Sources of Motivation Paper


The purpose of this paper is to examine the interaction between motivation and behavior, as a derivative of choice. Evolution and identity are also addressed as sources of motivation. The paper concludes that motivation is the bar used to leverage motives against behavior, balanced on the fulcrum of choice. 

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Sources of Motivation Paper

The lever is a simple mechanical device, utilizing a bar and a fulcrum, in order to amplify motion (Schuetz, 2008). Through the mechanisms of the bar and fulcrum, a large object can be moved or measured by a smaller object. In the same way, incentives and motives are psychological objects, which when leveraged by the bar of motivation, can amplify the motion of behavior, and vice versa the motion of behavior can be observed in order to deduce the psychological objects of incentive and motive. Strictly speaking, motivation is to be moved to action or to cause a change in behavior; collectively, to be moved to behavior (Deckers, 2005). Furthermore, incentives are anticipated negative and positive corollaries which exist in the environment. These corollaries are acted upon by motives in order to avoid aversive consequences and increase positive rewards. However, the full scope of motivation is best understood in the course of a thorough examination of the relationship between motivation and behavior and an understanding of the underlying sources of motivation.  

Motivation and Behavior

A free act is one that is perpetrated free of motivation, free of leverage, as it were. The ability to ‘act otherwise if we wanted’ is the cornerstone of the idea of a free act. On the other hand, determined action is one that is the effect of a causal motivation, as if there were no alternative than to act within the confines of motivation. Consequently, no matter what action a person decides to carry out, motivation is always the causal agent—even if the motivation is only to act without motivation. Free acts are therefore theoretically impossible, as it is impossible to leverage a large object with a smaller object without a bar. Even though we do not have the ability to act outside the influence of motivation, we do possess free will or the ability to choose which motives to act upon. A prime example of free will is the protection motivation theory (PMT) of rehabilitation behavior (Grindley & Zizzi, 2005). According to PMT, the behavior of rehabilitation is mediated by the motivating consequences thereof (i.e. rehabilitation vs. continued dependency). By utilizing this theory of motivation health care professionals can leverage consequences as a means to combat maladaptive behavior, such as avoidance or denial. Thus, determined acts, which are restrained by motivation, operate within a framework of free will, which is arbitrated by choice.

Choice as the Fulcrum of Motivation

In the abovementioned analogy of the lever, the fulcrum is exemplified by choice, the pivotal point to which the realization of motivation as a behavior hinges. In the sequence of events that lead to the exhibition of motivation as a behavior, choice refers to the decided upon satisfaction of a particular motive or incentive. Once the choice to satisfy a motive has been made the efficacy of that choice is seen through instrumental behavior or behavior meant to satisfy a motive. On the other hand, consummate behavior, behavior intended to end a behavioral sequence, can also be a motivating factor in the choice to exhibit a motivation as action. There is also the intervening issue of subjective feelings of satisfaction that can contribute to the efficacy of a choice of motives or incentives as well. For instance, in a study of the effect of prosocial friends on individuals, it was concluded that the feelings of subjective satisfaction which usually followed prosocial behavior motivated individuals to be more social in the future (Barry & Wentzel, 2006). Consequently, choice acts as a springboard for the exhibition of motivation as behavior, through the guises of instrumental behavior, consummatory behavior, and feelings of subjective satisfaction. 

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Sources of Motivation

However, the choice to act on one motivation or another does not explain the source of the motivations in question. Motivations can come from many different places, such as the environment, internal motives, external incentives, psychological needs, and cognitive drives. Evolutionary psychology seeks to explain human behavior and motivation in genetic terms. To put motivation in evolutionary terms, a particular motive might be more adaptive than others, say the motive of sexual variety and younger partners for men. Since this motive perpetuates the genetic inheritance of the male to many offspring, natural selection ‘chooses’ this behavior to be passed on to the next generation. Another source of motivation is the perpetuation of the identity, sometimes referred to as the self. Golledge et. al. (2006) claim that when self-esteem and self- efficacy contribute to identity enactment reinforcement of identity definition takes place, which in turn strengthens our idea of self. Furthermore, Hardy & Carlo (2005) add that moral identity, built upon moral values, is an important source of motivation for the self. It is on the subject of moral identity that Reimer (2005) states, “…moral boundaries for interpersonal behavior promote optimal adaptation to context…” (p. 263). In this light, the motivation towards moral identity also includes limiters, such as moral boundaries. Hence, the evolutionary adaptation of the moral identity, as mediated by the effects of self-esteem and self-efficacy, promote moral boundaries for interpersonal behavior and the edification of the self. 


In conclusion, motivation has many sources, such as evolutionary adaptation and identity reinforcement. Motivation acts as a bar to leverage motives and incentives in order to bring about behavior, balanced on the fulcrum of choice, exhibited as instrumental behavior, consummatory behavior, and feelings of subjective satisfaction. In this way, a small psychological motive can be used to bring about a large behavior, and vice versa a large behavior can be analyzed to deduce the underlying psychological motives.        


Barry, C.M., Wentzel, K.R. (2006). Friend influence on prosocial behavior: The role of motivational factors and friendship characteristics. Developmental Psychology, 42(1), 153-163. Retrieved April 30, 2009, from EBSCOHost Database. 

Deckers, L. (2005). Motivation: Biological, psychological, and environmental, Second Edition. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. 

Golledge, J., Manzi, C., Regalia, C., Scabini, E., Vignoles, V.L. (2006). Beyond self-esteem: Influence of multiple motives on identity construction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(2), 308-333. Retrieved April 30, 2009, from EBSCOHost Database. 

Grindley, E. J., & Zizzi, S. J. (2005). Using a multidimensional approach to predict motivation and adherence to rehabilitation in older adults. Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation, 21(3), 182-193. Retrieved April 30, 2009, from EBSCOHost Database. 

Hardy, S. A., & Carlo, G. (2005). Identity as a source of moral motivation. Human Development, 48(4), 232-256. Retrieved April 30, 2009, from EBSCOHost Database. 

Reimer, K. (2005). Revising moral attachment: Comment on Identity and Motivation. Human Development, 48(4), 262-266. Retrieved April 30, 2009, from EBSCOHost Database. 

Schuetz, G. (2008). Levers and gears: Anatomy of a dial indicator. Modern Machine Shop, 81(1), 60-62. Retrieved May 2, 2009, from EBSCOHost Database. 

Paper Topic

  • Write a 700- to 1,050-word paper in which you examine the concept of motivation.
  • Address the following items:
    • Define motivation.
    • Identify at least two sources of motivation.
    • Explain the relationship between motivation and behavior.
    • Examine how motivation is exhibited in behavior.
  • Format your paper according to APA standards.
  • Include at least five references from scholarly, peer-reviewed sources.

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