims that sleep loss may lead to learning and memory impairment. In addition, she also comments that lack of sleep can lead to decreased attention and vigilance. So, with small amounts of sleep, individuals cannot maintain all their memory or focus needed to score well in their classes. Therefore, sleep is a requirement in education if the individual wants to succeed academically. The right amount of sleep will enable individuals to keep their motivation and good grades in education. Without sleep, students and individual’s memory capacity can become so minimal that it is possible for them not to even remember what they are supposed to do in a day’s time. In addition, with a lack of sleep, students cannot physically withhold and function for a long time, since their bodies will not have the energy. So, with enough sleep, students’ minds will be clearer and have more potential to retain information. At the same time, students would be granted with more motivation and energy since their minds and bodies will be more willing to obtain information.[87]


Main article: Work motivation

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's theory of motivation and Douglas McGregor's theory X and theory Y (pertaining to the theory of leadership) demonstrate.

According to Maslow, people are motivated by unsatisfied needs.[88] 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.

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.

The average workplace is about midway between the extremes of high threat and high opportunity. Motivation by threat is a dead-end strategy, and naturally staff are more attracted to the opportunity side of the motivation curve than the threat side. Motivation is a powerful tool in the work environment that can lead to employees working at their most efficient levels of production.[89]

Nonetheless, Steinmetz also discusses three common character types of subordinates: ascendant, indifferent, and ambivalent who all react and interact uniquely, and must be treated, managed, and motivated accordingly. An effective leader must understand how to manage all characters, and more importantly the manager must utilize avenues that allow room for employees to work, grow, and find answers independently.[90]

The assumptions of Maslow and Herzberg were challenged by a classic study[91] at Vauxhall Motors' UK manufacturing plant. This introduced the concept of orientation to work and distinguished three main orientations: instrumental (where work is a means to an end), bureaucratic (where work is a source of status, security and immediate reward) and solidaristic (which prioritizes group loyalty).

Other theories which expanded and extended those of Maslow and Herzberg included Kurt Lewin's Force Field Theory, Edwin Locke's Goal Theory and Victor Vroom's Expectancy theory. These tend to stress cultural differences and the fact that individuals tend to be motivated by different factors at different times.[92]

According to the system of scientific management developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor, a worker's motivation is solely determined by pay, and therefore management need not consider psychological or social aspects of work. In essence, scientific management bases human motivation wholly on extrinsic rewards and discards the idea of intrinsic rewards.

In contrast, David McClelland believed that workers could not be motivated by the mere need for money—in fact, extrinsic motivation (e.g., money) could extinguish intrinsic motivation such as achievement motivation, though money could be used as an indicator of success for various motives, e.g., keeping score. In keeping with this view, his consulting firm, McBer & Company, had as its first motto "To make everyone productive, happy, and free." For McClelland, satisfaction lay in aligning a person's life with their fundamental motivations.

Elton Mayo found 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. His model has been judged as placing undue reliance on social contacts within work situations for motivating employees.[93]

William Ouchi introduced Theory Z, a hybrid management approach consisting of both Japanese and American philosophies and cultures.[94] Its Japanese segment is much like the clan culture where organizations focus on a standardized structure with heavy emphasis on socialization of its members. All underlying goals are consistent across the organization. Its American segment retains formality and authority amongst members and the organization. Ultimately, Theory Z promotes common structure and commitment to the organization, as well as constant improvement of work efficacy.

In Essentials of Organizational Behavior, Robbins and Judge examine recognition programs as motivators, and identify five principles that contribute to the success of an employee incentive program:[95]


Motivational models are central to game design, because without motivation, a player will not be interested in progressing further within a game.[96] Several models for gameplay motivations have been proposed, including Richard Bartle's. Jon Radoff has proposed a four-quadrant model of gameplay motivation that includes cooperation, competition, immersion and achievement.[97] The motivational structure of games is central to the gamification trend, which seeks to apply game-based motivation to business applications.[98] In the end, Game designers must know the needs and desires of their customers for their companies to flourish.

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"Understanding Motivation and Schooling: Where We've Been, Where We Are, and Where We Need to Go" | Martin L Maehr and Heather Mayer Educational Psychology Review, Vol 9, No. 4, 1997

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]