Motive: what is it in psychology. System and types of motives

What is motive


- this is a process that controls human behavior, contributing to its organization, direction, activity and stability. It is also believed that a motive is a certain generalized image of material or ideal objects that are valuable to an individual.

Achieving these objects is the meaning of his activity for him. To a person, a motive is presented in the form of special experiences that can be both positive (when expecting to achieve these objects) and negative (when realizing the incompleteness of one’s position, the lack of this object). Schopenhauer was the first to use the concept of “motivation” in psychology.

Nowadays, the word “motivation” in psychology is understood in different ways. Some researchers believe that this is a set of processes responsible for motivation and activity; while others believe that it is a purely mental phenomenon, representing a collection of motives.

What is motivation in psychology in essence? This concept is used where they talk about achieving a certain goal and specific ways to achieve this. It is known that the same goal can be achieved in different ways. So, if a person wants to become rich, then he can get a job in a prestigious company, open his own business, write a good book, engage in criminal activity... And vice versa - the same action can be performed for different purposes. In addition, the desire to achieve a specific goal can also be explained by one’s own considerations. Why does a person want to get rich? Someone wants to buy a mansion by the sea, someone wants to get married, someone wants to professionally do what they love (and not something that just generates income). In such cases, they say that a person is guided by certain motives.

Usually, a person organizing some kind of activity and achieving a certain goal is guided by several motives at once, which is why psychologists talk about one or another motivation. The problem of motivation in psychology is one of the most difficult. Often a person himself does not realize exactly what motives he was guided by when he performed some actions. There are hidden motives associated with some memories, fears, etc. Such motives are not reflected in consciousness and act on a subconscious level; a person only feels some kind of vague tension, discomfort, which he strives to overcome with the help of certain actions.

Thus, a goal is what we want to achieve, and a motive is the reason why we want to achieve it. Motivation in psychology is understood as both the set of motives that control an individual’s behavior and the process of this control itself.

Theories: briefly

Maslow's motivations

Based on the pyramid of needs he described.

Maslow believed that the simplest needs are primary in the hierarchy ; a person pays great attention to them.

The scientist also focused on the fact that satisfying a higher need is impossible without satisfying the previous one (a person will not be able to engage in self-development if he is hungry or is in an uncomfortable environment).


According to this concept, the very fact of the presence of a need is not enough to form a motive . A person expects that the method he has chosen to fulfill a need is effective.

He hopes that a specific method will help him achieve his goal. Motivation theory considers the problem of a person’s choice from many alternative ways to achieve a goal. According to the theory, the more clearly a person sees a future result, the more motivated he is to obtain it.


According to it, a person compares the effort spent with the final result. And if he spent more resources than he received at the output, then discomfort arises.

Discomfort is transformed into a sense of justice. In simple words, the question arises: “Why did I work so much and get so little?”

Then the person begins to look for a way to restore justice: either deliberately make less effort (since the work will not be appreciated anyway), or demands “extra pay” for the effort (increase in salary, promotion, bonus or other status attributes).

This theory of motives is used in management and considers, first of all, the motivation of employees.

Types of motives in psychology

Psychologists identify a large number of types of motives, dividing them into several categories. It is not easy to create such a classification, since there are a lot of circumstances that guide a person; Each direction of psychology and each school has its own system. However, the most widespread division of motives into four groups.

Internal and external motives

These types are important not only in terms of the choice of means and ways to achieve the goal, but also for the self-realization of human individuality. Internal motives are such as interests, hobbies, the need for positive emotions and avoidance of negative ones, the desire to increase self-esteem, etc. These circumstances are related to the person himself and his attitude to his activities.

External motivation is circumstances that do not depend on a person and his desires and lie outside his personal sphere. These may be motives such as public opinion, a change in weather, the desire to get a higher grade or avoid punishment, etc.

