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Concept of Motivation

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Concept of Motivation

It's the age-old question, "Why do we do what we do?" Why do you choose the red backpack instead of the blue, or to eat before leaving to work? All of our behaviors have a motive behind them.

  • In this article, we will begin by explaining the concept of motivation.
  • Then, we'll explore the different types of motivation.
  • As we move along, we'll dive into a few examples of concepts of motivation in psychology.
  • We'll take a look at the concept of motivation in learning.
  • Finally, we'll understand why motivation is important in psychology.

The Concept of Motivation

One of the most fundamental concepts in psychology is motivation, which focuses on the different forces that drive or encourage human behavior. What concepts help explain why we feel encouraged or driven to act the way we do? Before we dive into the concepts of motivation, let's first discuss the definition of motivation.

Motivation is a physiological and psychological process that controls our behavior based on our needs and desires which also energize behavior.

It's important to note here that motivation starts with a person's needs. If you do not have any needs, you would be no reason for motivation.

Theories of Motivation

The concept of motivation is understood using several different kinds of theories. Each theory offers an explanation for why and how we are motivated.

  • Instinct Theory: says that we are motivated by our instincts to survive and evolve.
  • Drive-Reduction Theory: suggests that we are motivated by our need to maintain homeostasis.
  • Incentive Theory: says that we are motivated by incentives.
  • Arousal Theory: says that some behaviors have nothing to do with a need but rather a desire to increase arousal.

The arousal theory explains why you are motivated to turn the tv on and binge-watch the new season of your favorite show. This is not driven by the need to watch tv, but rather a desire to increase arousal.

Concept of Motivation, man eating popcorn watching show, StudySmarterBinge-watching tv, Freepik.com

Don't forget to check out the other articles with more information on the theories of motivation!

Types of Motivation

Before looking at some examples of concepts of motivation, let's first understand the two main types of motivation -- physiological motivation and social motivation.

Physiological Motives

Let's take a look at the types of physiological motives including hunger, thirst, pain reduction, and sex.

Hunger

Our bodies need fuel to run. If we did not have a system that could signal to us when we need to eat, we'd all die of starvation. We need to feel hungry in order to be motivated to eat. The system that signals to us that we are hungry and need to eat (and when to stop) involves hormones and the hypothalamus.

One of the most important hormones involved in hunger is insulin. When blood sugar is high, the pancreas begins secreting insulin. When insulin levels are high, our hunger is stimulated, and our blood glucose level is lowered. Glucose is a form of sugar in our blood that is a major source of energy and, when levels are low, makes us feel hungry.

The hypothalamus has three “centers” that work together to regualte eating including

  • The lateral hypothalamus -- when to start eating.

  • The ventromedial hypothalamus -- when to stop eating.

  • The paraventricular hypothalamus -- regulates neurotransmitters activity in hunger.

Thirst

Thirst is regulated similarly to hunger -- the hypothalamus signals "on" or "off" to motivate us to drink. Sometimes, our mouth gets dry and that tells us we need to drink water. However, this is actually a minor way the body is motivated to drink. We experience thirst primarily when osmoreceptors detect the shrinking of our cells.

Pain Reduction

Hunger and thirst signal something we want more of, but pain reduction signals when we want to get far away from something. Pain reduction is an important concept of motivation because who likes pain? Say you are washing your hair and get shampoo in your eye. You will be very motivated at that moment to reduce the burning pain in your eye.

Sex

While sex is not required for our survival, it is required for us to procreate. Our sex drive also involves the hypothalamus, similar to hunger and thirst. Once we hit puberty, our sex hormones -- testosterone (male) and estrogen -- increase our sex drive. Without estrogen and especially testosterone, a person would not be motivated to have sex.

Our sexual orientation can be directed in several different directions. This is a person's sexual orientation. Homosexuality is when a person is attracted to the same sex while heterosexuality is when a person is attracted to the opposite sex. Bisexuality is when a person is attracted to both sexes. Many psychologists use a biopsychosocial model to understand sexual orientation. In other words, they believe that one could use biological, psychological, or social motivations

Social Motives

Social motivation is evidenced by our needs for social interaction and achievement. Humans are social creatures and have the desire to create bonds and relationships with one another.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is when you are doing something for your benefit, while extrinsic motivation is when you are doing something based on external factors. Both of these concepts are used in theories of motivation because you can be motivated to do something for your satisfaction, or the satisfaction of others. Sometimes, the overjustification effect occurs where extrinsic rewards like money or success outweigh your intrinsic motivation, often making that task less intrinsically enjoyable.

