What is Motivation?

Motivation results from internal and external forces that stimulate desire and energy in people to be continually interested and committed to a job, role or subject, or to make an effort to attain a goal. Motivation, like intelligence, can’t be directly observed. Instead, motivation can only be inferred by noting a person’s behavior.

Motivation may be described as the process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. Motivation is what causes us to act, whether it is getting a glass of water to quench thirst or reading a book to gain wisdom.

Motivation is a theoretical construct used to explain behavior. It represents the reasons for people’s actions, desires, and needs. It involves the interaction of both conscious and unconscious factors such as the intensity of desire or need, incentive or reward, value of the goal, and expectations of the individual and of his or her peers. These factors are the reasons one has for behaving a certain way. An example is a student that spends extra time studying for a test because he or she wants a better grade in the class.

Components of Motivation

There are three major components to motivation: 1) Activation; 2) Persistence; and 3) Intensity.

  1. Activation involves the decision to initiate a behavior, such as enrolling in a psychology class.
  2. Persistence is the continued effort toward a goal even though obstacles may exist, such as taking more psychology courses in order to earn a degree although it requires a significant investment of time, energy and resources.
  3. Intensity can be seen in the concentration and vigor that goes into pursuing a goal.

Motivation is literally the desire to do things. It’s the difference between waking up before dawn to pound the pavement and lazing around the house all day. Next, we look at the types of motivation.

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Types of Motivation

There are two primary types of motivation: 1) Intrinsic; and 2) Extrinsic motivation.

1.   Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic Motivation is geared toward internal rewards and reinforcers. It involves engaging in behavior because it is personally rewarding. This implies performing an activity for its own sake rather than the desire for some external reward.

Intrinsic motivationOpens in new window usually results from the self-desire to seek out new things and new challenges, to analyze one’s capacity, to observe and to gain knowledge. It is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual rather than relying on external pressures or a desire for reward. The phenomenon of intrinsic motivation was first acknowledged within experimental studies of animal behavior.

2.   Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic Motivation is geared toward internal rewards and reinforcers. It refers to behavior that is driven by external rewards such as money, fame, good grades, and praise.

Extrinsic motivationOpens in new window usually comes from the external factors, such as the motivation to win medals, receive financial rewards, and attract attention from the media. It occurs when we are motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity in order to earn a reward or avoid a punishment.