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Needs-Based Motivation Theory

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    Motivation theories are based on the understanding that motivation stems from an individual’s desire to fulfill or achieve a need. Human beings are motivated by unsatisfied needs, and certain lower needs must be satisfied before higher needs can be satisfied. In general terms, motivation can be defined as the desire to achieve a goal, combined with the energy, determination and opportunity to achieve it. This Wiki explores Abraham H. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, Clayton P. Alderfer’s Existence Related Growth (ERG) Theory, and the expansion of David McClelland’s Need Theory by Henry A. Murray.

    Abraham Maslow Abraham Maslow was born April 1, 1908, the first of seven born to his poorly educated Jewish immigrant parents. Encouraged by his parents to seek academic success, he began studying law at the City College of New York. After transferring briefly to Cornell, Maslow returned to New York before marrying and moving to the University of Wisconsin. While attending UOW he began his work in psychology, studying the behaviors of rhesus monkeys with Harry Harlow. Though the objective was to study attachment behaviors, Maslow noticed the monkeys’ behavior was driven by different sets of needs.

    This was the underlining basis for the beginning of his interest in personal need and motivation. (Boeree, 2006) After earning his Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph. D. in psychology, Maslow returned to New York where he began teaching at Brooklyn College. Additionally, he served as the chair of the psychology department at Brandeis University from 1951 to 1969, during which time he became involved with Kurt Goldstein and his theory of self-actualization, which ultimately led to the development of Maslow’s own Hierarchy of Needs theory. (Boeree, C. George, 1998, 2006) Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

    In 1943, Abraham Maslow developed one of the earliest theories of human motivation, commonly referred to as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In his classic article “A Theory of Human Motivation. ” Maslow utilized the term “prepotent” to express the theory that “in the human being who is missing everything in life in an extreme fashion, it is most likely that the major motivation would be the physiological needs rather than any others. ” (Maslow, 1943, p. 5) Whittington and Evans (2005), referring to that same article, stated that Maslow presented a “prepotent hierarchy in which at least five sets of needs compose the framework. (p. 114) The five sets of needs were divided into two categories: basic needs and higher-order needs.

    The most basic human needs, represented by food, water, shelter, and safety, are considered essential for human existence. Higher-order needs are those associated with social activities, esteem building, and self-actualization or constant self-improvement. Elaborating further on this theory, Whittington and Evans (2005) stated that “each of these needs operates at all times, although one deficient set dominates the individual at any one time and circumstance. (p. 114) The motivation experienced by humans to fulfill these needs is either derived from internal or external factors. People who experience internal motivation are influenced by factors that cause a sense of accomplishment and pleasure, while externally motivated people are commonly influenced by factors controlled by others, such as money and praise. (Deci & Ryan, 1985) Maslow’s hierarchy is commonly displayed in a pyramid fashion, with the basic needs at the bottom and the higher needs at the top.

    The needs were depicted in this way to show the significance of each need on the others, with the most important and broadest category being the physiological needs at the base. (Redmond, 2010) Basic-Order Needs:

    1. Physiological Needs are basic needs that are physiologically necessary for one’s survival, such as oxygen, food, shelter, and sleep. These needs must be met before moving to satisfy needs higher in the order.
    2. Safety Needs include the desire to feel safe and secure and to ensure that basic physiological needs will remain met. Examples of this need include shelter or housing, physical ability to defend one’s self, the need to have limits or law (or a conscience), and a regular routine that an individual is comfortable with. Once one’s physiological needs have been met, s/he will move on to the safety needs.
    3. Social Needs include friendship and companionship. One must know that he/she is not alone in the world and be able to communicate feelings and needs with other individuals.
    4. Esteem Needs – An individual eventually needs to feel that he/she has a social status. This goes beyond just having social relationships; the individual must feel that in work or at home he/she is making a contribution. This also includes recognition of achievement from others.
    5. Self-actualization Needs – This is the final and highest level of needs. Meeting this need is characterized by continuously focusing on personal growth, problem solving, life appreciation, and peak experiences for oneself.

    Maslow’s concept of self-actualization (SA) represents “everything that one is capable of becoming. ” (Value Based Management. et, 2009) And he felt that the capacity for this concept was innate to all human beings. It was not learned through conditioning or earned through rewards. (Hall, 2007) When observing SA, it is important to note that the category does not complete Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Many researchers thought that Maslow believed achieving the SA category would result in the completion of the progression. Researchers found this unattainable because SA is elastic; as one nears their SA, their abilities develop and grow which makes their true potential even greater.

