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Essay on Motivation Theories


Motivation theories attempt to explain how and why people get motivated to act or behave precisely compared to a contrary one. These theories have been vital in psychology, and many have stood the test of time and are in use even now despite their introduction long ago. Some of the theories are Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, suggesting that people are motivated to accomplish their wants in a certain progression that begins with physiological needs up to self-actualization; expectancy theory arguing that people are mainly motivated if they believe that they can complete a certain task successfully and that the task is likely to lead to the outcome desired by the person, self-efficacy theory that is inclined towards a focus on a belief in the ability to complete a task and achieve their goals by an individual, and goal setting theory that suggests that higher levels of performance are caused by the specific and challenging goals a person has as long as the goals are accompanied by appropriate feedback and support among others. This essay looks deeply into three theories that have stood the test of time: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Expectancy theory, and Goal-setting theory; detailing how and why the theories have lasted for a long time to remain practical even to this date and the contribution they have played in the field of psychology.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

It is a motivation developed by Abraham Maslow in 1943, proposing that individuals fulfill their needs in a certain hierarchy to achieve self-actualization, the highest level of human development. The hierarchy suggested five different levels of needs: physiological, security, safety, love and belonging or social, esteem, and self-actualization (Hopper 2020). According to the theorist, physiological needs, such as food, water, and shelter, should first be fulfilled by an individual before he moves to fulfill any other needs within this hierarchy. As individuals progress up the hierarchy, their needs become increasingly abstract and higher level. While every need in this hierarchy is important, the pyramid means that needs become less important as one progresses. An individual should fulfill the e needs at the bottom to motivate him to fulfill the other ones that are, in most cases, secondary needs.

The first physiological needs in the hierarchy from the bottom include food, water, shelter, and rest (Stefan, Popa and Albu 2020). These are also the fundamental needs that an individual for survival should meet. Only after meeting these needs is someone motivated to proceed up the hierarchy into the subsequent level of safety needs. These include things like security, stability, and protection from harm. It means that after one has food, shelter, and clothing, which are the most basic, he will now need more security from any harm to these basic needs. The next level of needs after safety is love and belonging, which include the need for relationships and social connections with other members of society. The needs mainly consist of love, acceptance, and belonging. Esteem needs include self-esteem, confidence, and respect from others. These needs are important for the feelings of a person of self-confidence and identity.

According to this motivation theory, the highest level of needs is self-actualization, which includes the need for individual growth and development into fully actualizing all the desires of the heart and the desire by an individual to achieve their full potential (Cherry 2018). According to Maslow, the theorist behind this theory, this was the ultimate goal of human motivation. Every person would try their best to achieve self-actualization even after all the other needs have been met. It is the only level where an individual feels that he has exhausted all he desires from the beginning. All the needs have now been fulfilled, and the individual has grown to his full potential once the self-actualization needs have been met. This theory has continued to stand the test of time for several reasons.

One reason Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has stood the test of time is that it is based on human nature. The theory has always acknowledged that people have basic needs that people should fulfill to function effectively. It also recognizes that individuals have different needs at different times, depending on their current level of development. For example, a person struggling to meet their basic physiological needs will be more motivated by the promise of food and shelter than by the opportunity to advance their career. On the other hand, a person who has already met their basic needs may be more motivated by the desire for social connections or self-actualization. This theory has stood the test of time because it applies to people of all ages and stages of life.

Another reason why Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has continued to be in use because it is easy to understand and apply. The hierarchy is laid out, and it is easy to see how one level of needs builds upon the previous level. Additionally, the theory provides practical insights for managers and leaders trying to motivate their employees. Managers can create an environment that supports their growth and development by understanding what employees need at different levels of the hierarchy. For example, a manager who recognizes that an employee is struggling to meet their basic physiological needs may provide additional training or resources to help them improve their skills and advance their career. It can lead to increased motivation and productivity.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has also stood the test of time because a considerable amount of research supports it. Numerous studies have found evidence for the different levels of needs in Maslow’s hierarchy and how they influence behavior. For example, research has proved that people get more motivated to fulfill their physiological needs than others when they feel thirsty or hungry. At the same time, they are more motivated to fulfill safety needs if they feel threatened or unsafe in a certain setup.

