Theories on Motivation

by Andrew Button; Updated September 26, 2017
Motivated employees get the job done.

There are many well-known theories on motivation described in psychological textbooks. Many of these theories exist to help managers motivate their employees effectively; however, many others exist for purely academic reasons. Some of the most popular theories on motivation include business motivation theories, psychological motivation theories and economic motivation theories.

Business Motivation Theories

Business motivation theories are created to help managers motivate employees. Most of these theories are popular rather than academic. Some popular business motivation theories include "type theory," which states that type A personalities are self-motivated whereas type B personalities require extra guidance. Herzberg theory says that employees need to gradually be given a greater variety of tasks and more complex tasks to feel fulfilled at work.

Psychological Motivation Theories

Psychological motivation theories are developed by psychologists to help better understand human nature. Psychological theories are abstract and may or may not be of value for practical purposes. Among the psychological motivation theories is the acquired needs theory, which states that people are motivated by the need to acquire power, accomplishments or social bonds. Another example is cognitive dissonance theory, which states that people are motivated by a desire to rationalize contradictory or hypocritical behavior.

Economic Motivation Theories

Economics has its own set of ideas about human motivation. Economists believe that humans are naturally inclined to follow incentives and thus seek benefits and avoid costs. This basic idea has several important corollaries: firms seek to maximize profits, individuals seek to maximize utility (well being) and shoppers seek to maximize bargains. Economic theory does not explain certain types of behavior, such as charitable giving.

Biological Motivation Theories

Biology has several ideas as to what motivates humans (indeed, what motivates all living organisms). Motivating factors include, for example, the desire to survive, the desire to eat and the desire to reproduce. Darwin's theory of evolution is as much a motivational theory as it is a theory of biodiversity; one of the key tenets of the theory is that evolutionary change occurs as a result of organisms seeking to reproduce with partners.

About the Author

Based in St. John's, Canada, Andrew Button has been writing since 2008, covering politics, business and finance. He has contributed to newspapers and online magazines, including "The Evening Telegram" and cbc.ca. Button is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Memorial University in St. John's.

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