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Understanding Motivation Part 1

In my article "The Need for Psychology Understanding” I discussed how fiction writers need at least a basic understanding of psychology in order to write realistic content, dialogues, characters, and relationships. One such psychological concept is motivation. An understanding of motivation can help fiction writers to create believable motivators for their characters and/or explain the motivation of their characters. Non-fiction writers can also benefit from an understanding of motivation as such an understanding can be used in their writing to help explain the real ways in which the people that they are writing about were motivated or to speculate on how certain factors acted as motivators for people.


Pritchard, Paquin, DeCuir, McCormick, and Bly (2002) broadly define motivation as a cognitive construct, yet the term can be specifically defined as a driving force that causes individuals to strive to achieve their goals, fulfill a need, or uphold a value  (Mullins, 2002). This driving force is affected by four main factors: situational factors like environmental and external stimuli, the temperament of the individual, the purpose behind the behavior, and the tools required to reach to achieve the goal (Pakdel, 2013). Motivation has not always been defined in such a manner nor has it always been perceived in the same manner as the original concept of motivation which can be traced back to ancient Greece.

In ancient Greece, Aristotle came to believe that the human body's desires, pleasures, and pain were the three main components in a hierarchy of motivation (Pakdel, 2013). In the 1600s René Descartes studied the differences between inactive and active aspects of motivation; he came to the conclusion that the human body itself was an inactive factor of motivation, while a person’s will is an active factor of motivation (Pakdel, 2013). This was a unique addition to the understanding of motivation during that time as it was the first time that motivation had been directly attributed to human will. The next big historical change to the understanding of motivation occurred in the mid-eighteenth century where Adam Smith was studying methods of making a workplace more efficient and how it could benefit both the company and the employees, and then, in the 1920s, when Frederick Taylor started a new method of paying employees based on production. These two historical changes allowed the study of motivation to incorporate aspects of morale and productivity; this change caused motivation to be seen as important as it could affect the workplace in a financial manner.

Current Importance

Motivation is of great current importance as it can affect every aspect of an individual’s life, from their decision to get out of bed in the morning, to their productivity at work. Employers need to not only understand what motivation is and the importance of it for productivity and morale but how to influence it. An understanding of how to influence the motivation of one’s characters can allow a writer to explain an increase in motivation, morale, and/or productivity, which in turn can influence the reader's understanding of the character and their overall enjoyment of the book.


LPakdel, B. (2013). The historical context of motivation and analysis theories of individual motivation. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 3(18), 240-247

Pritchard, R. D., Paquin, A. R., DeCuir, A. D., McCormick, M. J., & Bly, P. R. (2002).

Measuring and improving organizational productivity: An overview of ProMES, the Productivity Measurement, and Enhancement System. In R. D. Pritchard, H. Holling, F. Lammers, & B. D. Clark (Eds.), Improving organizational performance with the Productivity Measurement and Enhancement System: An international collaboration (pp. 3–49). Huntington, NY: Nova Science.

Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Sefina Hawke