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All men are born with certain fundamental
needs or drives which make us behave in ways tending to ensure our physical
survival. These basic drives lead us to seek warmth, food, drink, protection,
the avoidance of pain and suffocation. As we grow up, other motives are
acquired through learning and personal experience. If we are treated with loving
care during our infancy, we learn that association with other people is a
source of pleasure. Many of our adult motives for behaviour can be traced back
to the early experiences in childhood, when many experiences are associated
with the satisfaction of basic needs. These experiences produce secondary
motives, some of which gain strength and persistence. Acquired motives can be divided into two categories: common social
motives and common personal ones.
The common social ones listed below have been
observed as motives of behaviour among
people of different societies and cultures. These needs are:
Many people want praise and credit for their
effort and accomplishments. They want to be recognized for what they think they are, and this may involve the use
the ‘club’ badge in one form or another.
Most individuals require a feeling of
belonging, in which other people regard them as trustworthy and worthwhile
persons. The clubs we join, the friends we associate with, etc., all satisfy
our desire for acceptance.
All people need to exercise some control over
their affairs and to feel free and independent. Some attain this feeling simply
by dressing differently although such behaviours can cause some conflict with
the desire for acceptance and group membership. Independence needs may be
satisfied partly by opportunities to suggest ideas and to participate with
others in the making of decisions. The
need may also be satisfied if the
mere opportunity to control and influence our affairs is available, even if it
is not taken.
Many people have varying needs for security,
which may be fulfilled in different ways. To one person, security may mean the
accumulation of sayings, and other needs are subordinated to this goal. To
others, it may mean a permanent job or happy home. Like all the other motives
security is a relative thing. The manual
labourer who works some days a week may
feel quite secure, but another employee in the same situation would be
The way we behave is largely a matter of our
perceptions of our environment and our learned motives. If we feel we are
deprived of the satisfactions associated with any of these motives we are more
easily galvanized into action. The direction and the degree of success will
depend on the choices for satisfaction available, as well as he learned
habitual patterns for pursuing the goal.
Personal motives are those that drive us to
fulfill our ideas of our self as a
person. These self – achievement motives include the desire to ‘maintain one’s
good name’, to acquire material spiritual possessions, to dominate other
people, to invent things, r to do virtually anything which will give us a sense
of attainment and self – respect.
The constellation of our personal motives and
our individual patterns for their achievement and satisfaction are marks which
distinguish each of us as a unique, individual personality.
The motives we have do not appear as direct
causes of behavior but may be disguised and obscure. Consider three men in a
pub, each drinking a glass of beer. One man may simply be satisfying his thirst
– drive. The second man may be in the pub in search of others to associate with
and thereby satisfy his social needs for
acceptance and recognition. The third man may be suffering from a variety of
personal problems, and is trying to drown his sorrows in the vague hope of
recovering his self – esteem. All three are apparently behaving in the same way
and yet each is achieving the satisfaction of a different need. This shows that
different motives can be satisfied by what appears as the same kind of
behaviour. On the other hand one motive may lead to many different forms and
expressions of behaviour. For a thirsty man, the half – pint at the pub is enough. To another thirsty man, many cups
of tea are the only source of satisfaction. To a third, sucking on a lemon
drop, which activates the salivary glands, may prove satisfactory. This shows
different behaviour springing from the same motive. This may be an obvious example, but the implications are far –
reaching. It may be quite difficult to decide on the different motives that
drive people to different sorts of behaviour.
We must also remember that we are often
motivated by impulses that we are not aware of. These unconscious motives govern much of our activity. We
cannot often say with accuracy why we did this or that, and not the other.
The capacity to modify and change our
responses and not to respond to instinctive drives only, is one of the
characteristics which distinguish humans from other living creatures and
machines. The plasticity or flexibility of behaviour is the way we develop what is called purpose
in life. All motives are purposeful, but, where the basic drives satisfy the
object of survival, other experiences associated with that satisfaction may
become needs and motives themselves quite independent of their original
association. The young child who has to fight for his nourishment may grow up
into an aggressive adult, as if the threat of hunger was always present in his
environment. He may generalize this aggression
towards the entire structure in which he lives.
The result of the experiences of home and
school can motivate a young person
against a particular way of life in the experiences were painful. Experiences
which are associated with pleasure will
tend to motivate a person in favour of that way of life.
“Homeostasis” is the name used for the
stabilizing process whereby a need sets up a type of behaviour which ceases
when the need is satisfied. Homeostasis in organisms is very much like an
automatic control system. When a homeostat is used to control the domestic
water supply, for example (when, of
course, it is called a thermostat). Then it switches on the heat when the water
reaches a lower temperature and switches it off when it reaches a higher
temperature. This is a simple example of the process of need – satisfaction and
drive – reduction, which is at the core of the whole motivational process.