    However, O’Connor and Yballe (2007) indicate that Maslow intended his theory to be “an ongoing process that involves dozens of little growth choices that entail risk and require courage. ” (p. 742) Maslow believed that in order for the higher-order needs to be successfully met and not affect basic needs, an individual must first acquire the basic-order needs, referred to as fulfillment progression. (Redmond, 2010) Clayton P. Alderfer Clayton P. Alderfer, born September 1, 1940, earned his B. S. degree in 1962 at Yale University and his Ph. D. in 1966.

    Alderfer has contributed greatly to Applied & Professional Psychology though his instruction at Cornell University, Yale University, and Rutgers University. Early in his career, while studying needs in organizations, he formulated the Existence, Relatedness, and Growth (ERG) Theory, for which he is best known. He went on to serve a fourteen-year term as editor of the Journal of Applied & Behavioral Science, and his contributions to the field of organization psychology have been recognized though various awards; namely, the Harry Levinson Award for Excellence and the Janet Helms Award. Rutgers, 2010) Today, Clayton P. Alderfer continues to contribute to organizational psychology through his self-established consulting firm, Alderfer & Associates. (Alderfer, 2010) Alderfer’s ERG Theory Clayton P. Alderfer first presented the ERG Theory of Motivation in 1969 in his article, “An Empirical Test of a New Theory of Human Need. ” The ERG theory attempted to improve upon Maslow’s needs hierarchy by allowing more flexibility of movement between needs.

    Alderfer decreased the number of levels and allowed the order of the needs to vary by the individual; he also allowed for different needs to be pursued simultaneously. Needs were separated into three separate categories:

    • Existence Needs: Physiological and safety needs, the most concrete of needs, such as food, shelter, and water.
    • Relatedness Needs: Social relationships and external esteem (e. g. involvement with family, friends, co-workers)
    • Growth Needs: Internal esteem and self-actualization, the most abstract of needs as they do not involve physical aspects. e. g. desire to be creative or productive)

    While Maslow’s theory was interpreted as portraying that satisfied needs are no longer a motivation (O’Connor & Yballe, 2007), Alderfer’s ERG theory clearly states that all categories of needs can become more important as they are satisfied. Additionally, individuals may place greater emphasis on any single category as opposed to the rigid hierarchy of moving from one need to the next (Alderfer, 1969). The main difference between Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy and Alderfer’s ERG Theory is the order in which needs are met.

    Alderfer believed that needs are met simultaneously and in no specific order, while Maslow’s theory states that needs are met one by one and in a specific order (Alleydog, 1998). An example of Alderfer’s ERG Theory is a “starving artist,” who may place greater emphasis on creating art (growth) than on existence needs like food or shelter. (Redmond, 2010) An employee who seeks a promotion or increased responsibilities may be attempting to satisfy all needs by increasing pay (existence), developing a larger social network (relatedness), and increasing self-esteem (growth).

    The following illustration depicts Alderfer’s ERG theory. Notice as one progresses from existence needs through relatedness needs to growth needs, s/he experiences satisfaction. However, regression through the needs levels results in frustration. The idea of frustration-regression is explained as reverting to a lower level need when a higher level need is not met. (Redmond, 2010) Along the same lines, Borkowski (2009) theorized that a person “regresses” to lower needs to once again achieve satisfaction. (Redmond 2010, p. ) There are, however, exceptions to frustration-regression. According to Brian Redmond, from the Pennsylvania State University, there are two exceptions to frustration-regression. The first exception is “failure to fulfill existence needs leads to greater existence needs” (Redmond, 2010). An example of the first exception is if one needs to sleep and is unable, s/he will develop a larger, more powerful need for sleep.

    The second exception to frustration-regression is “fulfillment of growth needs leads to greater growth needs. (Redmond, 2010) For instance, if one achieves successful completion of an undergraduate degree program, one may then feel the need to attend graduate school in order to obtain more education and expertise. Maslow did realize that not everyone followed his pyramid of needs. While there are many types of people and personalities, introversion and extroversion are common distinctions. Huitt (2004), created the following chart to represent the collaboration of both Maslow’s and Alderfer’s theories, with levels of introversion and extroversion.

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