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How Scholars Define Motivation

This site provides you with a list of briefly stated scholarly definitions for the concept of motivation. All definitions provided here were acquired via academic, scholarly,  peer-reviewed and or refereed journals and books. While this list represents a large number of diverse definitions for the concept of motivation it is not comprehensive as new and revised definitions of motivation are constantly created. The list includes citations from as early as 1977 to the present. Ulrich'sWEB Global Serials Directory was used to verify the journal sources for this list.
 
 
  • "Motivation is an ongoing process" (Goudas, Biddle, & Fox, 2011).
  • "Motivation is defined as a cognitive process" (Osborn, Irwin, Skogsberg, &Feltz, 2012).
  • "Motivation is a desire for change" (Hong, Cheng, Hwang, Lee, & Chang, 2009).
  • "Motivation is a desire to do something" (Kim, & Lee, 2008).
  • "Motivation is an abstract concept" (Sass, 1989).
  • "Motivation is dependent upon the individual and the situation" (Strombeck, & Wakefield, 2008).
  • "Motivation is dependent on the fulfillment of fundamental, innate psychological needs for competence, relatedness, and autonomy" (Thijs, 2011).
  • "Motivation is an action" (Potter, & Ware, 1987).
  • "Motivation is an inner drive" (Locke & Baum, 2006).
  • "Motivation is level of effort" (Pew, 2007).
  • "Motivation is dependent on 3 psychological processes: arousal, direction and intensity" (Curral, L., & Marques-Quinteiro, 2009).
  • "Motivation is defined by two processes" (Koob, & Le Moal, 2008).
  • "Motivation is what causes behavior" (Fejes, 2008).
  • "Motivation is system oriented" (Davis, & Singh, 2011).
  • "Motivation is generally considered a kind of curiosity" (Schmidt, 2009).
  • "Motivation is level of persistence" (Kennedy, 2010).
  • "Motivation is the stage that triggers the whole decision process" (Harmon-Jones, & Harmon-Jones, 2010).
  • "Motivation is complex" (Vilma, & Egle, 2007).
  • "Motivation is direction (Barrick, Stewart, & Piotrowski, 2002).
  • "Motivation is a broad concept" (De Cooman, De Gieter, Pepermans, & Jegers, 2011).
  • "Motivation is goal oriented" (Howard, & Erich, 2005).
  • "Motivation is at once simple and intensely complicated" (Winne, & Hadwin, 2008).
  • "Motivation can be positive or negative" (Harmon-Jones, E., & Harmon-Jones, C. 2010).
  • "Motivation is a continuous process" (Khuntia, 2010).
  • "Motivation is goal oriented" (Chung, & Ross, 1977)
  • "Motivation is complex" (Hardré, 2003).
  • "Motivation is different from satisfaction" (Mahesh, & Kasturi, 2006).
  • "Motivation is associated with the whole individual" (Neal, & Griffin, 2006).
  • "Motivation and goals are inseparable" (Lemos, 2001).
  • "Motivation is a multi-dimensional concept" (Moynihan, 2007).
  • "Motivation is an internal feeling" (Fehr, & Sassenberg, 2010).
  • "Motivation suggests there are unsatisfied needs" (Pavey, Greitemeyer, & Sparks, 2011).
  • "Motivation varies considerably" (Ryan & Deci, 2000).
  • "Motivation is generally understood to denote the strength of a person's desire to attain a goal" (Schmidt, Palminteri, Lafargue, & Pessiglione, 2010).
  • "Motivation is a very important element of behavior" (Tella, Ayeni, & Popoola, 2007).
  • "Motivation is a key component of learning" (Cocea & Weibelzahl, 2007).
  • "Motivation is a necessary ingredient for learning" (Tella, 2007).
  • "Motivation is what moves us to act" (McDonough, 2007).
  • "Motivation is generally more internally or more extrinsically oriented" (Mata, Silva, Vieira, Carraça, Andrade, Coutinho, et al, 2009).
  • "Motivation is the 'want-to' component of individuals' actions" (King, & Teo, 2012)
  • "Motivation is defined as the doing of an activity" (Oudeyer, & Kaplan, 2008).
  • "Motivation is a set of psychological processes" (Mitchell, & Daniels, 2003).
  • "Motivation is self-focused" (Bowman, 2007).
  • "Motivation is at once simple and intensely complicated" (Winne, & Hadwin, 2008).
  • "Motivation is related to performance" (Alexander, Cici, & Gibson, 2007).
  • "Motivation is defined as the inner urge that moves or prompts" (Resnick, 2007).
  • "Motivation is generally viewed as a process through which an individual's needs and desires are set in motion" (Rakes, & Dunn, 2010).
  • "Motivation is the process whereby goal‐directed activity is instigated and sustained" (Pintrich, & Schunk, 1996).
  • "Motivation is generally considered to be an internal state that initiates and maintains goal directed behavior" (Mayer, 2011).
  • "Motivation is generally defined as a psychological state" (Román, & Iacobucci, 2010).
  • "Motivation is dependent on four dynamic perceptual components: attention, relevance, confidence and satisfaction" (Huang, Huang, & Tschopp, 2010).
  • "Motivation can be defined as the desire to achieve some" goal (Hays, & Hill, 2001).
  • "Motivation can be defined as everything that drives and sustains human behavior" (Gard, 2001).
  • "Motivation may be defined as the degree to which individuals commit effort to achieve goals that they perceive as being meaningful and worthwhile" "Johnson, & Johnson, 2003).
  • "Motivation is defined as the performance of an activity because it is perceived to be instrumental in achieving valued outcomes" (Teo, Lim, & Lai, 1999).
  • "Motivation is defined as the power that triggers action that follows" (Cheng, & Cheng, 2012).
 
