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Theories of Motivation: Instinct, Drive Reduction & Arousal

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  • 0:00 Motivation & Instinct Theory
  • 1:18 Life and Death Instincts
  • 1:43 Drive Reduction Theory
  • 3:05 Arousal Theory &…
  • 4:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Paul Bautista
Motivation is a word we've all heard: whether we're asked if we're feeling motivated or, even, what our motivations are. Where does the desire to do something come from? This lesson presents and explains three of the main theories on motivation.

Do you know what it means to be 'motivated'? Probably, you do. Motivation is just the desire to do something; it is an impulse that inspires some action. But, how about this: do you know the source of motivation? Probably you've experienced plenty of times when you wished you knew the answer to this question, so that you could find the drive to do something that you didn't want to do, such as studying for a test. Furthermore, you probably already realize that there need not be any single correct answer to the question of what causes motivation. In fact, over the course of history, psychologists have proposed various theories about its origins. This segment mentions three such theories.

The first is Instinct Theory. Instincts are unlearned actions that exist consistently throughout a species. As you probably suspect, Instinct Theory is the idea that motivation results from biological hard-wiring, or instincts.

Now, that's a general theory. Numerous psychologists have theorized more specifically about how instincts motivate us. For example, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) theorized about two very broad instincts: a life instinct, called Eros, and a death instinct, called Thanatos. William James, by contrast, theorized about a whole host of human instincts.

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