Vidhi holds a Masters in Education, B.A. in Spanish Literature from Rutgers University. Vidhi has experience working in academic affairs and staff management.
What are Instinct Theories of Motivation?
Well, let's break this down. Motivation is the drive that guides us to behave a certain way. Instincts are our natural responses. For example, if a baby is motivated to live, it naturally sucks on its mother's nipple to gain nutrition to survive. Instinct theories state that we respond in a certain way thanks to evolution - essentially, we are programmed to do certain things to survive.
In addition to theories proposed by psychologists like Clark Hull or Abraham Maslow, Sigmund Freud and William James were psychologists who developed theories that resonate with the concept of acting by instinct.
Freud's Death (Thanatos) and Life (Eros) Drives
Freud stated that humans have two instinctual drives: life and death. Each drive causes humans to behave in certain ways. Depending on which drive is dominant, the person will act in a way to promote life or death.
The life drive (Eros) causes us to engage in behaviors promoting the preservation of life such as engaging in sex, eating to survive, and exercising to maintain health.
The death drive (Thanatos) causes us to engage in risky or aggressive behaviors such as doing stunts, starting fights, or driving dangerously.
William James: Our Instinct is to Survive
James believed that we behave in ways that promote our survival. Some important factors in his theory were:
Fear - For example, fear is what keeps us away from fire and causes us to flinch if we hear gunshots. If we didn't have a sense of fear, we might get burned or shot because we wouldn't be afraid enough to move away.
Love - This includes sexual drives, care, and affection. Instinctively, people engage in sex to recreate. Parents care for their children with care and affection because they act with love. Babies cry if they need affection.
Sociability - Since groups are more powerful than individuals, we socialize and make friends. This feeds our need for company as well as protection. When walking down a street at night, we feel protected and are less targeted when with a large group.
Cleanliness - This eliminates dangerous, life-threatening bacteria such as salmonella. An example is cleaning the counter-tops after handling poultry. Organization also makes things easier to find. For example, if you need access to medicine quickly, it would help for items to be clean and organized.
Now that we have reviewed some instinct theories of motivation, consider another example:
Geese fly in groups and naturally travel north during summers and south during winters. We can say they fly in groups for protection. They know to fly north during summers and south during winters to find the right temperature for their bodies and for reproduction.
The ends of their mating seasons are marked by fluffy little birds that sometimes cross the street even when there is a line of cars waiting. If you ever come too close to the babies, the geese mothers and fathers squawk and spread their wings in efforts to protect their offspring.
Think about the ways these instincts are similar to human instincts!
Following this lesson, you should be able to:
- Define motivation and instincts
- Describe instinct theories of motivation proposed by Sigmund Freud and William James
- Explain the application of these theories using geese as an example
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