External and internal motivations can work simultaneously, or they can act separately. For example, a student diligently does his homework. He can do this both because he is interested in the topic, and in order to get a good grade, please his parents, brag to his friends, etc.

External motivation plays a fairly large role in human life, since most people need a certain socialization. Such motives are often more effective than internal ones; this is the same “kick in the ass” without which some people will not do anything at all. However, for personal development, internal motives are still the most preferable. Only with their help can you do your work truly productively. All creative activity is based primarily on internal motivation.

Positive and negative motives

Like needs, drives are associated with emotions. A person in his actions can be driven by the desire to receive pleasure, pleasure, and then this is a positive motivation, or he can also be driven by the desire to avoid punishment, pain, fear and other negative experiences, and then this is a negative motivation.

Researchers cannot yet definitively say which of these motives are more effective in achieving a goal. Negative motivation can encourage one to overcome obstacles, endure minor inconveniences, and work until exhaustion; but it also destroys a person who will never truly love or understand his business. Therefore, positive motives still seem more preferable.

Sustainable and unstable motives

Stable motivations are those that are based on human needs and do not require any additional reinforcement. Such motives have existed for quite a long time. Unsustainable motivation changes quickly. Thus, the internal motivations of the individual are stable, since changes in worldview, interests, and tastes occur rarely and gradually. External motivation, on the contrary, is unstable, since the demands of society, the mood of others, and the weather outside change quickly.

Achieving success

This is a separate type of motivation that has become relevant recently. Modern society sets a person up for success from childhood. It is not prestigious to be unsuccessful; success brings with it material well-being, public recognition, and other benefits. Success increases a person's social status.

It would seem that every person wants to achieve success. However, in reality, there are many obstacles on the way to achieving it, which sometimes discourage the desire to achieve success altogether. One of the reasons for this is a person’s lack of understanding of why he needs to achieve this goal. It happens that the set goal is too far away and gets lost among the many obstacles that arise; in this case, it is advisable to break the achievement of this success into several intermediate goals.

Often achieving great success involves leaving the so-called comfort zone. This means sacrificing something small in order to get something much bigger in the end; the ability to take risks, endure small troubles with the expectation that these problems will be more than compensated for when success is achieved. And this is where many potentially successful people give up.

Often the “comfort zone” is presented as a physical, mental, ideological or spiritual space in which a person feels good and comfortable, he does not suffer and, it would seem, is provided with everything he needs. In fact, psychologists understand something different by this concept. For some people, the “comfort zone” is associated precisely with suffering, inconvenience, pain, and leaving this zone can relieve suffering and bring happiness. But a person does not want to make this exit; he feels “good” when he feels bad. What is the reason for this paradox?

This situation is perfectly illustrated in the famous play “Dragon” by E. Schwartz, based on which a film was made in the late 80s. The inhabitants of the fairy-tale city come to terms with the fact that a terrible dragon has established dictatorial rule over them, who sets his own rules and, in particular, regularly demands that the most beautiful girls in the city be given to him. When a brave knight appears and kills the dragon and gives the inhabitants freedom, they immediately... elect a new dictator who makes them suffer in the same way. It turned out that the residents could not make an effort to learn to live without any dictators and suffering: in their minds, freedom, thinking, responsibility and hard work seem to be even greater suffering than the insane rules of this or that dictator, which one can get used to. The dragon freed people from the need to think and gave them, albeit unfair and deceitful, but a simple and understandable picture of the world, which was enough to learn by heart.

Concept and functions

The term motivation comes from the Latin word movere, which translates as “to move.” This concept has several interpretations:

  1. Inspiration to action.
  2. Dynamic psychophysiological process. It helps control behavior. Activity, stability, direction, organization are determined.
  3. The ability of an individual to satisfy desires through activities.

Main functions:

  1. Stimulating - encourages an individual to perform certain actions. Motivation will be present until the individual gets what he needs.
  2. Directing - redirects energy to the desired object. Behavioral strategies depend on this function.
  3. Incentive - causes a state of need, in which the mobilization of energy begins. Behavior changes, increased activity in actions appears.
  4. Regulatory - the nature of behavior is predetermined by motive.

Many people confuse motive with goal or need, but these concepts have different interpretations. Needs are a subconscious desire to get rid of discomfort. A goal is the result of a person’s conscious choice and direction of action.

Types of Human Motivation

Such types of motivation as “carrot” and “stick” are widely known. This is nothing more than an idea of ​​negative and positive motives. These principles have long been used in economics, politics, management, education and other areas, including everyday life.

It is interesting that these types of motivations can characterize not only an individual, but also a certain society. It is known, for example, that since ancient times the Russian consciousness has been more characterized by “stick” motivation than “carrot” motivation. This is even reflected in the proverbs: “Until thunder strikes, a man will not cross himself.” A similar character of the Russian person was noted by researchers of culture and even religion. Thus, one church historian said that Russian Orthodox people have long believed not so much in God as in the devil, and in Russian religious (and for the most part folk-religious) culture, thousands of ways and advice have arisen on how to avoid meeting with evil spirits; at the same time, original Orthodoxy condemns such a practice, because if a person believes in “an all-powerful God,” then he should not be afraid of evil spirits.

“Gingerbread” is largely a Western system of motifs. Thus, in European countries there are a number of incentives for citizens who strictly comply with the law, and a relatively mild system of punishments for those who violate the laws. In our country, the opposite is true: practically nothing is provided for law-abiding citizens, but the system of punishments is extensive, confusing, cruel and clumsy.

However, in modern Western society the role of the “stick” in certain areas is also growing. There, cruel treatment of children and violation of discipline in enterprises are severely condemned. The existing problems, say, in public health care in themselves are a “stick” for Europeans, encouraging them to work hard to pay for private medical services.

Which of these motives are most effective? Each country and each people has its own answer to this question. History shows that European society was favorably influenced by the widespread increase in the “carrot”, that is, the development of positive motives; but opposite trends led to revolutions, strikes, spontaneous and organized mass protests. This has been evident in European history for centuries.

In modern Singapore, the “whip” played a key role in the prosperity of society. There are a great many restrictions and prohibitions in this city-state, and in order to maintain impeccable order, punishments such as caning are widely used. There are no “carrots” for citizens here. And it seems strange to many of us how such methods have led Singapore to an economic and social miracle, high standards of living, social cohesion (and this in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country with a high population density) and the absence of mass discontent.

The countries of Eastern Europe, the USA, and China stand out in that their societies maintain a certain balance of incentives. For Eastern Europe, this was especially noticeable during the years of the Soviet bloc: citizens loyal to the state regime, who worked conscientiously and cared about their high “moral character” (from the point of view of the authorities), were guaranteed a fairly high standard of living, a certain degree of civil liberties, provision of consumer goods. And next to this is the brutal persecution of dissidents, dissidents, “parasites,” and the condemnation of an immoral way of life, elevated to ideology. Something similar could be seen in these countries both before and after the “Soviet era.” Only people who were characterized by a struggle between opposing systems of motives could build such a society. To compare this with the Western European system, just look at the prisons in these countries: Norwegian or Dutch ones are more reminiscent of resort hotels, and Polish or Romanian ones are more like a concentration camp.

This makes some sense. In the cultures of different countries, the image of a prison is given the role of a kind of “scarecrow”, with the help of which some people try to motivate others, thereby controlling their behavior. In Russia, the USA, China and the countries of Eastern Europe, a prison is not a correctional institution, but an “institution for the execution of punishments,” and its task is to oppress and destroy the individual, to destroy the criminal morally and often physically. And only the desire not to “slide” to the point of ending up behind bars gives the average person in these countries the impetus to perform socially useful actions (work, provide for their family, respect others, do not steal, do not kill, etc.). The first opportunity to avoid a prison sentence motivates a typical resident of these countries to commit a crime.

