Motivation is the study of the activation, direction, intensity, and duration of behavior. That covers a broad territory! Why do you make the decisions you make? Why do you devote time to some activities rather than others? That is the question of what activates and directs behavior. Motivation theories also deal with what energizes behavior: energy and pep, the ability to get things done, and the drive or push toward goals.
The dominant theory that claimed to deal with motivation head-on, in the 1940s, was the theory proposed by Clark Hull. Hull's theory was a rigid, self-consciously scientific, formalized system that inspired much research but ultimately failed in its lofty objective, which was to provide a grand theory capable of explaining all behavior. By the 1950s, Hull's theory was in decline. Psychologists rushed to offer alternatives. The study of motivation entered its most fruitful period with a variety of proposals for different types and categories of motives. In this respect, Hull's theory was a lot like Freud's theory. It is not important as a currently valid theory; it is important as a historical force that led to many reactions and helped to shape the theories of today.
How does motivation relate to ongoing organizing theme, the creative human brain? Motivation is about why we channel our creative powers one way instead of another. It relates to all our accomplishments, great and small. It is about how we shape up our bodies. It is about reaching down deep during times of stress to finish a term paper or study for a test, or be there for a person who needs support. It is about the need for existential meaning that motivates a crusader for truth or justice. Motivational factors are relevant to all the creative energies and impulses that carry us through life.
How this chapter is organized
We start with biological motives, featuring a brief overview of Hull's theory emphasizing his use of the homeostasis concept. Then we relate this same concept to the topic of weight control and fat regulation. After discussing hunger and thirst we move to acquired motives based on pleasure and pain. This includes the phenomena of addiction (described by Solomon's opponent process theory). From this we move to a discussion of motivational conflicts and stress-induced behavior.
As Hull's theory declined in the 1950s, it was replaced by a concern for psychological or cognitive motives. These include the need to feel competent; to explore and gain knowledge, to maintain a feeling of consistency and control in one's actions, to achieve, and to maintain one's freedom. The concept of a need for freedom or "psychological reactance" leads us to a discussion of reverse psychology.
Next we take an extended look at the work of Abraham Maslow. Maslow attempted to deal with motives that might be called existential or spiritual motives. These are among the most complex, powerful, and compelling of human motives.
Motivation is intimately related to emotion. Events that inspire strong positive or negative emotions are events that motivate us. In the last portion of the chapter we consider the classic theories of emotion and modern research on emotional expression, including recent research that sheds a light on the different brain circuits and ways of thinking that are involved in positive and negative emotions.
Related Topics in Other Chapters
Instinct and similar biological imperatives are discussed as action patterns or motor programs in Chapter 8 (Animal Behavior and Cognition). Freud's ideas about unconscious motives are mentioned in Chapter 11 and again in Chapter 13. The idea that stress should actually be studied under the heading of emotion is discussed in the section on Stress in Chapter 14 (Frontiers of Psychology). Cognitive dissonance is discussed again in Chapter 15. Attribution and locus of control are also described in Chapter 15 (Social Psychology) in the section on Social Cognition. The sexual drive is discussed in Chapter 16 (Sex, Friendship, and Love).