What is a motive - its characteristics, types and functions of motives in our lives

January 18, 2021

Hello, dear readers of the KtoNaNovenkogo.ru blog. Motive plays a key role in our lives, but not everyone fully understands what it is.

The fact is that this term has many meanings, as it is used in various spheres of life - fine arts, literature, music, biology and even criminology.

But today we will talk about motive as a concept of psychology. All our actions and inactions are justified by motives, their strength, stability and direction.

Therefore, today we will talk about this in the simplest possible language and with examples.



(Latin moveo “I move”) - a material or ideal object that represents a terminal (final) value for the subject, determining the direction of his activity, the achievement of which is the meaning of the activity. The motive is revealed by the subject through specific experiences, characterized by either positive emotions (from its achievement) or negative ones (from its loss). Understanding the motive requires inner work. The term “motivation” was first used by A. Schopenhauer in his article.

Motive is one of the key concepts of the psychological theory of activity, developed by leading Soviet psychologists A. N. Leontyev and S. L. Rubinstein. The simplest definition of motive within the framework of this theory is: motive is an object of need. Motive is often confused with need and goal, but need is, in essence, a state of the body in which it objectively requires something, and goal is the result of conscious goal-setting, a mental image of what is required in this state. For example: quenching thirst is the subject’s need; the idea of ​​how the subject’s thirst will be quenched is the goal; a bottle of water that a person reaches for is a motif. In this context, “a motive is a resource (water), the desire to obtain or preserve which determines the behavior of the subject.”

The meaning of the word Motive according to Ushakov’s dictionary:

MOTIV , motif, m. (French motif). 1. A motivating reason, a reason for something. action (book). For personal reasons. What were your motives? 2. An argument in favor of something. (book). Give reasons in favor of your proposal. 3. The simplest plot unit (lit.). The motive for fighting monsters in myths and fairy tales. ? Theme, plot of a work of art. Autumn motifs in Levitan's paintings. 4. The simplest rhythmic unit of melody (music).? Melody, tune (colloquial). Dance motive. Cheerful motive.

Types of motivation

This section is missing references to information sources.

Information must be verifiable, otherwise it may be questioned and deleted. You may edit this article to include links to authoritative sources. This mark was set on January 9, 2021


Extrinsic motivation

(extreme) - motivation that is not related to the content of a certain activity, but is conditioned by circumstances external to the subject.

Intrinsic motivation

(intrinsic) - motivation associated not with external circumstances, but with the very content of the activity.

Positive and negative motivation

. Motivation based on positive incentives is called positive. Motivation based on negative incentives is called negative.

Example: the construction “if I clean up the table, I will get candy” or “if I don’t play around, I will get candy” is a positive motivation. The construction “if I don’t put things in order on the table, I will be punished” or “if I misbehave, I will be punished” is a negative motivation.

Sustainable and unstable motivation

. Motivation that is based on human needs is considered sustainable, since it does not require additional reinforcement.

There are two main types of motivation: “from” and “to”, or the “carrot and stick method”.

The meaning of the word Motive according to the Brockhaus and Efron dictionary:

Motive (in fine arts) is something essential in the content or artistic idea of ​​works of painting, sculpture or architecture that determines the nature of the impression they produce. M. may not be definable with precision, as the basis of an aesthetic sensation (for example, in an architectural work), or may be accessible to a certain extent to analysis (melancholic M. of an autumn landscape), but in any case it expresses the artist’s attitude to his chosen subject and serves as the main reason for the viewer’s mood when contemplating a work of art. F.
Motif (music) (from Latin movere - to move, motivating reason, reason), in music - a group of two, three or more notes with rhythmic content. Repetition, rearrangement, reversal and generally modification of motives constitute a melody (see).

Theories of motivation

This section is missing references to information sources.

Information must be verifiable, otherwise it may be questioned and deleted. You may edit this article to include links to authoritative sources. This mark was set on January 25, 2021


Motivation theories analyze the factors that influence motivation. Much of their subject matter centers on the analysis of needs and their impact on motivation. The study of these needs led to the emergence of three main directions:

Content theories of motivation

they study what needs motivate a person to this or that activity, what their structure is, what needs are primary and which are secondary, and in what order they are satisfied. They study the goals that a person strives for. The main theories in this area are: Maslow’s theory of hierarchy of needs; Alderfer's theory; McClelland's theory of acquired needs; Herzberg's two factor theory.

