Motivation Theories

There are various understandings of motivation. Several researchers proposed the situation in which motivation works instead of the definition of motivation itself.  For example, Maslow (1943) stated that motivation is a result of willingness to fulfill needs. He suggested that there are five levels of human needs, they are (from bottom to top): physiological, security, social, self-esteem and self-actualization needs. If certain need is not fulfilled yet, people will motivate to fulfill it but lower level needs should have been fulfilled. For Schifman and Kanuk (2012), motivation is driving force that impels a subject to an action. Graham and Weiner (1996: 63) in Berliner and Calfee (1996) defined motivation as “the study of why people think and behave as they do”.  They said that at the beginning, researchers tried to develop general theory of motivation. In its development, the theories of motivation didn’t move to the more unified but more diverse point if views.  The differences in academic background of the researchers, where the motivation theories are developed, is the factor that caused this problem (Steel and Köniq, 2006).

Graham and Weiner (1996) categorized motivation theories into two major categories: broad theories and contemporary theories. Broad theories consist of Hull’s drive theory, Lewin’s field theory, Atkinson’s achievement striving theories, Rotter’s social learning theory and attribution theory proposed by many researchers. Contemporary motivation constructs are connected with the achievement striving. This theories stream consists of are self-worth, self-efficacy and helplessness beliefs. The remaining construct are connected with the cognitive and affective consequences of goals achievement: task vs ego involvement, intrinsic vs extrinsic incentives and cooperate versus competitive goal structures.  Anticipated emotion (Perugini and Bagozzi, 2001; Bagozzi, Baumgartner, and Pieters, 1998; Baumeister et al., 2007) and anticipated emotion of others proposed in this research are perceived as part of affective consequences of goal achievement task.

Our brief discussion are focused on Rotter’s Social Learning Theory and Atkinson’s Achievement Striving Theory and related contemporary constructs, such as self-efficacy and intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. We also add approach and avoidance motivation into discussion because of its relation with self-efficacy. Hull’s drive theory and Lewin’s field theory are discussed to verify historical development of motivational theories. Rotter’s social learning theory is not discussed because it is relevant to study motivation of action that is preceded by the same action that has ever been taken before. This condition is not accounted in this study. Attribution theory is perceived not relevant because it studies the reasons for past action, while this study focus on future action.

In drive theory, Hull (1943) postulated that the emergence of motivation should be started from the occurrence of physiological deficiency or need. Need will produce drive, a kind of energy that force a person to act. This energy has no direction yet in terms of what behavior should be undertook to fulfill need.  This direction is given by habit.

Hull (1943) stated that actually the mechanism of behavior stimulation is not fully mathematically as shown by the formula. In additive behavior, in which the individual has very strong habit and almost can’t say no for doing a behavior (Schiffman and Kanuk, 2009), the presence of motivation is not required to initiate behavior.

Lewin’s field theory explains human behavior.  Lewin (1935) stated that human behavior is an outcome of a personal interaction with its environment. Rainio (n.d) stated that that interaction reflected by the states of life. We care only for the one that has meaning in life and we move from one meaningful state to another meaningful state in a process called locomotion.  From example, when we wake up in the morning, we feel hungry (state 1). We want to be satisfied of food (states 2). If we have achieved that end state it can be said that we have moved from state 1 to state 2. In order to be able to move, we need motivational force that is influenced by three factors: tension (t), goals (G) and the psychological distance from the Goals (e). Tension is produced by unfulfilled needs.  Tension and goals have positive relationship with motivational force. It means that the higher the tension or the higher the meaning of goals, the higher the motivation. On the other hand, ‘e’ has negative relationships with motivational force. Lewin (1935) explained this by stating that when we are close to our goals we will be more motivated to reach those goals than when our goals are still far.

When we experience that tension, our cognitive capability or experience drives our attention to the object or activity, or goals,  we expect are able to satisfy needs. For example, when we fell hungry, we experience physiological tension (t) and we want to eliminate this tension by eat foods (Goal). The higher the possibility to get foods (e), the higher is our motivational force to find foods to eat.

Atkinson’s Theory of Achievement Motivation

According to Graham and Weiner (1996), the original definition of achievement motivation was from Atkinson (1957; 1964), who defined achievement as the comparison of performances with others and against certain standard of activities. From this definition we can see that goals are relative performance. Success or failure to achieve goals is determined by relative performance to others or the fulfillment of the standards.

