Motivation is the reason for people's actions, desires, and needs. Motivation is also one's direction to behavior, or what causes a person to want to repeat a behavior. An individual is not motivated by another individual. Motivation comes from within the individual.



Motivation as a desire to perform an action is usually defined as having two parts, directional such as directed towards a positive stimulus or away from a negative one, as well as the activated "seeking phase" and consummatory "liking phase". This type of motivation has neurobiological roots in the basal ganglia, and mesolimbic dopaminergic pathways. Activated "seeking" behavior, such as locomotor activity, is influenced by dopaminergic drugs, and microdialysis experiments reveal that dopamine is released during the anticipation of a reward.[1] The "wanting behavior" associated with a rewarding stimulus can be increased by microinjections of dopamine and dopaminergic drugs in the dorsorostral nucleus accumbens and posterior ventral palladum. Opioid injections in this area produce pleasure, however outside of these hedonic hotspots they create an increased desire.[2] Furthermore, depletion or inhibition of dopamine in neurons of the nucleus accumbens decreases appetitive but not consummatory behavior. Dopamine is further implicated in motivation as administration of amphetamine increased the break point in a progressive ratio self-reinforcement schedule. That is, subjects were willing to go to greater lengths (e.g. press a lever more times) to obtain a reward.[3]

Psychological theories

Motivation can be conceived of as a cycle in which thoughts influence behaviors, behaviors drive performance, performance affects 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. Most psychological theories hold that motivation exists purely within the individual, but socio-cultural theories express motivation as an outcome of participation in actions and activities within the cultural context of social groups.[4]

Natural theories

The natural system assumes that people have higher order needs, which contrasts with the rational theory that suggests people dislike work and only respond to rewards and punishment.[5] According to McGregor's Theory Y, human behavior is based on satisfying a hierarchy of needs: physiological, safety, social, ego, and self-fulfillment.[6]

Physiological needs are the lowest and most important level. These fundamental requirements include food, rest, shelter, and exercise. After physiological needs are satisfied, employees can focus on safety needs, which include “protection against danger, threat, deprivation.”[6] However, if management makes arbitrary or biased employment decisions, then an employee’s safety needs are unfulfilled.

The next set of needs is social, which refers to the desire for acceptance, affiliation, reciprocal friendships and love. As such, the natural system of management assumes that close-knit work teams are productive. Accordingly, if an employee’s social needs are unmet, then he will act disobediently.[6]

There are two types of egoistic needs, the second-highest order of needs. The first type refers to one’s self-esteem, which encompasses self-confidence, independence, achievement, competence, and knowledge. The second type of needs deals with reputation, status, recognition, and respect from colleagues.[6] Egoistic needs are much more difficult to satisfy.

The highest order of needs is for self-fulfillment, including recognition of one’s full potential, areas for self-improvement, and the opportunity for creativity. This differs from the rational system, which assumes that people prefer routine and security to creativity.[5] Unlike the rational management system, which assumes that humans don’t care about these higher order needs, the natural system is based on these needs as a means for motivation.

Self-management through teamwork

To successfully manage and motivate employees, the natural system posits that being part of a group is necessary.[7] Because of structural changes in social order, the workplace is more fluid and adaptive according to Mayo. As a result, individual employees have lost their sense of stability and security, which can be provided by a membership in a group. However, if teams continuously change within jobs, then employees feel anxious, empty, and irrational and become harder to work with.[7] The innate desire for lasting human association and management “is not related to single workers, but always to working groups.”[7] In groups, employees will self-manage and form relevant customs, duties, and traditions.

Wage incentives

Humans are not motivated solely by wage incentives.[8] Unlike the rational theory of motivation, people are not driven toward economic interests under the natural system. For instance, the straight piecework system pays employees based on each unit of their output. Based on studies such as the Bank Wiring Observation Room, using a piece rate incentive system does not lead to higher production.[8] Employees actually set upper limits on each person’s daily output. These actions stand “in direct opposition to the ideas underlying their system of financial incentive, which countenanced no upper limit to performance other than physical capacity.”[8] Therefore, as opposed to the rational system that depends on economic rewards and punishments, the natural system of management assumes that humans are also motivated by non-economic factors.