Process theories of motivation

the emphasis is on explaining the process of selecting behaviors that can lead to desired outcomes. Process theories explain how a person allocates effort to achieve various goals and how he chooses a particular type of behavior. The main ones in this direction are: Vroom's theory, Adams' theory, Porter-Lawler's theory, Locke's theory and the concept of participative management.

Theories based on a specific picture of a person.

Theories, which are based on a specific picture of the employee, take as a basis a certain sample of the employee, his needs and motives. These theories include: McGregor's theory and Ouchi's theory.

The concept of motivation in psychology

In modern science, the concept of motivation is considered in two main aspects:

  1. Motivation as a mental property is the entire set of factors that determine, organize and direct human behavior (a system of needs, motives, goals, intentions, ideals, beliefs, etc.).
  2. Motivation as a process is a process of stimulation and determination, inducing human behavior and maintaining behavioral activity at a certain level at any given moment in time.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Diagram of Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of human needs.
Levels (from bottom to top): 1. Physiological 2. Safety 3. Love/Belonging to something 4. Respect 5. Cognition 6. Aesthetic 7. Self-actualization Moreover, the last three levels: “cognition”, “aesthetic” and “self-actualization” in generally referred to as the “Need for Self-Expression” (Need for Personal Growth). In his work “Motivation and Personality” (1954), Maslow proposed that all human needs are innate, or instinctive, and that they are organized into a hierarchical system of priority or dominance. This work was continued by other scientists.

Needs in order of priority:

Physiological needs

They consist of basic, primary human needs, sometimes even unconscious. Sometimes, in the works of modern researchers, they are called biological needs.

Need for security

After satisfying physiological needs, their place in the motivational life of an individual is taken by needs of another level, which in the most general form can be combined into the category of security (the need for security; for stability; for dependence; for protection; for freedom from fear, anxiety and chaos; the need for structure, order, law, restrictions; other needs).

Need for belonging and love

A person craves warm, friendly relationships, he needs a social group that would provide him with such relationships, a family that would accept him as one of their own.

Need for recognition

The needs at this level are divided into two classes.

The first includes desires and aspirations associated with the concept of “achievement”. A person needs a feeling of his own power, adequacy, competence, he needs a feeling of confidence, independence and freedom.

In the second class of needs we include the need for reputation or prestige (we define these concepts as respect from others), the need to gain status, attention, recognition, fame.

Need for self-actualization

It is clear that a musician should make music, an artist should paint pictures, and a poet should write poetry, if, of course, they want to live in peace with themselves. A person must be who he can be. Man feels that he must conform to his own nature. This need can be called the need for self-actualization. Obviously, this need is expressed differently in different people. One person wants to become an ideal parent, another strives to achieve athletic heights, a third tries to create or invent. It seems that at this level of motivation it is almost impossible to delineate the limits of individual differences.

One can name a number of social conditions necessary to satisfy basic needs; Improper implementation of these conditions can directly impede the satisfaction of basic needs. These include cognitive and aesthetic needs.

Need for knowledge and understanding Aesthetic needs

Aesthetic needs are closely intertwined with both conative and cognitive needs, and therefore their clear differentiation is impossible. Needs such as the need for order, for symmetry, for completeness, for completeness, for system, for structure.

Needs of one type must be fully satisfied before another need, of a higher level, manifests itself and becomes active.

A. Maslow’s theory is quite clearly combined with the theory of the motivational complex, which also assumes the presence of five groups of needs. However, these needs are interconnected by cyclical rather than hierarchical connections like the 5-element scheme in Chinese philosophy, they require primary satisfaction, and the movement of needs comes from the bottom up (T) - Alderfer, unlike Maslow, believes that the movement of needs comes from the bottom up and top down(); he called the upward movement through the levels the process of satisfying needs, and the downward movement - frustration - the process of failure in the desire to satisfy the need [1].

Optimal motivation

It is known that in order for an activity to be carried out, sufficient motivation is necessary. However, if the motivation is too strong, the level of activity and tension increases, as a result of which certain disorders occur in activity (and behavior), that is, work efficiency deteriorates. In this case, a high level of motivation causes undesirable emotional reactions (tension, anxiety, stress, etc.), which leads to deterioration in performance.

It has been experimentally established that there is a certain optimum (optimal level) of motivation at which the activity is performed best (for a given person, in a specific situation). A subsequent increase in motivation will lead not to improvement, but to deterioration in performance. Thus, a very high level of motivation is not always the best. There is a certain limit beyond which a further increase in motivation leads to worse results.

