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The 5 Key Theories of Motivation in Psychology

In simpler words, motivation is the desire, aversion, or need to achieve something. The word itself is derived from the word motive, which indicates a sense of purpose. Thus, motivation can be described as an intrinsic or extrinsic need to achieve the desired outcome. It is a stimulating process that leads to a change in behaviour and sometimes coerced actions.

Motivation is an incredibly important factor in psychology as it essays a crucial role in the treatment of several moderately disturbing habits. For example, if an individual has a habit of procrastination, he can acquire professional help in the form of therapy or counselling to get rid of this problematic behaviour.

For this purpose, various therapeutic schools of thought have constructed strategies. In this regard, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), and sometimes Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) are commonly applied.

To properly understand and analyse the contributing factors of motivation and its eventual outcomes, numerous psychologists have provided intricate and labyrinthine theoretical frameworks. Some of them focused on emotional aspects, while others decided to observe the expectancy phenomenon strictly.

Since motivation holds paramount significance in achievement and success, students take a keen interest in understanding this concept. Hence, they are always “motivated” to get assignment help online, particularly when it comes to meeting the academic obligations of this course.

Hence, for the motivational psychology enthusiasts, a basic premise of various motivational psychology theories is provided below.

  • Hierarchy of needs by Abraham Maslow

    Abraham Maslow’s theory is essentially a content theory of motivation. What this indicates is that the element of motivation is primarily dependent on the needs of the individual. Thus, Abraham Maslow suggested that motivation is directly dependent on the five-factor pyramid structure. This structure is comprised of physiological needs, security needs, social needs, esteem needs, and self-actualisation needs.

    Once you fulfil your need for physiological essentials, only then will you be able to attain or move in the direction of security needs. Therefore, self-actualisation is the final stage where the person reaches a heightened level of spirituality and ineffectiveness.

    Physiological needs cover the basic needs of every human being: Food, clothes, water, and a place to live in. Security needs are another fundamental cores that include feelings of safety and a sense of protection from abandonment and danger.

    Social needs cover the need for affiliation and provide a sense of belonging. Once, you’re able to achieve that, you’re focused on meeting the requirements that boost your self-esteem. And obviously, when you’ve ticked off all the four categories in this pyramid, you’re left with a fulfilling feeling of self-actualisation.

  • ERG Theory by Clayton Alderfer

    Clayton Alderfer was a renowned psychologist of his time. He closely studied the Hierarchy of Needs and formulated his own thesis. He didn’t produce an alternative version that challenged the core principles of Abraham Maslow’s Theory. On the contrary, he simply deduced the needs.

    What was previously a five-level pyramid was now a three-level pyramid according to the ERG Theory. He combined the physiological and safety needs into one and called them existence needs. Additionally, he amalgamated the esteem needs with social needs calling it relatedness and then self-actualisation needs to give shape to growth.

    Hence, his theory of motivation was somewhat a revised and concise version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

  • Two-Factor Theory by Fredrick Herzberg

    The Two-Factor Theory is a process theory by nature. Thus, the main features of motivation are all dependent on the behaviour of the individual. It was formulated by Fredrick Herzberg who claimed that when it comes to an employee, the factors that contribute to job satisfaction and the factors directing towards dissatisfaction with the job are two separate categories. Furthermore, each of these entities stands individually.

    The reason why this theory is also known as the Hygiene Theory is that it is comprised of two important factors: hygiene factors and motivating factors. The hygiene factors include salary package, interpersonal relationships at work, the environment and its pace, yearly bonuses and increments, etc. When an employee fulfils his or her hygiene needs, his level of satisfaction with the job increases and the threat of dissatisfaction decreases. As far as the motivational factors are concerned, they include the sense of achievement, confidence boost, status, and growth that individual derives from the job. Thus, when the motivational factors are met, the employees feel motivated to come to work and give their best.

  • Reinforcement Theory by B. F. Skinner

    The Reinforcement Theory is one of the most important theories that changed the structure of psychology by giving rise to another school of thought: Behaviourism. Thus, B. F. Skinner provided three important concepts. Positive Reinforcement is a notion that when you insert something positive at the end of a task, the behaviour will be increased. Hence, if a teacher praises the child when he finishes his assignment on time, he will feel encouraged and motivated, that will most likely compel him to repeat the behaviour.

    Negative Reinforcement is the removal of something negative. Hence, if the same teacher previously scolded the child for not doing homework, she would now remove the element of scolding when he returns the assignment on time.

    And the last concept is that of punishment, which is pretty self-explanatory. Punishment is the inclusion of something aversive at the end of a task. Thus, if the student fails to meet the deadline, he will be asked to write it down twice.

  • Expectancy Theory by Viktor Vroom

    In Expectancy Theory, three factors play a crucial role in evoking motivation. Expectancy is the belief that a certain amount of effort would lead to a certain performance. Instrumentality is the firm belief that the attained performance would lead to an expected outcome. And valence is basically the value that the individual attaches to the acquired outcome.

    Therefore, the theory claims that the outcome of the task will motivate the individual and how much value it holds. Furthermore, they will put in effort desiring a certain performance and outcome in mind.


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