Motives And Motivation Of Behaviour: Meaning, Types And Abraham Maslow’s Theory Of Motivation

The behaviour of man (and even those of other animals) cannot be analysed in mechanical terms. Such behaviours can be better understand by analyzing the motive(s) behind them. These are several motivating factors that continue to inspire and prompt the human behaviour. Some of these motives are innate or inborn, while some are acquired through learning and other social experiences. For proper understanding of the human behaviour, these motives or motivations (the why of behaviour), need further and proper explanation.

Meaning And Definition Of Motives

Etymologically speaking, the term motivation was derived from the Latin word, “motive”, from which the words ‘motion’, ‘motor’, etc., have been derived. It means to motivate, inspire or exercise pressure. From the psychological point of view therefore, the term motive implies the driving force that initiates and sustains an activity. It is that internal factor or condition that prompts an organism into action in a particular way. The following definitions will help to explain the meaning of motive further:

In the words of Prof. J.P. Guilford, “A Motive’ is any particular internal factor or condition that tends to initiate and sustain activity”.

“Motivation refers to the dynamics of behaviour, the process of initiating, sustaining and directing activities of the organism” (Goldson, 1970b). Many motivated activities can be thought of as beginning with a need.

According to Mac Dougall, “Motives are conditions, physiological and psychological, within the organism that disposes it to act in certain ways”.

The above definitions point out the fact that motive is the concept on the basis of which human behaviour is generalized. It is that factor or condition that impels a man to act in a particular ways, or it is that impelling reason behind or that inspires an action or behaviour. In other words, motives or motivations are those factors that continue to influence the human activity and behaviour toward a particular goal or object. For instance, if one is hungry, the one will make different moves in search of food. Such moves or activities will continue till food is obtained and the hunger is satisfied.

Psychologically speaking therefore, motives or motivation has the following three features:

1. It initiates or prompts an activity in an organism
2. There is an internal drive or urge present in the activity
3. The activity continues till there is an adjustment or till the motive is fulfilled.

Motives serve as inferences with which we can explain and predict behaviour. In other word, motives cannot be observed directly. They are inferences we draw from behaviour (what people say or do). If our inferences about motive are correct, they can be used for the explanation of behaviour and the reason behind such behaviour correctly.

Relationship Between Incentive And Motives

Incentive: This is the external material object or goal toward which the motivated activities or behaviours are directed. For instance, in the face of hunger, “food”, which is needed to satisfy the hunger, becomes the incentive toward which all actions are directed.

Professor B. Kuppuswomy (1982) made differentiation between positive and negative incentives. He said that the incentive is positive when it reinforces action, while it is said to be negative when it inhibits action.

Need And Motive: The term need refers to a lack of something. Most human behaviours are motivated by physiological needs like hunger, sleep, thirst, etc., or psycho-social needs such as recognition, praise, social approval, etc.

Types Of Motives

Different classifications of motive have been given by different psychologists from different view points. But generally, most psychologists have classified motives under the following headings: primary and secondary; acquired and innate or physiological and social, etc. However, the present discussions will be based on the primary and secondary classification because it is simpler and includes all other types of classification.

1. Primary Motives: Primary motives include all those ones that arise from biological or physiological conditions of the body, which are necessary for the survival of the organism, or the maintenance of HOMOESTASIS; that is, keeping the processes of the bodily activities in balanced condition. The most important primary motives include hunger, thirst, pain avoidance, and needs to sleep, air, and elimination of wastes and regulation of body temperature. Primary motives are unlearned. They are rather inborn or innate.

2. Secondary Or Learned Motives: These are those motives acquired in the process of social learning and interaction within socio-cultural groups. They are needed for the psycho-social adjustment of individuals within their environment.

They complement the primary motives, and sometimes, help to modify some of them. The secondary motives include the need for achievement, which is the desire to succeed at meeting high standards of performance; the need for approval and recognition from others; the need to dominate or exercise power over others, etc. Included here also in the secondary motives are the needs for activity, curiousity, exploration, manipulations, affiliation to others, etc. These motives serve to provide useful information about the environment to the organism and also help to stimulate the nervous system. This may inform the reason why Dennis Coon (1986) grouped them separately under “Stimulus Motives”.