The behavior of Europeans is subject to different principles. Apparently, a prison term does not frighten them: after all, the existing restrictions in the prisons there do not humiliate the prisoner as an individual, the prison staff show him a certain respect. But at the same time, the discipline of Europeans, their politeness, and desire to work hard (but not overwork) is amazing. If you leave a wallet with money on a bench in some German city, then, most likely, a week later you will find it there completely untouched (currently the situation is much different due to the abundance of migrants in Germany and other European countries who have completely different psyche). The reason is that the average European is determined to achieve success and maintain his good reputation, and any “wrong” action can ruin this reputation. You won’t go to jail, but your friends will turn away from you, your girlfriend will stop loving you, your parents will kick you out of the house, you won’t be hired by a good organization...

If you delve into history, you can see what motivated people in different countries, creating similar inventions, performing the same actions. A good example is the creation of a printing press. Johannes Gutenberg was definitely positively motivated: with the help of his printing house, he wanted to improve his financial condition, gain fame and influence, become a pioneer of something new, and give people new opportunities for development. He was the creator, chief worker and owner of his enterprise. In fact, he succeeded in his plans: not only merchants and artisans, but also royalty and the church became his clients.

The Russian pioneer printer Ivan Fedorov was motivated by slightly different considerations. For him, his work was rather ritual; he wanted to “serve God.” The visible analogues of “god” for him were rulers, church hierarchs, and boyars. In the first Moscow printing house, opened by the Tsar and Metropolitan for personal needs, Fedorov was a powerless worker, and he did not want to have any personal benefits from this enterprise. For a long time, the pioneer printer was driven by circumstances that did not allow him to fully implement his plans: ordinary priests and book copyists were angry with him, the printing house was quickly burned and forced him to flee the country to Lithuania, and then to Ukraine. Outside Russia, the pioneer printer's business went much better, but again at the expense of strong rulers. The Russian pioneer printer never acquired his own personal printing house. Apparently, the Christian god and government officials were for Fedorov a kind of “whip” that should be feared and served.

“The Man in the Case” is another character, now literary, who was clearly motivated solely by the “whip”. His favorite saying was the expression “no matter what happens,” which he repeated whenever he saw something unusual. Those around him were surprised where this petty official, a quiet and inconspicuous man, suddenly awakened with remarkable energy, with which he began to scribble complaints left and right. All-encompassing fear prompted him to act, while those around him were motivated in their actions by positive considerations.

How to set goals?

Often, due to laziness, personal weaknesses, and reluctance to leave the comfort zone, not all desires are realized. More often than not, the reason for failure is the inability to set goals. To do this you need to learn a few rules:

  1. Reduce the number of desires and needs. This can be achieved by satisfying needs, changing priorities, and switching attention.
  2. Choose a key goal.
  3. Confirm your wishes.
  4. Learn to visualize your goal.

Motive is a psychological stimulus that encourages a person to act. Motivation can be internal or external, depending on the factors affecting the individual. To be productive and achieve your goals, you can use ready-made motivation techniques, learn self-hypnosis, and use affirmations.

The struggle of motives

As already mentioned, a person is simultaneously driven by many different motives. And not all of them are equivalent and equally directed. Here's a classic example. A person sets an alarm clock at night, intending to get up early the next morning - for example, to go for a morning run. But the morning comes, the alarm clock rings, and this person no longer wants to get up. He finds himself in a situation where he needs to make a specific decision, and it depends on what motives prevail in him at the moment. Here we come across what is called willpower.

This example is not particularly critical, but there are situations in life when a person has to make very difficult choices. Any of the options for action is motivated in a certain way, and this brings discomfort and even real torment. So, in some cases we are faced with a choice - to save ourselves from trouble or to save our loved ones at the cost of our own lives. Such internal conflicts can lead to the development of depression or neurosis.

