Dr. Gayatri Bezboruah
Why do we eat, drink, strive to get ahead, seek approval, try new things and look for change? To answer these questions, we have to look at the psychology of motivation.
Motivation is a state within a person that leads to goal-directed behaviour. We may be motivated by our needs or by incentives.
Needs are defined as states of deprivation. When we have not eaten for a while, we begin to feel hunger or the need for food, which is the goal. Hunger and thirst are physiological needs. However, we may also show needs for achievement, affiliation and social approval. These learned needs show more variability than the physiological ones.
Incentives are objects, persons or situations perceived as capable of satisfying needs. Food, money, attention, approval can all act as incentives and influence our behaviour.
A drive is a condition of arousal within a person that is associated with a need or an incentive.
Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) believed that we all experience motives that direct us towards goals. He organized human needs into a hierarchy, or ordering of needs, that ranged from physiological needs, like hunger and thirst, through the need of self-actualization. Maslow also attributed aggression and other harmful behaviour to frustration of various needs, particularly needs for love and acceptance.
Maslow’s needs hierarchy theory includes:
1. Physiological needs : food, water, elimination, warmth, rest, avoidance of pain.
2. Safety needs: protection from the environment through clothing and housing, security from crime and financial hardship.
3. Love and belongingness needs: love and acceptance through relationships, social groups and friends.
4. Esteem needs: achievement, competence, approval, recognition, prestige, status.
5. Cognitive understanding: novelty, understanding, exploration, knowledge.
6. Aesthetic needs: music, art, poetry, beauty, order.
7. Self – actualization: fulfillment of our unique potentials.
According to Maslow’s predictions, if we experience two incompatible needs, we will direct our behaviour in order to meet the lower need first. We may pay less attention to art or social recognition when we are starving or have been waiting in line to use the bathroom for half an hour. However, other psychologists, such as Carl Rogers, have noted that human beings have the capacity to seek high – level fulfillment even when lower needs have not been met. For example, some writers and artists devote themselves fully to their arts, even at the price of constant struggle with poverty.
Certain bodily needs must be met if we are to remain alive: our needs for oxygen, food, drink, environment temperatures within certain limits, and the elimination of waste products. These physiological needs give rise to physiological drives. Because they are unlearned, they are also called primary drives – like thirst, avoidance of pain, hunger, to name a few.
In this journey of life, we fully experience life in the present, neither focussing excessively on the past nor future. Then we learn to make growth choices rather than fear choices, taking reasonable risks to develop our unique potential. We get to know ourselves, looking inward, searching for our talents and values. We strive towards honesty, towards new goals. We become open to new experiences, willing to change opinions or to try new paths in life.
So, the little ones are on this journey now. Let us all work on it together...
Dr. Gayatri Bezboruah is Associate Professor of Paediatrics, Guwahati Medical College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com