Theories of varied motivation in psychology

Published: 2021-07-01 08:34:15
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Category: Metaphysics, Motivation, Psychology, Psychoanalysis

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It is said that entire psychology is about the study of motivation itself. In fact the science of psychology evolved to explain, answer and reason the ‘why’ of human behavior. Motivation holds the answer to this ‘why’ because when we attempt to reason for a particular behavior or attitude then basically we are finding the motivations responsible for that particular behavior (Gorman, 2003, 1). People perform a variety of actions through multiple roles according to their dominant motivation that guides their behavior.
In psychological studies the implicit motivations determining human behavior are not only considered from point of view of biological drives and neurological impetus but they are also explained by relational aspect of human behavior where motivation is a dynamic aspect of the behavior that helps people to interact with the world (Nuttin, 1984,1).  Many theorist attempt to offer generalized explanation for a majority of human actions purely in terms of natural instinct or sudden impulse.
Even the people engaged in performing those actions may also agree to this viewpoint. However, the theory of instinct and impulse presents an incomplete rational because there are critical external factors and attractions that also contribute towards the particular motivation. Therefore human motivation is a dynamic product of combination of intrinsic human traits as well as their environmental setting.

Another important factor that plays an important role in explaining motivational factors in behavior is human emotion (Gorman, 2003, 89). Human beings experience a number of emotional states that continue to fluctuate and they act as causative factors in a large number of actions undertaken by them. As a matter of fact, motivation is a product of a very complex process of internal and external interaction of human beings with themselves and their surrounding and it acts as stimulant and provide energy for their behaviors and consequent actions.
Psychoanalytic Explanation of motives
Motives interests psychologist because they provide insight into the character and approach of individuals, providing psychologists with test materials on which they can further form and expand their theories. The reasons of specific actions, such as why did a person steal, why did he commit a murder, why did he participate in a cause where he was not interested, or why did he contributed a majority of his wealth to charitable causes can perhaps be better understood if the motives behind them are sought. The implicit notion is that there are some actions which deviant to a person’s characteristics and those that are difficult be explained by any standard rule based system (Peters, 1958, 28).
Psychologists, in their attempts to explore the motives, that is the set of specific reasons for deviant as well as normal actions have given considerable attention to the unconscious self of human beings of which they are themselves unaware. The unconscious self is composed of repressed feelings of deprivations, unfulfilled desires and infant sexuality and it subtly acts on every human being to set the framework of many of their actions (Peters, 1958, 55).
This theory of unconscious mental process, as proposed by Freud, and the psychoanalytic explanations it offered, did not profess to explain the entire gamut of human behaviors, but it certainly provided a more panoramic view to cause and reasons of many human actions that were hitherto conventionally explained on mere visible evidences. According to the new wisdom, actions performed by people have a long and complicated background and though they may appear final or conclusive in their immediate bearing, they are part of a long chain of interconnected events.
Therefore even the simple question that why did John walk across the road take vast proportion in psychology. As explained by Peters (4), the simple answer that John crosses the road to buy some tobacco is insufficient, even though John himself in unaware of any other motive. To a psychologist, in crossing the road to buy tobacco, John is conforming to many social and cultural stereotypes such as he is not running or crawling across the road to get the tobacco (ibid, 5).
If John had run, then his goal of obtaining tobacco would had fallen incommensurate with his action that should had warranted more urgent justification. However as John walks across the road, it indicates that procuring tobacco is a kind of activity that should be accomplished in a normal behavioral conduct to make it appear as an appropriate social function. A psychologist might further argue that John has secret liking for tobacconist’s girl, and he goes to the particular shop to see that girl, though he may himself be not aware of this.
Another explanation might be offered that John had an unconscious disliking of work from which he wanted to escape and the act of going to tobacconist was a way for him to stay away from the unpleasant work. Its important to see here that in neither of these explanations John himself is aware of any other reason other than buying tobacco, but each of the region, both of them or several others can be true to the case.
The Biological Approach to Motives