In Graham and Weiner (1996), Atkinson (1957, 1964) specified that the tendency to approach the achievement-related goals (Ts) is determined by three factors: need for achievement or motive for success (Ms), probability of success to achieve the goals (Ps) and incentive value of success (Is). The relationship among Ts and its determinants is shown by Graham and Weiner (1996) in following formula:

Ts=Ms X Ps X Is

As stated by Graham and Weiner (1996), Ms represents a personality character (i.e. striving for success trait) that is relatively stable and enduring.  Ps is subjective judgment of an individual about the probability of success to achieve goals. As a probability, the value of Ps ranges from 0 (no probability at all) to 1 (definite possibility). This variable can be approximated by the perceived difficulty of task. Based on the same source, Graham and Weiner (1996) described incentive (Is) as affect labelled “pride of accomplishment” of the task. The Is is the opposite of the Ps. It means that the more difficult is to achieve success (the lower the Ps), the higher is the incentive (the Is) of achieving success.

Rotter’s Social Learning Theory

According to Graham and Weiner (1996), theory developed by Rotter (1954) is entirely consistent with expectancy-value theory.  As stated by them, behavior potential (BP) is a function of expectancy (E) and reinforcement value (RV).  Expectancy is subjective assessment about probability that certain behavior will produce expected outcome or of reinforcement.  In Sokolof (1972), Rotter (1954) defined reinforcements as “identifiable events that have the effect of increasing or decreasing the potentiality of some behavior’s occurring” (page 6).  It is not clear the meaning of ‘events’ in this definition. Actually, according to Graham and Weiner (1996) in this definition reinforcement value is not fully elaborated.

We try to describe it using additional explanation from Schifman and Kanuk (2012). When explained instrumental conditioning, they defined reinforcement as outcomes that increase the possibility an individual do or don’t do a behavior.  They divided it into positive and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcements are positive experiences obtained from doing a behavior (example: being healthy by undertake sport) or from not doing a behavior (example:  being healthy by stop smoking). Negative reinforcements are negative experiences that can be avoided by doing a behavior (example: avoiding hair fall by using a brand shampoo) or will be obtained from doing a behavior (example: hearth disease caused by smoking).  The desirability of the reinforcement is the one we called reinforcement value.

Back to the expectancy (E). What factors that influence the possibility of the outcome of a behavior to occur? As cited by Graham and Weiner (1996), an outcome can be produced by skill-related factors or chance-related factors. In skill-related factors, outcomes are determined by one’s own ability, the higher is the ability, the higher is the expectancy. Prior success or failure will influence the ability perception. In chance-related situation, such as the flip of a coin, expectancy remain the same no matter whether the subject is success or failure in prior experience.

Rotter (1966), extended this concept into wider concept of personality trait, i.e. internal versus external locus of control. Internal locus of control is a general belief that one’s fate is influenced mainly by internal factors. Individuals with external locus of control belief that external factors are responsible for their fate.  Therefore, achievement motivation concept is likely more relevant in the situation where expectancy is produced by skill-related factor and subjects have high ability (Nicholls, 1984) and internal locus of control (Graham and Weiner, 1996).  Nicholls (1984: 328) stated directly that “achievement behavior is defined as behavior directed at developing or demonstrating high rather than low ability”.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

The categorization of motivation into intrinsic and extrinsic motivations (see  Poonam, 1997; Bénabou and Tirole, 2003; Covington and Mueller, 2001;  Durmaz and Diyarbakırlıoğlu, 2011) is based on where the motivation comes from. Intrinsic motivation is the one that is produced by inner drive within individuals. They are motivated because they are pleasured or feel happy from performing task or from anticipated satisfaction of task accomplishment.  Extrinsic motivation is one that comes from outside individuals. There are many source of this motivation (Poonam, 1997) but common sources are reward (such as money or grades) and coercion or punishment (Durmaz and Diyarbakırlıoğlu, 2011).


According to its creator Bandura (1977), self-efficacy is a person’s belief about his or her ability to perform a task and reach goals. He proposed that self-efficacy determine how people feel, think, motivate themselves and behave. People with strong self-efficacy are more confidence in performing tasks. They also tend to set up higher goals and have higher motivation. They are more receptive toward difficult task because they perceive it as to be mastered rather as threats to be avoided.

On another hand, according to Bandura (1977), people with low self-efficacy view difficult tasks as threats. They have low motivation and weak commitment to the goals they want to achieve. When they face difficult task, they tend to focus to their deficiencies and look for the reasons to get out rather than to find the way to perform successfully.

