Sarah has taught Psychology at the college level and has a master's degree in Counseling Psychology.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
What do you think is motivating you to read this lesson at this very moment? Motivation refers to the reasons that we act towards a goal. Psychologists understand that motivation can only be understood through behavior. Although only you can fully explain the many factors that have you reading this lesson right now, psychologists have created theories to try to understand and explain behavior.
From these theories we can make a few educated guesses about your present situation:
- You are not worried about being hit by a car. Most likely you are at home or in another location where you feel safe.
- You are probably not hungry to the point of starving. Perhaps you are even snacking while you read this!
- You are not outside in freezing weather or a hurricane or sitting in a desert without water.
These are just a few of the guesses we can make based on a theory of motivation developed by famous behavioral psychologist Abraham Maslow. Maslow believed that basic needs must be met before we can satisfy our other, less basic needs.
This was structured as hierarchy of needs that is often shown in a pyramid and referred to as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Just as the ancient Egyptians built a pyramid from the bottom up, we must satisfy our needs from the bottom up, fulfilling the most important needs first. Who would build the top of the pyramid before its foundation?
Human Drives and Drive Reduction
Although Maslow's pyramid mostly speaks to human motivation, all organisms act on drives, which are essentially motivator stimuli. We all have a drive to eat every day. Our bodies tell us when we are hungry with an empty feeling in our stomachs. When we are confronted by a feeling of hunger, what is our most common reaction? Eating! This reduces the drive for food, a motivation called drive reduction. The hungrier we get, the more likely we are to stop whatever else we are doing and find food. Other human drives include the need for water, air to breathe, elimination of waste and the biological need to have sex. Often without conscious thought, these drives are fulfilled before any other drives, such as hanging out with friends or achieving educational goals.
An excellent example of drives and drive reduction at work can be found in watching a dog that is both hungry and tired. Imagine the dog is resting but sees his owner bring food to his bowl. This dog is left to fulfill one need: sleeping or eating. Trying to do both would be funny but ultimately impossible. If the dog is too tired, he will ignore the food and go to sleep. Alternately, if the dog is more hungry than tired, he will get up and walk to the food.
Another example is a plant moving towards the sunlight. In satisfying it's need for sun, (food) it is operating on drive reduction.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
Intrinsic motivation is defined as the desire to perform an activity due to enjoyment. People have widely different interests that motivate them to behave simply for fun. What are you motivated to do for pleasure? Do you like to read? Do you hike, bike or run? Is your favorite pastime watching movies? What makes you feel good? Any answer you give can be an example of intrinsic motivation.
Let's look at motivation in a different way. Often in elementary school children are given rewards and prizes for reading the most books or pages. What if there was a million dollars at the finish line of a marathon? Certainly we're more motivated to perform these activities when we are rewarded for them! This motivation from an outside source is called extrinsic motivation. Although you may gain other benefits from running a marathon, winning a million dollars is a strong motivation from an outside source.
Extrinsic motivation can also be caused by the fear of punishment. Did your parents ever limit your time watching television with the threat of punishment? A very common type of extrinsic motivation is getting paid at work. We work to collect money that will fulfill our needs of food, water and shelter. Many people also enjoy their jobs, which is an example of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation at work.
To quickly review, motivation refers to the reasons that we act towards a goal. Motivation was studied by famous behavioral psychologist Abraham Maslow, who created a concept that came to be known as Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which is a hierarchy of needs that is often organized in the shape of a pyramid. What this hierarchy shows us is that all organisms act on drives, which are essentially motivator stimuli. Drives are motivations of things like shelter, food and health, all of which outweigh motivations for things like friendship, creativity and exercise. When we satisfy these basic drives, Maslow calls this drive reduction, leaving us free to pursue those other things.
Motivations can be separated into two different categories: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is the desire to perform an activity due to enjoyment, like when you enjoy your job. And extrinsic motivation is motivation from an outside source, like money or adulation.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack