Motivation: selective and preferential aspect of behavior

The general and abstract term motivation refers to the dynamic and directional (i.e., selective and preferential) aspect of behavior. It is motivation that, in the final analysis, is responsible for the fact that a particular behavior moves toward one category of objects rather than another. By contrast, learning plays a secondary role in determining the path that leads to one or another specific object. The term need in its psychological sense is used to designate the fundamental dynamisms inherent in the behavioral functioning of living beings. Thus, needs refer to the basic types of relations "required" by the individual for optimal functioning. They differentiate as a function of the complexity of the organism. Needs also refer to the dynamics of growth and development inherent in the living organism. Thus, needs do not necessarily imply the concept of homeostatic deficit. Needs are synonymous with basic behavioral urges. The term motive(s), by contrast, refers to the concrete manifestations of needs. Motives involve the dynamic and directional aspects of concrete action. Moreover, the term motive also refers to the very object or goal that motivates a subject. It is in this sense that a father could say that peace in the family is the motive of his staying home. In animal psychology, a physiological state of the organism may also be called, for instance, the motive of eating behavior. As to the concrete term motivation (in the sense of a specific motivation, or motivations in the plural sense), it is synonymous with motive(s) as used in this book. The term wish is rarely used. In my view it refers to the cognitive elaboration of a motivational state or need. The unconscious Freudian wish is not discussed because this book focuses on conscious motivation. My main purpose is to show how daily behavior is actively guided (motivated) by conscious goals and behavioral projects or plans, i.e., cognitively processed needs. These concepts and the processes involved are described in detail in the following chapters.

In order to avoid misunderstanding it should be noted that recently, some authors used the term motive to refer to needs in the sense of stable and latent dynamic personality traits. Thus, the term achievement motive is used to refer to achievement need. The aroused motive (need) that is active in a concrete act is then called motivation. Traditionally, however, a motive is the concretized form of the stable and latent dynamic state that we call a need. It is understandable that the state of deficiency connoted by the term need makes it less suitable for referring to growth and achievement tendencies. However, I have preferred to retain the term need and to rid it of its negative components, I retain the term behavior without limiting it to overt activities.

In conclusion, it is evident that the traditional experimental psychological conception of behavior as a response to a stimulus makes it difficult to appreciate the central issue underlying motivational processes, i.e., how behaviors are actively directed toward preferential objects.

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