Psychology of Behavior: Motivation Theories

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Motivation is one of the widely discussed and researched concepts. It has been explained through a number of theories, with each seeking to give a unique viewpoint to the reasons for action that provides purpose and direction to behavior. There are four early theories of motivation, namely Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory, McClelland’s Three Needs Theory, as well as McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y (Robbins, Judge, & Millett, 2015).

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The four theories form the foundations upon which the contemporary ideas have developed and act as the primary reference for organizational leaders seeking to motivate their workforce. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the most common theory of the four. It argues that everyone has five primary needs, namely psychological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization. These needs are met either internally or externally. The theory also argues that one level of conditions has to be sufficiently completed before moving to the next one. McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y are based on two assumptions. Theory X assumes that people lack ambition, do not like to work, fear responsibility, and have to be closely monitored in order to do anything substantial (Evans, 2015).

On the other hand, theory Y assumes that people enjoy working, seeking out responsibilities, and are self-driven with regard to achieving various goals. Herzberg’s two-factor theory argues that human satisfaction is caused by intrinsic factors, while their level of dissatisfaction and lack of motivation is driven by extrinsic factors. Feelings of achievement, growth, and advancement act as motivating elements, while outside factors such as supervision, working conditions, and status often lead to a lack of motivation (Mercer & Williams, 2014).

McClelland’s three needs theory argues that people are motivated to work by three significant needs, namely achievement, power, and affiliation (Judge, Robbins, Millet, & Boyle, 2013). People tend to prefer occupations that allow them to find solutions to problems and get feedback as a way of assessing their progress. In addition, it argues that people seeking to achieve the most in life tend to avoid complex and straightforward tasks because their priority is individual accomplishments. Studies have established that the four theories of motivation are highly applicable in the contemporary world, especially in an organizational setting (Evans, 2015).

Leaders in the modern world have a more challenging task compared to their predecessors owing to the fact that most workplaces are highly diverse. In addition, the advancement of technology has introduced additional challenges with regard to keeping employees motivated. The theories help organizational leaders to reorient their human resource management strategies in a bid to match the ambitions and needs of their workforce. According to management experts, a force that lacks the adequate motivation to give their maximum output is a significant liability to any entity, thus the need to ensure that the satisfaction levels are always high (Robbins et al., 2015).

The theory that works the best for me is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The reason for this is the fact that the idea is intuitive, as well as easy to understand and apply. One of the exciting elements of the theory is that once one level of needs has been substantially fulfilled, it stops being a motivating factor (Mercer & Williams, 2014).

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The requirements are classified into two categories, namely high-order needs, and low-order needs. Low-order needs such as safety and assurance that physical needs will be effectively met are satisfied externally. On the other hand, high-order conditions that include self-respect, autonomy, and achievement are met internally (Judge et al., 2013). Compared to the different theories, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is more practical with regard to motivating people towards achieving a common goal.


Evans, P. (2015). Motivation. New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Judge, T.A., Robbins, S., Millet, B., & Boyle, M. (2013). Organizational behavior. New York, NY: Pearson Higher Education.

Mercer, S., & Williams, M. (Eds.). (2014). Multiple perspectives on the self in SLA. New York, NY: Multilingual Matters.

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Robbins, S.P., Judge, T.A., & Millett, B. (2015). O.B.: The essentials. New York, NY: Pearson Higher Education.

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PsychologyWriting. (2022, January 28). Psychology of Behavior: Motivation Theories. Retrieved from


PsychologyWriting. (2022, January 28). Psychology of Behavior: Motivation Theories.

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"Psychology of Behavior: Motivation Theories." PsychologyWriting, 28 Jan. 2022,


PsychologyWriting. (2022) 'Psychology of Behavior: Motivation Theories'. 28 January.


PsychologyWriting. 2022. "Psychology of Behavior: Motivation Theories." January 28, 2022.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Psychology of Behavior: Motivation Theories." January 28, 2022.


PsychologyWriting. "Psychology of Behavior: Motivation Theories." January 28, 2022.