In psychology, motivation is the driving force (desire) behind all actions of an organism.

Many textbooks define it as an internal state or condition that activates behavior and gives it direction, desire or want that energizes and directs goal-oriented behavior, or an influence of needs and desires on the intensity and direction of behavior.

Motivation is based on emotions, specifically, on the search for positive emotional experiences and the avoidance of negative ones, where positive and negative are defined by the individual brain state, not by social norms: a person may be driven to self-injury or violence because their brain is conditioned to create a positive response to these actions. Motivation is important because it is involved in the performance of all learned responses.


Types of motivation

Physiological needs

The easiest kinds of motivation to analyse, at least superficially, are those based upon obvious physiological needs. These include hunger, thirst, and escape from pain. The analysis of the processes underlying such motivations can make use of research on animals, in ethology, comparative psychology, and physiological psychology, and the hormonal and brain processes involved in them seem to have much in common at least across all mammals and probably across all vertebrates. However, in humans, even these basic fundamental motivations are modified and mediated through social and cultural influences of various kinds: for example no analysis of hunger in humans could ignore the issues of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and obesity, for which the parallels in other animals are unclear. Even in animals, it is clear that the earlier homeostatic "depletion-repletion" models of such motivations are no longer adequate, since many animals feed on a precautionary rather than a reactive basis, most obviously when preparing for hibernation.

Other biological motivations

At the next level are motivations that have an obvious biological basis but are not required for the immediate survival of the organism. These include the powerful motivations for sex, parenting and aggression: again, the physiological bases of these are similar in humans and other animals, but the social complexities are greater in humans (or perhaps we just understand them better in our own species). In these areas insights from behavioral ecology and sociobiology have offered new analyses of both animal and human behaviour in the last decades of the twentieth century, though the extension of sociobiological analyses to humans remains highly controversial. Perhaps similar, but perhaps at a rather different level, is the motivation for new stimulation - variously called exploration, curiosity, or arousal-seeking. A crucial issue in the analysis of such motivations is whether they have a homeostatic component, so that they build up over time if not discharged; this idea was a key component of early twentieth century analyses of sex and aggression by, for example, Freud and Konrad Lorenz, and is a feature of much popular psychology of motivation. The biological analyses of recent decades, however, imply that such motivations are situational, arising when they are (or seem to be) needed to ensure an animal's fitness, and subsiding without consequences when the occasion for them pases.

Secondary goals

These important biological needs tend to generate more powerful emotions and thus more powerful motivation than secondary goals. This is described in models like Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs. A distinction can also be made between direct and indirect motivation: In direct motivation, the action satisfies the need, in indirect motivation, the action satisfies an intermediate goal, which can in turn lead to the satisfaction of a need. In work environments, money is typically viewed as a powerful indirect motivation, whereas job satisfaction and a pleasant social environment are more direct motivations. However, this example highlights well that an indirect motivational factor (money) towards an important goal (having food, clothes etc.) may well be more powerful than the direct motivation provided by an enjoyable workplace.


The most obvious form of motivation is coercion, where the avoidance of pain or other negative consequences has an immediate effect. When such coercion is permanent, it is considered slavery. While coercion is considered morally reprehensible in many philosophies, it is widely practiced on prisoners or in the form of conscription. Critics of modern capitalism charge that without social safety networks, wage slavery is inevitable. Successful coercion sometimes can take priority over other types of motivation.

Self control

The self-control of motivation is increasingly understood as a subset of emotional intelligence; a person may be highly intelligent according to a more conservative definition (as measured by many intelligence tests), yet unmotivated to dedicate this intelligence to certain tasks. Victor Vroom's "expectancy theory" provides an account of when people will decide whether to exert self control to pursue a particular goal. Self control is often contrasted with automatic processes of stimulus-response, as in the behaviorist's paradigm of B.F. Skinner.

Controlling motivation

The control of motivation is only understood to a limited extent. There are many different approaches of motivation training, but many of these are considered pseudoscientific by critics. To understand how to control motivation it is first necessary to understand why many people lack motivation.

