a theory of human motivation

A.H. MASLOW, 1943

"It is quite true that man lives by bread alone — when there is no bread. But what happens to man's desires when there is plenty of bread and when his belly is chronically filled?"

Maslow's theory of motivation divides human needs into 5 broad subcategories. A need precedes another from the lowest to the highest category, as pictured. This order may vary according to cultural specificities. Each level of needs monopolizes consciousness and influence behaviour.


Physiological needs are the essence of functioning of the human body and include the basic elements for our survival — water, air, food and sleep.


Safety implies the need for protecting self from harm. These needs extend to a safe enviornment to reside in, a job to provide for health and shelter.


The need for affection and belonging.

self esteem

The satisfaction of this need leads to feelings of self-confidence, worth, strength, capability and adequacy of being useful and necessary in the world.

self actualization

This need refers to the desire for self-fulfilment, to the tendency for him to become actualised in what he is potentially. Even if all of these needs are satisfied, we may still often expect that a new discontent and restlessness will soon develop, unless the individual is doing what he is fitted for.

theory x and y


"Direction and control are essentially useless in motivating people whose important needs are social and egoistic."


Traditionally, control was accepted in organizations management as a mean to motivate workers in early stages of industrialization, when basic human needs were still lacking. We could say that Theory X was then en vogue.

Back then, individuals were seen as passive beings, indolent and lacking ambition, thus unable to modify their behaviour to fit a company's goals. Controlling their actions to motivate them, often with coercive methods, was a manager's duty.


However, society’s development for 'higher needs', like social contact and ego satisfaction, proved this philosophy to be wrong for people’s management. McGregor reflects upon Maslow's hierarchy of needs, acknowledging that as 'lower needs' were satisfied in progressively industrialized societies, motivation should come from fulfilling other needs in the workplace. Theory Y came into place. Perspectives on human motivations were shifting. Individuals should no longer be seen as naturally passive or resistant to organizational needs - they have become so as a result of the workplace environment.

Therefore, it should be of management's responsibility to arrange conditions so that people can achieve their own goals (by self-control & self - direction), directing their efforts toward organizational objectives.

two factor theory

Herzberg, F. 1959

"True motivation comes from achievement, personal development, job satisfaction, and recognition."

Concerning motivation in the workplace, Herzberg considered job satisfaction as two separate continuums: the presence of one set of job attributes (motivators) lead to job satisfaction while the absence of a completely different set of job attributes (hygiene factors) lead to job dissatisfaction.

Until Herzberg, job satisfaction was considered as a single continuum represented by satisfaction and dissatisfaction at the two opposing extremes. For the Two Factor Theory, the opposite of dissatisfaction is no dissatisfaction, whereas the opposite of satisfaction is no satisfaction.

hygiene factors

Labeled as high sequence events, these do not cause job satisfaction after being present but result in dissatisfaction when absent. These are extrinsic factors, as they are external to the job, like a salary, a company's policy and its administration, benefits and job security.


Labeled as low sequence events, these cause job satisfaction when present and cause no dissatisfaction when absent. They are intrisinc factors, as they come from within the job itself, like being recognized for one's work, having senses of achievement, growth, responsibility and advancement.

self determination theory

R.M. Ryan & E. L. Deci, 1985

"People's motivation varies in line with changes in their perceptions of competence and self-determination.”

The Self-Determination Theory distinguishes two kinds of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (as well as amotivation). With intrinsic motivation, a person does something because it’s interesting or enjoyable which results in high-level learning and creativity. With extrinsic motivation, a person does something because it leads to a separable outcome, with different levels of self-endorsement.

Intrinsic motivation

When a person is intrinsically motivated, he does something because of the satisfaction caused by it rather than for the consequences from that activity. The person does something for the fun or challenge, rather than because of external prods.

There are four types of intrinsic motivation:

  • IM to know, as of doing something for the pleasure of learning;
  • IM to accomplish things, as of doing something for the pleasure of trying to accomplish something;
  • IM to experience stimulation, as of doing something to experience stimulating sensations.

What they have in common are the feelings of autonomy, competence, and relatedness, features mainly provided in more intrinsic types of motivation. A sense of relatedness stands for the level of sharing a task with people who matter for that fact.

entrinsic motivation

This a construct that pertains whenever an activity is done in order to attain some separable outcome, so it holdes an instrumental value.