This relationship is called the Yerkes-Dodson law. These scientists, studying the influence of negative motivation on animals, in 1908 found that in order to teach animals to go through a maze, the most optimal is the average intensity of motivation (set by the intensity of electric shocks).[2]

What motivates people: typology of motives

Yuri Platonov, Doctor of Psychology, Professor of St. Petersburg State University, Rector of the St. Petersburg State Institute of Psychology and Social Work, Honored Worker of Higher Education of the Russian Federation. Source: Elitarium.ru

People's activities are stimulated not by one, but by several motives. The more motives determine the activity, the higher the overall level of motivation. Much depends on the driving force of each motive. Sometimes the power of one motive prevails over the influence of several motives. In most cases, however, the more motives are actualized, the stronger the motivation. If you manage to use additional motives, the overall level of motivation increases. Let's consider the main types of motives

The diversity of human needs also determines the diversity of motives for behavior and activity, however, some motives are quite often updated and have a significant impact on human behavior, while others act only in certain circumstances. Let's consider the main types of motives.

The motive of self-affirmation is the desire to establish oneself in society; associated with self-esteem, ambition, self-love. A person tries to prove to others that he is worth something, strives to obtain a certain status in society, wants to be respected and appreciated. Sometimes the desire for self-affirmation is referred to as prestige motivation (the desire to obtain or maintain a high social status).

Thus, the desire for self-affirmation, for increasing one’s formal and informal status, for a positive assessment of one’s personality is a significant motivational factor that encourages a person to work intensively and develop.

The motive for identification with another person is the desire to be like a hero, an idol, an authoritative figure (father, teacher, etc.). This motive encourages you to work and develop. It is especially relevant for teenagers who try to copy the behavior of other people.

The desire to be like an idol is an essential motive of behavior, under the influence of which a person develops and improves.

Identification with another person leads to an increase in the individual’s energy potential due to the symbolic “borrowing” of energy from the idol (object of identification): strength, inspiration, and the desire to work and act as the hero (idol, father, etc.) did. By identifying with the hero, the teenager becomes bolder.

Having a model, an idol with whom young people would strive to identify themselves and whom they would try to copy, from whom they would learn to live and work, is an important condition for an effective socialization process.

The motive of power is the individual’s desire to influence people. Power motivation (the need for power) is one of the most important driving forces of human action. This is the desire to take a leadership position in a group (collective), an attempt to lead people, determine and regulate their activities.

The motive of power occupies an important place in the hierarchy of motives. The actions of many people (for example, managers of various ranks) are motivated by the motive of power. The desire to dominate and lead other people is a motive that encourages them to overcome significant difficulties and make enormous efforts in the process of activity. A person works hard not for the sake of self-development or satisfaction of his cognitive needs, but in order to gain influence on individuals or a team.

A manager may be motivated to act not by the desire to benefit society as a whole or an individual team, not by a sense of responsibility, i.e. not by social motives, but by the motive of power. In this case, all his actions are aimed at gaining or maintaining power and pose a threat to both the cause and the structure that he heads.

Procedural-substantive motives are an incentive to activity by the process and content of the activity, and not by external factors. A person likes to perform this activity, to demonstrate his intellectual or physical activity. He is interested in the content of what he is doing. The action of other social and personal motives (power, self-affirmation, etc.) can enhance motivation, but they are not directly related to the content and process of activity, but are only external to it, therefore these motives are often called external, or extrinsic. In the case of the action of procedural-substantive motives, a person likes and encourages the process and content of a certain activity to be active.

For example, a person goes in for sports because he simply likes to demonstrate his physical and intellectual activity (ingenuity and unconventional actions in sports are also significant factors for success). An individual is encouraged to play sports by procedural-substantive motives when the process and content of the game cause satisfaction, and not by factors that are not related to sports activities (money, self-affirmation, power, etc.).

The meaning of activity during the actualization of procedural and content motives lies in the activity itself (the process and content of activity are the factor that encourages a person to show physical and intellectual activity).

