Motivation theories are presented here to prepare a foundation for learning how to motivate self and others. In the page on types of motivation we saw how our mental filters are the core neural networks that motivate us or drive our energies in a certain direction - toward happiness or pleasure.
Here we will look at some basic theories of motivation that might help to explain how and why we can have so much trouble actually motivating ourselves and others.
For example, if one of our mental filters is that we value working out and being in shape but we can't seem to find the time or energy to actually do it - what is it that stops us?
Perhaps the following brief summary of Cognitive Dissonance will help explain.
Motivation Theories - Cognitive Dissonance Theory
A cognition is any element of knowledge - an attitude, emotion, belief, value, behavior, etc. When two cognitions are in direct conflict with one another a state of anxiety is produced - dissonance is the term for the anxiety.
Compatible cognitions are consonant - i.e. they are in harmony.
A classic example of Cognitive Dissonance is holding the belief that "smoking is bad for you" while continuing the behavior of smoking. These two cognitions are in direct conflict with each other.
The belief that smoking is bad is part of one neural network - perhaps associated with health and fitness - while the behavior of smoking is part of another network having to do with tension management, how to hang with friends, or the like.
So, these cognitions exist in different locations in the brain. Both are trying to accomplish something important for the self - tension management and hanging with friends is important. When two cognitions are in conflict anxiety (dissonance) is produced and grows until it becomes stronger than the cognition with the lesser amount of resistance to change.
When this threshold is reached the subconscious mind is compelled to change, ignore, or modify the weaker of the two cognitions in order to dispel the anxiety. The processes of generalization, deletion, and distortion are used to acquire, invent, repress, or modify beliefs to fit better with the behavior - AKA Denial.
In the example of smoking and other addictions repression is a distortion that allows an offending belief that cannot be deleted - "smoking is bad for you" - to be ignored by pushing it out of awareness.
When the subconscious mind does this for you without your conscious awareness it's called repression. When you purposefully and consciously push it out of your awareness it's called suppression.
Motivation Theories - Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
The American psychologist Abraham Maslow devised a six-level hierarchy of needs that motivate or drive human behavior. I believe that each of these needs must be met in order for one to achieve happiness. Maslow progressively ranks human needs as follows:
Maslow suggests that each preceding need must be met - at least to some degree - before one can go on to the next level. For instance, a child may not be motivated to pay attention in class if she is preoccupied with hunger because she did not get any breakfast that morning.
Maslow refers to the first four levels as deficiency needs and the last two as growth needs. Deficiency needs that go unmet cause developmental deficits and pain. Unmet needs for growth cause apathy and stagnation - i.e. a lack of motivation.
Motivation Theories - Alderfer's ERG Theory
Alderfer takes Maslow's theory a little further by suggesting that the first two needs on Maslow's Hierarchy are Existence needs, the second two are needs for Relatedness and the third pair of needs are growth-oriented needs.
Alderfer's theory builds on Maslow's hierarchical model and states that these needs are the three primary motivator's in our lives...Hence, ERG theory.
Motivation Theories - Goal Theory
Goal Theory is built upon the assumption that people have drives to meet certain end states. They are motivated to do certain things as a means to achieve that end.
Goal theory suggests three main elements determine the degree of motivation generated...
Self-Determination Theory (SDT) is closely related to Maslow's Theory with the exception SDT suggests that people do not operate on auto-pilot... Instead, they rely heavily on nourishment and support from their social environment to function effectively.
SDT presupposes that all people have a built-in tendency toward growth and development...that they strive to master challenges and to integrate their experiences into a coherent sense of self. According to Self-Determination Theory there are three concepts that affect motivation:
Motivation Theories - Achievement Motivation Theory
David McClelland's Achievement Motivation Theory proposes that the three factors influencing motivation are the need to achieve, the need for power, and the need for affiliation. Each of these needs vary in intensity from one person to the next.
While we all experience each of these needs to some degree, we are usually motivated by one more than the others. This usually has to do with the rewards and reinforcements we received from the primary group in our childhood - i.e., Family.
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