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Drive Reduction Theory

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Drive Reduction Theory

Imagine a hot summer’s day in the middle of July. You are stuck in traffic and you cannot stop sweating, so you crank up the air conditioner and immediately start to feel more comfortable.

A scenario so simple and obvious was actually once based on a profound psychological theory called the drive-reduction theory of motivation.

  • We will define drive-reduction theory.
  • We'll provide common examples seen in everyday life.
  • We'll go over both the criticisms and strengths of the drive reduction theory.

Drive Reduction Theory of Motivation

This theory is just one of the many psychological explanations for the topic of motivation. In psychology, motivation is the force that gives direction and meaning behind the behaviors or actions of an individual, whether or not that person is conscious of said force (APA, 2007).

The American Psychological Association defines homeostasis as the regulation of balance in an organism's internal state (2007).

Drive Reduction Theory, drive reduction theory of motivation, StudySmarterHomeostasis, Flaticon.com

Drive-reduction theory was proposed by a psychologist named Clark L. Hull in 1943. The theory is founded on the idea that motivation comes from the body’s physiological need to maintain homeostasis and equilibrium in all functions and systems. Basically, this means that the body leaves a state of equilibrium or balance whenever there is a biological need; this creates a drive for certain behavior.

Eating when you are hungry, sleeping when you are tired, and putting on a jacket when you are cold: These are all examples of motivation based on drive-reduction theory.

In this example, hunger, fatigue, and cold temperatures create an instinctual drive that the body must reduce in order to reach the goal of maintaining homeostasis.

Drive Reduction Theory Strengths

While this theory is not heavily relied upon in recent studies of motivation, ideas first mooted within it are extremely helpful when explaining many topics relating to biological processes of motivation.

Drive Reduction Theory, drive reduction theory of motivation,  StudySmartertemperature, Flaticon.com Drive Reduction Theory, drive reduction theory of motivation, StudySmartertemp, flaticon.com

How do we explain the motivation of eating when we are hungry? How about when our body produces sweat to cool down our internal temperature? Why do we experience feelings of thirst, and then drink water or fancy electrolyte juices?

One of the major strengths of this theory is the explanation for these exact biological circumstances. The “discomfort” in the body when it is NOT in homeostasis is considered the drive. This drive needs to be reduced to reach that balance.

With this theory, these natural motivators became easier to explain and observe, especially in complex studies. This was a useful framework when considering further biological occurrences involving motivation.

Criticism of Drive Reduction Theory

To reiterate, there are many other valid theories of motivation that, over time, have become more relevant to studies of motivation compared to drive-reduction theory. While drive-reduction theory does build a strong case for the explanation of biological processes of motivation, it lacks the ability to be generalized across all instances of motivation (Cherry, 2020).

Motivation outside of the biological and physiological realm cannot be explained by Clark Hull’s theory of drive-reduction. This is a major issue with the theory considering we humans employ instances of motivation for an abundance of other needs and desires.

Think about the motivation behind financial success. These are not physiological needs; however, humans are motivated to reach this goal. Drive theory fails to explain this psychological construct.

Drive Reduction Theory, drive reduction theory of motivation, StudySmarterskydiving, wikimedia.org

Skydiving is one of the most anxiety-inducing sports. Not only are skydivers gambling with their own lives when jumping from a plane, they pay hundreds (even thousands) of dollars to do so!

An extremely risky activity like this would surely throw off the body’s homeostasis by increasing stress levels and fear, so where does this motivation come from?

This is another of drive-reduction theory's flaws. It cannot account for a human’s motivation to endure a tension-filled act or behavior, as it is not an act to restore a balanced internal state. This example contradicts the entire theory, which is that motivation comes solely from the drive to fulfill primary biological and physiological needs.

This criticism applies to many actions that contradict the theory such as the urge to ride rollercoasters, watch scary movies, and go white-water rafting.

Drive Reduction Theory - Key takeaways

  • Motivation is the force that gives direction and meaning to the behaviors or actions of an individual.
  • Drive-reduction theory of motivation comes from the body’s physiological need to maintain homeostasis.
  • Homeostasis is defined as the regulation of balance in an organism's internal state.
  • One of the major strengths of drive theory is the explanation for biological and physiological circumstances.
  • The main criticism of drive-reduction theory is it lacks the ability to be generalized across all instances of motivation.
  • Motivation outside of the biological and physiological realm cannot be explained by Clark Hull’s theory of drive reduction.
  • Another criticism of this theory is it cannot account for a human’s motivation to endure a tension-filled act.

Frequently Asked Questions about Drive Reduction Theory

The body leaves a state of equilibrium or balance whenever there is a biological need; this creates a drive for certain behavior. 

The drive reduction theory of motivation is important because it sets the foundation for the biological basis of motivation.

Examples of drive reduction theory are eating when you are hungry, sleeping when you are tired, and putting on a jacket when you are cold.

Drive reduction theory involves emotion in the sense that emotional turmoil may pose a threat to the body's homeostasis. This may, in turn, provide the drive/motivation to "fix" the issue causing the imbalance.

Eating when you are hungry is a display of the drive-reduction theory. As hunger throws off the physiological balance within the body, a drive is formed to alleviate that issue.

Final Drive Reduction Theory Quiz

Question

Describe the drive-reduction theory of motivation.

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Answer

The theory is founded on the idea that motivation comes from the body’s physiological need to maintain homeostasis

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Question

Who founded the drive-reduction theory?

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Answer

Clark L. Hull (1943)

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Question

Define homeostasis.

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Answer

The American Psychological Association defines homeostasis as the regulation of balance in an organism's internal state 



Show question

Question

Eating when you are hungry and sleeping when you are tired are examples of the drive theory. True or False?

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Answer

True.

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Question

What is the strength of drive-reduction theory?

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Answer

With this theory, natural motivators become easier to explain and observe 

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Question

Name a criticism of the drive-reduction theory.

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Answer

Motivation outside of the biological and physiological realm cannot be explained

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Question

The drive-reduction theory fails to explain the motivation for financial success and monetary wealth. True or false?

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Answer

True

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Question

Why does the theory fail to explain the motivation behind skydiving?

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Answer

It cannot account for a human’s motivation to endure a tension-filled act of behavior because it is not an act to restore a balanced internal state

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Question

drive-motivation theory cannot be applied to all factors of motivation. True or False?


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Answer

True

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Question

Drinking a Gatorade when you are thirsty is not a display of the drive-reduction theory. True or False?

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Answer

False.

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Question

Drive-reduction theory is the most reliable explanation for motivation. True or False?

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Answer

False.

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Question

Is sweating a display of the drive-reduction theory?

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Answer

Yes.

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Question

Is saving money an example of the drive-reduction theory?

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Answer

No.

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Question

Describe how the drive reduction theory is applied to eating.

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Answer

Eating will satiate the biological need disrupted by feelings of hunger. The body can only reach homeostasis once an individual eats.

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Question

Are there other theories of motivation besides drive-reduction theory?

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Answer

Yes.

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