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in psychology, the intention of achieving a goal, leading to goal-directed behavior. Some human activity seems to be best explained by postulating an inner directing drive. While a drive is often considered to be an innate biological mechanism that determines the organism's activity (see instinctinstinct,
term used generally to indicate an innate tendency to action, or pattern of behavior, elicited by specific stimuli and fulfilling vital needs of an organism. Examples of almost purely instinctive behavior are found in the behavior of many lower animals, in which
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), a motive is defined as an innate mechanism modified by learninglearning,
in psychology, the process by which a relatively lasting change in potential behavior occurs as a result of practice or experience. Learning is distinguished from behavioral changes arising from such processes as maturation and illness, but does apply to motor skills,
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. In this view human drives serve to satisfy biological needs, such as hunger, while motives serve to satisfy needs that are not directly tied to the body requirements, such as companionship. Learned motives are sometimes linked with drives; e.g., the motivation to achieve social status is often viewed as a derivitive of the sex drive. Motives are sometimes classed as deficiency motives, such as the need to remove the physiological deficiency of hunger or thirst, or abundancy motives, i.e., motives to attain greater satisfaction and stimulation. American psychologist Abraham MaslowMaslow, Abraham Harold
, 1908–70, American psychologist, b. Brooklyn, New York, Ph.D. Univ. of Wisconsin (1934). He taught at Brooklyn College from 1937, then became head of the psychology department at Brandeis Univ. (1951–69).
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 has classified motives into five developmental levels, with the satisfaction of physiological needs most important and esteem and self-actualization needs least important. According to Maslow, the most basic needs must be satisfied before successively higher needs can emerge. Cognitive psychologists such as Albert Bandura have suggested that individual mental processes, such as beliefs, play an important role in motivation, through the expectation of certain reinforcements for certain behaviors. Studies have shown that humans and other animals are likely to seek sensory stimulation, even where there may be no foreseeable goal. In recent years, the use of various tools for brain scanning has worked toward the discovery of a neurological basis for motivation.


The intentions, desires, goals, and needs that determine human and animal behavior. An inquiry is made into a person's motives in order to explain that person's actions.

Different roles have been assigned to motivational factors in the causation of behavior. Some have defined motivation as a nonspecific energizing of all behavior. Others define it as recruiting and directing behavior, selecting which of many possible actions the organism will perform. The likely answer is that both aspects exist. More specific determinants of action may be superimposed on a dimension of activation or arousal that affects a variety of actions nonselectively. The situation determines what the animal does; arousal level affects the vigor, promptness, or persistence with which the animal does it.

There is a question as to how behavior can be guided by a state or event (goal attainment) that does not yet exist. Modern approaches to this question lean heavily on cognitive concepts. Mammals, birds, and even some insects can represent to themselves a nonexistent state of affairs. They can represent what a goal object is (search images): a chimpanzee may show behavioral signs of surprise if a different food is substituted for the usual one. They can represent where it is (cognitive maps): a digger wasp remembers the location of its nest relative to arbitrary landmarks, and will fly to the wrong place if the landmarks are moved. If this idea is generalized, motivated behavior can be thought of as guided by a feedback control system with a set point. A set point establishes a goal state which the control system seeks to bring about. Behavior is controlled, not by present external or internal stimuli alone, but by a comparison between the existing state of affairs and a desired state of affairs, that is, the set point or goal, registered or specified within the brain. The animal then acts to reduce the difference between the existing and the desired state of affairs. This way of looking at motivation helps bridge the gap between simple motives in animals and complex ones in humans. If to be motivated is to do whatever is necessary to bring about an imagined state of affairs, then human motives can literally be as complex, and be projected as far into the future, as human imaginations permit. See Cognition

Motivation and emotion are closely related. Indeed, it has been argued that emotions are the true motivators and that other factors internal, situational, and cognitive take hold of behavior by way of the emotions they evoke. In the simplest case, pleasure and displeasure have been recognized for centuries as having motivational force. In more complex cases, the role of cognitive operations, such as how an individual feels about an event, as well as what is done about it, can depend heavily on how an individual thinks about it.

The culture in which an individual is raised has a powerful effect on how the individual behaves. It has been argued that culture teaches its members what to believe are the consequences of a specific action (cognitive), and how the individuals should feel about those consequences or about the actions themselves (emotional/motivational).


(PSYCHOLOGY) the energizer of behaviour. This may be a physiological need, such as hunger, or it may be emotional, such as love, or it may involve the cognitive appraisal of a situation. Motivation may be intrinsic, the fulfilment of the need leading to personal satisfaction, or extrinsic, where the rewards are external to the individual rather than personally significant. See also MASLOW, NEEDS(S), VOCABULARY OF MOTIVES.



in literature. (1) A compositional device used to explain the circumstances that prompt an author to relate a story, and to provide the internal logic of the whole narrative or to justify the introduction of individual events or scenes. Motivation ensures that all the elements of a narrative cohere into a unified whole and that every episode in the narrative is introduced in its natural sequence. The narrative may be motivated by a story told to the author; thus, M. A. Sholokhov’s A Man’s Fate is Andrei Sokolov’s narrative about his own life as told to the author. The author’s telling of a story may also be prompted by his meetings with other persons or by various kinds of documents that fall into his hands. The author’s introduction of individual episodes into his narrative may be motivated by personal reminiscences, dreams, the adventures of the main characters, and other devices.

(2) The rationale for the characters and situations depicted in literary works. The inner world of literary characters, as well as their behavior and actions, may be motivated by one or more factors: social, cultural and historical, psychological, or everyday experiences. In this sense, the motivations determine the writer’s creative method.


The comparatively spontaneous drive, force, or incentive, which partly determines the direction and strength of the response of a higher organism to a given situation; it arises out of the internal state of the organism.
References in periodicals archive ?
Motivationally, "honest" physicians who terminally sedate, withdraw care from, or provide lethal medication to bring about the death of a willing patient know their actions would in any case have the same intention: to bring about the death of the patient.
function: It summarizes and categorizes motivationally relevant factors
Second, like Mitchell, the study used statistics as the content area, a subject that many students find difficult to understand and motivationally unappealing.
In fact, many theorists (Berlyne, 1960; Kagan, 1972) have held that feelings of bewilderment and confusion motivationally prompt individuals to improve their causal understanding.
In short, on these grounds it seems rather obvious that, under the present stability framework, the commitment of member states to avoid excessive deficits is only a motivationally credible commitment as long as they continue to want to honor it at the time of performance, and that generates limited confidence.
Incentives are motivationally related rewards attendant to profit objectives.
Loanwords usually belong to the historical period and are thus too young, while reconstructed roots involve very early periods but are usually motivationally opaque and thus not very revealing for a cultural analysis.
There is no reason in principle to believe that the nation-state is uniquely equipped, either institutionally or motivationally, to uphold rights or to impose obligations.
Efficacy of an Individualized, Motivationally Tailored Physical Activity Intervention.
With cautions such as "slow down or they'll expect it all the time," or suggestions that the newcomer might make the other employees look bad, long-timers who themselves may be motivationally plateaued, can de-motivate fellow employees (peers and direct reports) suppressing both current and future effort levels.
With cautions such as "slow down or they'll expect it all the time," or suggestions that the newcomer might make the other employees look bad, long-timers, who themselves may be motivationally plateaued, can de-motivate fellow employees (peers and direct reports), suppressing both current and future effort levels.
When working with families that are blocked motivationally it is important to go a step beyond "struggle-and working-through.