Extrinsic (external) motives are a group of motives when the motivating factors lie outside the activity. In the case of extrinsic motives, activity is encouraged not by the content or process of the activity, but by factors that are not directly related to it (for example, prestige or material factors). Let's consider some types of extreme motives:

  • motive of duty and responsibility to society, group, individuals;
  • motives of self-determination and self-improvement;
  • the desire to gain the approval of other people;
  • the desire to obtain a high social status (prestigious motivation). In the absence of interest in the activity (procedural-content motivation), there is a desire for those external attributes that the activity can bring - excellent grades, getting a diploma, fame in the future;
  • motives for avoiding troubles and punishment (negative motivation) are motivations caused by the awareness of some troubles and inconveniences that may arise if an activity is not performed.

If, in the process of activity, extrinsic motives are not supported by procedural-substantive ones, i.e., interest in the content and process of the activity, then they will not provide the maximum effect. In the case of extreme motives, it is not the activity itself that is attractive, but only what is associated with it (for example, prestige, fame, material well-being), and this is often not enough to motivate activity.

The motive of self-development is the desire for self-development, self-improvement. This is an important motive that encourages an individual to work hard and develop. According to A. Maslow, this is the desire to fully realize one’s abilities and the desire to feel one’s competence.

As a rule, moving forward always requires a certain amount of courage. A person often holds on to the past, to his achievements, peace and stability. Fear of risk and the threat of losing everything holds him back on the path of self-development.

Thus, a person often seems to be “torn between the desire to move forward and the desire for self-preservation and security.” On the one hand, he strives for something new, and on the other, fear of danger and something unknown, the desire to avoid risk restrains his movement forward.

A. Maslow argued that development occurs when the next step forward objectively brings more joy, more internal satisfaction than previous acquisitions and victories, which have become something ordinary and even boring.

Self-development and movement forward are often accompanied by intrapersonal conflict, but do not constitute violence against oneself. Moving forward is anticipation, anticipation of new pleasant sensations and impressions.

When it is possible to actualize a person’s motive for self-development, the strength of his motivation for activity increases. Talented coaches, teachers, and managers know how to use the motive of self-development, pointing out to their students (athletes, subordinates) the opportunity to develop and improve.

The motive for achievement is the desire to achieve high results and mastery in activities; it manifests itself in the choice of difficult tasks and the desire to complete them. Success in any activity depends not only on abilities, skills, knowledge, but also on motivation to achieve. A person with a high level of achievement motivation, striving to obtain significant results, works persistently to achieve his goals.

Achievement motivation (and behavior that is aimed at high results) even for the same person is not always the same and depends on the situation and subject of activity. Some people choose complex problems in mathematics, while others, on the contrary, limiting themselves to modest goals in the exact sciences, choose complex topics in literature, striving to achieve high results in this area. What determines the level of motivation in each specific activity? Scientists identify four factors:

  1. the importance of achieving success;
  2. hope for success;
  3. subjectively assessed probability of achieving success;
  4. subjective standards of achievement.

Prosocial (socially significant) motives are motives associated with awareness of the social significance of an activity, with a sense of duty, responsibility to a group or society. In the case of prosocial (socially significant) motives, the individual identifies with the group. A person not only considers himself a member of a certain social group, not only identifies with it, but also lives by its problems, interests and goals.

A person who is driven to action by prosocial motives is characterized by normativity, loyalty to group standards, recognition and protection of group values, and the desire to realize group goals. Responsible people, as a rule, are more active and perform their professional duties more often and more conscientiously. They believe that the common cause depends on their work and efforts.

It is quite important for a manager to update the corporate spirit among his subordinates, since without identification with the group (company), namely, with its values, interests, and goals, it is impossible to achieve success.

A public figure (politician) who identifies more than others with his country and lives by its problems and interests will be more active in his activities and will do everything possible for the prosperity of the state.

Thus, prosocial motives associated with identification with the group, a sense of duty and responsibility are important in motivating a person to act. The actualization of these motives in the subject of activity can cause his activity in achieving socially significant goals.

The motive of affiliation (from the English affiliation - joining) is the desire to establish or maintain relationships with other people, the desire to contact and communicate with them. The essence of affiliation is the intrinsic value of communication. Affiliative communication is communication that brings satisfaction, captures, and pleases a person.

An individual, however, can also communicate because he is trying to settle his affairs and establish useful contacts with the necessary people. In this case, communication is motivated by other motives, is a means of satisfying other needs of the individual, and has nothing in common with affiliative motivation.

The purpose of affiliative communication may be the search for love (or, in any case, sympathy) on the part of the communication partner.

