Motivation and Human Development Theories

Motivation is a guide for an individual’s daily work, play, and learning. Every action taken throughout the day is dependent upon motivation. Motivations can be influenced by the environment, from information learned, by social experiences, and from personal emotions. Each person has unique motivations that pertain to their individual lives, personalities, and needs. Some explanation for certain motivations can be found in motivational theories, such as the hierarchy of needs theory, the reinforcement theory, and the equity theory (Deci, 1995).

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory is based upon putting ones proprieties in order. Everyone has their own individual needs and desires. The individual needs take precedence over wants. When the necessary basic needs are met, the desired needs can be explored. The hierarchy of needs theory categorizes the importance level of each need. The levels of hierarchy are rated in order of importance; they include physiological needs, safety and security needs, social needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs. When each level of needs is sufficiently met, the primary motivating factors change (Deci, 1995).

Of most importance on the continuum of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are physiological needs. Physiological needs are the basic life-sustaining human needs, such as food, water, shelter, and sleep. These needs must be met in order to achieve any other needs. The satisfaction of safety and security needs helps eliminate the fear or danger of losing one’s physiological needs. Social needs fulfill the need to fit in with society. Esteem needs fulfill the desire of belonging, being loved, or having self-confidence.Esteem needs can motivate an individual to obtain power over themselves. Self-actualization needs satisfy the desire to excel by allowing the individual to achieve their fullest potential of self-fulfillment.Each level of needs does not have to be satisfied completely, just enough to move along the continuum to the next level of personal comfort and satisfaction (Deci, 1995; Shah, 2010).

Reinforcement theory uses positive and negative reinforcement to motivate an individual to change their behaviors. Positive reinforcement uses a reward system to encourage good behaviors. Positive reinforcement could be given in the form of apay raise or even a hug. Negative reinforcement eliminates a stressor or punishment as a reward for good behavior. One example of negative reinforcement is the removal of grounding a child. Extinction occurs when no reward is given for good behavior; the behavior will likely stop because there is no promise for reward. Punishment is a response to bad behavior, such as a fine (Theories of Motivation, 2011).

The equity theory coincides with the reinforcement theory because it uses the personal perception of the reward to motivate an individual. With equity theory the rewards are neither fair nor unfair; the reward itself is not the motivator.Rewards are given in comparison to the effort put into the job; the reward is individually perceived in comparison to others completing the same task. A good example of this would be if a sales person was given a percentage of their sales as their salary. The use of equity as a motivator would lose its effect if someone believed they worked harder than an individual receiving a greater percentage rate for less effort (Theories of Motivation, 2011).

All people are different. They have different motivations and influences in their lives. Understanding that people are different and taking the time and effort to learn those differences can be a useful tool. There are multiple theories because of the many differences people have. Success in life depends upon motivation.

The theories of human development help explain how people learn, develop, and behave over their life span from being a baby to an adult. There are typical ages and periods in life that people go through in order to grow psychologically, such as the terrible twos or puberty. Jean Piaget’s Cognitive-Developmental Theory is one example of human development theory. There are four stages of the Cognitive-Developmental Theory; they include the sensorimotor stage, the pre-operational stage, the concrete operational stage, and the formal operational stage (Huitt& Hummel, 2003).

The sensorimotor stage uses motor activity to influence intelligence. One example of this can be the use of physically stimulating games such as pat-a-cake and peek-a-boo. The pre-operational stage uses symbols, language, memory, and imaginationfor learning advancement. There is a lack of logic in this stage; one example of this is the child’s desire to dress-up in costumes. My friend’s son wore a costume every day for several years while in this stage. The concrete operational stage uses logic and operational thinking. A good example of this stage is when children learn to divide things equally.My friend made a rule that if one child divided the item, the other child got to choose first. There is a great need for equality and rightful compensation at this stage. In the formal operational stage, logic and abstract concepts are used. At this stage, calculations can be made, creative thinking can take place, abstract reasoning, and the anticipation of outcomes is realized. These are skills used to function is society and to be successful contributing people (Huitt& Hummel, 2003).

Piaget’s theory builds a platform for constructive learning. Children must be taught and challenged in a supportive manner, without pushing them past their abilities. Expecting too much too soon can cause discouragement and possible failure. Among younger children, cognitive development is highly propelled by physical development. As children get older, such as high school age, physical development as a factor of cognitive ability diminishes. Human development has structure, but still needs support and assistance from others (Huitt& Hummel, 2003).

Works Cited

Deci, Edward L. Why We Do What We Do. New York: Penguin Group, 1995. Print.

Huitt, James, and Arthur Hummel. Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development. 2003. Web.

Shah, Ken, and Param J. Shah.”Theories of Motivation.” Laynetworks 2010. Web.

Theories of Motivation 2011.Web.

Cite this paper

Select style


BusinessEssay. (2022, July 18). Motivation and Human Development Theories. Retrieved from


BusinessEssay. (2022, July 18). Motivation and Human Development Theories.

Work Cited

"Motivation and Human Development Theories." BusinessEssay, 18 July 2022,


BusinessEssay. (2022) 'Motivation and Human Development Theories'. 18 July.


BusinessEssay. 2022. "Motivation and Human Development Theories." July 18, 2022.

1. BusinessEssay. "Motivation and Human Development Theories." July 18, 2022.


BusinessEssay. "Motivation and Human Development Theories." July 18, 2022.