What are the early theories of motivation?

I] Drive-Reduction Theories

A need is a deprivation that energizes the drive to eliminate or reduce the deprivation.

e.g. The body’s need for food arouses the hunger drive. Hunger motivates the person to do something—to go to a food-stall, —to reduce the drive and satisfy the need.

Drive reduction theory explains that, as a drive becomes stronger, we are motivated to reduce it.

II] Incentive Theories

The drive-reduction theories can be applied (to some extent) to some of the biological motives like hunger, thirst, etc.

However in many situations, (e.g. In the case of sexual motivation), the stimulus characteristics of the goal play a significant role in determining the intensity, and nature of the  motivational behaviors that follow.

These goal objects that motivate behavior are ‘incentives’ and thus, the motivation that results from them are called ‘incentive motivation’.

As the goal-objects pull behaviors toward them with their characteristics, these incentive theories are also called ‘pull’ theories.

An important aspect of incentive theories is that individuals expect pleasure from ‘positive incentives’ and from avoidance of ‘negative incentives’.

This theory is easily applicable to day to day phenomena of expected incentives like wages, salaries, perks, bonuses.

III] Optimal Arousal Theories

These theories are based upon the hedonistic perspective, and state that there is an optimum level of arousal that is pleasurable.

i.e. individuals are motivated to maintain an optimum level of arousal.

If the arousal is too low, the individual will seek situations or stimuli that will increase arousal, and if the arousal is too high, the individual will indulge in acts that reduce it.

The Yerkes Dodson  Law:

The Yerkes-Dodson law, states that performance is best under conditions of moderate arousal than either low or high arousal.

At the low end of arousal, you might be too lethargic to perform tasks well; at the high end, you may not be able to concentrate.

For well-learned or simple tasks, optimal arousal may be quite high. In contrast, when learning a task or doing something complex  much lower arousal is preferred.

The Yerkes Dodson  Law:

As tasks become more difficult, the ability to be alert and attentive yet relaxed is critical for optimal performance.

IV] Cognitive Motivation Theories 

These contemporary theories emphasize the role of cognition in motivation.

Cognitive theorists (and even most Humanistic theorists) argue that especially human being consciously and voluntarily indulge in certain behaviors and  similarly avoid or control certain behaviors and situations.

These theorists do accept the role of unconscious factors, but stress that the study of humans as rational beings that control their own motivational behaviors is necessary too.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is based on internal factors, such as self-determination, curiosity, challenge, and effort.

Extrinsic motivation involves external incentives, such as rewards and punishments.

Psychologists argue that intrinsic motivation is more likely to produce competent behavior and mastery.

Research comparisons often reveal that people with intrinsic motivation show more interest, excitement, and confidence in what they are doing than those whose motivation is extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation often results in improved performance, persistence, creativity, and self-esteem.

Some psychologists argue that tangible reinforcers, such as money or prizes, often undermine intrinsic motivation, whereas verbal reinforcers, such as praise, can actually enhance intrinsic motivation.

 Murray’s Theory of Motivation

Atkinson’s Theory of Motivation

McClelland’s Theory of Motivation

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