Abraham Maslow’s Theory Of Motivation

Maslow, (1908-1970), in his book, “Motivation and Personality” (1954), has attempted to build a systematic theory of motive on the basis of needs of the organism. His basic general proposition is that man is neither a mere biological organism, mor an empty organism to be filled by the environment. He speaks of various levels of needs arranged in hierarchial order that motivate organisms to action. According to him, the more basic level of needs must be relatively well satisfy before the organism is able to function at a higher level.

  • The most basic level of motivation, says Maslow, consists of the physiological needs like hunger, thirst, temperature regulation, as well as the need for activity, sleep, and relaxation. It is only when these needs are fairly satisfied, he said, the organism can function at a higher level.
  • At the next level, in ascending order are the safety needs, which are centered on the requirement of a predictable and orferly world. Deprivation of the safety needs leads to the feeling of insecurity by the individuals, some of who may adopt different kinds of anti-social behaviours to the system or the society at large. Is there any wonder then that petty crimes aimed at personal means of survival abound in most developing countries such as Nigeria, where there are desperat fears of political, economic and psycho-social insecurity.
  • The need for love and belongings, according to Maslow, comes next after the physiological and safety needs have been met. The individual is now motivated to seek affectionate relationship with other people and desires to affiliate to a wider group to give and receive love.
  • At the fourth level is the esteem need, in which the individual aspires for achievement and competence, independence, freedom, reputation and prestige and recognition.

Depending on the cultural and moral values of the people involved, the desire of esteem and recognition can become so perverted to the extent of losing its real value. This has become the case in Nigeria today where criminals and other anti-social personalities are awarded chieftaincy titles and knighthood by communities and churches, after donating huge sums of money and other materials to such institutions.

  • The need for self-actualization arises, according to Maslow, after all the other four levels of needs have been reasonably satisfied. Self-actualization, Maslow says, is based on the full realization of the individual’s potentialities made possible by providing him with the opportunity to do so. Maslow gave some characteristics of people who have become self-actualized as follows:

1. They accept themselves and others as they are.
2. They have a good sense of humour.
3. They are concerned for the welfare of others.
4. They are creative.
5. They look at life objectively and are problem-centred rather than self-centered; and ten other more characteristics. He included such names as Abraham Lincoln, Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt, among those who were self-actualized in American Society.

Then comes the need to know and undertand, which according to Maslow, are more profound and observable in some people than others. Those who are motivated by the needs of knowledge and understanding are always curious and have the tendency to explore and acquire more knowledge without seeking material reward for it. Such people, Maslow opines, also have the tendency to organize, analyse and look for better relationships.

  • The highest level in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is “AESTHETIC NEEDS”, which consist of the desire for beauty and beautiful surroundings. These needs are also accompanied by the love for truth, perfection and justice, and attainment of great spiritual height and consciousness. The psychological investigation of transcendent experiences has become part of a field of transpersonal psychology”, which is a distinct field of inquiry into higher states of consciousness and spiritual search as basic aspects of human life (Robert, 1974).

Criticism Of Maslow’s Theory

The main ground on which maslow’s theory is criticized centres on what the critics considered as the over generalization of certain subjective terms like “frame of reference” and “Self actualization”, etc., The critics observed that such subjective ideas could not easily be proved empirically or by scientific test. They further observed that Maslow could not prove that human needs are rigidly arranged in such a hierarchical order since some individuals can deny themselves of certain basic needs for greater achievement.

A very critical look at the theory also shows that it does not have a universal cultural validity. This is so because people’s culture, value system and standards, determine their levels of aspirations and potentialities. Take for instance; in Nigeria and other less developed Christian countries in Africa, those who shout loudest of their aspiration for the aesthetic level of need, and even most of the ones who claim to have attained it, are people actually hunted by the fear of unknown and insecurity of life (both material and psychological).

Going by the Maslow’s theory, no one can even be called a self actualization person in Africa, Except, probably, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, and may be Koffi Annan of Ghana.

However, despite the above criticisms, the theory contains some fundamental facts about motivation of human behaviours. According to Maslow, the needs at the lower hierarchy continuously occupy the individual’s attention until they are reasonably satisfied. It is then that the needs next in the hierachy gains attention and becomes proponent.

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