In recent years, non-work related activities like Internet surfing have become an increasing concern for employers in industrialized nations. Some companies have used prohibitive tactics to counter this perceived threat, others try to define certain limits, and many merely take action in extreme cases. Even for home users, Internet addiction is increasingly perceived as a risk. Similar concerns accompany the use of video games and television. It is true that for many people, these activities have reached the point of psychological addiction.

This can be explained with a positive feedback loop. The aforementioned activities can generate quick, positive emotional responses of different types -- the humor of sitcoms, the ersatz family of soap operas, the endorphine release from action movies and video games, or the curiosity satisfied by visiting news sites. It is known that connections in the human brain's neural network are intensified by repeated activity, which means that it is often easier to continue to do what one is doing than to do something else. This is how a daily habit can, over time, turn into a psychological addiction that is hard to break.

The key question for motivation is then: Which activities generate a positive emotional response, and which ones do not? The answers to this question are increasingly explored by neuropsychology. It is known that, for most people, activities that involve powerful audiovisual input have a stronger emotional effect. Purely text-based information, on the other hand, is usually not very motivating. This seems intuitive given the fact that reading is a trained higher cortical skill, whereas large brain areas are congenitally devoted to processing audiovisual input. For this class of information, there are simply more connections from the processing areas of the brain's cortex to the lower emotional centers of the limbic system. It therefore seems logical to assume that motivation can be created more easily through multimedia input.

Since humans are social animals, it also appears natural that social connections play a crucial role in motivation. Not much is known about the way the human brain deals with social relationships, but for the sake of the argument, it can be assumed that social connections are merely very powerful, emotionally encoded memories connected to others. An idea which is connected to these memories thus triggers the emotions. It follows logically, then, that negative social relationships are likely to decrease motivation, and that intrinsic desire to act has to be substituted within these relationships with coercion. For teachers and managers alike, it then seems desirable to maintain such positive relationships in order to provide a motivating atmosphere -- however, personal reasons may stand in the way of this goal. This is why many motivation control programs try to teach managers to find outlets for their personal feelings other than their employees.

Early programming

Modern imaging has provided solid empirical support for the psychological theory that emotional programming is largely defined in childhood. Harold Chugani, Medical Director of the PET Clinic at the Children's Hospital of Michigan and professor of pediatrics, neurology and radiology at Wayne State University School of Medicine, has found that children's brains are much more capable of consuming new information (linked to emotions) than those of adults. Brain activity in cortical regions is about twice as high in children as in adults from the third to the ninth year of life. After that period, it declines constantly to the low levels of adulthood. Brain volume, on the other hand, is already at about 95% of adult levels in the ninth year of life.


Data by Harold Chugani on brain activity, 1996 (click image for source details). The red dots show activity in the frontal cortex, the "youngest" region in the human brain from an evolutionary perspective. It is important for analysis and creativity. The blue curve, copied from another diagram of the same source, shows the development of brain volume through childhood. As can be seen from the data, brain activity in children is much higher than in adults, making early influences critical for motivation in later life.

This is crucial to the understanding of motivation as well. Different people can generate positive emotional responses from different actions. Mathematicians may be able to enjoy dealing with complex formulas, programmers feel the same way about computer code, musicians may feel "in tune with themselves" when composing or playing, and so forth. Given the above knowledge about the early programming of the human brain, and given that memories are encoded together with emotions, it must be concluded that at least part of these different emotional responses are generated during childhood. A child who grows up watching television but not reading any books may find it difficult in later life to be motivated by purely textual information; a child neglected by its parents may be unable to make motivating social connections later.

A more controversial conclusion is that exposing children to too much simplistic, emotionally driven entertainment will "dull" their brains and make them incapable of acting far outside the narrow boundaries of indirect motivation to satisfy primary needs (money to survive) and quick positive emotional response (TV, games etc.). If this view is correct, it would be very difficult to fix these problems in adult life.

