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Motivational Theories

1. Incentive Theory
reward, tangible or intangible, is presented after the occurrence of an action (i.e. behavior) with the intent to cause the behavior to occur again. This is done by associating positive meaning to the behavior. Studies show that if the person receives the reward immediately, the effect would be greater, and decreases as duration lengthens. Repetitive action-reward combination can cause the action to become habit. Motivation comes from two sources: oneself, and other people. These two sources are called intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation, respectively.

Incentive theory in psychology, treats motivation and behavior of the individual, as they are influenced by beliefs, such as engaging in activities that are expected to be profitable. Incentive theory is promoted by behavioral psychologists, such as B.F. Skinner and literalized, by behaviorists, especially by Skinner in his philosophy of Radical behaviorism, to mean that a person's actions always have social ramifications: and if actions are positively received people are more likely to act in this manner, or if negatively received people are less likely to act in this manner. Incentive theorists tend to distinguish between wanting and liking, where liking is a passive function evaluating a stimulus, but wanting adds an active process "attracting" the person towards the stimulus.

2. Cognitive Dissonance Theory

Suggested by Leon Festinger, this occurs when an individual experiences some degree of discomfort resulting from an incompatibility between two cognitions. For example, a consumer may seek to reassure himself regarding a purchase, feeling, in retrospect, that another decision may have been preferable.Another example of cognitive dissonance is when a belief and a behavior are in conflict. A person may wish to be healthy, believes smoking is bad for one's health, and yet continues to smoke.
3. Need Theories
3.1 Need Hierarchy Theory
Abraham Maslow's theory is one of the most widely discussed theories of motivation. The theory can be summarized as follows:

  • Human beings have wants and desires which influence their behavior. Only unsatisfied needs influence behavior, satisfied needs do not.
  • Since needs are many, they are arranged in order of importance, from the basic to the complex.
  • The person advances to the next level of needs only after the lower level need is at least minimally satisfied.
  • The further the progress up the hierarchy, the more individuality, humanness and psychological health a person will show.
The needs, listed from basic (lowest-earliest) to most complex (highest-latest) are as follows:

3.2  Herzberg's two-factor theory
Frederick Herzberg's two-factor theory, a.k.a. intrinsic/extrinsic motivation, concludes that certain factors in the workplace result in job satisfaction, but if absent, they don't lead to dissatisfaction but no satisfaction.
The factors that motivate people can change over their lifetime, but "respect for me as a person" is one of the top motivating factors at any stage of life.
He distinguished between:

  • Motivators; (e.g. challenging work, recognition, responsibility) which give positive satisfaction, and
  • Hygiene factors; (e.g. status, job securitysalary and fringe benefits) that do not motivate if present, but, if absent, result in demotivation.
3.3 Self-determination theory
Self-determination theory, developed by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, focuses on the importance of intrinsic motivation in driving human behavior. Like Maslow's hierarchical theory and others that built on it, SDT posits a natural tendency toward growth and development. Unlike these other theories, however, SDT does not include any sort of "autopilot" for achievement, but instead requires active encouragement from the environment. The primary factors that encourage motivation and development are autonomy, competence feedback, and relatedness.
4. Cognitive Theory
4.1 Goal Setting Theory
Goal-setting theory is based on the notion that individuals sometimes have a drive to reach a clearly defined end state. Often, this end state is a reward in itself. A goal's efficiency is affected by three features: proximity, difficulty and specificity. An ideal goal should present a situation where the time between the initiation of behavior and the end state is close. This explains why some children are more motivated to learn how to ride a bike than to master algebra. A goal should be moderate, not too hard or too easy to complete. In both cases, most people are not optimally motivated, as many want a challenge (which assumes some kind of insecurity of success). At the same time people want to feel that there is a substantial probability that they will succeed. Specificity concerns the description of the goal in their class. The goal should be objectively defined and intelligible for the individual. A classic example of a poorly specified goal is to get the highest possible grade. Most children have no idea how much effort they need to reach that goal.

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