Have you ever wondered why you act the way you do when prompted by a biological need? Also referred to as the drive reduction theory, the drive theory of motivation aims to explain human behavior or why human beings act a certain way when motivated by an internal need. Let’s find out what the drive reduction theory is and look at a few examples of the drive theory of motivation.

  1. What Is Drive Theory Of Motivation?

  2. Drive Theory Of Motivation Examples

  3. Criticism Of Drive Reduction Theory

  4. Become An Active Team Player


What Is Drive Theory Of Motivation?

According to the drive theory of motivation or drive theory, people behave a certain way to reduce the internal tension created in the body as a result of unfulfilled biological needs. The arousal or the state of inner tension that develops within the body due to these needs is known as a ‘drive’. The drive reduction theory believes the primary motivation behind all human action is the reduction of drives.

The drive theory of motivation has been given by behaviorist Clark Hull and further expounded upon by Hull’s collaborator Kenneth Space. When Hull first started working on the drive reduction theory of motivation, he was inspired by the ideas of many prominent thinkers such as Edward L. Thorndike, John. B. Watson, Ivan Pavlov and Charles Darwin. The basis of Hull’s drive reduction theory is homeostasis—a phenomenon that helps an organism maintain a balance or a stable internal state under challenging conditions to ensure its survival. For example, in extremely hot temperatures, a person starts sweating, which is the human body’s natural reaction to cool itself down, reduce discomfort and return to a state of equilibrium.

The Clark Hull drive reduction theory works on the same principle. As soon as there’s an unmet need within the body, a person starts behaving in a manner that allows them to address this need, reduce the drive and achieve a state of balance.

As a neo-behaviorist, Hull explained human behavior in terms of conditioning and reinforcement. In terms of the drive reduction theory, the reduction of the drive functions as a reinforcement of the behavior that helped the person to satisfy their unfulfilled need. Such reinforcement increases the likelihood of the person behaving in the same manner in the future to address that particular drive. The drive theory, therefore, works on the same stimulus-response relationship that is the premise of the conditioning form of learning.

Drive Theory Of Motivation Examples

Now that we know the meaning of the drive reduction theory of motivation, let’s look at a few examples of drive theory of motivation in everyday life:

  • The feeling of thirst creates an unpleasantness within our bodies. To reduce this internal tension and return to a state of balance, we’re motivated to reach out for a glass of water to quench our thirst. This is a drive reduction theory example
  • We eat when we’re hungry to reduce the discomfort that hunger causes within our bodies. This is a significant example of drive reduction theory
  • When we’re cold, we put on a sweater to address our need for warmth and maintain our body temperature. This is another common example of drive reduction theory

The drive reduction theory of motivation works on the premise of the body’s constant need to achieve homeostasis or balance. Once a state of stability is reached, the discomfort or the internal tension within the body subsides and the drive prompting the behavior is no longer there.

Criticism Of Drive Reduction Theory

While the drive theory was quite popular in the mid-20th century, over the years critics have identified a number of flaws in Hull’s theory of motivation. Here are a few:

  1. The primary drawback of the drive theory is that it doesn’t explain why a human being behaves in a particular manner without being prompted by an internal unmet need. For instance, a person may indulge in a three-course meal even when they’re not feeling hungry.
  2. Sometimes human beings participate in risky activities such as adventure sports that actually increase internal tension instead of reducing it. Hull’s drive reduction theory offers no explanation for such risky behavior.
  3. Psychologists say drives can be of two kinds—primary and secondary. Primary drives are innate biological needs such as hunger or thirst, while secondary drives are learned through conditioning or association with a primary drive. Money and social acceptance are examples of secondary drives. Hull’s drive reduction theory doesn’t explain why secondary drives act as reinforcers for a particular behavior even when they do nothing to reduce biological needs.

Despite these drawbacks, Hull’s theory of motivation has been extensively used as the basis of further research into human behavior and psychology. Other theorists have come up with their own alternatives to the Clark Hull drive reduction theory over the years, one such example being Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Become An Active Team Player

The drive theory of motivation has been given by Hull to explain human behavior, motivation and learning. In an ever-changing business world, it’s essential to understand yourself, your internal motivations and your coworkers to embrace a path of lifelong learning and excel as a growth-driven professional. With Harappa’s Managing Teamwork course, you’ll not only be able to harness individual strengths but also calibrate your work to your team’s goals and expectations.

Equipped with the tools to imbibe team culture, you’ll learn to collaborate with people having different work styles using emotional intelligence and master the art of giving and receiving feedback. Frameworks such as the Bruce Tuckman Model will guide you through the four stages of team formation while you become well-versed with the common work styles of team members using the Social Styles Model.

This online team management course will also help you resolve conflicts on the go with maturity, sensitivity and empathy and meet your targets by leveraging the various skill sets of your team members. Want to become an active team player and create long-lasting professional networks? Sign up today for Harappa’s Managing Teamwork course!


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