Introduction to Psychology
Chapter 11: Motivation & Emotion
Theories of Motivation
What is motivation? Motivation is any condition that promotes and produces behavior. It is usually an internal force that initiates and maintains a behavior. Unfortunately for psychologists and researchers, while results of motivation can be seen externally, the actual internal force is not something that can be directly observed; but only inferred.
From the Instinct Theory to the Humanistic Theory, a theory can be procured from every individual asked. The myriad of motivation theories offered are, to say the least, are quite interesting.
According to Instinct Theory, all creatures and humans are born with knowledge to assure its survival. Many psychologists simply believe that human biology provides us with our basic instincts to survive.
I’m sure that those in the field of marketing spend a great deal of time as well as money to research motivation. Marketing departments want to learn as much as possible about what motivates us to purchase products. This brings us to what’s known as the Incentive Theory. Marketers are hoping to convince us that we need what they’re selling. The Incentive Theory is the foundation that lies beneath their marketing platforms.
Another commonly visited theory is that known as Drive Theory, or (Drive Reduction Theory). This theory posits a state of homeostasis. In other words, humans are driven to fulfill some form of need; such as thirst, hunger, etc..
Proponents of Drive Theory offer however, that there is no real baseline for commonality. Every person will likely have a different definition of homeostasis. Every person will determine at what point their homeostasis has been optimally achieved.
Contrary to Drive Theory, another proposes that we seek higher levels of stimulation. Could this Arousal Theory explain why some people will bungee jump off of bridges and cliffs or why some might jump out of an airplane from a height of fifty thousand feet or higher?
This Arousal Theory assumes that humans can suffer from boredom; that our drive to achieve our individual homeostasis, does in fact not satisfy our needs. Some even suggest that individuals must reach a certain level of arousal in order to perform at an optimal state of emotion, intellect, or physical activity.
Thanks to the ever-famous Sigmund Freud and his Theory of Personality, we have Psychoanalytic Theory. However, this theory in reality appears to be a subset of Instinct Theory. For Feud determined that everything we do is the response to two simple drives, that of the drive to survive and the drive to prevent death. It was Freud’s opinion that our knowledge (instinct) is hidden beneath our conscious awareness.
One final theory at hand is the Humanistic Theory. This theory is most widely known due to the work of psychologist Abraham Maslow. Maslow proposed that we are driven to always satisfy a higher need. In other words, we are never truly at ease at any homeostatic level.
Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs pyramid suggests that we cannot our higher forms of need without first meeting the lower, more basic ones. In the visualization of his pyramid scheme, we will always be driven to achieve our maximum potential, provided our lower-level of needs are met.
Opinion & Christian Response
While there are a number of subjects which I can be quite passionate about and have somewhat strong opinions about, motivation is perhaps in the top ten. Spending the first half of my adulthood in restaurant and retail management, the topic of motivation has always been at the fingertips of discussion and debate.
In management, at whatever level, great effort is given to learning the different theories of motivation. I however, contend a few points of various motivation theories need to be re-examined.
One of the faults in so many theories of motivation that I stand firm upon, simply from my point of real-life experience, is that these theories appear to have no relation, in any way, to a given range of ages. In other words, I have found no theory that demonstrates a particular motivation by someone of a particular age.
I believe the age of a person has a direct impact on what may motivate them, either at age thirty, forty, or fifty, and even at various ages of childhood or young adulthood. I can certainly ascribe to a myriad of theories; however, I believe they that they could be much more helpful if point of ages were addressed.
In the workplace, I know that two different people, in the same work position, performing the same task/skill, are motivated to perform by different drives, as one is in his/her 20s and one is in his/her 40s.
In this setting, if I must get both persons onboard to complete a certain task or project, I need to be able to appeal to their individual drives and reasons for performing. For example, the team member in their 20’s most likely will be motivated by one or more of several things, (for instance, Money, promotion, praise among peers, etc.).
Though the motives for the worker in his/her 40s at a lower level, may be the same as the one in their 20s, they are likely to be more motivated by appreciation, and the feeling of being needed.
I have found in many instances that Esteem Needs on Maslow’s pyramid should be placed below Belonging and Love Needs. While I believe that Maslow’s pyramid is very helpful in promulgating some motivational drives, I feel it would be greatly enhanced by associations with various ages, (stages in life).
My final thoughts on the various theories of motivation are that they lack much more than they posit. As a Christian, I believe that motivation is imparted to us by God. That is, each one of us have a motivation within us to seek out our one, true-living God.
God created each of us with the drive to multiply; to thrive; and to enjoy a relationship with him. Although the myriad of motive theories seek to promulgate the basic human drives that determine our behaviors, I believe the clearest one is most often overlooked and/or simply avoided.
Even though we are buried here in this world under a skin of darkness and sin; and feel that we are smart enough to figure ourselves out, we will never do so until we understand that it is God’s will; it is God that drives us. We may often drive down the wrong path or road, but ultimately it is God within us that motivates us; it is God that instills in us, for example, our basic instincts.
Heffner, C. (2014) https://www.allpsych.com/psychology101/motivation
Whitnourne, S. (2011) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201110/motivation-the-why-s-behavior
Kendra, C. (2016) https://www.verywell.com/theories-of-motivation-2795720