Monday, February 28, 2011

Sources of Motivation

The variety of individual perceptions is equal to the number of sources of motivation and the amount of influence it has on the individual (Wernimont, Toren, & Kapell, 1970). Although there are distinct differences between extrinsic and intrinsic motivational factors, the degree to which individuals experience their weight cannot be neatly or generally categorized (Wernimont, et al., 1970). For some individuals, the intrinsic mechanism of spiritual discovery will overpower the drive to excel at work or attain mental prowess, wheras others find a physical challenge a substantial motivator (Deckers, 2010). The proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel" continually motivates some individuals. Whatever the genesis of the motivation, it is the desired result that perpetuates the behavior in movement toward the accomplishment (Deckers, 2010).

Motivation Defined

According to Deckers (2010), motivation is the process by which a person is moved into action. The behavior associated with motivation is internally motivated or incented by external factors and may not be immediate or spontaneous (Deckers, 2010). Motives are inextricably linked to incentives as accomplishing the goal provides the attainment of the incentive, which is the motivating factor in the behavior (Deckers, 2010). Motivation is a process that begins with an unfulfilled need that causes tension that prompts drive and then behavior that results in the satisfaction of the original need, consequently reducing or eliminating the tension ("Motivation," 2003).

Sources of Motivation

Sources of motivation include internal cues such as biological and psychological states, emotional responses, and other intrinsic elements such as self-esteem developed over time from personal life experiences (Crocker & Wolfe, 2001), or from an evolutionary perspective, through common history as a species (Deckers, 2010). External or environmental sources are events and situations that are available from the environment and are referred to as incentives and goals (Deckers, 2010). Deckers (2010) defines environmental motivations as incentives and goals that pull an individual toward a specific result, and internal biological and psychological motivations push an individual into action. According to Becker, Mcelvany, and Kortenbruck (2010), there is a distinct difference in individual response to intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. Some intrinsically motivated individuals will achieve deeper levels of understanding and accomplishment, although extrinsic motivating factors serve to accomplish a variety of goals for others (Becker et al., 2010). Emotions are a source of motivation as are external incentives such as money, desire for specific position, and positive regard by others.

The Relationship between Motivation and Behavior

Motivation is goal-oriented, and behavior is the vehicle by which one can meet or accomplish the goal (Deckers, 2005). When individuals are motivated, they initiate specific behavior to meet needs to reach their goal (Deckers, 2010). Behavior occurs from a desire to meet a perceived need that one is motivated to satisfy or fulfill, and the motivation is fulfilled by performing behavior aligned with accomplishing the specific goal (Deckers, 2010). For example, if the need is hunger, this need becomes the motivating factor, which is fulfilled or satisfied by a behavior that will result in eating. Need or desire is the prelude to behavior that motivates toward accomplishing the goal to quench the desire or need (Deckers, 2010).

Motivation Exhibited in Behavior

Several reasons exist for the extent to which motivation is exhibited in behavior (Becker et al., 2010). In some situations, a lack of self-control, misunderstanding the appropriate social protocol, the strength of the motivating emotion, and other mitigating factors determine the extent to which the motivation is apparent in behavior (Becker et al., 2010). Observable exhibition of motivation in behavior is apparent in a person working hard at a job because he is highly motivated by earning money. If a woman is motivated by the attention of attractive men, she will be motivated to act in a specific manner that she believes will draw their attention. If individuals are motivated by altruism, they will be inclined to seek out those in need. Emotions, especially when they are strong, are readily apparent in behavior (Crocker & Wolve, 2001). Duration and persistence are observable motivational attributes exhibited in the behavior of the man who spends many years learning his trade until he becomes a master (Deckers, 2010). The motivation becomes apparent in behavior as it is directly related to the motivation because it accomplishes the goal. Motivation moves a person into action, which becomes behavior that is aligned with the motivation (Deckers, 2010).


Sources of motivation are as varied as the individual from whom they emanate, as are the varying degrees and length of term in which they hold their incentive. In the continuum of neurological and other biological processes that enable and compel us to behave, there are emotional and other intrinsic and external motivating factors that drive us (Deckers, 2010). It is by these processes that humans motivate and are motivated to behave according to conscious and unconscious motives that maintain the species and meet evolutionary and personal needs and desires (Wickens, 2005). In the study of biological, psychological, and environmental variables that comprise motivation, psychology can determine the contributions of neurological, mental, and material incentives that motivate individuals (Deckers, 2010). In the application of understanding these fundamental drives, the psychological sciences can assist in alleviating dysfunction and quelling maladaptive behaviors that rob the human psyche of the normal and positive aspects of human motivation and behavior.


Becker, M., Mcelvany, N., & Kortenbruck, M. (2010). Intrinsic and extrinsic reading motivation as predictors of reading literacy: A longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Psychology. doi: 10.1037/a0020084

Crocker, J., & Wolfe, C. T. (2001). Contingencies of self-worth. Psychological Review, 108(3), 593-623. doi: 10.1037//0033-295X.108.3.593
Deckers, L. (2010). Motivation: Biological, Psychological, and Environmental. 3rd ed. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Motivation. (2003). In The New Penguin Business Dictionary. Retrieved from

Wernimont, P. F., Toren, P., & Kapell, H. (1970). Comparison of sources of personal satisfaction and of work motivation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 54(1), 95-102. doi: 10.1037/h0028663

Wickens A.P. (2005). Foundations of Biopsychology (2nd ed.). New York: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

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