Theories of Motivation - 11 Motivation, Emotion, and Personality - STEP 4 Review the Knowledge You Need to Score High

5 Steps to a 5: AP Psychology - McGraw Hill 2021

Theories of Motivation
11 Motivation, Emotion, and Personality
STEP 4 Review the Knowledge You Need to Score High


Summary: Why do you do what you do? Motivation is a psychological process that directs and maintains your behavior toward a goal, fueled by motives, which are needs or desires that energize your behavior. Theories of motivation generally distinguish between primary, biological motives such as hunger, thirst, sex, pain reduction, optimal arousal, aggression; and secondary, social motives such as achievement, affiliation, autonomy, curiosity, and play. Social motives are learned motives acquired as part of growing up in a particular society or culture. Emotion is closely related to motivation. Some psychologists even define emotions as specific motivated states. Emotion is a psychological feeling that involves a mixture of physiological arousal, conscious experience, and overt behavior. Emotions include love, hate, fear, and jealousy. Instinct/evolutionary, drive reduction, incentive, arousal, and humanistic theories look at motivation differently. James-Lange, Cannon-Bard, Schachter-Singer, and opponent-process theories explain the relationship between physiological changes and emotional experiences differently. Both motivation and emotion spur us into action.

Personality is a unique pattern of consistent feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that originate within the individual. Because personality is unique to an individual, controlled experiments cannot be used to study it; thus, cause and effect relationships cannot be established. Psychologists use two different research methods to better understand personality. Most psychologists agree that our behavior results from the interaction of personal characteristics and environmental situations. Psychologists take different approaches to understanding and describing the origin and nature of personality.

This chapter looks at the direction and maintenance of behavior toward a goal and the psychological feelings that result. It also examines the theories and approaches of personality tests and the techniques psychologists use to measure personality.


Key Ideas

Image Instinct/Evolutionary theory of motivation

Image Drive reduction theory of motivation

Image Incentive theory of motivation

Image Arousal theory of motivation

Image Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Image Physiological motives—hunger, thirst, pain, sex

Image Social motives—achievement, affiliation

Image Social conflict situations

Image James-Lange theory of emotion

Image Cannon-Bard theory of emotion

Image Opponent-process theory of emotion

Image Schachter-Singer two-factor theory of emotion

Image Cognitive-appraisal theory of emotion

Image Stress

Image Coping

Image Positive psychology

Image Biological/evolutionary theories of personality

Image Psychoanalytic/psychodynamic theories of personality

Image Humanistic theories of personality

Image Behavioral theory—operant conditioning

Image Cognitive theories of personality

Image Trait theories of personality

Image Assessment techniques

Image Self-concept and self-esteem

Theories of Motivation

Instinct/Evolutionary Theory

Charles Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection indicated that individuals best adapted to their environment will be more likely to survive and reproduce, passing their favorable characteristics on to the next generation. As a result, a beneficial trait (one with high adaptive value) tends to become more common in succeeding generations. Eventually, almost all individuals in the population will have the beneficial characteristic. Darwin believed that many behaviors were characteristics that could be passed on. William James thought that motivation by instincts was important for human behavior. In the early 1900s, a small group of psychologists led by William McDougall believed all thought and action necessarily resulted from instincts such as curiosity, aggression, and sociability. Sigmund Freud’s theory of personality is based on instincts that motivate sex and aggression. Instincts are complex, inherited behavior patterns characteristic of a species. To be considered a true instinct, the behavior must be stereotypical, performed automatically in the same way by all members of a species in response to a specific stimulus. Birds and butterflies flying south to mate or salmon swimming upstream to mate are examples of animals carrying out their instincts, also called fixed-action patterns. Ethologist (animal behaviorist) Konrad Lorenz, who worked with baby ducks and geese, investigated an example considered an instinct. Ducks and geese form a social attachment to the first moving object they see or hear at a critical period soon after birth by following that object, which is usually their mother. This behavior is known as imprinting. When Lorenz was the first moving object they saw, the baby birds followed him, and retained an attachment to humans throughout their lives.

