The Behavioral Neuroscience of Motivation

Motivation is an internal process where it can be a drive or a need that can help an individual to start, guided, and continued the activities in order to ensure their needs are met. It can be influenced by the satisfaction of needs that are either crucial for sustaining life or even important for well-being and growth. On top of that, there are two different types of motivation which consist of intrinsic motivation, that arising from internal factors, and also extrinsic motivation, that inspiring from external factors.

Motivation becomes detectable through human behavior, hence, the study of motivation in psychology is aimed to provide the possible answer on what causes behavior and why does it vary in its intensity? (Souders, 2020)

There are several theories had proposed by psychologists to explain what forces actually cause an individual to act, whether the motivation is biological, psychological or biopsychosocial. According to Murayama (2018), when someone makes a decision, their choice is definitely influenced by their motivational state.

Get quality help now
Dr. Karlyna PhD
Dr. Karlyna PhD
checked Verified writer

Proficient in: Behavior

star star star star 4.7 (235)

“ Amazing writer! I am really satisfied with her work. An excellent price as well. ”

avatar avatar avatar
+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

Therefore, psychologists have determinate theories of motivation to seek an explanation and principle of motivation. The biological theories include Instinct theory, Drive- reduction theory, and Optimal- arousal theory. Besides, the psychological theories include Incentive theory as well as Cognitive theories.

Under the biological category, the Instinct theory of motivation states that behaviors are motivated by biological instinct, which is goal-directed, and response patterns of behavior that are not the result of learning or experience. It is also suggested that all organisms are born with innate biological tendencies such as fear, competitiveness, and more, which are crucial elements for survival.

Get to Know The Price Estimate For Your Paper
Number of pages
Email Invalid email

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

"You must agree to out terms of services and privacy policy"
Write my paper

You won’t be charged yet!

(Cherry, 2020) Hence, this theory suggests that behaviors occur in order to ensure an individual meets their basic survival needs. For example, a dog will shake his body when it gets wet. This also shows that instincts are inherent tendencies for animals to respond spontaneously in a particular situation.

Drive-reduction theory suggests that motivation begins with a physiological need such as food or water that elicits a drive toward behavior to fulfill the needs. According to Hull as cited in Cherry (2020), he suggested that drives such as thirst, hunger is referring to the state of tension or arousal caused by biological needs. As drive creates an unpleasant state of tension, so it needs to be reduced in order to maintain a state of balance of the body as known as homeostasis. Therefore, this theory is emphasized in “drive” and “reduction”. For example, when someone is feeling hungry, he may go to look for some food and eat, after the need is fulfilled, he will reach homeostasis and the drive to fulfill his need is then reduced.

Moreover, Optimal- arousal theory proposed that organisms are motivated to achieve and keep an optimal level of arousal. However, “optimal” is various from one to another person based on the situation. Based on the Yerkes- Dodson Law, it is claimed that increased levels of arousal can boost and enhance someone’s performance and increase until that person achieves optimum arousal level. (Shrestha, 2017) When the arousal level is extremely high or overly low, it can lead to poor performance. Hence, it proved that in order to ensure high performance, arousal levels must be optimal to preserve balance within bodies and minds. For instance, when arousal level is low so that the person is feeling bored, he can engage in exciting activities such as going out with friends to reach an optimal level of arousal.

Unlike biological theories, Incentive theory proposed that people are motivated by external incentives such as pulled toward behaviors that lead to rewards and pushed away from the actions that may cause punishment. (Shrestha, 2017) It is different because people do not intend to reduce the stimulus but attracted to something, it shown that behavior is motivated by a desire for incentives. For example, someone is studied hard for the exam because he wants to maintain a good grade in his result in order to get a scholarship. This action was influenced and motivated by an incentive which to gain something in return of the great efforts.

On the other hand, Cognitive theories proposed that motivation is affected by both attributions as well as expectancies. Attributions are the way that people think about their own actions and other’s action. It can be related to the amount of effort, ability levels, and degree of luck such as an individual might attribute his success to hard work and it may motivate him to work harder next time in order to succeed. People will formulate different expectations about what they think will happen, and people usually are motivated by the prediction of positive outcomes. (Cherry, 2020) Expectancy is a belief that a particular action can bring a desirable outcome. For instance, a student always shares his answer with his peers because he beliefs that an exchange of answers and ideas can help him to improve.

In conclusion, there are numerous of different forces that direct people’s motivation. According to Souders (2020), motivation can be used to describe why an individual does something. Therefore, it can be explained that motivation is the desire to behave and react in order to achieve a goal and usually it can have various sources as people may have a number of motives for engaging in one behavior. Without a doubt, motivation theories help to explain how biological and psychological variables contribute to motivation. As a result, we can conclude that biological theories suggest that people are pushed into action and motivated to fulfill internal or fundamental drives of the body to survive while psychological theories suggest that people are pulled into the action and motivated by external incentives or environments.

Cite this page

The Behavioral Neuroscience of Motivation. (2020, Nov 21). Retrieved from

The Behavioral Neuroscience of Motivation

👋 Hi! I’m your smart assistant Amy!

Don’t know where to start? Type your requirements and I’ll connect you to an academic expert within 3 minutes.

get help with your assignment