Motivation: Its Types and Functions

Concept of motivation

Motivation is an amalgamation of forces that instigate, direct and maintain a certain behavior that aims at achieving a specified goal (Hong-chee, 1968). It is an inside drive to behave in a certain way and the essential element influencing the attainment and setting of goals. From this definition, it is evident that motivation is a group of certain forces working together to achieve an objective (Peters, 2006). Therefore, motivation is a vector quantity possessing both direction and magnitude. Motivational direction shows the individual’s behavioral intention while motivational magnitude reflects an individual’s strength of attraction towards the expected results (Hong-chee, 1968). These two motivational factors are dynamic as they rely on an individual’s choice in a given environment at a time. Hence, motivation is a moderately dynamic individual’s variable influencing situations (Hong-chee, 1968).

Gradual changes in the behaviors of individuals greatly explain motivation. For instance, psychologists believe that individuals need to get motivated to acquire knowledge. Motivation gives interests and incentives which result in specific actions or certain changes in behavior. It currently depicts every part of life (Hong-chee, 1968). For example, it is motivating to take food because of hunger while better employment motivates schooling, promotion in the workplace, or the need for knowledge. Motivation varies from one individual to another as people may be interested in one thing but because of different reasons. Therefore, whatever motivates individual ranges from incentive to coercion (Deckers, 2010).

Types of motivation

The types of motivation include intrinsic and extrinsic ones. Intrinsic motivation is a logical state of mind having an inherent reward towards a certain task (Cherry, 2012). An example of intrinsic motivation is studying to be knowledgeable. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation derives from the outside like having money or obtaining excellent grades. Behavior derived from intrinsic motivation lasts longer as compared to one derived from extrinsic motivation (Cherry, 2012). A good example of a lasting behavior is a student who studies to gather knowledge rather than that who just strives to obtain better grades. The former student is more motivated than the latter one. Furthermore, motivation may be affected by either biological factors, like water or food, or emotional ones (Peters, 2006). The latter could include acts of loving, hating, being fearful as well as panicking.

Functions of emotion

Even though quantitative deterministic motivational theories do not recognize emotion as an aspect of motivation, several qualitative mentalist theories recognize a motivational aspect of emotion (Hong-chee, 1968). Emotion plays a highly significant role in behavior and thinking. It comprises three key components, namely, the subjective element that shows an experience of an emotion, the physiological element showing the reaction to emotion, and finally an expressive element reflecting the behavior while responding to the emotion. These three emotional components are of high importance for an individual while engaging in emotional responses (Deckers, 2010).

For example, in a school situation, students may have “exam fever” because of the uncertainty of passing the exams and this affects their final results. The students are more likely to read very hard due to the emotion of fear. This is motivated by their wish to pass the exams as they endeavor to score high marks and get better grades. In search of obtaining better grades, students experience an emotion of motivation to study hard which is a positive thing and in turn achieve their expectations (Hong-chee, 1968). One should avoid negative emotions by taking actions that aim at getting good results and hence good emotional feelings. Therefore, positive emotion is a motivational component that instigates, directs, and maintains people’s behavior towards achieving a goal. For instance, we occupy ourselves with various social roles which end up exciting us and making us happy and contented with the view of avoiding agitation and sadness (Cherry, 2012).

Facial expressions and emotion

Facial expressions are the signs which the face reflects indicating an emotional interpretation of a person’s feelings. Deckers (2010) notes that facial expressions are fundamental in communicative functions passing information about an intention or an internal feeling, thus finding these expressions helpful in interpreting internal information. Research studies conducted on facial expressions and emotions show that individuals in various cultures group facial expressions in the same manner (Deckers, 2010). These studies provide the idea that a similar facial expression observed refers to a similar emotion in different situations. Even though different theoretical observations are put across regarding these findings, the same conclusions are arrived at on facial expressions showing human emotions’ relation to facial expressions (Peters, 2006).

Facial expressions are normally involuntary, and they help in showing an individual’s internal feeling which corresponds to his/her emotion. For example, it is easier to tell that a person is lying because the involuntary emotion will make him act contrary to what he/she is lying about. It could be noted that these emotions normally occur as a result of shame, guilt, or fear of the lie’s outcome, and they are shown involuntarily (Peters, 2006).


Cherry, K. (2012). Everything Psychology; What Function Do Emotions Serve? (2nd Ed.). Web.

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

Hong-chee, S. (1968). Performance as a function of ability, motivation and emotion. Vancouver, Canada: The University of British Colombia.

Peters, R. (2006). The Concept of Motivation (2nd ed.). California, CA: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

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PsychologyWriting. "Motivation: Its Types and Functions." October 5, 2023.