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Motivation is an important part of human psychology. Motivation makes a person want to work towards a goal. It makes people want to take action. For example, hunger is a motivation which causes a desire to eat. Motivation is the purpose or psychological cause of an action.[1]

With animals, motivation is caused by basic needs. These needs can be the needs for food, water, warmth, safety, mating, protecting the young, defending territory, or needs to escape pain and threats. The drive to do these things is instinctive, inborn, and triggered by the situation an animal is in.

Compared to other animals, motivation in humans is more complicated. Like other animals, humans also have the instinct to find food and water and avoid pain. However, humans are also capable of having long-term plans that require motivation over a long period of time.

Drives[change | change source]

A drive or desire is a deficiency or need that activates behaviour aimed at a goal or an incentive.[2][3]

Drives may arise inside or outside an organism. External drives for humans are rewards and punishments, and can be quite subtle: a frown or a smile may be sufficient for a young person.

Drives often occur within the individual and may not need external stimuli to encourage the behaviour. An example is the sexual drive which is driven by our hormone system.[1] The desire for sex is wired deep into the brain of all human beings as glands secrete hormones that travel through the blood to the brain and stimulates the onset of sexual desire.[1] The process is started by the brain's hypothalamus, which releases pulses of GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone). This starts a whole chain of reactions which we call "puberty". Longer term, the hormone supporting male sex drive is testosterone, and for women testosterone and oestrogen.

By contrast, outside rewards and stimuli are used in training animals by giving them treats when they perform a trick correctly. The treat motivates the animals to perform the trick consistently, even later when the treat is removed from the process. Children are motivated to learn by approval of friendly adults, and by their own pleasure at success.

Emotions[change | change source]

Motivation and emotion are intertwined: "Emotional states tend to have motivational properties".[4]

Unconscious motivation[change | change source]

Not all motivated behaviour is the result of conscious decisions. Freudian psychology suggests that much behaviour is motivated by "unconscious factors, working through a network of defence mechanisms, symbolic disguises and psychological cloaks".[4]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Schacter D.L; Gilbert D.L. and Wegner D.M. 2011. Psychology, 2nd ed. New York: Worth.
  2. "Drive". Retrieved 22 March 2013. 
  3. Morgan C.T. 1959. Psychological theory of drive. In Koch, Sigmund (ed) Psychology: a study of a science, vol 1.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Reber, Authur S. & Emily S. 2001. The Penguin dictionary of psychology. Penguin, p448. ISBN 0-140-51451-1