Theories of Motivation

The personality theorist Gordon Allport once wrote that "all human behavior is lawful." Regardless of their theoretical orientation, all psychologists agree that there is a reason for every human action. Sometimes the reason is clear, and at other times it is obscure or not known at all. If psychologists are going to explain human behavior, however, they must assume that it cannot happen without cause. The motivation of behavior is the subject matter of this module.

As you read the text, keep in mind that a theory of motivation must do more

In all behavior, there are three factors. First, there are the conditions which bring about the behavior, the antecedent condtions. Then there is the behavior itself, usually an instrumental resonse. Finally, ther are the consequences of the beavhior. Studies in motivation attempt to clarify just how the antecedent conditions lead to the behavior which brings about the consequences.

Motivation refers to the arousal, the regulation, and the maintenance of behavior toward some goal. When a man has been deprived of food (an antecedent condition) he is aroused to some kind of action. The behavior that follows may vary. He may seek food slowly or frantically; he may seek any type of food or one specific type. In any event, the behavior is regulated and maintained until he obtains food and eats. The eating is the consequent event.

This diagram shows the sequence.

Antecedent Condition ------------------------------> I nstrumental Response -------------------------> Consequent Occurrences

food deprivation search for food find and eat food

Figure 3. Three aspects of behavior

The main question in motivation is: What factors affect the arousal, regulation, and maintenance of behavior? There are two approaches to answering this question: the "drive" or "need theories of motivation and the "empirical" theories of motivation.


At the heart of the drive (or need) theory is the hypothetical construct of drive. Drive is postulated or assumed to be the internal force which arouses, regulates, and maintains behavior. Though no one has ever "seen" a drive, the construct has been useful in explaining much of motivated behavior. The terms motive, drive, and need refer to a hypothetical internal state which produces a tendency to perform certain behaviors in order to reach a goal. The "drive" arises from the antecedent conditions and is satisfied by the consequent occurrence. The object toward which the behavior is directed is called the incentive. In most cases, the terms goal, reward, and reinforcement are synonymous with incentive.

The drive theory is shown in Figure 4.

| Drive Aroused | | Drive State Causes | l I I Motivated Activity |

Antecedent Instrumental

Condition Response

Incentive Attained and Drive Satisfied

Consequent Occurrence

Figure 4. The drive theory

For example, when a human being is deprived of water, he will become thirsty (aroused drive state). He might then search until he locates a drinking fountain (the motivated activity). The water (incentive) satisfies his thirst (drive satisfaction).

10 The drive theory holds that the motivation for behavior is to reduce drives

A young man who wants some day to become the president of a large corporation may study business in college. In this case, the drive controls the behavior toward a business education and the incentive is the attraction of a corporation presidency. The behaviors he performs include anything from filling out a college application, to studying, and taking a final examination.

Drives vary in strength. A human being deprived of water for 48 hours has a stronger thirst drive than one who has been deprived for only five hours. The student who studies six hours a night probably has a stronger drive to succeed in school than a student who studies only one hour each night.

When an incentive is reached, the drive is reduced in strength or disappears altogether. A thirsty man who drinks water is no longer thirsty. The man who is appointed president of a corporation no longer seeks this incentive. Since the tendency to seek the incentive is no longer present, the incentive-seeking behavior is no longer displayed.

In drives that are not permanently eliminated, motivation is cyclic. As a drive increases in strength, the organism's behavior becomes increasingly directed toward the object that will reduce the drive. Obtaining the incentive reduces the drive to the point where the incentive-seeking behavior is no longer necessary. Subsequently, the drive builds and the cycle begins again. This cyclic mechanism of motivation is easily seen in food-seeking behavior, where the hunger drive keeps returning.

Figure 5 is a diagram of the motivation cycle. Most of the primary physiological drives are cyclic. The goal of the motivated behavior is drive reduction.

Figure 5. The motivation cycle

Incentive-seeking behavior can vary in its direction. If the behavior seeks to achieve a certain objective, the behavior is said to be positive. Negative incentive-seeking behavior occurs when the object or situation is avoided. A rat may jump off a wire grid at the sound of a buzzer to avoid a shock. He is engaging in negative incentive-seeking behavior. Drives are inferred from observations of behaviors and consequences


Positive incentive-seeking behavior can be viewed as a drive to escape stimulus constancy. A student who doodles in class may be responding to the monotony of the lecture. Boredom drives the student toward the incentive of producing new and interesting stimuli.