  • Alexander, G. J., Cici, G., & Gibson, S. (2007). Does motivation matter when assessing trade performance? An analysis of mutual funds. Review of Financial Studies, 20(1), 125-150.
  • Barrick, M. R., Stewart, G. L., & Piotrowski, M. (2002). Personality and job performance: Test of the mediating effects of motivation among sales representatives. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(1), 43.
  • Bowman, R. F. (2007). How can students be motivated: A misplaced question? The Clearing House, 81(2), 81-86.
  • Chung, K. H., & Ross, M. F. (1977). Differences in motivational properties between job enlargement and job enrichment. The Academy of Management Review, 2(1), 113-122. doi:110.2307/257612.
  • Clark, C. S., Dobbins, G. H., & Ladd, R. T. (1993). Exploratory field study of training motivation. Group & Organization Management, 18(3), 292-307. doi: 210.1177/1059601193183003.
  • Cocea, M., & Weibelzahl, S. (2007). Eliciting motivation knowledge from log files towards motivation diagnosis for Adaptive Systems. User Modeling 2007, 197-206.
  • Davis, J. Q., & Singh, H. (2011). Chapter 6: Motivation Organisational Behavior (pp. 131). New Delhi: VK (India) Enterprises.
  • De Cooman, R., De Gieter, S., Pepermans, R., & Jegers, M. (2011). A cross-sector comparison of motivation-related concepts in for-profit and not-for-profit service organizations. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 40(2), 296-317. doi: 210.1177/0899764009342897.
  • Fejes, A. (2008). Foucault and lifelong learning: Governing the subject. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Fehr, J., & Sassenberg, K. (2010). Willing and able: How internal motivation and failure help to overcome prejudice. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 13(2), 167-181. doi: 110.1177/1368430209343116.
  • Francesco, A., & Gold, B. (2005). International organizational behavior. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
  • Gard, G. (2001). Work motivating factors in rehabilitation: A brief review. Physical therapy reviews, 6(2), 85-89.
  • Goossens, C. (2000). Tourism information and pleasure motivation. Annals of Tourism Research, 27(2), 301-321.

