Different Motivation Theories

As the fields of social psychology, sociology, and positive psychology have grown and developed over the years, a number of different theories of motivation have emerged from within these disciplines. All of these motivation theories seek to explain the impetus of human behavior. This article will explore some of the popular theories of motivation and they explain the causes of our behaviors.

The Acquired Needs Theory proposes that most of the needs we are motivated to fulfill fall into three categories: achievement, affiliation, and power needs. This theory is also referred to as the “Three-Need Theory” and the “Learned Need Theory.” According to The Acquired Needs Theory, each individual will feel mostly greatly drawn towards one of the three needs. An individual most affected by the achievement need will have a strong desire to do extremely well in all aspects of their life, and will enjoy praise and recognition for their accomplishments. Someone most driven to fulfill a need for affiliation will seek strong, cooperative relationships in his or her life. This person will be seeking approval, rather than praise. And finally, someone who seeks to fulfill a power need will try to control or organize others, looking for compliance rather than praise or approval.

The Cognitive Evaluation Theory suggests that one evaluates an action and determine whether or not will he or she will be motivated to complete it depending on how likely it is that he can actually complete the task, and how in control of the process he will be. If a person thinks he will be able to reach the goal with ease, competency, and control, he will be intrinsically motivated to do so.

The Consistency Theory claims that we are motivated to support our inner belief systems with our actions in the external world. According to this theory, we are essentially motivated to ensure that what we say and what we do are in line with one another.

The Control Theory implies that human beings have a deep, solitary need for control itself and that ultimately all of our actions are an effort to control our world and the world around us.

The Drive-reduction theory centers on our needs and associated stimuli that drive us to action when a need is not being fulfilled in some way. According to this theory, we have primary drives, which include our biological needs, and secondary drives, which include self-esteem and social needs.

The ERG Theory asserts that we are all motivated by needs that fall into three over-arching categories: Existence, Relatedness, and Growth needs. Existence needs are the most basic of the three, and include the need for safety, food, and shelter. Relatedness needs are related to our desires for social interactions. These needs encompass our desires to identify with other people. Our Growth needs are the highest level in the ERG Theory and include our desires to feel successful, whole and fulfilled.

The Expectancy Theory focuses on the expectations one creates about goals and the prospect of completing them. If a goal seems reasonable, agreeable, and achievable, the individual will be motivated to pursue it. The process of motivation according to the Expectancy Theory is encompasses by three parts: valence, or value of the goal; instrumentality, or the belief that there is a clear set of actions that will bring about that goal; expectancy, or the belief that the individual is capable of doing the set of actions.

The Goal-setting Theory of motivation claims that individuals can be driven or motivated to complete an action because he or she has a goal to reach. A goal that is clear, challenging, and achievable, and put in place by the doer will most likely result in high motivation.

These theories of motivation psychology, amongst others, are a few ways to explore what factors compel human behavior and motivate us to set and achieve our goals.


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