Motivation: Theory and Research

By Harold F. O'Neil Jr.; Michael Drillings | Go to book overview

2
Goal Setting Theory
Edwin A. Locke University of Maryland Gary P. Latham University of TorontoIn the 1960s, three approaches to the study of human motivation were dominant:
1. Drive Theory. Hull ( 1952), and others, asserted that motivation stemmed from physiological need deprivation which "drove" organisms to engage in random activity until, by chance, the need was satisfied and the drive was thus reduced. On subsequent occasions, cues in the situation would be recalled so that organisms would take suitable action rather than engage in random trial and error. This theory encountered numerous difficulties. For example, it was found that not all motivation stems from physiological needs (e.g., curiosity, selfefficacy). Second, not all need deprivation leads to an increase in drive (e.g., certain vitamin deficiencies). Third, partial need satisfaction sometimes leads to increased drive (e.g., as when the appetite is "whetted"). Finally, organisms, including people, often are motivated to engage in activities that increase rather than decrease tension (e.g., many purposeful human activities).
2. Reinforcement Theory. Skinner's ( 1953) approach to motivation was similar to drive theory except that the concept of an internal drive state was eliminated. Skinner asserted that behavior was controlled by reinforcements, which were consequences that followed behavior, making subsequent, similar responses more likely to occur in similar situations. Reinforcers were defined solely in terms of their effects. This behaviorist approach (along with that of drive theory) dominated the field of psychology for decades. It was based on the premise that human action could be understood without reference to consciousness. This premise was wrong ( Binswanger, 1991) and led ultimately to the demise of behaviorism as a major intellectual force in psychology. Reinforcers (consequences of behavior) only affect subsequent action if the individual:

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