The biological or physiological aspects of motives are perhaps the earliest explanations that were offered to reason for motives behind human actions and behaviors. This approach views human as ‘drive-oriented’ animals who are more the product of biological factors of cellular and neurochemical reactions, acting through our genetic traits alone and spurred by release of hormones to various actions. This physiological analysis puts instinct as the primary reason behind every human action and its framework basic human instincts such as desire to eat, drink, sleep and have sex combine to form the further ramifications of human behavior (Gorman, 2003,14).
In this model, drives for specific actions stimulate people and they respond accordingly in their behavior. It states that behavior of people is the result of homeostasis, that is, the tendency to maintain a stable internal environment of body. Body responds to any deprivation that threatens the stability of internal equilibrium and unleashes corresponding behavior to correct it (Weiner, 1980, 11). Thus homeostasis drive theory accounts for situations where a person may be compelled to steal food if he is hungry, or run if he is threatened, as maintaining the internal equilibrium is principle motive of any living organism.
Behavioral approach to motives
As Nuttin (1984, 16) states, understanding of motivational process is critically dependent on understanding of dynamic aspects of human behavior. In the field of psychology behavior refers to cognitive activities that an individual performs in the context of a behavioral world (ibid, 17). These activities can not be understood if they are treated separately, and therefore an integrated model of behavior interpretation is required that views that takes a complete and related view of all the processes in the living organism.
According to the behavioral model, the various biochemical functions and basic drives are encompassed by behavior that gives these individual traits their full meaning and purpose (ibid, 18). As such hunger, thirst, sleep, sex drive, fear, ecstasy, loyalty etc are not isolated factors in determining motives. Instead they are integrated as part of the behavioral structure that creates a sense of organic continuity. Thus seeing changes to watching and hearing changes to listening in the behavioral model.
Various theories and models in the field of social behavior have come with suggestion that human behavior reflects a person’s intent to act (Orbell, 2004, 145). According to each of these models it is possible to predict behavior from intentions and behavioral control displayed by a person. Behavioral characteristics can successfully account for specific types of motivations seen with various actions. For example, harvesting, hunting and fishing are quite different behaviors, yet they are done with the same objective of procuring food.
Similarly, despite their different behavioral traits, people are essentially same every where, in the sense that they seek love, trust, social respect, and financial stability, thus acting through almost identical motivational drives. Within the behavioral system, a form of unity and cohesion is attempted out of multiple elements interacting together in a motivational setup (Nuttin, 1984, 84).
Humanistic Approach to Motives
The humanistic approach in describing different motives for human actions is a relatively new field. Its fundamental principles, as stated by Weiner(1980, 409) are
1. Humanistic psychology studies people in their real life circumstances, where humans are subjects of the study, rather than object. People are described in their own consciousness and perceptions and the reasons and motives of their actions are placed along with their individuality, in a holistic and complete framework.
2. Humanistic psychologists also believe that human choice, will, their desire to move ahead in life, to grow and realize their potentials contribute to their actions, behavior and approach to life.
3. The dominant characteristics of any individual is to achieve personal potential, and develop their capacities and talents to highest level. Thus the central motivation in an individual’s life is to grow, move ahead and develop his or her own self.
Human actions would continue to be defined, analyzed and interpreted from a number of points of view, according to various theories, models and approaches to understand its complexity and give complete meaning to its attributes, in order to evolve a wholesome picture of factors that motivates people towards a varied degree of actions.
Motivations can be best understood from the dynamics of behavior and the integrated setup that provides basis for planning, thinking, action and achievements of goals to people. Further, people are motivated to different actions based on their own perception of needs and requirements as well acting through their subconscious self, which explains for the difference in their perceived reason of their certain steps from the actual reasons justifying it.
Gorman, P, 2003, Motivation and Emotion, Routledge, New York.
Nuttin, J, 1984, Motivation, Planning, and Action: A Relational Theory of Behavior Dynamics, (trnsltr) Jean E. Dumas ,, Raymond P. Lorion , Leuven University Press; Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Leuven, Belgium.
Orbell, S, 2004, Contemporary Perspectives on the Psychology of Attitudes: The Cardiff Symposium. (edit ) Geoffrey Haddock,  Gregory R. Maio, Psychology Press. Hove, England.
Peters RS, 1985,The Concept of Motivation. Routledge & Kegan Paul :London
Weiner, H, 1980, Human Motivation, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJ

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