Motivation Concepts & Definitions

Posted on October 27, 2007. Filed under: Uncategorized |



  1. Something that encourages: encouragement, inspiration, stimulation. See help/harm/harmless.
  2. Something that causes and encourages a given response: encouragement, fillip, impetus, impulse, incentive, inducement, prod, push, spur, stimulant, stimulation, stimulator, stimulus. See cause/effect.
  3. A basis for an action or a decision: cause, ground (often used in plural), motive, reason, spring. See start/end.



Factors within a human being or animal that arouse and direct goal-oriented behaviour. Motivation has long been a central subject of study in psychology. Early researchers, influenced by Charles Darwin, ascribed much of animal and human behaviour to instinct. Sigmund Freud believed that much of human behaviour was also based on irrational instinctive urges or unconscious motives. Walter B. Cannon proposed that basic human drives served homeostatic functions by directing energies toward the reduction of physiological tensions. Behavioral psychologists, in contrast, stress the importance of external goals in prompting action, while humanistic psychologists examine the role of felt needs. Cognitive psychologists have found that a motive sensitizes a person to information relating to that motive: a hungry subject, for example, will perceive food stimuli as larger than other stimuli.



Philosophically, the perennially fascinating problem is what people ‘really’ want. When people say what they want, or describe the purposes, intentions, emotions or goals they have, are we to believe them? And what are the empirical tests? Radical strategies of interpretation such as psychoanalysis or psychological egoism suppose that we are systematically deceived about our own motivations. But does it make sense to suppose that our own self-interpretations are so generally fallible, or do we have some kind of authority in saying how we are motivated?



1. The internal state that tends to direct a person’s behaviour towards a goal. The person may or may not be conscious of the motivation. It can occur independently of any external stimulus and is not due to fatigue, learning, or maturation. Many psychologists consider that motivation has two dimensions: intensity and direction. Intensity is concerned with the amount of activation and arousal the person has, that is, how much effort is being given to reach a certain goal. Direction is concerned with movement towards a particular goal: psychologists talk about people approaching or avoiding a task and understanding why they do so. In sport, coaches are frequently interested in knowing why a talented youngster will not play a particular sport, or why someone quits a team. Others want to know why some players are so doggedly persistent in playing a sport when they apparently would be better off doing something else. The study of motivation covers these issues.

2. The willingness to persevere with a long and arduous training programme, a desire to excel in competition, and persistence in the face of discomfort and discouragement.



motivation, in psychology, the intention of achieving a goal, leading to goal-directed behavior. Some human activity seems to be best explained by postulating an inner directing drive. While a drive is often considered to be an innate biological mechanism that determines the organism’s activity (see instinct), a motive is defined as an innate mechanism modified by learning. In this view human drives serve to satisfy biological needs, such as hunger, while motives serve to satisfy needs that are not directly tied to the body requirements, such as companionship. Learned motives are sometimes linked with drives; e.g., the motivation to achieve social status is often viewed as a derivitive of the sex drive. Motives are sometimes classed as deficiency motives, such as the need to remove the physiological deficiency of hunger or thirst, or abundancy motives, i.e., motives to attain greater satisfaction and stimulation. American psychologist Abraham Maslow has classified motives into five developmental levels, with the satisfaction of physiological needs most important and esteem and self-actualization needs least important. According to Maslow, the most basic needs must be satisfied before successively higher needs can emerge. Cognitive psychologists such as Albert Bandura have suggested that individual mental processes, such as beliefs, play an important role in motivation, through the expectation of certain reinforcements for certain behaviors. Studies have shown that humans and other animals are likely to seek sensory stimulation, even where there may be no foreseeable goal. In recent years, the use of various tools for brain scanning has worked toward the discovery of a neurological basis for motivation.


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