What is motivation, its importance and its main theories


Motivation is one of the psychological aspects that is most closely related to the development of the human being. It is not characterized as a personal trait, but by the interaction of people with the situation, so it varies from one person to another and in the same person it can vary at different times and situations.

Motivating someone, in a general sense, is about creating an environment in which they can satisfy their objectives by contributing their energy and effort, hence the importance of managers mastering this issue so that they value and act, ensuring that individual objectives coincide as much as possible with those of the organization.

The purpose of this text is not the elaboration of a deep theoretical treatise on the concept of motivation and its application in organizations, but on the contrary, it tries to give a practical approach that in turn allows reflection on this topic whose importance and usefulness is unquestionable, at a personal and organizational level. IndexWhat is motivation?What is self-motivationWhat is motivating?Motivation focused on work and organizationWhat the manager should know about motivationWhat the manager must work onTheories of motivationMaslow’s pyramid of needs theoryMcGregor’s Theory X and YTheory XTheory YHerzberg’s theory of motivation-hygieneMotivational (intrinsic) factorsHygiene factors (extrinsic)ERG Theory (ERC)McClelland’s Theory of NeedsVroom’s Theory of ExpectationsAdams’ theory of equitySkinner’s behavior modification theorySummaryBibliographyWhat is Motivation

From the etymological point of view, the word Motivation is composed of the Latin Motivus (movement) and the suffix -tion (action and effect).

Motivation is a set of internal or external factors that partly determine a person’s actions. (Meaning of Motivation in the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy)

Entering into the psychological aspect of the concept one of the most basic, but at the same time more complete, definitions of motivation is: Motivation is an internal state that incites, directs and maintains behavior. (Woolfolk, p.372)

According to López (p.73), there are five motivational principles, namely:Principle of predisposition. When we are positively predisposed towards a task, its execution is almost always pleasant. When we change the “why?” to the “why not?”, or the “this is unbearable” to the “what am I learning from this situation?”, or “I am angry because…” by the “I wonder why I am angry at this fact” (i.e. I change anger for curiosity), we are applying this principle.Principle of consequence. We tend to reproduce experiences that have pleasant consequences and not to repeat those that have unpleasant consequences. When we obtain a consequence equal to or better than expected we feel rewarded and we keep, at a conscious or unconscious level, that pleasant memory so we tend to repeat that strategy.Principle of repetition. When a stimulus provokes a certain positive reaction, the bond that links the stimulus to the response can be reinforced by exercise or repetition. Thus the mastery in the execution of a task will be given, among other aspects, by the repetition that is reinforced by a modeling towards excellence.Principle of novelty. All other things being equal, controlled novelties are usually more attractive and motivating than what is already known. This principle is true as long as it is approached with a certain control and with a high dose of personal security since, otherwise, the phenomenon of resistance to change may appear.Principle of experience. Relating an experience that has been pleasant to us with what we intended to achieve can be very motivating, that experience can refer both to some experience lived previously and to some novel experience that we can carry out managing it sensorily.

From the definition of motive, Carrasco (p.215) establishes the following concept of motivation:A motive is something that constitutes a value for someone. Motivation, then, is constituted by the set of values that make a subject “set in motion” to achieve it. Motivation makes us get out of indifference to try to achieve the intended goal. Between motive and value there is no difference: it motivates what is worth for each subject.

In this approach to the concept of motivation are the following elements:Indifference: “regular” state of the subject who has not yet found any reason to take action.Reason: that something that mobilizes the subject, in this case it is identified as a “value”.Objective: what the subject wants to achieve once it has been launched.Satisfaction: sel subject state once the objective has been reached.

It is then inferred that a typical motivation process would be something “linear”, cause-consequence, as expressed in the following graph:

Concept of motivation: the basic process

Thus, it could be said that once the subject reaches the goal (satisfaction), that reason that caused it to start is no longer a mobilizing factor, so the subject will return to the state of indifference that is natural to him.

Sometimes the terms motivation and satisfaction are confused so we clarify:Motivation is the drive and effort to satisfy a desire or goal, it is prior to the result.Satisfaction is the taste experienced when we reach the desire, it is subsequent to the result.

Under another perspective (Ardila, p.83) motivation is conceived as an intermediate variable (of behavior), that is, the motivation itself is not observed, but the motivated behavior is observed and from it the existence of motivation is inferred.

The following figure shows the scheme of motivation as an intermediate variable, the intermediate link is not observed but is inferred by the antecedent conditions and the consequent behavior. The consequent behavior is observed, the antecedent conditions are manipulated, and the intermediate variable is inferred:

Motivation as an intermediate variable of behavior. Source: Ardila

Taking into account the antecedent conditions and the consequent behavior we then have the following elements (Woolfolk, p.374):Intrinsic motivation: Motivation associated with activities that are reinforcing in themselves. What motivates us to do something when we don’t have to.Extrinsic Motivation: Motivation created by external factors such as rewards and punishments. When we do something to get a grade, avoid punishment, please the teacher, or for some other reason that has little to do with homework.Causality Locus: The location—internal or external—of the cause of the behavior. From the mere observation of the behavior it is impossible to say whether its motivation is intrinsic or extrinsic.

Motivation is the concatenated set of psychic processes (which involve higher nervous activity and reflect objective reality through the internal conditions of the personality) that by containing the active and relatively autonomous and creative role of the personality, and in its constant transformation and determination reciprocal with external activity,its objects and stimuli are aimed at satisfying the needs of the human being and, as a consequence, regulate the direction (the object-goal) and the intensity or activation of behavior, and manifest themselves as motivated activity. (Gonzalez, p.52)

In the following video an introductory presentation is made to the topic of the psychology of motivation, a more complete description is made, than the one exposed above, of the concept of motivation:

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