In a similar way, negative incentive-seeking behavior can be interpreted as a drive to maintain stimulus constancy or to avoid stimulus change. The rat that avoids a shock is doing so in order to amintain comfort. We avoid breaking the law in order to maintain freedom.

Behavior in which an organism seeks stimulus change is called appetitive. Behavior which acts to maintain a constant stimulation is called maintaining behavior.

Motivated behavior involves both learned and unlearned drives. Most unlearned drives, or primary drives, are concerned with the physiological processes of the body. The hunger drive is an example of a primary drive, as are the sex and maternal drives. Some primary drives are based on the body's need to maintain an internal physiological equilibrium. Such drives are called homeostatic drives. A homeostatic drive is illustrated somewhat drastically in the case of a three-year-old who died after a week on a hospital diet (Wilkens and Richter, 1940). The child had a craving for salt and would not eat anything that did not have salt in great quantity. An autopsy showed that the adrenal glands, which usually regulate the intake and excretion of salt, were abnormal. Too much salt was being lost by the body. Since the homeostatic mechanism regulating salt was disturbed, a temporary adjustment was achieved by means of a very high intake of salt. In this case, the primary drive was, of course, unlearned.

Homeostatic drives are based on internal stimuli. Other primary drives are based on external stimuli. Drives such as avoidance of pain are based on external stimuli, yet still have a basis in physiological processes. Until a rat becomes familiar with his cage, he usually appears motivated to explore his surroundings. The drives of exploration, curiosity and manipulation also seem to be primary drives. These are called general drives. It is not known what physiological processes general drives might be based on.

We also learn to seek incentives other than those which satisfy basic needs: money, fame, and fortune. These learned drives are called secondary drives. It is assumed that all secondary drives result from primary ones. The drive for social acceptance, for example, may be based on the primary drives that were satisfied by others in infancy. The drive for money may, in part, be based on the drive for food. Secondary drives and the procedure by which they are acquired will be considered in a later module.


The empirical approach relates behaviors to their consequences

In scientific theorizing, the principle of parsimony states: "Never explain a phenomenon in a more complex way when a less complex way will do." Following this principle, theories of motivation have been proposed which avoid reference to and/ drives at all. The empirical approach says that all we need know in order to explain and predict behavior is the relationship between an antecedent condition and the resulting consequent event. Since the drive is always inferred from the incentive, such theorists maintain that nothing is added by hypothesizing a drive.

The empirical approach sees all motivation as an association of antecedent stimuli with the consequences of behavior. When food deprivation has continued long enough, or body weight has dropped sufficiently, the organism behaves in such a way as to obtain food. The mechanism for the arousal. maintenance and regulation of the incentive-seeking behavior is the reinforcing effect of the incentive. Empiricists never ask why an incentive is a reinforcer; they only ask how it becomes one.

David Premack (1965) has indicated how he believes reinforcers may be identified. His theory states: Given any two behaviors of different probabilities of occurrence, the higherprobability behavior will reinforce, or make more likely to occur, the lower-probability behavior.

In an experimental animal, we can bring about loss of body weight. At this point, the eating response is of high probability. Given the opportunity, there is a great likelihood that the animal will eat. If we now introduce a low- probability behavior, such as running in a wheel, and make eating contingent upon the execution of this low-probability behavior, the rat will increase his wheel-running behavior. The wheel running has been reinforced by eating; that is, it is more likely to occur again because it was followed by the high- probability behavior (eating). Empiricists make no assumptions about drives

If we keep a rat well fed, but do not allow any opportunity for exercise, wheel- running will become a high-probability response. If the contingencies are now reversed, so that he must eat in order to be able to run in the wheel, then an increase in eating behavior will result. Running can reinforce eating!

This empirical framework may be used to explain the development of much of our motivated behavior. Children learn to stand on a chair to reach the cookie jar because the lower-probability behavior is dependent upon the higher-probability cookie-eating behavior. Similarly, the behaviors involved in finding and marrying a mate are required for the high-probability sexual behaviors, so courting is reinforced.

SUMMARY There are two basic approaches to studying motivation. One, represented by the drive theory, makes use of a hypothetical construct, drive, which arouses, regulates, and maintains behavior. The empirical approach explains motivated behavior by describing the conditions in which an incentive will become a reinforcer. There is no intervening hypothetical construct, although there are many elaborations of these two approaches, such as the development of elaborate need theories in social psychology. These two views represent the major approaches to the study of motivation today.



Now test yourself without looking back.

