Motivation is a reason or set or reasons for engaging in a particular behavior, especially human behavior as studied in psychology and neuropsychology. The reasons may include basic needs (e.g., food, water, shelter) or an object, goal, state of being, or ideal that is desirable, which may or may not be viewed as "positive," such as seeking a state of being in which pain is absent. The motivation for a behavior may also be attributed to less-apparent reasons such as altruism or morality.

According to Geen (1995), motivation refers to the initiation, direction, intensity and persistence of human behavior.

Motivational Concepts

Reward and Reinforcement

A reward is that which follows an occurrence of a specific behavior with the intention of acknowledging the behavior in a positive way. A reward often has the intent of encouraging the behavior to happen again.

There are two kinds of rewards, extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic rewards are external to, or outside of, the individual; for example, praise or money. Intrinsic rewards are internal to, or within, the individual; for example, satisfaction or accomplishment.

Some authors distinguish between two forms of intrinsic motivation: one based on enjoyment, the other on obligation. In this context, obligation refers to motivation based on what an individual thinks ought to be done. For instance, a feeling of responsibility for a mission may lead to helping others beyond what is easily observable, rewarded, or fun.

A reinforcer is different from reward, in that reinforcement is intended to create a measured increase in the rate of a desirable behavior following the addition of something to the environment.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is evident when people engage in an activity for its own sake, without some obvious external incentive present. A hobby is a typical example.

Intrinsic motivation has been intensely studied by educational psychologists since the 1970s, and numerous studies have found it to be associated with high educational achievement and enjoyment by students.

There is currently no "grand unified theory" to explain the origin or elements of intrinsic motivation. Most explanations combine elements of Bernard Weiner's attribution theory, Bandura's work on self-efficacy and other studies relating to locus of control and goal orientation. Thus it is thought that students are more likely to experience intrinsic motivation if they:

• Attribute their educational results to internal factors that they can control (eg. the amount of effort they put in, not 'fixed ability').
• Believe they can be effective agents in reaching desired goals (eg. the results are not determined by dumb luck.)
• Are motivated towards deep 'mastery' of a topic, instead of just rote-learning 'performance' to get good grades.
Note that the idea of reward for achievement is absent from this model of intrinsic motivation, since rewards are an extrinsic factor.

In knowledge-sharing communities and organizations, people often cite altruistic reasons for their participation, including contributing to a common good, a moral obligation to the group, mentorship or 'giving back'. This model of intrinsic motivation has emerged from three decades of research by hundreds of educationalists and is still evolving. (See also Goal Theory.)

In work environments, money is typically viewed as an important goal (having food, clothes etc.) may well be more powerful than the direct motivation provided by an enjoyable workplace.

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Author's Bio: 

This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Motivation. The Official Guide to Motivation is Keith A. Shaw. Keith A. Shaw is founder and President of Mind Body Spirit, an authority on motivation, self improvement, success, health and wellness knowledge. Shaw also is the author and creator of "The Power Of Thought", "The Power Of Serenity And Peace" and "The Power Of Concentration" Success System. He also authored and produced "The Power Of Qigong" DVD series for increasing health, wellness, energy, mental power and more. Qigong, also known as Chi Kung, has been used to improve health for thousands of years.

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