Concept of Motivation, business man excited holding trophy, StudySmarterAchievement, Freepik.com

Affiliation & Achievement

Our desire for affiliation is an important concept of motivation. We all want to be accepted, loved, and feel like we belong in a community or within society. The evolutionary view would suggest that this need to be around others dates back to when social bonds were a survival tool.

Our need to achieve is another powerful social motivation. We all desire to meet whatever standard of excellence we've internalized. Generally, people who are highly motivated by achievement do achieve more.

Motivational Conflict Situations

Motives can play a powerful role in our lives and our behaviors. But what happens when you have more than one motive and must choose between more than one option. This type of situation is often referred to as a conflict.

A conflict is a situation in which you are torn between two opposing motives which are blocking you from reaching your goal and result in feelings of stress.

There are four different social conflict situations that any one of us may face on a daily basis. They include:

  1. Approach-approach conflicts. This is when you must choose between two positive options and is usually the easiest conflict to have. (i.e. win-win situation)

  2. Avoidance-avoidance conflicts. In this case, you must choose between two negative options. This is often the most difficult conflict to have. (i.e. lose-lose situation).

  3. Approach-avoidance conflicts. This is a situation where you have to choose between a negative option and a positive option. (i.e. win-lose situation).

  4. Multiple approach-avoidance conflicts. This is the compromise approach to resolving conflicts where you search for a solution that includes both negative and positive aspects, without having to choose between one or the other (i.e. the best of both worlds)

Examples of Motivation in Psychology

Now that we know the types of motivation, let's take a look at a few examples of concepts of motivation in psychology.

In Goleman (1980), 1528 children in California who tested in the top 1 percent were compared 40 years later. They found that those who were most successful were also the most ambitious, energetic, and persistent. They likely had a lot of active hobbies as a child and were also more involved in social groups as an adult.

In 1912, Cannon & Washburn conducted a study to observe concepts of motivation in hunger. Washburn agreed to swallow an empty balloon with a recording device attached to it. The balloon was meant to imitate stomach contractions of the stomach during hunger. They found that any feelings of hunger Washburn experienced lined up with stomach contractions stimulated by the balloon. This would suggest that the stimulation motivates behavior.

Concepts of Motivation in Learning

Motivation is integral to learning. Learning new skills or ideas can be difficult and can require a lot of motivation to persevere. Applying concepts of motivation in learning can be especially beneficial in the classroom.

For example, the arousal theory of motivation suggests that we perform at our best just between underarousal and hyperarousal. Teachers can apply this concept in the classroom by creating a challenge that is exciting but not so difficult that it causes stress.

Another concept of motivation that can be applied to learning is the achievement goal theory.

Achievement goal theory argues that our motivation is linked to the achievement of our goals.

With this in mind, setting appropriate and attainable goals while learning new skills can also help motivate you to persevere.

The Importance of Motivation in Psychology

Learning about motivation is important because it can help us better understand who we are and why we behave the way we do. By looking at the different motivations people have, we can answer why we set goals for ourselves, why we strive for achievement, why we hunger and thirst, and even why we want to have sex.

Motivation is especially important to psychologists because motivation fuels our behavior and even our thinking. When someone's behavior is abnormal, it may be helpful to look at what is motivating that behavior. Some eating disorders may develop when the need for self-esteem is placed ahead of one's physiological needs. Or, depressive symptoms may start to develop due to a lack of arousal.

Another way that motivation is important in psychology is in social psychology. Motivation can play a large role in how people treat others and how they see the world.

Discrimination is motivated by a person's prejudice towards people outside their group.

Motivation is essential to every single part of our lives. Without motivation, we'd all probably be wandering around aimlessly and chances are, we wouldn't survive for very long.

Concept of Motivation - Key takeaways

  • Motivation is a physiological and psychological process that controls our behavior based on our needs and desires which also energize behavior.

  • There are two main types of motivation -- physiological motivation and social motivation.

  • Goleman (1980) found that those who were most successful were also the most ambitious, energetic, and persistent.

  • Motivation is integral to learning. The process of learning new skills or ideas can be difficult and can require a lot of motivation to persevere. Applying concepts of motivation in learning can be especially beneficial in the classroom.

  • Education about motivation is important because it can help us better understand who we are and why we behave the way we do


References

  1. Cannon, W. B., & Washburn, A. L. (1912). An explanation of hunger. American Journal of Physiology, 29, 441–454. (p. 409)
  2. Goleman, D. (1980, February). 1,528 little geniuses and how they grew. Psychology Today, pp. 28–53. (p. 429)

Frequently Asked Questions about Concept of Motivation

A concept of motivation is factors that influence motivation, like instincts and incentives.