Employees seek autonomy and responsibility in their work, contrary to assumptions of the rational theory of management. Because supervisors have direct authority over employees, they must ensure that the employee’s actions are in line with the standards of efficient conduct.[8] This creates a sense of restriction on the employee and these constraints are viewed as “annoying and seemingly functioned only as subordinating or differentiating mechanisms."[8] Accordingly, the natural management system assumes that employees prefer autonomy and responsibility on the job and dislike arbitrary rules and overwhelming supervision. An individual's motivation to complete a task is increased when this task is autonomous. When the motivation to complete a task comes from an "external pressure" that pressure then "undermines" a person's motivation, and as a result decreases a persons desire to complete the task. [9]

Rational motivations

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.[10]

Incentive theories: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

Motivation can be divided into two different theories known as intrinsic (internal or inherent) motivation and extrinsic (external) motivation.

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation has been studied since the early 1970s. 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.[11] 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 consideration. 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.[12] The two necessary elements for intrinsic motivation are self-determination and an increase in perceived competence.[13] In short, the cause of the behavior must be internal, known as internal local of causality, and the individual who engages in the behavior must perceive that the task increases their competence.[12]

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.[14] Students are likely to be intrinsically motivated if they:

  • attribute their educational results to factors under their own control, also known as autonomy or locus of control
  • believe they have the skills to be effective agents in reaching their desired goals, also known as self-efficacy beliefs
  • are interested in mastering a topic, not just in achieving good grades

An example of intrinsic motivation is when an employee becomes an IT professional because he or she wants to learn about how computer users interact with computer networks. The employee has the intrinsic motivation to gain more knowledge.[15] Art for art's sake is an example of intrinsic motivation in the domain of art.

Traditionally, researchers thought of motivations to use computer systems to be primarily driven by extrinsic purposes; however, many modern systems have their use driven primarily by intrinsic motivations.[16] Examples of such systems used primarily to fulfil users' intrinsic motivations, include on-line gaming, virtual worlds, online shopping[17], learning/education, online dating, digital music repositories, social networking, online pornography, gamified systems, and general gamification. Even traditional management information systems (e.g., ERP, CRM) are being 'gamified' such that both extrinsic and intrinsic motivations must increasingly be considered.

Not only can intrinsic motivation be used in a personal setting, but it can also be implemented and utilized in a social environment. Instead of attaining mature desires, such as those presented above via internet which can be attained on one's own, intrinsic motivation can be used to assist extrinsic motivation to attain a goal. For example, Eli, a 4-year-old with autism, wants to achieve the goal of playing with a toy train[18]. To get the toy, he must first communicate to his therapist that he wants it. His desire to play is strong enough to be considered intrinsic motivation because it is a natural feeling, and his desire to communicate with his therapist to get the train can be considered extrinsic motivation because the outside object is a reward (see incentive theory). Communicating with the therapist is the first, slightly more challenging goal that stands in the way of achieving his larger goal of playing with the train. Achieving these goals in attainable pieces is also known as the goal-setting theory.

Advantages: Intrinsic motivation can be long-lasting and self-sustaining. Efforts to build this kind of motivation are also typically efforts at promoting student learning. Such efforts often focus on the subject rather than rewards or punishments.

Disadvantages: Efforts at fostering intrinsic motivation can be slow to affect behavior and can require special and lengthy preparation. Students are individuals, so a variety of approaches may be needed to motivate different students. It is often helpful to know what interests one's students in order to connect these interests with the subject matter. This requires getting to know one's students. Also, it helps if the instructor is interested in the subject.[19]

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation comes from influences outside of the individual. In extrinsic motivation, the harder question to answer is where do people get the motivation to carry out and continue to push with persistence. Usually extrinsic motivation is used to attain outcomes that a person wouldn't get from intrinsic motivation.[20] Common extrinsic motivations are rewards (for example money or grades) for showing the desired behavior, and the threat of punishment following misbehavior. Competition is 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.[21]

The most simple distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation is the type of reasons or goals that lead to an action. While intrinsic motivation refers to doing something because it is inherently interesting or enjoyable, extrinsic motivation, refers to doing something because it leads to a separable outcome. Extrinsic motivation thus contrasts with intrinsic motivation, which is doing an activity simply for the enjoyment of the activity itself, instead of for its instrumental value. [22]

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.[23] 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.[24] 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.[25]

Behaviorist theories

While many theories on motivation have a mentalistic perspective, behaviorists focus only on observable behavior and theories founded on experimental evidence. In the view of behaviorism, motivation is understood as a question about what factors cause, prevent, or withhold various behaviors, while the question of, for instance, conscious motives would be ignored. Where others would speculate about such things as values, drives, or needs, that may not be observed directly, behaviorists are interested in the observable variables that affect the type, intensity, frequency and duration of observable behavior. Through the basic research of such scientists as Pavlov, Watson and Skinner, several basic mechanisms that govern behavior have been identified. The most important of these are classical conditioning and operant conditioning.