There are many studies that confirm self-efficacy influence on various behaviors and its outputs. In online trading, self- affects trust in the online vendor and positively influences an individual online consumer’s purchase intention (Kim and Kim, 2009). In service, McKee, Simmers and Licata (2006) found that consumers with high self-efficacy tend to participate in positive word-of-mouth communication and to stay in the company. Rhodes and Courneya (2003) in two studies that basically used Theory of Planned Behavior, found that among three predictor of behavioral intention, self-efficacy is the most powerful one.

Self-efficacy can be reflected by perceived-difficulty in performing tasks (Kraft, Rise, Sutton and Roysamb, 2005), where high perceived difficulty indicates low self-efficacy and low-perceived difficulty reflects high self-efficacy.  Perceived difficulty can be concluded from outcome of performing task.

We can combine self-efficacy theory and regulatory focus theory to get more precise result.  Bandura (1991) suggested that the effectiveness of self-regulation depends majorly on individual’s self-efficacy.  People with high self-efficacy are more likely to set higher goals, work hardest, persist longer when they face difficulties and demonstrate higher effectiveness in their performance.  These characteristics are compatible with characteristics of people that have promotion focus. Therefore we conclude that promotion focus is expressed by people that are also high self-efficacy.

Success and Failure Experiences

According to Gould, Houston and Mundt (1997), a part of behavior are a trying in nature. It means that in conducting such behavior, an individual are not able predict outcome of the behavior accurately. Weight reducing program, a university entrance test and an experiment are all proper example of trying behavior. In others word, in some behavior outcomes are uncertain. In that behavior, the involvement of an individual can be categorized as trying.

The authors said that success and failure in a trying influence motivation of an individual to execute next trying.  Of course, success will increase motivation and failure will decrease it. In other words, people that are success in previous trying behavior, will focus of an effort to be success in existing trying behavior. That is to say that in self-regulatory, they will be focus on promotion. On another hand, people that experienced failure in previous trying behavior, will have less confidence to get success in existing trying behavior. They will focus their effort to avoid failure. In others words, they will focus on prevention in their self-regulatory.

As we noted before, Gould, Houston and Mundt (1997) said that failure in previous trial will reduce self-confidence of people in performing current trying.  Based on self-efficacy theory (Bandura, 1977), their self-efficacy will also going down-stairs.

Avoidance and Approach Motivation

Raaij and Wandwossen (1978) noted that one of the model to describe motivation is need of achievement.  They recognized that their model is based on Maslow (1943) need stratification model, where need of achievement is reflected by self-actualization. However, Raaij and Wandwossen (1978) included the probability of attaining a goal and a probability of failure in their model.

Probability of attaining goal is stated in model:

Ts = Ms x Ps x Is

where Ts= Strength of the motivation to get success, Ms = Motive or need to achieve success, Ps = Probability of success and Is = Incentives value of success.

Tf=Mf x Pf X If

Meanwhile, probability of failure is expressed in following model:

Tf=Mf x Pf X If

where Tf = Strength of motivation to avoid failure, Mf = Motive to avoid failure, Pf = Probability of failure and If = Incentive value of failure.

The engagement in an activity, according to Raaij and Wandwossen (1978), is determined by the desired goal of the action. Desired goal depends on the comparison of Ts and Tf. The higher the difference between Tf and Ts, the higher the tendency of an individual to engage (Ta) to an activity. The mathematical expression for this premise is as follow:

Ta = Ts-Tf

In Raaij and Wandwossen (1978), approach and avoidance motivation is related to two different poles of attitude. ‘Ta’ can be seen as the magnitude of the attitude, where its valence (positive or negative) produced by what Schiffman and Kanuk (2009) modelled as compensatory. Therefore, Ta will be positive if Ts (the strength of approach motivation) higher than Tf (the strength of avoidance motivation) and vice versa.

Eliot (1999) noted that approach and avoidance motivation determine behavior differently. In approach motivation, behavior is directed to get a positive event or possibility, whereas in avoidance motivation, behavior is directed to avoid negative event or possibility.  In other word, based on Eliot, Sheldon and Church (1997), Eliot (1999) stated that approach and avoidance performance goals produce divergent outcomes and processes.  As a consequence of this point of view, each individual should be treated exclusively independent as she or he is motivated by approach or avoidance motives.

Semoga bermanfaat.

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