Concepts in motivation theories include instincts, incentives, intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, drive reduction, arousal, needs satisfaction, achievement, affiliation, and conflict.

An example of a motivation concept is the use of incentives to motivate certain behaviors.

Concepts of motivation are important because they help us better understand how to predict, control, and change motivation.

No, the concepts of motivation are parts of the theories of motivation. 

Final Concept of Motivation Quiz

Question

What is a concept of motivation?  

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Answer

Concepts of motivation are factors that help better understand what can lead to or influence motivation. 

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Question

Which theory of motivation suggests that we are motivated by our need to maintain homeostasis? 

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Answer

Drive-Reduction Theory

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Question

What is a conflict? 

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Answer

A conflict is a situation in which you are torn between two opposing motives which are blocking you from reaching your goal and result in feelings of stress.

Show question

Question

Why are concepts of motivation important?  

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Answer

Concepts of motivation are important because they are foundations for theories of motivation. 

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Question

Is the concept of motivation the same as the theory of motivation?  


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Answer

No; the concepts of motivations are used to create theories of motivation.  

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Question

What is motivation? 

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Answer

Motivation is the general term used to describe the biological, emotional, cognitive, and social processes that are interested in beginning, producing, and sustaining behavior. 

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Question

True or False? The most important signal for thirst is a dry mouth. 

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Answer

False

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Question

 ____________ is when a person is attracted to the same sex.

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Answer

Homosexuality

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Question

What is intrinsic motivation? 

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Answer

Intrinsic motivation is driven by internal influences like pleasure and fulfillment. (This motivation is geared towards the self.)  

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Question

What is extrinsic motivation?  

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Answer

Extrinsic motivation is driven by external influences like reward or punishment.  

Show question

Question

Tonight, you have to decide if you want your favorite food that isn't exactly healthy or if you want to eat a salad so you can stick to your diet. What type of conflict are you being faced with? 

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Answer

Approach-avoidance conflicts. This is a situation where you have to choose between a negative option and a positive option. (i.e. win-lose situation).

Show question

Question

How are incentives a concept of motivation?  

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Answer

 Incentives can be used to help explain motivation because people want to attain rewards and avoid punishment.  

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Question

How are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation a concept of motivation? 

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Answer

Both of these concepts are used in theories of motivation because you can be motivated to do something for your satisfaction, or the satisfaction of others. Additionally, extrinsic factors contribute to being motivated by gaining approval from others. Yet, intrinsic motivation is stronger because you are more driven by what you are interested in or find pleasure in.  

Show question

Question

Name the two main types of motivation: 

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Answer

Physiological motives

Social motives

Show question

Question

What are the three "centers" that work together to regulate eating?

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Answer

  • The lateral hypothalamus -- when to start eating.  

  • The ventromedial hypothalamus -- when to stop eating.

  • The paraventricular hypothalamus -- regulates neurotransmitters activity in hunger. 

Show question

Question

What does social motivation look at? 

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Answer

Social motivation is evidenced by our needs for social interaction and achievement.

Show question

Question

Which theory of motivation says that we are motivated by our instincts to survive and evolve?

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Answer

Instinct Theory 

Show question

Question

Which theory of motivation says that some behaviors have nothing to do with a need but rather a desire to increase arousal?  

Show answer

Answer

Arousal Theory 

Show question

Question

Which theory of motivation says that we are motivated by incentives? 

Show answer

Answer

Incentive Theory 

Show question

Question

True or False: We need to feel hungry in order to be motivated to eat.  

Show answer

Answer

True 

Show question

Question

Which organ of the body secretes insulin? 

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Answer

Pancreas 

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank: _________ is a form of sugar in our blood that is a major source of energy and, when levels are low, makes us feel hungry.  

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Answer

Glucose

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Question

Which center of the hypothalamus tells us when to start eating? 

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Answer

The lateral hypothalamus

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Question

Which center of the hypothalamus tells us when to stop eating? 

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Answer

The ventromedial hypothalamus

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Question

Which center of the hypothalamus regulates our eating? 

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Answer

The paraventricular hypothalamus

Show question

Question

True or False: We experience thirst primarily when osmoreceptors detect the shrinking of our cells.  

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Answer

True 

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Question

What are the female sex hormones called? 

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Answer

Estrogen  

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Question

What are the male sex hormones called? 

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Answer

Testosterone 

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Question

Fill in the blank: _____________ is when a person is attracted to the opposite sex. 

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Answer

Heterosexuality

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Question

Fill in the blank: ___________ is when a person is attracted to both sexes.  

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Answer

Bisexuality

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Question

True or False: Social motivation is evidenced by our needs for social interaction and achievement. 

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Answer

True 

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