The education systems of most countries do take little of the above discussion into account, to the disdain of many scientists who study them. Learning is frequently equated with memorizing, and negative conditioning (in some countries to the point of corporal punishment) is common. Positive experiences, on the other hand, are often deliberately prohibited. Many schools (especially in the United States) have bans against public displays of affection, such as hugging and kissing, and teenage sexuality is frequently considered highly problematic, countered with severe punishment and sexual abstinence campaigns. While these actions are taken out of the belief that they are necessary to prevent negative consequences such as teenage pregnancies, groups like the Coalition for Positive Sexuality argue that this kind of social control harms teenagers while failing to accomplish any useful goal. Whether physical experiences are counted as part of a positive environment or not, it is quite probable that such an environment is necessary for a positive learning atmosphere.


Besides the very direct approaches to motivation, beginning in early life, there are solutions which are more abstract but perhaps nevertheless more practical for self-motivation. Virtually every motivation guidebook includes at least one chapter about the proper organization of one's tasks and goals. It is usually suggested that it is critical to maintain a list of tasks, with a distinction between those which are completed and those which are not, thereby moving some of the required motivation for their completion from the tasks themselves into a "meta-task", namely the processing of the tasks in the task list, which can become a routine. The viewing of the list of completed tasks may also be considered motivating, as it can create a satisfying sense of accomplishment.

Most electronic to-do lists have this basic functionality, although the distinction between completed and non-completed tasks is not always clear (completed tasks are sometimes simply deleted, instead of kept in a separate list).

Other forms of information organization may also be motivational, such as the use of mindmaps to organize one's ideas, and thereby "train" the neural network that is the human brain to focus on the given task. More simpler forms of idea notation such as simple bullet-point style lists may also be sufficient, or even more useful to less visually oriented persons.

One interesting aspect that has been somewhat neglected by sociology is the addictive nature of role playing games, which work with a system of experience points and "levels" to motivate the player to keep going; when he has gained enough points, he can advance to the next level, thereby getting new abilities and a higher status in the community, if any. While many electronic motivation systems have a basic concept of priorities, few explore the possibility of using actual scores as a motivational factor. However, some online communities that have nothing to do with gaming use similar systems; notably, the Everything2 collaborative writing community employs a complex voting/experience system. Perhaps such systems can also be used on a smaller scale.


Some authors, especially in the transhumanist movement, have suggested the use of "smart drugs", also known as nootropics, as "motivation-enhancers". The effects of many of these drugs on the brain are not well understood, and their legal status often makes open experimentation difficult. It is a fact that some of history's most productive artists have also been drug users, although it is not clear whether this correlation is also of a causative nature.

In Education

Motivation can have several effects on how student's learn and their behavior towards subject matter. It can: 1. Direct behavior toward particular goals 2. Lead to increased effort and energy 3. Increase initiation of, and persistence in, activities 4. Enhance cognitive processing 5. Determine what consequences are reinforcing 6. Lead to improved performance. This theory from Ormrod, Jeanne Ellis. "Educational Psychology: Developing Learners" Fourth Edition. Merrill Prentice Hall, 2003.

Is Money a Motivator?

Yes, at lower levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, such as Physiological needs, money is a motivator, however it tends to have a motivating effect on staff that lasts only for a short period. At higher levels of the hierarchy, praise, respect, recognition, empowerment and a sense of belonging are far more powerful motivators than money, as both Abraham Maslow and Douglas McGregor's Theory X and theory Y have demonstrated vividly.

Maslow has money at the lowest level of the hierarchy and shows other needs are better motivators to staff. McGregor places money in his Theory X category and feels it is a poor motivator. Praise and recognition are placed in the Theory Y category and are considered as stronger motivators than money.

