Motivation and emotion/Textbook/Introduction/What is motivation?

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The Latin root of motivation means ‘to move’, so the origins of the word imply moving into action.

What is motivation?[edit]

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Motivation is about the drive that pushes people towards goals.
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If you asked different people "What is motivation?" what sorts of responses do you think you'd get? Most lay people probably think of motivation as a personal quality which gives you energy and direction to get things done. Some people are highly motivated. Many are somewhat motivated. Some people are particularly unmotivated.

The psychological understanding of motivation is similar to lay understandings, but goes further and deeper. Motivation refers to processes involved in initiating, maintaining and ceasing goal-orientated behaviour. Motivation is about why we do things. Motivational psychology understandings behaviour as effort to satisfy physiological, psychological, and social needs and goals. Furthermore, motivational psychology seeks to use motivational concepts to account for variations in the intensity of behaviour between situations, species and individuals.

Thus, two perennial motivational questions are (Reeve, 2009):

  1. Why do organisms behave the way they do? (What motivates behaviour?) and
  2. Why does the intensity of behaviour vary (between situations, species, and invididuals)?

See also[edit]


Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding motivation and emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Amazon. Kindle. Google Books.