A Brief History of Motivation Study

Outline of the History of Motivation

1. Philosophical Origins of Motivational Concepts


2. Motivation's First Grand Theory: Will


3. Motivation's Second Grand Theory: Instinct


4. Motivation's Second Grand Theory: Drive

Two drive theories:


5. Attempts at a 4th grand theory: Incentive, Arousal, Discrepancy


6. Rise of the Mini-Theories

a. Active nature of the person
b. Cognitive revolution
c. Applied, socially-relevant research


7. Current Mini-Theories Era

Rise of the Minitheories

Unlike grand theories that try to explain the full range of motivation, minitheories limit their attention or domain of application:

1. Specific behavioral phenomenon (e.g., achievement strivings)
2. Motivation in particular settings (e.g., doing well versus poorly in school),
3. Motivational significance of particular circumstances
(e.g., failure feedback, presence of an audience)
4. A specific question (e.g., what is the relationship between cognition and emotion?)
5. Motivational tendencies of a particular group of people (e.g., extraverts, workers).

A minitheory explains some, but not all, of a motivational analysis of behavior.


For a sample of some of the minitheories that emerged in the late 1960s-1970s era, here is an abbreviated list of the minitheories (w/ seminal reference) that arose to replace the fading grand theories:


* Achievement motivation theory (Atkinson, 1964)
* Attributional theory of achievement motivation (Weiner, 1972)
* Cognitive dissonance theory (Festinger, 1957)
* Effectance motivation (White, 1959; Harter, 1978a)
* Expectancy times value theory (Vroom, 1964)
* Intrinsic motivation (Deci, 1975)
* Goal-setting theory (Locke, 1968)
* Learned helplessness theory (Seligman, 1975)
* Reactance theory (Brehm, 1966)
* Self-efficacy theory (Bandura, 1977)
* Self-schemas (Markus, 1977)