Classical and operant conditioning

In classical (or respondent) conditioning, behavior is understood as responses triggered by certain environmental or physical stimuli. They can be unconditioned, such as in-born reflexes, or learned through the pairing of an unconditioned stimulus with a different stimulus, which then becomes a conditioned stimulus. In relation to motivation, classical conditioning might be seen as one explanation as to why an individual performs certain responses and behaviors in certain situations.[26][27] For instance, a dentist might wonder why a patient does not seem motivated to show up for an appointment, with the explanation being that the patient has associated the dentist (conditioned stimulus) with the pain (unconditioned stimulus) that elicits a fear response (conditioned response), leading to the patient being reluctant to visit the dentist.

In operant conditioning, the type and frequency of behavior is determined mainly by its consequences. If a certain behavior, in the presence of a certain stimulus, is followed by a desirable consequence (a reinforcer), the emitted behavior will increase in frequency in the future, in the presence of the stimulus that preceded the behavior (or a similar one). Conversely, if the behavior is followed by something undesirable (a punisher), the behavior is less likely to occur in the presence of the stimulus. In a similar manner, removal of a stimulus directly following the behavior might either increase or decrease the frequency of that behavior in the future (negative reinforcement or punishment).[26][27] For instance, a student that gained praise and a good grade after turning in a paper, might seem more motivated in writing papers in the future (positive reinforcement); if the same student put in a lot of work on a task without getting any praise for it, he or she might seem less motivated to do school work in the future (negative punishment). If a student starts to cause trouble in class gets punished with something he or she dislikes, such as detention (positive punishment), that behavior would decrease in the future. The student might seem more motivated to behave in class, presumably in order to avoid further detention (negative reinforcement).

The strength of reinforcement or punishment is dependent on schedule and timing. A reinforcer or punisher affects the future frequency of a behavior most strongly if it occurs within seconds of the behavior. A behavior that is reinforced intermittently, at unpredictable intervals, will be more robust and persistent, compared to one that is reinforced every time the behavior is performed.[26][27] For example, if the misbehaving student in the above example was punished a week after the troublesome behavior, that might not affect future behavior.

In addition to these basic principles, environmental stimuli also affect behavior. Behavior is punished or reinforced in the context of whatever stimuli were present just before the behavior was performed, which means that a particular behavior might not be affected in every environmental context, or situation, after it is punished or reinforced in one specific context.[26][27] A lack of praise for school-related behavior might, for instance, not decrease after-school sports-related behavior that is usually reinforced by praise.

The various mechanisms of operant conditioning may be used to understand the motivation for various behaviors by examining what happens just after the behavior (the consequence), in what context the behavior is performed or not performed (the antecedent), and under what circumstances (motivating operators).[26][27]

Incentive motivation

Incentive theory is a specific theory of motivation, derived partly from behaviorist principles of reinforcement, which concerns an incentive or motive to do something. The most common incentive would be a compensation. Compensation can be tangible or intangible, It helps in motivating the employees in their corporate life, students in academics and inspire to do more and more to achieve profitability in every field. Studies show that if the person receives the reward immediately, the effect is greater, and decreases as delay lengthens.[28] Repetitive action-reward combination can cause the action to become a habit.[28]

"Reinforcers and reinforcement principles of behavior differ from the hypothetical construct of reward." A reinforcer is anything that follows an action, with the intentions that the action will now occur more frequently. From this perspective, the concept of distinguishing between intrinsic and extrinsic forces is irrelevant.

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 have 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.[28]

Motivating operations

Motivating operations, MOs, relate to the field of motivation in that they help improve understanding aspects of behavior that are not covered by operant conditioning. In operant conditioning, the function of the reinforcer is to influence future behavior. The presence of a stimulus believed to function as a reinforcer does not according to this terminology explain the current behavior of an organism – only previous instances of reinforcement of that behavior (in the same or similar situations) do. Through the behavior-altering effect of MOs, it is possible to affect current behavior of an individual, giving another piece of the puzzle of motivation.

