What is Motivation?

The term "motivation" refers to the cause or "why" of behavior or the factors that energize behavior and give it direction. A motivated organism will engage in an activity more vigorously and more efficiently than one that is not motivated at all. Example: the hungry person is ready to seek food and eat.

How did the concept of motivation develop?

There are two views which explain the development.

1. The rationalistic view

Reason determines what a person does. The conception of rationalism was the predominant view of philosophers and theologians for hundreds of years.

A person was free to choose and choices were good or bad depending on one's intelligence and education.

A person is very much responsible for his or her own choice.

2. The mechanistic view

In the 17th and 18th centuries Descartes, Hobbes, Loke, and Hume took a more mechanistic view. They suggested that some actions arise from internal or external forces over which we have no control and the underlying causes of all behavior are the tendencies to seek pleasure and avoid pain following the doctrine of hedonism.

a) The theory of instincts

An instinct is an innate biological force that predisposes the organism to act in a certain way. Animal behavior had long been attributed to instincts, since animals had no soul or intellect and could not reason. The use of instincts in explaining human behavior is seen in Darwin's theory that there was no sharp distinction between humans and animals. William McDougall, the strongest advocate of the instinct theory, maintained that all our thoughts and behavior were the result of inherited instincts. These were compelling sources of conduct, but modifiable by learning and experience. These instincts include: flight, repulsion, curiosity, pugnacity, acquisition, self-assertion, reproduction, gregariousness, self-abasement, construction and those related to bodily needs.

Freud, an advocate of the psychoanalytic theory also attributed behavior to powerful innate forces: the life-instincts and the death-instincts. Life instincts are expressed in sexual behavior. Death instincts underline aggressive acts. These instincts, though unconscious are powerful motivational and irrational forces within the individual.

b) Drive - reduction theory

What led to the drive - reduction theory of motivation?

Anthropologists noted that many instincts were not found in all cultures like for example, pugnacity. In some societies, people found no need to fight. So, in the 1920's the instinct theory was replaced by the concept of drives. A drive is an aroused state that results from some biological needs, such as food, water, oxygen, and avoidance of painful stimuli. This aroused condition motivates the organism to remedy the need. Example: Lack of food produces certain chemical changes in turn create a drive sate of arousal or tension. The organism seeks to reduce the tension by doing something, in this case, finding food to satisfy the need. This illustrates drive-reduction theory of motivation. Sometimes the terms "need" and "drive" are used interchangeably, but more frequently "need" refers to the physiological state of deprivation, whereas "drive" refers to the psychological consequences of a need. The boy's tendency to maintain a constant internal environment called homeostasis is basic to the drive concept. Hunger and thirst can be viewed as homeostasis mechanisms, because they initiate behavior that restores the balance of certain substances in the blood. Psychologists have broadened the principle of homeostasis to mean that any physiological or psychological imbalance will motivate behavior to restore equilibrium.

c) Incentive theory

How do incentives arouse behavior?

Recent approaches to a theory of motivation have focused on the role of incentives. These refer to the external stimuli or motivating objects or conditions in the environment. Incentives have two functions: they arouse the organism, and they direct behavior either toward or away from themselves. Example: For a thirsty animal, water would be a positive incentive. An object that has caused pain would be a negative incentive. After a full meal, you may still desire the delicious dessert placed before you. In this case, your hunger is not internal. The odor or sight of food can arouse hunger even when there is no physiological need.

What are the important brain areas in the regulation of food intake?

There are two areas: the lateral hypothalamus and the ventromedial hypothalamus. The lateral hypothalamus initiates eating while the ventromedial hypothalamus inhibits eating. These two act in opposite ways to regulate food intake.

Other variables that initiate food intake are test and smell. These affect our eating pleasures and food preferences. Most of our food preferences can be traced to ethnic or cultural differences. We like what we are accustomed to and may find a strange diet not only unpalatable but indigestible. Sometimes specific hungers, strong preferences for foods result from nutritional deficits. Others may be innate responses to certain taste. Water intake is also regulated by the hypothalamus.

Overweight individuals or obese people may be more responsive than normal - weight individuals to external hunger cues such as taste and smell. When emotionally aroused, they also tend to eat more.

How is sex described as a motivator?

Sex is essential to the survival of the species. Freud proposed that sexual energy or 'libido' builds up within the organism and must find some outlet. Sexual behavior uses energy rather than restores it.

Therefore, motivation refers to the factors that energize and direct behavior. The instinct theory postulate inner predispositions to specific actions. The drive-reduction theory bases motivation on bodily needs that create tension which the organism seeks to reduce by doing something to satisfy the need. Biological needs prompt action to maintain homeostatis, the incentive theory emphasizes the importance of external conditions as a source of motivation.

The lateral hypothalamus (LH) and the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) act reciprocally to maintain stable body weight. Research on obesity suggests that overweight individuals may be more responsive than normal weight individuals to external hunger cues.

Sexual behavior in lower animals is largely instinctive. Among human beings hormones exert less influence than early experiences with parents and peers or cultural norms.