Motives and Motivations

As much as everyone is uniquely different, we are all leaves from the same tree. We all share a biological heritage and we all have common behavioral tendencies.


What makes us different? We start with behavioral genetics, the characteristics of our distant ancestors and their ability to survive, reproduce, and send their genes (and basic instincts) into the future. Human traits and behaviors are influenced by gene complexes. This is the reason we’re afraid of heights, or the height we grow to, and inherit such traits as intelligence, happiness and aggressiveness.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) wrote “On The Origins of Species” (1859) that all our traits are inherited. And Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) believed our behavior is deeply influenced by unconscious thoughts, impulses and desires, especially those concerning sex and aggression.


In other words, our instincts are complex behaviors that are embedded into our unconscious, such as nest-building of birds.

Psychologists today define motivation as a need or desire that energizes and directs behavior (the nest-building). There are four underlying perspectives that help us to understand motivated behaviors. The first was called Instinct Theory which has been replaced by the Evolutionary Perspective; the second is the Drive-Reduction Theory, the interaction between internal (inner) pushes and external pulls; the third is The Arousal Theory, the urge for an optimum level of stimulation; and finally “The Hierarchy of Needs, which describes how some motives are, if unsatisfied, more basic and compelling than others.

The Evolutionary Perspective 

This is, in part, that we not only inherit certain innate traits and psychological characteristics, they are also subject to the same sort of natural selection as our physical characteristics.

The Drive-Reduction Theory 

This is the concept that a psychological need creates an aroused tension state, a drive, that motivates us as in hunger or thirst, and we aim for stability or homeostasis.

Most motivated activities begin with a “need” or internal lack or deficiency. Needs cause a drive – a response desire to satisfy the need. Drives cause an action or series of actions to develop in order to attain or satisfy a “goal.” Reaching the goal that satisfies the need ends the chain.

The Arousal Theory 

A behavior that ignores simple satisfaction in order to satisfy curiosity, stimulation and exploration. This helps explain why a well-fed animal, for example, leaves its mother to explore and forage when no need exists, or why we have a desire to climb Mt. Everest. Curiosity is what makes monkeys monkey around. 

The Hierarchy of Motives (Needs) 

These are what Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) described as our psychological needs, air, water, food, shelter etc., and, as basic needs are satisfied, humans go on to seek the higher needs, such as love, self-esteem, sex, in order to be accepted etc. This is more fully described in Self-Actualization, including Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Primal Drives, Nature vs Nurture and Habits.

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

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