Motivating operations are factors that affect learned behavior in a certain context. MOs have two effects: a value-altering effect, which increases or decreases the efficiency of a reinforcer, and a behavior-altering effect, which modifies learned behavior that has previously been punished or reinforced by a particular stimulus.[26]

When a motivating operation causes an increase in the effectiveness of a reinforcer, or amplifies a learned behavior in some way (such as increasing frequency, intensity, duration or speed of the behavior), it functions as an establishing operation, EO. A common example of this would be food deprivation, which functions as an EO in relation to food: the food-deprived organism will perform behaviors previously related to the acquisition of food more intensely, frequently, longer, or faster in the presence of food, and those behaviors would be especially strongly reinforced.[26] For instance, a fast-food worker earning minimal wage, forced to work more than one job to make ends meet, would be highly motivated by a pay raise, because of the current deprivation of money (a conditioned establishing operation). The worker would work hard to try to achieve the raise, and getting the raise would function as an especially strong reinforcer of work behavior.

Conversely, a motivating operation that causes a decrease in the effectiveness of a reinforcer, or diminishes a learned behavior related to the reinforcer, functions as an abolishing operation, AO. Again using the example of food, satiation of food prior to the presentation of a food stimulus would produce a decrease on food-related behaviors, and diminish or completely abolish the reinforcing effect of acquiring and ingesting the food.[26] Consider the board of a large investment bank, concerned with a too small profit margin, deciding to give the CEO a new incentive package in order to motivate him to increase firm profits. If the CEO already has a lot of money, the incentive package might not be a very good way to motivate him, because he would be satiated on money. Getting even more money wouldn't be a strong reinforcer for profit-increasing behavior, and wouldn't elicit increased intensity, frequency or duration of profit-increasing behavior.

Motivation and psychotherapy

Motivation lies at the core of many behaviorist approaches to psychological treatment. A person with autism-spectrum disorder is seen as lacking motivation to perform socially relevant behaviors – social stimuli are not as reinforcing for people with autism compared to other people. Depression is understood as a lack of reinforcement (especially positive reinforcement) leading to extinction of behavior in the depressed individual. A patient with specific phobia is not motivated to seek out the phobic stimulus because it acts as a punisher, and is over-motivated to avoid it (negative reinforcement). In accordance, therapies have been designed to address these problems, such as EIBI and CBT for major depression and specific phobia.

Socio-cultural theory

Sociocultural theory (see Cultural-historical psychology) (also known as Social Motivation) emphasizes impact of activity and actions mediated through social interaction, and within social contexts. Sociocultural theory represents a shift from traditional theories of motivation, which view the individual’s innate drives or mechanistic operand learning as primary determinants of motivation. Critical elements to socio-cultural theory applied to motivation include, but are not limited to, the role of social interactions and the contributions from culturally-based knowledge and practice.[4] Sociocultural theory extends the social aspects of Cognitive Evaluation Theory, which espouses the important role of positive feedback from others during action,[11] but requires the individual as the internal locus of causality. Sociocultural theory predicts that motivation has an external locus of causality, and is socially distributed among the social group.[4]

An example of socio cultural theory would be social settings where people work together to solve collective problems, such as athletic teams, study groups, work groups, and civic organization.[29] Although individuals will have internalized goals, they will also develop internalized goals of others, as well as new interests and goals collectively with those that they feel socially connected to.[29]

Social motivation is tied to one's activity in a group. It cannot form from a single mind alone. For example, bowling alone is naught but the dull act of throwing a ball into pins, and so people are much less likely to smile during the activity alone, even upon getting a strike because their satisfaction or dissatisfaction does not need to be communicated, and so it is internalized. However, when with a group, people are more inclined to smile regardless of their results because it acts as a positive communication that is beneficial for pleasurable interaction and teamwork.[29] Thus the act of bowling becomes a social activity as opposed to a dull action because it becomes an exercise in interaction, competition, team building, and sportsmanship. It is because of this phenomenon that studies have shown that people are more intrigued in performing mundane activities so long as there is company because it provides the opportunity to interact in one way or another, be it for bonding, amusement, collaboration, or alternative perspectives.[29] Examples of activities that may one may not be motivated to do alone but could be done with others for social benefit are things such as throwing and catching a baseball with a friend, making funny faces with children, building a treehouse, and performing a debate.

Push and pull

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.[30]

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.[31]

Additionally, a study has been conducted on social networking and its push and pull effects. One thing that is mentioned is "Regret and dissatisfaction correspond to push factors because regret and dissatisfaction are the negative factors that compel users to leave their current service provider."[32] So from reading this, we now know that Push motivations can also be a negative force. In this case, that negative force is regret and dissatisfaction.

