(redirected from motive)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Idioms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.


the force or process which impels people to behave in the way that they do. In a work setting, motivation can be viewed as that which determines whether workers expend the degree of effort necessary to achieve required task objectives. In OCCUPATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY two basic conceptions of motivation can be discerned: ‘needs’ theory and ‘expectancy’ theory Possibly the best known of the former is the ‘hierarchy of needs’ identified by Abraham Maslow (1908-70). He argued that individuals have intrinsic needs which they are impelled to seek to satisfy. These needs, which are ordered in a hierarchy are physical needs (food, warmth, shelter), security needs (safety, home), ego needs (esteem, status) and self-actualization needs (the realization of individual potential). Initially, the lower order needs such as safety determine behaviour but once these are satisfied higher order needs come to dominate. Maslow's theory has been widely criticized, however, for assuming that such needs are universal and that they are always ordered in this particular hierarchy.

Other needs theories include Herzberg's ‘Two Factor Theory of Motivation’. He argued that people are motivated by two kinds of need: hygiene factors (those basic needs such as shelter which, if not satisfied, lead to unhappiness but whose satisfaction does not in itself lead to happiness); and motivators (those higher order needs which when satisfied lead to contentment). The importance of this theory in a work setting is its insistence that managers have to ensure that both hygiene factors (i.e. pay, working conditions) and motivation (i.e. the need for personal fulfilment) are satisfied for a workforce to be content and highly motivated.

A further ‘needs’ theory is the ERG (Existence, Relatedness and Growth) theory of Clayton Alderfer (1940 -). Like Maslow he suggests that there is a hierarchy of needs but that the less a high level need is satisfied the more important a lower level need becomes. Hence demands for more pay in fact really reflect a desire for work to be made more satisfying.

The main alternative approach to ‘needs’ theories is the ‘expectancy’ approach associated with Victor Vroom (1932 -). This suggests that individuals are motivated to act in certain ways not by some basic inner need but by the strength of the expectation that the action will achieve a result seen by them as desirable. The desire for a particular outcome is known as the ‘valence’. This theory is essentially a ‘process’ theory: it emphasizes the process of motivation rather than the nature or content of particular motivators. The strength of people's motivation will be determined by weighing up how much they want something and how far they believe a certain action will contribute to achieving it.

References in classic literature ?
Our little friend here might have some motive, perhaps, for objecting to the arrangements.
Granting the avowed motive for her journey -- did not her manner, on the morning when the letter was opened, and again on the morning of departure, suggest the existence of some other motive which her letter kept concealed?
And if pride was not forbidden," said Thwackum, "I might boast of having taught him that duty which he himself assigned as his motive.
You'll certainly not find the motive there, Monsieur Dax," Monsieur Stangerson said with a cold smile.
I am still in the dark about you and your motives," he said.
This policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public.
Van Brandt's refusal to marry me, and there was an intelligible motive assigned for my proposing to leave London.
Sir Patrick's motives will appear presently," rejoined the incorrigible old gentleman.
There shall be no money motive," I said, "no idea of personal advantage in the service I mean to render to Lady Glyde.
It is not to be doubted, that a single man of prudence and good sense is better fitted, in delicate conjunctures, to balance the motives which may plead for and against the remission of the punishment, than any numerous body whatever.
From an attachment to her husband, which in itself does honour to both, she cannot forgive the endeavours at preventing their union, which have been attributed to selfishness in Lady Susan; but in this case, as well as in many others, the world has most grossly injured that lady, by supposing the worst where the motives of her conduct have been doubtful.
He was directly invited to join their party, but he declined it, observing that he could imagine but two motives for their choosing to walk up and down the room together, with either of which motives his joining them would interfere.