Furthermore, the theory has been influential when developing other theories of motivation. Other theories have been developed based on the ideas of Maslow, such as the Self-Determination Theory and Self-Efficacy Theory (Hopper 2020). For this reason, this theory has made a critical contribution to psychology. It has long-lasting impacts on understanding why and how humans are motivated to pursue a given behavior or act in a certain way.

In conclusion, this theory has stood the test of time because it is a simple, easy-to-understand theory supported by research, adaptable to different situations, and has had a lasting impact on other motivation theories and practitioners. It provides a clear roadmap for understanding how different needs drive motivation and how individuals can work toward meeting their needs and reaching their full potential.

Expectancy Theory

It is a psychological theory explaining how individuals make decisions about their behavior and allocate their effort and time. According to this theory, people are motivated to behave or act in a certain way because they are sure that their efforts will bring a certain outcome or goal and the value they place on that outcome. According to this theory, three key factors influence the motivation of an individual; valence, effort-to-performance expectancy, and performance-to-outcome expectancy.

Valence is a person’s worth or value on an outcome predicted from a performance. Individuals are more motivated to engage in a given task if they value its outcome highly. They are less likely to be motivated if they do not value the outcome. Effort-to-performance expectancy is based on the fact that the belief leads to successful performance in the efforts an individual has put in place. (Özaslan and Özaslan 2022). If an individual believes that their effort will result in successful performance, they are more likely to be motivated to engage in the task. Alternatively, people get less motivated if they have a feeling that the efforts that they are putting in place are less likely to lead to success. An individual may even opt to leave everything he has been doing once he has a sense of failure to succeed in the task. On the other hand, performance-to-outcome expectancy argues that people are more motivated if they feel that their performance is likely to lead to the outcome desired by the individual when starting to work on it. Once an individual is sure that their performance will result in a positive outcome, they are more motivated to pursue the task at hand and will even put more resources into it. Contrary, if they have a feeling that their performance will not lead to a positive outcome as desired from the beginning, they get less motivated and may withdraw their resources and time from the task.

One reason expectancy motivation theory has stood the test of time is that it is based on a logical and straightforward process that is easy to comprehend and apply in various setups (Androniceanu, Sabie and Pegulescu 2020). According to this theory, people are either motivated or put off from a task depending on the feeling that the efforts they have put in place will either lead to the desired outcome or not, which is always a positive outcome and whether the outcome is achieved is valuable to them. This argument means that for one to engage in a certain task, they are mainly motivated by internal beliefs and values and not by external factors such as punishments or rewards.

The expectancy motivation theory has also stood the test of time because a wealth of empirical research has supported it. According to studies conducted consistently, individuals are more motivated to pursue a certain behavior when they are sure that the efforts put in place will result in the desired outcome and how the outcome is important to them (Hanscom 2020). Research has proved that, for example, if students are sure that their efforts will lead to good grades and that they value achieving success through good grades, they will be more motivated to study and put more resources into their education. Employees are similarly motivated to work harder if they are assured of promotions after putting in the effort and if they have value for promotions. The theory also explains why individuals may not be motivated to engage in certain behaviors even if offered rewards or incentives. For instance, an employee needs to trust that their determination will result in a promotion to be motivated to work if some monetary reward is promised to them upon working on the task given.

Self-efficacy, which can be defined as the belief by an individual that they can perform or succeed in a certain behavior or task, has been an important aspect of this theory hence making it stand the test of time. This aspect has been an important forecaster of motivation and performance. It has always been clear that those individuals who believe in their ability to achieve what they are working for are more likely to be motivated to engage in a behavior and persevere in facing challenges (Rusu and Avasilcai 2013.) Expectancy motivation theory suggests that once individuals believe their abilities and skills can lead to success, they get more motivated to pursue the tasks.

Expectancy motivation theory has also been applied to various settings, including education, work, sports, and health. In education, for example, the theory has been used to explain why students may be more or less motivated to engage in academic tasks, such as studying or completing assignments. In the workplace, this theory has helped to understand why employees may be more or less motivated to perform certain tasks or achieve certain goals. In sports, the theory has been used to understand why athletes may be more or less motivated to perform at their best. In health, the theory has been used to understand why individuals may be more or less motivated to engage in healthy behaviors, such as working out or ensuring the meals taken are healthy diets. Overall, expectancy motivation theory has stood the test of time because it is based on a logical and straightforward process supported by a wealth of empirical research. The theory has also been applied to many settings and is useful for understanding and predicting motivation. As a result, expectancy motivation theory continues to be a widely studied and influential theory in psychology.