Pull motivation is the opposite of push. It is a type of motivation that is much stronger. "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."[30] Pull motivation can be seen as the desire to achieve a goal so badly that it seems that the goal is pulling us toward it. That is why pull motivation is stronger than push motivation. It is easier to be drawn to something rather than to push yourself for something you desire. It can also be an alternative force when compared to negative force. From the same study as previously mentioned, "Regret and dissatisfaction with an existing SNS service provider may trigger a heightened interest toward switching service providers, but such a motive will likely translate into reality in the presence of a good alternative. Therefore, alternative attractiveness can moderate the effects of regret and dissatisfaction with switching intention"[32] And so, pull motivation can be an attracting desire when negative influences come into the picture.


The self-control aspect of motivation is increasingly considered to be a subset of emotional intelligence;[33] 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.


A drive or desire can be described as a deficiency or need that activates behavior that is aimed at a goal or an incentive.[34] 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.[35] 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.[35] The hormone involved in the initial onset of sexual desire is called Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).[35] The hormonal basis of both men and women's sex drives is testosterone.[35] Men naturally have more testosterone than women do and so are more likely than women to think about sex.[35]

Drive-reduction theory

Clark Hull was the behaviorist who developed the drive-reduction theory of motivation.

Drive theory grows out of the concept that people have certain biological drives, such as hunger and thirst. 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. Created by Clark Hull and further developed by Kenneth Spence, the theory became well known in the 1940s and 1950s. Many of the motivational theories that arose during the 1950s and 1960s were either based on Hull's original theory or were focused on providing alternatives to the drive-reduction theory, including Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which emerged as an alternative to Hull's approach.[36]

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.[37] There are several problems, however, that leave the validity of drive reduction open for debate.

Cognitive dissonance theory

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.[28] For example, a consumer may seek to reassure themselves regarding a purchase, feeling 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

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 people (needs). In other words, they try to identify what are the "needs" and how they relate to motivation to fulfill those needs. Another definition could be defined by Pritchard and Ashwood, is the process used to allocate energy to maximize the satisfaction of needs.[38]

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Maslow's Pyramid

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 possess a constantly growing inner drive that has great potential. The needs hierarchy system, devised by Maslow (1954), is a commonly used scheme for classifying human motives.[39]

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:[40]

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:

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

Herzberg's two-factor theory

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:

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

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.[41]

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

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. Maslow's categories are broken down into many different parts and there are a lot of needs. The ERG categories are more broad and covers more than just certain areas. As a person grows, the existence, relatedness, and growth for all desires continue to grow. All these needs should be fulfilled to greater wholeness as a human being.[42] These include the intrinsic component from Maslow's esteem category and the characteristics included under self-actualization.

Self-determination theory

Since the early 1970s Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan[43] 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,[44][45] relatedness,[46] and autonomy.[47][48]

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.[49]

There are three essential elements to the theory:[50]

  • Humans are inherently proactive with their potential and mastering their inner forces (such as drive and emotions).
  • Humans have an inherent tendency towards growth, development and integrated functioning.
  • Optimal development and actions are inherent in humans but they do not happen automatically.

Temporal motivation theory

A recent approach in developing a broad, integrative theory of motivation is temporal motivation theory.[51] Introduced in a 2006 Academy of Management Review article,[52] 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,[53] " received American Psychological Association's George A. Miller award for outstanding contribution to general science.

where Motivation is the desire for a particular outcome, Expectancy or self-efficacy is the probability of success, Value is the reward associated with the outcome, Impulsiveness is the individual's sensitivity to delay and Delay is the time to realization.[53]

Achievement motivation

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[54] 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.[55][56][57]

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 attributing success to effort.[58]

Achievement motivation was studied intensively by David C. McClelland, John W. Atkinson and their colleagues since the early 1950s.[59] This type of motivation is a drive that is developed from an emotional state. One may feel the drive to achieve by striving for success and avoiding failure. In achievement motivation, one would hope that they excel in what they do and not think much about the failures or the negatives.[60] 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.[61]

Cognitive theories

Cognitive theories define motivation in terms of how people think about situations. Cognitive theories of motivation include goal-setting theory and expectancy theory.