 

  • Goudas, M., Biddle, S., & Fox, K. (2011). Perceived locus of causality, goal orientations, and perceived competence in school physical education classes. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 64(3), 453-463.
  • Harmon-Jones, E., & Harmon-Jones, C. (2010). On the relationship of trait PANAS positive activation and trait anger: Evidence of a suppressor relationship. Journal of Research in Personality, 44(1), 120-123. doi:110.1016/j.jrp.2009.1009.1001.
  • Hardré, P. L. (2003). Beyond two decades of motivation: A review of the research and practice in instructional design and human performance technology. Human Resource Development Review, 2(1), 54-81. doi: 10.1177/1534484303251661.
  • Hays, J. M., & Hill, A. V. (2001). A longitudinal study of the effect of a service guarantee on service quality. Production and Operations Management, 10(4), 405-423.

 

  • Hays, J. M., & Hill, A. V. (2001). A preliminary investigation of the relationships between employee motivation/vision, service learning, and perceived service quality. Journal of Operations Management, 19(3), 335-349.

 

  • Hong, J. C., Cheng, C. L., Hwang, M. Y., Lee, C. K., & Chang, H. Y. (2009). Assessing the educational values of digital games. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 25(5), 423-437.

  • Howard, J. K., & Erich, C. F. (2005). Goal propensity: Understanding and predicting individual differences in motivation Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management (Vol. 24, pp. 215-263. DOI: 210.1016/S0742-7301(1005)24006-24009): Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
  • Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (2003). Student motivation in co-operative groups. Co-operative learning: The social and intellectual outcomes of learning in groups, 136-176.
  • Keller, J. M. (2008). An integrative theory of motivation, volition, and performance. Technology, Instruction, Cognition, and Learning, 6, 79e104.
  • Kennedy, K. P. (2010). Training: The key to keeping your head in a crisis situation. Naval Engineers Journal, 122(3), 73-85.
  • Khuntia, D. K. (2010). Motivation: The essence of library management. Pearl: A Journal of Library and Information Science, 4(4), 232-237.
  • Kim, J. H., & Lee, C. H. (2008). Multi-objective evolutionary generation process for specific personalities of artificial creature. Computational Intelligence Magazine, IEEE, 3(1), 43-53.

 

  • King, K. M., & Teo, K. K. (2012). Cardiac rehabilitation referral and attendance: not one and the same. Rehabilitation Nursing, 23(5), 246-251.

 

  • Koob, G. F., & Le Moal, M. (2008). Neurobiological mechanisms for opponent motivational processes in addiction. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 363(1507), 3113-3123.
  • Lemos, M. S. (2001). Context-bound research in the study of motivation in the classroom. In S. Volet & S. Jarvela (Eds.), Motivation in learning contexts: Theoretical and methodological implications (pp. 105-139). Oxford: Emerald Group Pub Ltd.
  • Locke, E. A. (1968). Toward a theory of task motivation and incentives* 1. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 3(2), 157-189.
  • Locke, E. A., & Baum, J. R. (2006). Entrepreneurial Motivation in The Psychology of Entrepreneurship (pp. 93-112). Mawah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers. Mata, J., Silva, M. N., Vieira, P. N., Carraça, E. V., Andrade, A. M., Coutinho, S. R., et al. (2009). Motivational “spill-over” during weight control: Increased self-determination and exercise intrinsic motivation predict eating self-regulation. Health Psychology, 28(6), 709.
  • Mayer, R. E. (2011). Towards a science of motivated learning in technology-supported environments. Educational Technology Research and Development, 59(2), 301-308.
  • Mitchell, T. R., & Daniels, D. 2003. Motivation. In W. C. Borman, D. R. Ilgen, & R. J. Klimoski (Eds.), Handbook of psychology. Volume 12: Industrial and organizational psychology: 225–254. New York: Wiley.

 

  • Neal, A., & Griffin, M. A. (2006). A study of the lagged relationships among safety climate, safety motivation, safety behavior, and accidents at the individual and group levels. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(4), 946.
  • Oudeyer, P. Y., & Kaplan, F. (2008). How can we define intrinsic motivation? Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Epigenetic Robotics.
  • Pavey, L., Greitemeyer, T., & Sparks, P. (2011). Highlighting relatedness promotes prosocial motives and behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, doi: 10.1177/0146167211405994
  • Improving call centre agent performance: A UK-India study based on the agents’ point of view. International Journal of Service Industry Management, 17(2), 136-157. 110.1108/09564230610656971.
  • Pew, S. (2007). Andragogy and pedagogy as foundational theory for student motivation in higher education. A Journal of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, 4(1), 14.
  • Pintrich, P.R., & Schunk, D.H. (1996). Motivation in education: Theory, research and applications (2nd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Merrill Company.
  • Potter, W. J., & Ware, W. (1987). An analysis of the contexts of antisocial acts on prime-time television. Communication Research, 14(6), 664-686. doi: 610.1177/009365087014006003.
  • Rakes, G. C., & Dunn, K. E. (2010). The impact of online graduate students’ motivation and self-regulation on academic procrastination. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 9(1), 78-93.
  • Reinharth, L., & Wahba, M. A. (1975). Expectancy theory as a predictor of work motivation, effort expenditure, and job performance. The Academy of Management Journal, 18(3), 520-537.
  • Resnick, B. (2007). Motivation in geriatric rehabilitation. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 28(1), 41-45.

 

  • Román, S., & Iacobucci, D. (2010). Antecedents and consequences of adaptive selling confidence and behavior: a dyadic analysis of salespeople and their customers. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 38(3), 363-382.

 

  • Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 54-67.

 

  • Sass, E. J. (1989). Motivation in the college classroom: What students tell us. Teaching of Psychology, 16(2), 86-88.

 

  • Schmidt, H. G. (2009). Foundations of problem-based learning: some explanatory notes. Medical education, 27(5), 422-432.

 

  • Schmidt, L., Palminteri, S., Lafargue, G., & Pessiglione, M. (2010). Splitting motivation unilateral effects of subliminal incentives. Psychological Science, 21(7), 977-983.

 

  • Schunk, D. H., & Zimmerman, B. J. (2012). Motivation and self-regulated learning: Theory, research, and applications. New York, NY: Routledge - Taylor & Francis.

 

  • Strombeck, S. D., & Wakefield, K. L. (2008). Situational influences on service quality evaluations. Journal of Services Marketing, 22(5), 409-419.

 

  • Tella, A., Ayeni, C., & Popoola, S. (2007). Work motivation, job satisfaction, and organisational commitment of library personnel in academic and research libraries in Oyo State, Nigeria. Library Philosophy and Practice, 9(2), 13.

 

  • Tella, A. (2007). The impact of motivation on student’s academic achievement and learning outcomes in mathematics among secondary school students in Nigeria. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 3(2), 149-156.

 

  • Thijs, J. (2011). Ethnic differences in teacher-oriented achievement motivation: A study among early adolescent students in the Netherlands. The Journal of genetic psychology, 172(2), 121-140.
 
  • Vilma, Z., & Egle, K. (2007). Improving motivation among health care workers in private health care organizations: a perspective of nursing personnel. Baltic Journal of Management, 2(2), 213-224.
  • Wieseke, J., Kraus, F., Alavi, S. H., & Kessler-Thönes, T. (2011). How leaders’ motivation transfers to customer service representatives. Journal of Service Research, 14(2), 214-233. doi: 210.1177/1094670510397177.
  • Winne, P., & Hadwin, A. (2008). The weave of motivation and self-regulated learning. Motivation and self-regulated learning: Theory, research, and applications, 297-314.