Negative motivation is impulses caused by the awareness of possible troubles, inconveniences, and punishments that may follow in case of failure to perform an activity. For example, a schoolchild may be motivated to study by the demands and threats of his parents, or by the fear of receiving unsatisfactory grades. Studying under the influence of such a motive takes on the character of a protective action and is compulsory.

In the case of negative motivation, a person is encouraged to act by fear of possible troubles or punishment and the desire to avoid them. He reasons like this: “If I don’t do this, then trouble awaits me.” This is what drives action under the influence of negative motivation.

The forms of negative sanctions that can be applied and that can actualize negative motivation are varied:

  • verbal (verbal) punishment (condemnation, reprimand, etc.);
  • material sanctions (fine, deprivation of privileges, scholarships);
  • social isolation (neglect, ignorance, rejection by the group, social ostracism);
  • deprivation of liberty;
  • physical punishment.

The main disadvantage of negative sanctions is the short duration of their influence: they stimulate activity (or deter undesirable actions) only for the period of their action.

Negative motivation has a stronger influence on a person, the greater his confidence in the inevitability of punishment.

Thus, negative motivation, including punishment, is a fairly strong motivational factor that can motivate a person to activity, but is not without many disadvantages and undesirable consequences.

Current and potential motives

Motives that occupy a leading place, are constantly updated and have a significant motivational influence on human activity are called active. Motives located at the bottom of the motivational hierarchy, which have little influence on a person’s activity and often do not appear at all, are called potential, since at a given specific period of time they do not exert a motivating influence, but can be actualized under certain circumstances.

Under the influence of certain factors, potential motives acquire motivating significance (become active motives). For example, after a conversation with a manager, a subordinate’s social motive (responsibility), which was passive (did not encourage activity), acquires greater motivating significance and becomes active.

The dynamism of the hierarchy of motives

The hierarchy of motives is not an absolutely stable motivational complex; it changes over time and age (depending on circumstances and the influence of people). For example, a subordinate is motivated to work by the manager's demands and the desire to avoid trouble. Later, this motive has less influence on his activity, and the cognitive motive may acquire leading importance.

The motivational sphere is quite dynamic: the meaning and influence of individual motives change (accordingly, the hierarchy of motives also changes). Various factors can change this hierarchy, however, despite the dynamism of the motivational sphere, each person is characterized by relative stability of the hierarchy of motives. It can be argued that the motives that motivate us to activity are relatively stable, unchanged over a certain period of time. The relative stability of the hierarchy of motives is predetermined by the fact that the personality in general and motives in particular (but not motivation, which also depends on situational factors) are not so easily subject to change. And if it is relatively easy to change or develop a child’s motivational sphere, then doing this with an adult is much more difficult.

Thus, despite the influence of various factors that can change the hierarchy of motives, there is reason to consider it relatively stable.

Activity is stimulated not by one, but by several motives. The more motives determine activity, the higher the overall level of motivation. For example, when an activity is motivated by five motives, the overall level of motivation is usually higher than in the case when a person’s activity is determined by only two motives.

Much depends on the driving force of each motive. Sometimes the power of one motive prevails over the influence of several motives. In most cases, however, the more motives are actualized, the stronger the motivation. If you manage to use additional motives, the overall level of motivation increases.

Therefore, the overall level of motivation depends on:

  • on the number of motives that encourage activity;
  • from the actualization of situational factors;
  • on the driving force of each of these motives.

Based on this pattern, a manager, in an effort to increase the motivation of his subordinates, must fulfill three conditions:

  1. involve (update) as many motives as possible;
  2. increase the motivating power of each of these motives;
  3. update situational motivational factors.

This pattern also applies to motivational self-regulation. When it is necessary to perform a certain activity, but there is not enough motivation, additional motives should be activated (involved) that can increase the overall level of motivation.


  • Klochkov A.K.
    KPI and personnel motivation. A complete collection of practical tools. - Eksmo, 2010. - 160 p. — ISBN 978-5-699-37901-9..
  • Ilyasov F. N. Methodology of the resource approach to the analysis of labor motives and attitudes // Monitoring public opinion: economic and social changes. 2013. No. 5. P. 13-25.
  • Motive and motivation: eight main problems / H. Heckhausen // Heckhausen H. Motivation and activity. - M.: Pedagogy, 1986. - T. 1. - P. 33-48.)
  • Shalyto A. A. Notes on motivation.
( 1 rating, average 4 out of 5 )
Did you like the article? Share with friends:
For any suggestions regarding the site: [email protected]
Для любых предложений по сайту: [email protected]