Goal-setting theory

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. One common goal setting methodology incorporates the SMART criteria, in which goals are: specific, measurable, attainable/achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Time management is an important aspect to consider, when regarding time as a factor contributing to goal achievement. Having too much time allows area for distraction and procrastination, which simultaneously distracts the subject by steering his or her attention away from the original goal. An ideal goal should present a situation where the time between the initiation of behavior and the end state is close.[62] With an overly restricting time restraint, the subject could potentially feel overwhelmed, which could deter the subject from achieving the goal because the amount of time provided is not sufficient or rational.[63] 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.[63]

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.[62] Similarly to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, a larger end goal is easier to achieve if the subject has smaller, more attainable yet still challenging goals to achieve first in order to advance over a period of time.[63] A classic example of a poorly specified goal is trying to motivate oneself to run a marathon when s/he has not had proper training. A smaller, more attainable goal is to first motivate oneself to take the stairs instead of an elevator or to replace a stagnant activity, like watching television, with a mobile one, like spending time walking and eventually working up to a jog. Note: all goals are subject to the individual's skills and abilities.

Expectancy theory

Expectancy theory was proposed by Victor H. Vroom in 1964. 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 (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."[64]

Models of behavior change

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.[65][66] 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.[67][68]

Thematic apperception test

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.'[69][70]

Intrinsic motivation and the 16 basic desires theory

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.[71][72] Intrinsic motivation is the tendency to find challenges, to push to find out for more, explore, and learn as much as possible. It is about reaching the most possible potential as a human being.[20] The 16 basic desires that motivate our actions and define our personalities are:

Attribution theory

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.[73] 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.[74]

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

Approach motivation (i.e., incentive salience) can be defined as when a certain behavior or reaction to a situation/environment is rewarded or results in a positive or desirable outcome. In contrast, avoidance motivation (i.e., aversive salience) can be defined as when a certain behavior or reaction to a situation/environment is punished or results in a negative or undesirable outcome.[69][75] 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.[69]

Practical applications

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.

Implementations of Natural theories

Natural theories of motivation such as Theory Y argue that individuals are naturally willing to work and prefer jobs with high responsibility, creativity and ingenuity.[5] Holistically, the implementation in the workplace based on natural theories of motivation requires creating a comfortable and open work environment because it is through this climate that the individuals’ goals are most likely to be aligned with the organization’s goals. Based on the assumptions of natural theorists, individuals are motivated to work for an organization when they feel fulfillment from the work and organization. Therefore, hiring should focus on matching the goals of the individual with the goals of the organization rather than solely on the candidate’s proficiency at completing a task, as rational theorists would argue. Logistically, there are several ways that firms can implement the assumptions of natural theories of motivation, including delegation of responsibilities, participation in management by employees, job enlargement, and membership within the firm.

Delegation of responsibilities

McGregor’s Theory Y makes the assumption that the average person not only accepts, but also seeks out responsibility.[6] Thus, as a firm gives individuals’ greater responsibilities, they will feel a greater sense of satisfaction and, subsequently, more commitment to the organization. Additionally, Malone argues that the delegation of responsibility encourages motivation because employees have creative control over their work and increases productivity as many people can work collaboratively to solve a problem rather than just one manager tackling it alone.[76]

Participative management

Participative management styles involve consulting employees through the decision making process. Markowitz argues that this boosts employees’ morale and commitment to the organization, subsequently increasing productivity.[77] Furthermore, Denison provides empirical evidence demonstrating that employee participation is correlated with better organizational performance.[78] It is important to note that this stands in contract to Graham’s rationalist view that kaizen, a participative management style used in Japan, does not engage employees’ minds in the decision making process.[79] Graham, however, only examines one specific and flawed participative management style that only allows limited input from employees.[79] With a properly implemented process that actively engages employees, participative management will create a welcoming and productive environment.

Job enlargement

Job enlargement refers to increasing the responsibilities of a job by adding to the scope of the tasks. This provides more variety and prevents a job from getting boring. Additionally, this prevents the problem of alienation brought on by the rational theorists of Fordism.[5] In assembly lines, the employee feels disconnected from the final product because he or she only performs one task repeatedly. Job enlargement instead keeps employees engaged in the organization and creates a more welcoming environment. It stems on the assumption that employees enjoy doing work and, therefore, are more satisfied when they have a wider range of work to do.

Firm membership

As Mayo details, based on observations of the Hawthorn Western Electric Company, an additional facet of motivation stems from creating a culture of teams and membership within the firm.[7] For employees, a large part of job satisfaction is feeling as though one is a member of a larger team. For example, Mayo writes about a young girl worker who refused a transfer to a higher paid position in order to stay with a group that she felt a connection to.[7] This example demonstrates that workers are not necessarily rational and only working for higher monetary compensation; instead, the social aspects of a firm can provide incentives to work. It is important, therefore, to create an inclusive environment that welcomes each worker or employee as a member of that organization.