What should you do if you need to make such a choice? Experts advise not to give in to emotions and carefully consider all options if possible. There must be a rational approach here; you need to weigh all the pros and cons, the benefits and deprivations that the choice you make will bring. And above all, one should be guided by socially significant motives. After all, it often happens that we achieve our goal by “walking over our heads,” as a result of which friends, close people, and relatives turn away from us, as a result, we lose more than we gain.

A person is not aware of all his motives, but control of his motivational sphere is available to us. It is necessary to create a hierarchy of needs and motivations for yourself and focus on the most significant and important of them. Such a hierarchy will be associated primarily with social values.

The “pyramid of needs” compiled by the American psychologist Abraham Maslow is widely known. This system distributes needs into “lower” ones, which make humans related to other animals, and “higher” ones, which are unique to humans. It is curious that the lower needs are associated with the individual survival of the organism, while the higher ones pursue social goals. The highest needs are the need to understand one’s connection with the entire universe, and not just with one’s small group or human society in general.

Having certain needs, a person acquires the motivations associated with them. And they motivate him to do certain things. It happens that an activity seems “higher”, but in reality a person is guided by “lower” motives. So, a musician can create fashionable but primitive music just to feed himself (and generally make money). It happens that “for bread” people create real masterpieces. In other cases, setting “lower” goals is only an intermediate step, while in reality the person is motivated by higher considerations. Thus, the father of the family can take care of his health in order to have the strength to provide for his wife and children.

History of the study

To study history and understand the essence of “motive”, you need to consider substantive theories regarding this phenomenon. They analyze all the factors that influence the construction and formation of motivation. The main theory is the hierarchy of needs, which was compiled by Abraham Maslow. Key points:

  1. Needs are divided into groups for which there is a certain hierarchy.
  2. High needs are easier to satisfy.
  3. After one need is satisfied, another takes its place.

Initially, a person begins to satisfy desires that are at the lowest level of the hierarchical pyramid, gradually moving to higher ones.

There is a theory by Clayton Paul Alderfer - ERG. The American psychologist divided needs into 3 groups:

  1. For self-expression, active development.
  2. For communication. A person constantly interacts with society. He needs to communicate, meet new people.
  3. For existence. These include personal safety and physiological components of life.

Alderfer's theory is similar to Maslow's, but the first psychologist believed that desires could be satisfied from small to great or vice versa. The second psychologist argued that movement is only possible from less to more.

David McClelland came up with the theory of acquired needs.

The teaching helps to determine what desires can have an impact on productive activity.

There is also a theory of two factors, which was invented and promulgated by the American psychologist Frederick Herzberg.

He divided the factors that influence motivation into two groups - material and intangible.

Need stage.

1st latent stage - there is a need, but there are no ways to satisfy it.

2—need satisfaction.

3- saturation.

What aspects influence the satisfaction of the need - specification. Satisfaction is carried out in a concrete way.

2 mentalization - needs are satisfied consciously

3 socialization - needs are satisfied in a socially approved way.

The need for learning is insatiable.

Motive is a determinant of activity.

Motive as a need - when the need is considered as a stimulator of student activity.

5 pages, 2254 words

Methods of stimulating and motivating student behavior

1. Methods of stimulating and motivating student behavior. Various studies of the structure of human activity invariably emphasize the need for a motivation component in it. Any activity proceeds more efficiently and produces high-quality results if the individual has strong, vibrant, deep motives that evoke a desire to act actively, with full…

Motive as a goal - a goal is not something to strive for, but something that needs to be accomplished, therefore the goal can be both an object, an object, and an action.

Motive as an incentive - in this approach, motive is considered as a motivating, driving force or incentive. Both an external object and an imaginary one are considered as a motive.

Motive as intention - intention is nothing more than a volitional act that creates situations that allow a person to rely on the actions of external stimuli, and therefore the fulfillment of intention becomes not a volitional act, but a conditioned reflex

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