Evolutionary psychologists may work in the field of sociobiology, which tries to relate social behaviors to evolutionary biology. For example, they look at evolutionary mating patterns that differ between the two sexes; a male may be motivated to mate with multiple partners to increase the chance of his genes getting into the next generation, while a female might be motivated to mate for life with the male who has the best resources to take care of her and her children.

Psychologists today debate if there are any human behaviors that can be considered true instincts. Is rooting/sucking behavior complex enough to be considered instinctive behavior, or is it merely reflexive? How much of human behavior is instinctive? Psychologists have found it necessary to devise other theories beyond instinct/evolutionary theory to account for human behavior.

Drive Reduction Theory

According to Clark Hull’s drive reduction theory, behavior is motivated by the need to reduce drives such as hunger, thirst, or sex. The need is a motivated state caused by a physiological deficit, such as a lack of food or water. This need activates a drive, a state of psychological tension induced by a need, which motivates us to eat or drink, for example. Generally, the greater the need, the stronger the drive. Eating food or drinking water reduces the need by satisfying our hunger or quenching our thirst, and our body returns to its state of homeostasis. Homeostasis is the body’s tendency to maintain an internal steady state of metabolism, to stay in balance. Metabolism is the sum total of all chemical processes that occur in our bodies and are necessary to keep us alive. Scientists have identified many of the neural pathways and hormonal interactions associated with biological needs and drives. For example, receptor cells for thirst and hunger are in the hypothalamus. Drive reduction theory accounts well at least to some extent for primary motives such as hunger, thirst, pain, and sex. This biologically based theory does not account as well for secondary motives such as achievement, affiliation, autonomy, curiosity, power, and play that are social in nature.

Incentive Theory

Primary motives push us to satisfy our biologic needs. But we are also pulled by environmental factors, which have little to do with biology. An incentive is a positive or negative environmental stimulus that motivates behavior, pulling us toward a goal. Secondary motives, motives we learn to desire, are learned through society’s pull. Getting a 5 on the AP Psychology examination is an incentive that motivates you to read this book.

Arousal Theory

What explains people’s needs to climb mountains, bungee jump, or ride roller coasters? Arousal is the level of alertness, wakefulness, and activation caused by activity in the central nervous system. The optimal level of arousal varies with the person and the activity. The Yerkes—Dodson rule states that we usually perform most activities best when moderately aroused, and efficiency of performance is usually lower when arousal is either low or high. We tend to perform difficult or newly learned tasks better at a lower level of arousal, but we tend to perform very easy or well-learned tasks at a higher level of arousal. When first learning to drive a car, we will drive best if we are not anxious about our performance. Years later, we may need the radio on while we are driving to keep us aroused for our best performance.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow categorized needs and then arranged them in order of priority, starting with powerful physiological needs, such as the needs for food and water. His hierarchy is often pictured as a pyramid (Figure 11.1). Maslow agreed with Hull that basic biological needs to satisfy hunger and thirst must be met first, followed by our safety needs to feel safe, secure, and stable in a world that is organized and predictable. When our stomachs are growling because we are hungry and homeless, it is unlikely that our greatest motivation will be to get a high grade on a test. When our needs for food, drink, shelter, and safety have been met, we are motivated to meet our belongingness and love needs, to love and be loved, to be accepted by others and considered part of a group, such as a family, and to avoid loneliness and alienation. This need is followed by esteem needs for self-esteem, achievement, competence, and independence and the need for recognition and respect from others. According to Maslow, few people reach the highest levels of self-actualization, which is achievement of all of our potentials, and transcendence, which is spiritual fulfillment. Although this theory is attractive, we do not always place our highest priority on meeting lower-level needs. Political activists go on hunger strikes, soldiers sacrifice their lives, and parents go without food in order to feed their children. Scientific evidence does not support this theory.


Figure 11.1 Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.