Employee motivation

Job characteristics model

The job characteristics Model (JCM), as designed by Hackman[80] 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:[81][82]

  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 affects 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

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

Jobs high in motivating potential must be high on both Autonomy and Feedback, and also must be high on at least one of the three factors that lead to experienced meaningfulness.[83] If a job has a high MPS, the job characteristics model predicts motivation, performance and job satisfaction will be positively affected and the likelihood of negative outcomes, such as absenteeism and turnover, will be reduced.[83]

Employee recognition programs

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.[84] 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."[85]


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.[86] 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.[87]

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.[88]

Generally, motivation is conceptualized as either intrinsic or extrinsic. Classically, these categories are regarded as distinct.[89] Today, these concepts are less likely to be used as distinct categories, but instead as two ideal types that define a continuum:[90]

  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.[91] 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.[92]
  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.[93][94]

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.[95]

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 treatment. Motivation has also been found critical in adolescents compliance to health suggestions, since "commitment requires belief in potentially negative and serious consequences of not acting"[96].

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.[97]

Impact of teaching style on student intrinsic motivation

It may appear that the reason some students are more engaged and perform better in class activities relative to other students is because some are more motivated than others. However, current research suggests that motivation is not concrete or quantifiable; it is “dynamic, context sensitive, and changeable.” [98] Thus, students have the flexibility to intrinsically motivate themselves to engage in an activity or learn something new even if they were not intrinsically motivated in the first place [99] . While having this type of flexibility is important, research reveals that a teacher’s teaching style and the school environment also play a factor in student motivation [100]; [101]; [102]

According to Sansone and Morgan, when students are already motivated to engage in an activity for their own personal pleasure and then a teacher provides the student with feedback, the type of feedback given can change the way that student views the activity and can even undermine their intrinsic motivation.[103] [104] Maclellan also looked at the relationship between tutors and students and in particular, and the type of feedback the tutor would give to the student. Maclellan’s results showed that praise or criticism directed towards the student generated a feeling of “fixed intelligence” while praise and criticism directed towards the effort and strategy used by the student generated a feeling of “malleable intelligence[105] . In other words, feedback concerning effort and strategy leaves students knowing that there is room for growth. This is important because when students believe their intelligence is “fixed”, their mindset can prevent skill development because students will believe that they only have a “certain amount” of understanding on a particular subject matter and might not even try.Therefore, it’s crucial that a teacher is aware of how the feedback they give to their students can both positively and negatively impact the student’s engagement and motivation [106] [107].

In a correlational study, Katz and Shahar used a series of questionnaires and Likert-style scales and gave them to 100 teachers to see what makes a motivating teacher. Their results indicate that teachers who are intrinsically motivated to teach and believe that students should be taught in an autonomous style are the types of teachers that promote intrinsic motivation in the classroom [108]. Deci, Sheinman, and Nezlek also found that when teachers adapted to an autonomous teaching style, students were positively affected and became more intrinsically motivated to achieve in the classroom. However, while the students were quick to adapt to the new teaching style the impact was short-lived [109] . Thus, teachers are limited in the way they teach because they’ll feel a pressure to act, teach, and provide feedback in a certain way from the school district, administration, and guardians [110], [111]. Furthermore, even if students do have a teacher that promotes an autonomous teaching style, their overall school environment is also a factor because it can be extrinsically motivating. Examples of this would be posters around school promoting pizza parties for highest grade point average or longer recess times for the classroom that brings more canned food donations.

In conclusion, it is not a matter whether a student is motivated, unmotivated, or more motivated than other students- it’s a matter of understanding what motivates students before providing a certain type of feedback. Furthermore, it is also important to note that despite the classroom environment and the teacher’s teaching style, the overall school environment plays a role in students’ intrinsic motivation.

