Understanding the Science of Motivation

Darren Bunton's image for:
"Understanding the Science of Motivation"
Image by: 

 Psychology Today defines motivation as: the desire to do things. According to these simple and stern definitions, motivation is the difference between standing up out of the lounging chair and turning the television manually, and remaining seated and using the remote. From and industrial perspective, motivation is both the desire and ability to perform a specific task or action. 

There are numerous associations and individuals claiming to be, and proclaiming to provide, motivational-encouragement. The combination word itself sounds like an oxymoron. Another contradiction lies in the word encouragement alone. If someone needs to be encouraged to be motivated, then they probably have no business participating in the activities for which they need be motivated.

Attempting to understanding the science of motivation is difficult, due to several factors. Most confusion begins with attempting to identify and name the various types of motivation currently being researched. In instances in which motivation is measured, scientists avoid attempting to study it as a consistent trait. Apparently, motivation studies are just as subjective as the term itself, and is considered an ever-evolving science. This is why the term is considered by many researchers to still be in its infancy. Developmentally, there are two types of motivation which are receiving the most attention in the modern science. 

Intrinsic-motivation refers to motivation that is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual, rather than relying on any external pressure. Contemporary researchers have found that intrinsic motivation is usually associated with high educational achievement and enjoyment. In school, students are considered intrinsically motivated if they:

Attribute their educational results to factors under their own control. Believe they can be effective agents in reaching desired goals. Are interested in mastering a topic, rather than just rote-learning to achieve good grades.

Extrinsic-motivation comes from outside of the individual. Common extrinsic motivations are rewards like money, grades, coercion, and the threat of punishment or reward. Competition is considered extrinsic because it encourages the competitor to win and defeat others. In competition, winning is the reward intended to encourage victory. By focusing on the rewards of victory and winning, participants usually do not experience the intrinsic rewards of the activity; such as enjoyment. An applause from an audience is considered an extrinsic reward, to an extrinsically motivation-based task.

Some social psychological research has indicated that extrinsic rewards can lead to over-justification by individuals. These two types of motivation are generally combined into one when referring to human behavior and motivation. As a result, motivation in general, has been identified by theorist as having the following characteristics:






The science of motivation involves examining current theories, developing research, and keeping current with news on the subject. Founders of motivation research, such as Frederick Herzberg, believe motivation is the crucial element in setting and attaining goals.

The mission statement of the Motivation Research Institute (MRI), is to facilitate collaborations on the study of motivation by conducting theoretically-guided and practically relevant studies. The Institute uses rigorous methodology to gain insight into how motivation operates. Staffers at MRI have been conducting research on motivation for several years. Their goal is to provide a better understanding of motivation and its function, how it is obtained, and the biological contributions of heredity and environmental influences.

Although cliche, many believe the saying "The early bird gets the worm", originated from the human trait of motivation, or lack thereof. Individuals who lack motivation have been equivocated to the joker, or deemed a trickster. Their lackadaisical approach to life often creates an atmosphere of discontent on behalf of those around them. If tradition holds true, there is no "I" in teamwork, and it is also true that there are two I's in lack-of-motivation.

No matter if the unmotivated person is a joke or the most stoic person on the planet, the fact remains, there is little research on the lack-of-motivation being a disease or disorder. As a result, the charlatan who pretends to have the least amount of concern ends up being the person who misses out on the worm. In other words, the unmotivated person usually finishes last.

The science of motivation supports that people can influence their own levels of motivation and self-control. Motivation is exhibited when figuring out what the self wants, garnering the power to act, and taking the initiative to implement that which you plan to do. Whether it is work, or extracurricular activities that demand a person's time and energy, motivation is a by-product directly related to outcome.

Despite the science of motivation's complexity, and motivation's tendency to sometimes evade human magnetization, motivation is definitely something that exists. Or does it? As humanity and research advances, scientists and the general public alike, can expect to make progress understanding motivation and the science of its study. In today's economic condition, and with high rates of unemployment, there could very well be a large sample group from which to gain insight. The most challenging task of all just might be finding someone motivated enough to conduct the research.

More about this author: Darren Bunton

From Around the Web

  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrow