The goal of Motivation at a Glance is to document theories of motivation, particularly those theories which address learning, education, and information processing, in an effort to identify common threads and concepts which together provide a robust picture and insight into the factors which arouse our desires and influence our behaviors.

Edward L. Deci addresses these factors in his book, Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Motivation (1995). Daniel Pink tackles the question in, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (2009). The insights shared by Mr. Pink are based on the work of Deci and Ryan's Self-Determination Theory.

Rosemary Luckin. in Re-designing Learning Contexts (2010), notes that: the term 'motivation' is subject to a variety of definitions and approaches:

  • Bergin et al, (1993), for example , define the term 'motivation' as: 'The physiological process involved in the direction, vigor, and persistence of behavior'.
  • Ryan and Deci (2000) define motivation as 'reason for action' and suggest two aspects of motivation: one is quantitative and underpins the way we talk about the strength of a learner’s motivation; the other is qualitative, and describes the orientation of the process."

Theories approach motivation from different viewpoints. "There are theories that draw the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000), theories that are concerned with sociocognitive constructs, such as expectancy-value theory (Wigfield & Eccles, 2000) and self-efficacy (Zimmerman, 2000), and there are achievement goal theories that identify the influence of person's learning goals on the way that they manage their learning interactions." (Ames, 1992; Dweck & Leggett, 1988; Meece, 1991).

An effort to find common threads among theories of motivation, is addressed by Piers Steel, in Integrating Theories of Motivation (2006), "...our understanding of behavior has been hindered by the very extent of our efforts. There is a superabundance of motivational theories. Not only does each field have its particular interpretation, but there are ample subdivisions within each discipline." (2006: 789) Steel offers a case for integration of theories and suggests that, "A common theme across the disparate disciplines of decision making and motivation is the desire for more comprehensive and integrated theories." (2006: 890)

Identifying, documenting, and compiling key references for a comprehensive list of theories, has proven to be a monumental task. Documenting each theory is insufficient if we wish to make relationships among theories explicit. To achieve this goal, we are creating mind-maps to show these relationships. Maps will certainly undergo significant revisions as we address each theory. We share our under-construction maps here:


Alexander, P, & Zimmerman, B. (2000). Self-efficacy: An essential motive to learn. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 82.

Ames, C. (1992). Classrooms: Goals, structures, and student motivation. Journal of educational psychology, 84(3), 261.

Bergin, D A, Ford, M E, & Hess, R D. (1993). Patterns of motivation and social behavior associated with microcomputer use of young children. Journal of educational psychology, 85(3), 437.

Deci, Edward L. (1995). Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Motivation . NY: Penguin Books.

Dweck, C S, & Leggett, E L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological review, 95(2), 256.

Luckin, Rosemary. (2010). Re-designing learning contexts: Technology Rich, Learner-Centred Ecologies. NY: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Meece, J. L. (1991). The classroom context and students' motivational goals. In Maehr, M. L. & Pintrich, P. (eds.), Advances in Motivation and Achievement: Volume 7 (pp. 261-85). Greenwich, CT, JAI.

Pink, Daniel. (2009). Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. NY: Riverhead Books.

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

Steel, P, & Konig, C J. (2006). Integrating theories of motivation. The Academy of Management Review, 31(4), 889.

Wigfield, A, & Eccles, J S. (2000). Expectancy-value theory of achievement motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology, , 68-81.

The video below is a response to Dan Pink - How Dan Pink Learned the Six Lessons

TED Videos

  • Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation | TED Video (Rewards don't work for complex tasks. Pink says what is important .. Autonomy, Master and Purpose, he concentrates on Autonomy in this talk.) Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don't.
  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi - Flow | TED Video Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has contributed pioneering work to our understanding of happiness, creativity, human fulfillment and the notion of "flow" -- a state of heightened focus and immersion in act.
  • Nancy Etcoff on the surprising science of happiness | TED Video Cognitive researcher Nancy Etcoff looks at happiness -- the ways we try to achieve and increase it, the way it's untethered to our real circumstances, and its surprising effect on our bodies.
  • Tony Robbins asks why we do what we do | TED VideoTony Robbins discusses the "invisible forces" that motivate everyone's actions -- and high-fives Al Gore in the front row.
  • Stuart Brown Says Play Is More than Just Fun | TED Video