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What Is Motivation?

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Motivation

A reward such as a trophy represents a type of extrinsic motivation.

Image by Tomasz Szkopiñski
Definition:

Motivation is defined as the process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. Motivation is what causes us to act, whether it is getting a glass of water to reduce thirst or reading a book to gain knowledge.

It involves the biological, emotional, social and cognitive forces that activate behavior. In everyday usage, the term motivation is frequently used to describe why a person does something. For example, you might say that a student is so motivated to get into a clinical psychology program that she spends every night studying.

Psychologists have proposed a number of different theories of motivation, including drive theory, instinct theory and humanistic theory.

Components of Motivation

There are three major components to motivation: activation, persistence and intensity. Activation involves the decision to initiate a behavior, such as enrolling in a psychology class. Persistence is the continued effort toward a goal even though obstacles may exist, such as taking more psychology courses in order to earn a degree although it requires a significant investment of time, energy and resources. Finally, intensity can be seen in the concentration and vigor that goes into pursuing a goal. For example, one student might coast by without much effort, while another student will study regularly, participate in discussions and take advantage of research opportunities outside of class.

Extrinsic Vs. Intrinsic Motivation

Different types of motivation are frequently described as being either extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic motivations are those that arise from outside of the individual and often involve rewards such as trophies, money, social recognition or praise. Intrinsic motivations are those that arise from within the individual, such as doing a complicated cross-word puzzle purely for the personal gratification of solving a problem.

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