There are different levels of external and internal factors for extrinsic motivation:

  • External regulation, when doing something for the reward you get from it;
  • Introjected regulation, as of doing something because of social pressure or to avoid a feeling of guilt;
  • Identification, as of consciously valuing an activity, which ultimately leads to higher levels of self-endorsement;
  • Integration, when some task is fully assimilated by the individual and he can no longer separate it from the self.

Senses of relatedness, competence and autonomy facilitate the internalization in extrinsic motivation. "The primary reason people are likely to be willing to do the behaviours is that they are valued by significant others to whom they feel (or would like to feel) connected”.


Articles on Moviation Theory

  • Malone, T. W., & Lepper, M. R. (1987). Making learning fun: A taxonomy of intrinsic motivations for learning. Aptitude Learning and Instruction. Read
  • Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370–396. Doi
  • Perrin, F. A. C. (1923). The Psychology of Motivation. Psychological Review, 30(3), 176–191. Doi
  • Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 54–67. Doi
  • Sanjeev, M. A., Surya, · A V, Sanjeev, B. M. A., & Surya, A. V. (2016). Two Factor Theory of Motivation and Satisfaction: An Empirical Verification. Annals of Data Science, 3(32), 155–173. Doi
  • McGregor, D. (1964). The Human Side of Enterprise. In Readings in Managerial Psychology (pp. 309–322). The University of Chicago Press. Retrieved from Read

Articles on Measuring Motivation

  • Lafrenière, M. A. K., Verner-Filion, J., & Vallerand, R. J. (2012). Development and validation of the Gaming Motivation Scale (GAMS). Personality and Individual Differences, 53(7), 827–831. Doi
  • Pelletier, L., Tuson, K., Fortier, M., Vallerand, R., Briere, N., & Blais, M. (1995). Toward a New Measure of Intrinsic Motivation, Extrinsic Motivation, and Amotivation in Sports - the Sport Motivation Scale (Sms). Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 17(1), 35–53. Doi


  • Anderson, F., Grossman, T., Matejka, J., & Fitzmaurice, G. (2013). YouMove: Enhancing Movement Training with an Augmented Reality Mirror. Proceedings of the 26th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology - UIST ’13, 311–320. Doi
  • Bekker, T., Sturm, J., & Eggen, B. (2010). Designing playful interactions for social interaction and physical play. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 14(5), 385–396. Doi
  • Burdea, G. C. (2003). Virtual Rehabilitation - Benefits and Challenges. Methods of Information in Medicine, 42(5), 519–523. Doi
  • Chang, Y. J., Chen, S. F., & Huang, J. Da. (2011). A Kinect-based system for physical rehabilitation: A pilot study for young adults with motor disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 32(6), 2566–2570. Doi
  • Dicianno, B. E., Parmanto, B., Fairman, A. D., Crytzer, T. M., Yu, D. X., Pramana, G., … Petrazzi, A. A. (2015). Perspectives on the Evolution of Mobile (mHealth) Technologies and Application to Rehabilitation. Physical Therapy, 95(3), 397–405. Doi
  • Egilson, S. T. (2011). Parent perspectives of therapy services for their children with physical disabilities. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 25(2), 277–284. Doi
  • Gainor, J. F. (2012). Is there an app for that? The Oncologist, 17(12), e58-9. Doi
  • Janssen, J., Verschuren, O., Renger, W. J., Ermers, J., Ketelaar, M., & Van Ee, R. (2017). Gamification in physical therapy: More than using games. Pediatric Physical Therapy, 29(1), 95–99. Doi
  • Sodhi, R., Benko, H., & Wilson, a. (2012). Lightguide: projected visualizations for hand movement guidance. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on …, 179–188. Doi
  • Sohn, M., & Lee, J. (2007). UP health: Ubiquitously persuasive health promotion with an instant messaging system. 25th SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2007, CHI 2007, 2663–2668. Doi
  • Sousa, M., Vieira, J., Medeiros, D., Arsénio, A., & Jorge, J. (2016). SleeveAR: Augmented reality for rehabilitation using realtime feedback. International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces, Proceedings IUI, 07–10–Marc, 175–185. Doi
  • Van Delden, R., Aarts, P., & Van Dijk, B. (2012). Design of tangible games for children undergoing occupational and physical therapy. Lecture Notes in Computer Science (Including Subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics), 7522 LNCS, 221–234. Doi