1. A hungry man approaches a candy machine and puts in a coin. He pushes a button, receives his candy, unwraps it, and eats it.

a. The incentive is ________________________________

b. The ___________________________________brings about behavior toward the candy.

c. Seeking the machine, putting in a coin, pushing the button and unwrapping the candy are all (positive/negative)_________________________________ incentive-seeking behaviors.

2. The drive in the above example is a (primary/secondary) _______________________________ drive.

3. Behavior which attempts to sustain stimulus constancy is called ________________________ behavior.

4. As opposed to the drive theorists, the empiricist would say that all we need to know to account for behavior is the precise relationship between a(n) ______________________condition and the_____________________behavior.

5. Drives which maintain physiological equilibrium are called____________________

6. Define general drive.________________________________________________

7. Exploration, manipulation, and activity are all.____________________________________________

8. The desire to become president of the United States is what kind of drive?_____________________________

9. The presidency is the___________________________


10. The diagram below indicates that some motivation is

11. An individual is engaged in positive incentive-seeking behavior if he________________________an incentive.

12. Motivation involves the___________________________________ the_____________________________ and the_____________________________________of behavior.

13. The chief mechanism in a nonempirical theory of motivation is a hypothetical construct called a

14. The empirical approach to motivation makes reference to:|

a. incentives.

b. drives.


d. hypothetical constructs.

15. One empirical approach to motivation says that when a high-probability behavior is contingent upon a low- probability behavior:

a. neither behavior will occur.
b. only the high-probability behavior will occur.
c. the low-probability behavior will be reinforced by the high-probability behavior.
d. the high-probability behavior will be reinforced by the low-probability behavior.





A thirsty man tends to seek water. In this situation, water is the:
a. motive
. b. incentive.
c. drive.
d. appetite.

An incentive is an object or a situation toward which________________________________ _____________________________________________6

When an incentive is obtained, as when a hungry person eats, the drive is________________________________________and the incentive-seeking behavior ceases. and the incen-

John practices basketball every day. Bill plays only once a week. This might indicate that their drives vary in_____________________________________________

A child who refuses to come out of the swimming pool when his mother calls is not seeking stimulus change. He is engaged in: a. appetitive behavior.
b. survival drive.
c. negative incentive-seeking behavior.

d. primary motivational behavior. A drive to avoid stimulus change involves: a. appetitive behavior. b. positive incentive-seeking behavior. c. maintaining behavior. d. cyclic behavior.

Many drives, such as hunger, begin to increase almost as soon as they are satisfied and the motivation begins again. This indicates that hunger is:

a. periodic
. b. static.
c. repetitive.
d. cyclic.


Basic drives are called:
a. general drives.
b. secondary drives.
c. primary drives.
d. survival drives. __________________________________________________________3

1 behavior is directed
2 d

3 c4 satisfied or reduced

5 c
6 b
7 strength or intensity
8 c


There are two kinds of primary drives. One kind maintains bodily processes and is called a_____________________________________________ ____________________________________________drive. _______________________________________________8

A second primary drive is called a general drive. Which of the foliowing is a general drive?
a. Curiosity
b. Hunger
c. Sex
d. Maternity

Secondary drives are based on________________________________ drives.

The drive to accumulate money is
a. general drive.
b. secondary drive. 3
c. physiological drive.
d. primary drive.

Some physiological drives are based on external stimuli while others called homeostatic drives are based on _____________________________________ stimuli.


An abnormal desire for salt may be caused by what kind of drive?
a. General
b. Secondary
c. Homeostatic


The drive that causes humans to avoid pain usually is based on an -________________________________________ (internal /external) stimulus.

Motivation involves the arousal, the_______________________________and the ______________________________of behavior.



1 primary
2 internal
3 regulation maintenance
4 external
5 a
6 b
8 homeostatic



1. John studies hard for good grades. In this example, good grades are the______________________ 2. Primary drives may be based either on homeostatic mechanisms or on________________________ stimuli. 3. A drive for food, based on a physiological process which acts to maintain internal equilibrium, is a ___________________________________drive. 4. Give two examples of a general drive._________________________________________
___________________________________________ 5. Behavior that tends to avoid an object is called____________________________ incentive-seeking behavior. 6. Because some drives are likely to reappear they are said to be_____________________________ 7. According to the drive theory of motivation, behavior is aroused, regulated, and maintained by what mechanism?___________________________________ 8. No one has ever "seen" a drive. As a mechanism in motivation, it is merely a___________________________ 9. Which approach to motivation does not make reference to drive?______________________________ 10. Complete the statement:
Given two behaviors of different probabilities,_________________________________ will reinforce the________________________________.




Unit 9 Table of Contents

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