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Motivation is the activation or energization of goal-oriented behavior. Motivation may be internal or external. The term is generally used for humans but, theoretically, it can also be used to describe the causes for animal behavior as well. This article refers to human motivation. According to various theories, motivation may be rooted in the basic need to minimize physical pain and maximize pleasure, or it may include specific needs such as eating and resting, or a desired object, hobby, goal, state of being, ideal, or it may be attributed to less-apparent reasons such as altruism, morality, or avoiding mortality.

For lessons on the topic of Motivation, follow this link.

Motivation concepts

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation comes from rewards inherent to a task or activity itself - the enjoyment of a puzzle or the love of playing.[1] This form of motivation has been studied by social and educational psychologists since the early 1970s. Research has found that it is usually associated with high educational achievement and enjoyment by students. Intrinsic motivation has been explained by Fritz Heider's attribution theory, Bandura's work on self-efficacy [2], and Ryan and Deci's cognitive evaluation theory. Students are likely to be intrinsically motivated if they:

  • attribute their educational results to internal factors that they can control (e.g. the amount of effort they put in),
  • believe they can be effective agents in reaching desired goals (i.e. the results are not determined by luck),
  • are interested in mastering a topic, rather than just rote-learning to achieve good grades.

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation comes from outside of the performer. Money is the most obvious example, but coercion and threat of punishment are also common extrinsic motivations.

In sports, the crowd may cheer on the performer, which may motivate him or her to do well. Trophies are also extrinsic incentives. Competition is in general extrinsic because it encourages the performer to win and beat others, not to enjoy the intrinsic rewards of the activity.

Social psychological research has indicated that extrinsic rewards can lead to overjustification and a subsequent reduction in intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic incentives sometimes can weaken the motivation as well. In one classic study done by Green & Lepper, children who were lavishly rewarded for drawing with felt-tip pens later showed little interest in playing with the pens again.[1]


In economics, profit motivation is to service motivation what fear is to love in religion. But the profit motive must not be suddenly destroyed or removed; it keeps many otherwise slothful mortals hard at work. It is not necessary, however, that this social energy arouser be forever selfish in its objectives.

The profit motive of economic activities is altogether base and wholly unworthy of an advanced order of society; nevertheless, it is an indispensable factor throughout the earlier phases of civilization. Profit motivation must not be taken away from men until they have firmly possessed themselves of superior types of nonprofit motives for economic striving and social serving--the transcendent urges of superlative wisdom, intriguing brotherhood, and excellency of spiritual attainment.[2]

Further reading

  • Baumeister, R. F.; Vohs, K. D. (2004), Handbook of self-regulation: Research, theory, and applications, New York: Guilford Press, pp. 574, ISBN 1572309911
  • Carver, C. S.; Scheier, M. F. (2001), On the self-regulation of behavior, New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 460, ISBN 0521000998
  • Cervone, D.; Shadel, W. G.; Smith, Ronald E.; Fiori, Marina (2006), "Self-Regulation: Reminders and Suggestions from Personality Science", Applied Psychology: An International Review 55 (3): 333-385, doi:10.1111/j.1464-0597.2006.00261.x
  • Fishbein, M.; Ajzen, I. (1975), Belief, attitude, intention, and behavior: An introduction to theory and research, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley
  • Gollwitzer, P. M. (1999), "Implementation intentions: Strong effects of simple plans", American Psychologist 54: 493-503

External links