Indigenous education and learning

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.[112] 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.[113] 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."[114] 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.[115]

Also, in some indigenous communities, young children can often portray a sense of community-based motivation through their parent-like interactions with siblings.[116] 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.[117] 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.[117] Sibling guidance is supported from early youth, where learning through play encourages horizontally structured environments through alternative educational models such as "Intent Community Participation."[118] Research also suggests that that formal Westernized schooling can actually reshape the traditionally collaborative nature of social life in indigenous communities[119] 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.[120]

Also, in some Indigenous communities in the Americas, motivation is a driving force for learning. Children are incorporated and welcomed to participate in daily activities and thus feel motivated to participate due to them seeking a sense of belonging in their families and communities.[121]

Children's participation is encouraged and their learning is supported by their community and family, furthering their motivation. Children are also trusted to be active contributors. Their active participation allows them to learn and gain skills that are valuable and useful in their communities.[122]

As children transition from early childhood to middle childhood, their motivation to participate changes. In both the Indigenous communities of Quechua people and Rioja in Peru, children often experience a transition in which they become more included into their family's and community's endeavors. This changes their position and role in their families to more responsible ones and leads to an increase in their eagerness to participate and belong. As children go through this transition, they often develop a sense of identity within their family and community.[123]

The transition from childhood to adolescence can be seen in the amount of work children partake in as this changes over time. For example, Yucatec Mayan children's play time decreases from childhood to adolescence and as the child gets older, is replaced for time spent working. In childhood the work is initiated by others whereas in adolescence it is self-initiated. The shift in initiation and the change in time spent working versus playing shows the children's motivation to participate in order to learn.[124]

This transition between childhood and adolescence increases motivation because children gain social responsibility within their families. In some Mexican communities of Indigenous-heritage, the contributions that children make within their community is essential to being social beings, establishes their developing roles, and also helps with developing their relationship with their family and community.[125]

As children gain more roles and responsibilities within their families, their eagerness to participate also increases. For example, Young Mayan children of San Pedro, Guatemala learn to work in the fields and family run businesses because they are motivated to contribute to their family. Many San Pedro women learned to weave by watching their mothers sew when they were children, sometimes earning their own wool through doing small tasks such as watching young children of busy mothers. Eager to learn and contribute, these young girls helped other members of their community in order to help their mothers with their weaving businesses or through other tasks such as helping carry water while young boys helped with tasks such as carrying firewood alongside their fathers.[126]

Children's motivation to learn is not solely influenced on their desire to belong but also their eagerness to see their community succeed. Children from Navajo communities were shown to have higher levels of social concern than Anglo American children in their schools. By having high levels of social concern the indigenous children are showing concern for not only their learning but also their peers', which serves as an example of their instilled sense of responsibility for their community. They wish to succeed as a united group rather than just themselves.[127]

In order to be knowledgeable contributors, children must be aware of their surroundings and community's goals. Children's learning in Indigenous-heritage communities is mainly based upon observing and helping out others in their community. Through this type of participation within their community, they gain purpose and motivation for the activity that they are doing within their community and become active participants because they know they are doing it for their community.[128]

Self-determination in education

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 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 "learned helplessness". 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

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.[129]


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.[130] 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.

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

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.[131]

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.[132]

The assumptions of Maslow and Herzberg were challenged by a classic study[133] 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 analysis, Edwin A. Locke's goal-setting 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.[134]

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.[135]

William Ouchi introduced Theory Z, a hybrid management approach consisting of both Japanese and American philosophies and cultures.[136] 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:[137]

  • Recognition of employees' individual differences, and clear identification of behavior deemed worthy of recognition
  • Allowing employees to participate
  • Linking rewards to performance
  • Rewarding of nominators
  • Visibility of the recognition process

Modern organizations adopt non-monetary employee motivation methods rather than tying it with tangible rewards.

  • Provide a positive work environment
  • Encourage team contribution and rewards
  • Feedback
  • Give challenging roles
  • Empowering employees with training and independent thinking

This method makes employees feel they're a part of the organization and their reward is seeing it grow through their efforts.[138]


Motivational models are central to game design, because without motivation, a player will not be interested in progressing further within a game.[139] 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.[140] The motivational structure of games is central to the gamification trend, which seeks to apply game-based motivation to business applications.[141] In the end, game designers must know the needs and desires of their customers for their companies to flourish.

There have been various studies on the connection between motivation and games. One particular study was on Taiwanese adolescents and their drive of addiction to games. Two studies by the same people were conducted. The first study revealed that addicted players showed higher intrinsic than extrinsic motivation and more intrinsic motivation than the non-addicted players.[142] It can then be said that addicted players, according to the studies findings, are more internally motivated to play games. They enjoy the reward of playing. There are studies that also show that motivation gives these players more to look for in the future such as long-lasting experience that they may keep later on in life.[143]

See also


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Further reading

External links