Using Music as a Source of Primary Motivation

Music is defined in the English language as the art or science of combining vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion. Music is evident in every society across the world rectified in the primary years of man as a source of entertainment. Many can perhaps interpret music as 50 cent on Radio ones top 40, but real music has strong potential to be much more. There is a small hand full of individuals in the global population who can relate to music mentally, absorbing depending on their emotion a powerful source of motivation, these people are commonly renowned as composers and musical directors in the film sector. Real Music such as Harry Gregson- Williamss light of life and Hans Zimmers Now We Are Free, possess a powerful characteristic which when combined with the a powerful sample of cinematography can give the human witnessing the event a series of emotions. This can have adverse effects on the humans demeanour, characteristics and even the psychological mentality they have on life and other philosophical topics. Many people cannot conceive this emotion and power resulting in them finding other less dominant sources of power. However for people who do possess it, a whole new outlook on life may be adopted resulting in them taking a series of successful paths in their life. Every human being thinks in one way or an whether its deciding which credit card to use at the supermarket or deciding upon what you want to achieve in life they are all decisions. The difference is that the decisions like the one concerning the credit card are often instantaneous requiring very little thought input and the one regarding life requires much more. A decision, which requires a lot of thought, can be made over a long period of time from events with little thought or by perhaps listening to music and using it to asses life and the future. Music can take this form as well as film, to provide a drive or even the motivation to go through a series of sessions of critical thinking. These two inputs fused together can change someones attitude completely. This input of power can perhaps be interpreted and broken down in to the simple equation below:

Human Emotion + Music From influential Composers = Power/Overwhelming Emotions

Sadness + Thomas Newman or Fredric Chopin = Power/Overwhelming Emotions

Beauty (visual splendour) + Enigma or Deep Forest or Astrud Gilberto = Power (Adrenalin)

In life an individual may face a series of mental challenges that can be traced back to a fundamental human emotion. This mental challenge can be loss, anger or even pain but all can be influenced incredibly by the power of music. A persons feelings can be a large percentage due to the type of music they were listening to. For example the US Soldiers in Iraq listen to heavy metal to get their minds in a carefree frame, which enables them to unite and destroy. Its been scientifically proven that Mozart can increase the intellectual capabilities of a persons mind and the film The Pianist is a testimony to this power by portraying how one person can survive great torture by playing the piano. All this is evidence to this power, which can cause a person to adopt a particular mentality due to their emotion. The human being is gradually evolving and in the process learning more about some of the processes involved with life. This can be shown by music when the primary human beings used music as form of entertainment to subconsciously make them happy, to the 20th century where individuals have established some of the theories behind life and using musics potential to create emotions intentionally. This can typically be shown with a powerful piece of film. The key is to establish the mood/demeanour of the film so that music of the same demeanour and power can be inserted to form a very influential clip, which will has the potential to captivate millions. This is evident more and more on the television and in the cinema with more and more people are realising this effect and using it to produce a powerful effect, which can cause the person witnessing it to be overcome with emotion. This emotion penetrates the human mind causing the person witnessing it to be intrigued and memorised by what they have encountered. This feeling is of course power, which can lead to greater things. A film director will realise this and in affect undergo a relationship with a composer to fuse these two very influential forms together. The result is that everybody in the cinema watching the film will be overcome with emotions, which will lead him or her to establish a strong sense of adrenalin. As more and more film directors and musicians begin to establish this fusion the more people who get captivated by it. Film and music have great effects on each other. For example an image of a tree put with a simplistic tune may result in a somewhat unimpressed reaction causing the person viewing it to pass it straight out of their mind. However a powerful piece of imagery such as that of a person travelling through a frozen culture such as the Touregs in Northern Africa witnessing sights such as the crow like presence of a locals eyes in a dark shaded region of a building or a landscape shot of the natural beauty of the area such as the architecture of the mud buildings and the presence of the desert mixed with a piece of music such as Hans Zimmers Now We Are Free will result in a powerful climax which will consequently cause the viewer to feel the presence of a powerful emotion which will stick with them for a very long time.

See also

External links

fr:Motivation lt:Motyvacija pl:popęd (biologia) ru:Мотивация he:הנעה לעבודה


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