Goal-setting Theory

Having been developed by two theorists, Edwin Locke and Gary Lathan, between the 1960s, the goal-setting motivation theory has remained popular over time due to its practicality, simplicity, and effectiveness in increasing motivation and performance. Central to it, the goal-setting theory mainly speculates that specific, stimulating goals are the main factor towards high performance and motivation levels by any individual compared to vague or easy goals (Latham and Locke 2007). It is because goals provide direction and focus for an individual’s efforts and are a benchmark for evaluating progress and success. Additionally, goals give individuals a sense of purpose and a reason to engage in a particular task or activity.

It is a theory detailing how the goals individuals have put in place influence their behavior, thoughts, and feelings. It is a widely studied theory in the field of psychology. This theory has always stood the test of time because it can be applied practically and clearly explains how people get motivated to achieve the different goals they set in life. Another reason this theory is still applied is that it is based on the idea that the expectation of a reward inspires people. This idea is supported by research showing that people are more motivated when they believe their efforts will lead to a desirable outcome or reward (Locke and Latham 2019). It can be seen in everyday life, as people often set goals for themselves, expecting that achieving them will lead to a sense of accomplishment or happiness.

The goal-setting motivation theory has also been active to date because it considers the role of personal responsibility and self-determination in motivation. This theory suggests that individuals are more inspired by the impression that they have possession and control over the goals set, meaning that they establish their goals and plan by themselves how they will achieve them. The theory agrees with research that has proved that people are more motivated to achieve their goals if they have a sense of autonomy and personal responsibility over their actions to achieve their goals. Goals can be achieved better if it is proved that they are more personal than communal hence every person can achieve his or her personal goals and act upon them.

Additionally, goal-setting motivation theory emphasizes the importance of goal difficulty in motivation. This theory suggests that people are more motivated when they set challenging but attainable goals for themselves. Furthermore, goal-setting motivation theory highlights the role of feedback in motivation. This theory suggests that people are more motivated when they receive feedback about their progress toward their goals (Locke and Latham 2019). The theory aligns with research showing that people are more motivated with regular feedback about their performance. It is the idea behind performance appraisal in human resource management, where the staff receives performance feedback over time.

Another aspect of the motivation theory that has stood the test of time is its focus on the importance of goal commitment toward an individual’s motivation. It suggests that people are more motivated when they are committed to their goals and believe that achieving them is important. The theory has been in alignment with research that showed that people get more motivated when they have an inward feeling of purpose and meaning behind their goals. It means that someone must feel that the goals they have set have a purpose and meaning in his/her life. Additionally, goal-setting motivation theory emphasizes the role of social support in motivation. This theory suggests that people are more motivated when they receive support from others in achieving their goals (Locke and Latham 2019). Finally, goal-setting motivation theory has stood over time due to its practical applications in real-world settings. This theory has been applied in various settings to improve motivation and performance, including education, sports, and the workplace. It demonstrates the usefulness and relevance of this theory in understanding and enhancing motivation in various contexts.

Generally, we can argue that the main reason why this motivation theory has continued to be in use over time is because of its capacity to enlighten how people are inspired to accomplish their goals, an emphasis on being personally responsible and determined to achieve the goals one has set, the focus on goal difficulty and receiving of feedback on the performance, its recognition of the role of goal commitment and social support in motivation, and its practical applications in real-world settings (Vancouver, Ballard and Neal 2022). It is also a straightforward and easy-to-understand concept that can be functional in different environments in the real world. It has been supported by a wealth of empirical research demonstrating its effectiveness. As such, it remains a valuable and useful tool for increasing motivation and performance in various contexts.


As discussed above, the three motivation theories have remained critical in psychology and have stood the test of time. They have continued to make a critical contribution toward motivating people to act or behave in the specific ways they behave. These theories, however, have their critiques meaning that they are only partially accepted by some. People have claimed that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was intended mainly to motivate individuals and not intended for application in the corporate world filled by different people (Oved 2017, p.54). Others have argued that for goal-setting theory, one cannot acquire feedback from past performance, such as when undertaking a new task. It is also still determined whether this theory can be used for long-term goals. Regardless of all the critiques they have received, the theories have aided greatly in understanding people’s psychology that covers how they think, behave, and acts toward certain events in their lives. People may be encouraged or discouraged to partake in a given task or responsibility.


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