Motivation and the Brain

A person’s drive to succeed in life surfaces from motivation.  The ability to understand what motivation is and where it derives from means understanding the behaviors that encompass a motivation.  Motivation begins with developing a drive to become successful in any aspect of life.    Motivation derives from internal and external incentives obtained while establishing and working to achieve a certain goal.   Understanding the concept of motivation and its effects on individual behavior, is imperative to define the links between motivation and behavior.


              Psychologists seek to learn the reasons an individual acts in a certain manner by studying motivation (Tauer, 2005).  A motive is the triggering force of action and lays dormant within an individual until the individual establishes a true desire(Deckers, 2010).  Motives are the pushing and pulling forces that lead a person to think, perceive, and display certain behaviors as an effort to obtain personal satisfaction (Hunter, 2012).  Obtaining personal satisfaction means obtaining personal desires and needs, which vary from person to person, allowing for individual motives to vary greatly as well (Hunter, 2012).  Motivation consists of internal and external factors that keep an individual interested and committed to obtaining a goal (Deckers, 2010).  Motivation begins with the development of goal and ends with feelings of accomplishments obtained through the use of ideas, energy, determination, and action, (Deckers, 2010).

Originally, Greek philosophers based explanations of motivation on hedonistic ideas, but overtime evolved into a new philosophical idea that an individual gained the motivation to obtain a goal because of his or her desire to gain a certain incentive (Deckers, 2010).  The idea was brought about by philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer who also claimed that it was not possible for an individual to develop the motivation internally without a positive incentive as a return (Deckers, 2010).  Psychologists also adopted the idea that an incentive was necessary for motivation to occur.

Psychologist Henry Murray also believed that an incentive is necessary for the process of motivation, but his thoughts elaborated to include that an individual’s needs vary just as the levels of dominance and intimacy vary (Hunter, 2012).  Psychologists Atkinson and McClellan also agreed that motivation comes from the receipt of a positive incentive (Deckers, 2010).  These psychologists define a motive as an individual’s internal drive to gain a positive incentive by avoiding negativity that proves the main goal of motivation is to obtain an incentive (Deckers, 2010).  Desired incentives may arise from an array of factors such as intrinsic or extrinsic factors.

Intrinsic Motivation

            Intrinsic motivation includes the internal sources that drive an individual to behave in a certain manner (Tauer, 2005).  These drives vary from individual to individual as well as personality (Tauer, 2005).  An individual motivated internally does not behave in a certain manner in order to receive a material incentive, but rather for the internal incentive that varies among individuals (Deckers, 2010).  Through the use of the five-factor model of personality, psychologists are able to decipher an individual’s unique personality makeup and find the correlation of the individual’s personality and environment to predict an individual’s motivations (Tauer, 2005).  Since genetic factors aid in the development of personality, and personality aids in motivation, it is possible that an individual inherit certain desires and motivations to obtain those desires (Tauer, 2005).  An individual may have been predisposed to addiction which may lead to alcoholism in life (Tauer, 2005).    Internal motivation includes the personal feelings associated with obtaining a set goal on a personal level that allows an individual to feel self-sufficient and confident within themselves driving them toward success (Deckers, 2010).

Extrinsic Motivation

            External motivation refers to the environmental factors that lead an individual to act in a certain manner (Deckers, 2010).   Environmental changes reflect motivational change in an individual (Tauer, 2005).  An individual who is motivated by extrinsic factors behave in a certain way in order to obtain some material incentive (Tauer, 2005).  A Student works hard to obtain good grades in order to receive recognition into college or an individual who works to receive a paycheck are both examples of extrinsic motivation (Tauer, 2005).  Individuals do not behave in certain ways because they passion they have for the effect of the behavior, but to receive incentives such as praise, recognition, or materialistic items such as money (Tauer, 2005).  Motivation is the root of behavior portrayed by an individual (Deckers, 2010).  Motivation develops from the notion that an incentive, positive or negative, is rewarded after obtaining a goal (Deckers, 2010).  The incentive may be personal, social, or materialistic (Deckers, 2010).

Motivation and Behavior

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation both rely on the operant conditioning theory of B. F. Skinner which claims that behavior arises from motivation through incentives that vary among individuals as the needs of individuals vary (Ryan, 2000).   The theory of learning implies intrinsic motivation derives from internal motives seeking the gain of cognitive knowledge, physical and social development that produce psychological satisfaction (Ryan, 2000).  Additionally, extrinsic motivation derives from an internal desire of psychological satisfaction triggered from the acceptance of an outside incentive (Ryan, 2000).

            Human behavior is a highly complex process that involves the correlation of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors (Tauer, 2005).  In order for a behavior to occur, there must be an internal drive to begin the process (Deckers, 2010).  The internal drive is the initial idea established to begin a behavior (Deckers, 2010) or modification of behavior as in the operant conditioning and learning theories (Ryan, 2000).  The intrinsic motivation causes the behavior to begin; however, it combines with extrinsic motivation in order for success to occur (Deckers, 2010).  A student has a desire to go to college is intrinsic motivation.  In order for the student to obtain the goal, he or she must work towards good grades.  Maintaining good grades also requires motivation which is achieved through external praise and other forms of incentives such as social recognition (Deckers, 2010). Achieving the necessary grades creates personal satisfaction, determination, and a sense of contentment takes place increasing the students drive to continue the behavior (Tauer, 2005).  As motivation continues, the behavior continues until success is achieved, however if the incentives decrease, motivation decreases and achieving success may not occur (Tauer, 2005).


Motivation causes an individual to display a certain behavior in an effort to obtain a desired incentive defined as a goal (Deckers, 2010).  Philosophers and psychologists have come to a mutual acceptance that behavior derives from motivation through an internal or external motivation that seeks to establish psychological satisfaction (Hunter, 2012).  Motivation occurs in several forms from personal emotional satiety to social and physical satiety (Deckers, 2010).  Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators are necessary to keep a solid flow of motivation within a person who desires to obtain a certain goal (Tauer, 2005).




Deckers, L. (2010). Motivation: Biological, psychological, and environmental (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon


Hunter, M. (2012). HOW MOTIVATION REALLY WORKS: TOWARDS AN EMOTO-MOTIVATION PARADIGM. Economics, Management and Financial Markets, 7(4), 138-196. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1326326749?accountid=458


Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000, January). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 54-67. Retrieved from http://Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions


Tauer, J.  (2005).  Motivation.  In N.  Salkind (Ed.).  Encyclopedia of human development.  (pp. 858-861).  Thousand Oaks, Ca.:  SAGE Publications, Inc.  doi:  http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/10.4135/9781412952484.n420


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