Motives, as defined, encompass internal and external factors that stimulate desire and energy in us to be interested and committed to a job, role, topic, or to make an effort to attain a goal (Ryan and Deci, 2000).
Motives vary from person to person, as it’s closely tied to personal goals, values, and belief systems. This dynamic process involves the interaction of both unconscious goals (like basic drives and needs) and conscious objectives like personal aspirations and societal expectations.
Motivated individuals stay focused on the task, tend to put more effort, and display optimistic attitude (Wlodkowski, 1985). It is essential to understand that motive in itself is not the behavior but it influences our choices and our reactions to challenges and rewards.
1. Achievement Motive: This refers to the drive to excel, advance, or accomplish tasks that challenge us. A student who aims for excellent academic grades to get into a prestigious university demonstrates this motive. The student’s desire to achieve fuels their motivation to study and perform well in exams.
2. Affiliation Motive: This motive drives people to establish, maintain, or restore positive emotional relationships and to be involved in groups. For instance, a person may join a club or community group with the incentive that they may feel connected with others who share similar interests. This affiliation motive can direct a person’s actions towards nurturing social relationships.
3. Intrinsic Motive: This is the drive to do something for the sheer enjoyment of the activity itself. A musician who plays music simply for the love of creating melodies demonstrates intrinsic motivation. Regardless of external rewards, the act of playing music brings personal satisfaction and fulfillment.
4. Power Motive: This involves the drive to have control or influence over others or situations, and is an example of an extrinsic motive. A person who aspires to a leadership position in an organization, for instance, shows this motive. Here, the motivation stems from the desire to direct the actions of others or shape outcomes.
5. Avoidance Motive: This type of motivation propels individuals to steer clear of negative outcomes or unpleasant situations. For example, a person might study diligently to avoid failing an exam. Their primary motive is not necessarily to learn but to evade the adverse consequence of failing.
6. Recognition Motive: Some people are motivated by the desire for fame, public recognition, or social status. A person might work tirelessly to excel in their field, driven by the prospect of receiving an award or honor. Their actions are fueled by the desire to be acknowledged for their efforts and accomplishments.
7. Curiosity Motive: This is the drive that leads people to explore, learn, and gain new knowledge or experience. For instance, a person might travel to an unknown country purely driven by curiosity about the culture, people, and landscapes of that location. Their motive stems from the pleasure of seeking new experiences or learning about the unfamiliar.
8. Safety and Security Motive: This refers to actions driven by the need for physical survival, stability, and protection against harm. For example, a person might take up a stable, although less exciting, job over a risky opportunity. This decision is motivated by the desire for steady income and job security.
9. Competence Motive: This is the drive to be effective in dealing with the environment. For instance, a chess player constantly practicing and refining their strategies to win games happens because they are motivated to increase their proficiency. The considerable time and effort spent are due to the desire to improve and achieve competence.
10. Self-Esteem Motive: This refers to the motivation to develop confidence, respect, and a positive self-image. An individual might choose to engage in activities where their skills are evident, for example, an excellent basketball player consistently participating in local tournaments to maintain and amplify their self-esteem.
11. Altruistic Motive: Individuals motivated by altruism are driven by the desire to help, serve and improve the wellbeing of others. Consider, for instance, a person who volunteers at a local homeless shelter. They are motivated not by personal gain, but by the satisfaction derived from lifting others’ circumstances.
12. Adventure Motive: This is the drive to seek out novel, risky, and uncertain experiences. For instance, an individual might quit their job to travel the world, drawn to the thrill and unpredictability that such an endeavor presents. This decision is driven by their yearning for adventure and the accompanying experiences that challenge the known.
13. Mastery Motive: This refers to the motivation to gain expertise or mastery in a particular field. A person who pursues a Ph.D. degree to specialize in a specific domain is driven by mastery motivation. They aim to gain profound knowledge and expert skills in their chosen field.
14. Growth Motive: Here, individuals seek personal growth, improvement, and self-development. For instance, an individual might decide to learn a new language or undertake a complex project. They do this not for external rewards, but because they appreciate the intrinsic growth that such challenges offer.
See Also: The Importance of Growth Mindsets
15. Financial Motive: This is a compelling prompt that influences numerous people to make certain choices. An individual, for instance, might decide to invest in the stock market with the aim of growing their financial resources. They are motivated mainly by financial gain, aspiring to amass wealth to ensure a secure and comfortable lifestyle.
16. Health Motive: The health motive drives actions geared towards maintaining or improving physical well-being. A person might choose to follow a strictly organic diet, considering the perceived health benefits. With this motivation, they’re spurred to make choices that they believe will contribute to their overall health and longevity.
17. Social Motive: The social motive drives people to seek companionship and create friendships. It can be seen in a person who attends numerous social events, not for the events themselves but for the opportunities to meet new people. This motivation fuels their tendency to be outgoing and sociable.
18. Autonomy Motive: This is the drive for self-direction and independence. An individual might choose to start their own business so as not to answer to a boss. They are motivated by the desire for freedom and the ability to make decisions independently.
Motives in Psychological Theory
In the field of psychology, motives are closely linked to emotions that affect behavior and actions (Deckers, 2018).
Psychology sees motive as the vital force that pushes an individual to act and think in a certain way. These are often considered the root cause of all human behaviors.
The complex notion of motives forms the basis of several theories of motivation that explores the “what” and “why” of human behavior. These include: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory, Alderfer’s ERG Theory, and Vroom’s Expectancy Theory provide different perspectives on human motives (Steers, Mowday, & Shapiro, 2004).
How Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Conceptualizes Motives
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs places human needs into five different levels: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization (Maslow, 1943).
It argues that we’re first motivated to meet our most basic needs, and will only be motivated to meet our higher needs once our basic needs are addressed.
The levels are as below:
|1. Physiological||Breathing, food, water, shelter, sleep, excretion||To maintain bodily and physical functionality|
|2. Safety||Personal security, employment, health, property||To feel secure and safe from dangers|
|3. Love/ Belonging||Friendship, family, intimacy, sense of connection||To give and receive affection, feel part of a group|
|4. Esteem||Self-esteem, recognition, respect, status||To achieve, be competent, gain approval & recognition|
|5. Self-actualization||Morality, creativity, spontaneity, acceptance of facts||To fulfill one’s unique potential and experience personal growth|
Other Theories of Motivation:
Understanding motives has practical implications, especially in fields like education, business, or psychology. Whether it’s teachers trying to motivate students, employers motivating employees, or psychologists trying to understand their patients, comprehending motives plays an essential role. It aids in developing strategies to boost motivation, improve performance, and elevate satisfaction.
In essence, motives, while complex and multi-faceted, are a critical aspect of driving behaviors and actions to achieve desired results or goals. The study and understanding of this concept have broad applications across various aspects of human life.
Deckers, L. (2018). Motivation: Biological, psychological, and environmental. New York, NY: Routledge.
Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370–396. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0054346
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 54–67. https://doi.org/10.1006/ceps.1999.1020
Steers, R. M., Mowday, R. T., & Shapiro, D. L. (2004). The future of work motivation theory. Academy of Management Review, 29(3), 379-387. https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.2004.13670978
Wlodkowski, R. J. (1985). Motivation and teaching: A practical guide. Teachers College Press.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]