B. Help Youth Get Ready
B1. Increasing Youth Initiative, Responsibility and Motivation:
B1.3. The Basics of Motivation Theory
This section deals with the basic tenets of motivation theory. This is a broad topic, but we’re just going to take a birds-eye look at what it’s all about. Let's start with two types of motivators: intrinsic and extrinsic.
Types of Motivators
Intrinsic motivators are those that come from within; no one does anything to create these, although we can sometimes create conditions that allow these motivators to emerge. When you've gone a while without eating, for example, you experience hunger—that is, you are intrinsically motivated to eat. When you're tired, you're intrinsically motivated to sleep. When you're cold, you're intrinsically motivated to find a way to be warmer. When you're bored, you're intrinsically motivated to find something interesting to do. Nobody has to create these motivations within you because you already have them; they're part and parcel of being human.
Extrinsic motivators are external factors that control your behaviour. Nobody is born with a yearning for money; money is an external or extrinsic driver of behaviour, a learned motivator. Hearing "You're a good boy!" or "You're a good girl!" from your parents when you're growing up is extrinsically motivating as well. With extrinsic motivators, something outside of you urges you to behave in a certain way. Money, gold stars, treats, prizes, grades and praise are all examples of extrinsic motivators. Intrinsic motivators, such as food, can be used as extrinsic motivators, too. For example, one might use food to motivate a dog to come when its name is called. The dog will seek food because of hunger, an intrinsic motivator. However, food can also be linked to the act of coming when called. In this instance, food is an extrinsic motivator for that particular behaviour.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Theorist Abraham Maslow claimed that motivation is developmental. He contended that humans are born intrinsically motivated to meet:
- physiological needs (e.g., eating, sleeping), but as these needs are reliably met, a new set of dominant motivations arises
- safety and security needs (e.g., freedom from the elements, pain and, of course, death). As these are reliably satisfied, new intrinsic motivations for
- love and belonging become dominant. These comprise the needs to feel loved, show love and feel part of at least one social group. When a person feels securely loved, the new dominant motivations centre on
- esteem—feeling good about yourself and knowing that others hold you in high regard
Finally, once this whole set of basic or deficit needs are consistently fulfilled, a new order of motivators emerge. These are called being needs or self-actualization needs, and they are comprised of the needs for:
- Knowledge (e.g., science, philosophy, history)
- Beauty (e.g., painting, music, dance)
- Goodness (e.g., justice, peace, philanthropy)
The system Maslow used to detail the developmental aspect of motivation is called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Some of the research in this area is a little shaky, but Maslow's hierarchy is useful for youth workers because it provides a framework for thinking about what might be intrinsically motivating to youth clients.
Benefits of Intrinsic Motivators
Let's look at the three reasons for using intrinsic motivators whenever possible:
- Intrinsic motivators will be there long after you're gone; the extrinsic ones only work if someone keeps doling them out.
One danger of using extrinsic motivation to change client behaviours is that you have no idea how clients will be treated once they leave your program. For example, you may find that praise really seems to work with your clients and you employ this approach consistently throughout the program. When the program ends you have helped your clients launch successfully into the world of work, take training or improve their education, but the scenario has suddenly changed and there are new rules to follow. It could happen that a new employer does not give praise. Will positive behaviour erode because no praise is given? No one knows for sure what will happen when a youth is placed in a different environmental context. Therefore, it's safer to find out what intrinsically motivates your clients and proceed to work from that base. Then, you know at least that they'll take their intrinsic motivations with them after they leave your program.
- There is a considerable body of evidence to suggest that intrinsic motivators can be diminished and destroyed by the use of extrinsic motivators.
A summary of a simple experiment illustrates this point. A psychologist, Harry Harlow used monkeys in his experiments in the time of World War II. Harlow thought it would be nice to give the monkeys something to do while in their cages. He had noticed that they really liked playing with the latches of doors and windows, trying to figure out how they worked. To indulge their interest, Harlow obtained a bunch of latches and let the monkeys play.
Harlow then decided to conduct an experiment in which half the monkeys were rewarded for figuring out how to work the latches, while the other half were left simply to play. As might be expected, the half that was rewarded showed more focus in their activity and worked a little faster.
However, the interesting part was what happened after the experiment had ended: The monkeys that had been rewarded for figuring out the latches actually lost interest in figuring them out, once the rewards were no longer present! Indeed, Harlow had managed to suppress, at least temporarily, what had previously been intrinsically motivating to these monkeys. Similar experiments with humans have repeatedly shown the same finding. Extrinsic rewards may work for a while and in some instances, but when the rewards are removed, the initial motivation may be gone.
Now, this doesn't mean that extrinsic motivators are always destructive. When something needs to get done, but nobody is intrinsically motivated to do it, extrinsic rewards may be helpful. Cleaning latrines is an example that pops to mind (yet even this can be motivated by the basic physiological need for hygiene and health!).
- Extrinsic motivators put someone else in control of your clients' behaviours; intrinsic motivators help them stay in control.
You're working with youth because you want to help them take charge, take control and successfully manage their lives. It seems rather contradictory to motivate them through external controls! The better that youth understand their intrinsic motivations and find ways to fulfil them, the better they'll be able to manage once outside the safe environment of your program or service. If you're the one who exerts the control (and extrinsic motivators are always about control), it will be more difficult for youth clients to assert themselves by taking charge.
Job Satisfaction Factors
Frederich Herzberg, a fan of Maslow, identified factors affecting job satisfaction. He listed these under two headings, maintenance and motivator. Maintenance factors are not considered motivational in and of themselves, but their absence is sure to cause problems. Motivator factors, on the other hand, actually enhance motivation and performance. Take a look at the following table:
Dissatisfiers (if absent)
|Pay (dual factor)||Responsibility—
• job enrichment
• sense of participation
• pay (dual factor)
• progression systems (moving up the ladder)
• suggestion systems (using employees' ideas)
• lateral movement
Notice that all the motivator factors are intrinsic, except pay. Pay is a dual factor; that is, it's extrinsic, but can fulfil intrinsic motivations as well.
This information on the basics of motivation demonstrates the significance of the 5P’s that were outlined in the previous section. Passion, the second of the 5P’s, is really just another word for intrinsic motivation. What you're helping a client to uncover during the 5P process is, in fact, intrinsic motivation. This is the stuff that will ultimately sustain your young clients, not extrinsic motivation.
This discussion of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation leads directly into the next section on feedback.