A Theory of Human Motivation

A Theory of Human Motivation
The organizations , today, point to certain attitudes and skills innate in people, that is, towards understanding the individual . The companies , above all, focus on those who have the prospect of achieving their achievements .

In this sense, the primary objective in the administration of human resources is to understand the potentials of people, in order to strengthen their motivations and their subordinate attitudes to the success of the organization .

In the present investigation we deal, firstly, with the description and analysis of the different theories of motivation , its concepts, principles and characteristics. Second, develop and investigate what is human cognition, its definition and characteristics. Third, the theories of human behavior ; its causes, types and the attitudes that make up this one. Finally, the theory of expectations exposed Victor Vroom.

All these aspects of the analysis are addressed in terms of the administration of human resources ; and the importance they have in organizational development .

Theories of human motivation

The motivation is the impulse effort to satisfy a desire or goal. In other words, motivation implies impulse towards a result. This is the process that drives a person to act in a certain way or at least causes a propensity towards a specific behavior .

This impulse to act can come from the environment (external stimulus) or it can be generated by internal processes of the individual. In this aspect, motivation is associated with the cognitive system of the individual. Cognition is what the person knows about himself and the environment that surrounds him. The cognitive system implies personal values , which are determined by the social environment, the physiological structure , the needs and experiences of each person.

The starting point of the motivational cycle is given by the emergence of a need. This breaks the state of equilibrium in which the individual finds himself, by producing a state of tension that leads him to develop a behavior capable of releasing tension and freeing him from discomfort and imbalance.

If the behavior is effective, the need will be satisfied, returning to a new state of equilibrium. On the contrary, on certain occasions the need is not met, which can cause frustration or compensation (transfer to another goal or goal).

According to Ricardo Solana, motivation is what makes an individual act and behave in a certain way. It is a combination of intellectual , physiological and psychological processes that decide, in a given situation, with what vigor one acts and in which direction energy is channeled. For James Stoner, motivation is the factors that cause, channel and sustain human behavior in a particular and committed sense. Harold Koontz and Heinz Weihrich, for their part, indicate that motivation is a generic term that applies to a wide range of impulses, desires, needs, desires, and similar forces. For Koontz and Weihrich, to say that managers motivate their subordinates is to indicate that they perform things with which they expect to satisfy those impulses and desires and induce subordinates to act in a certain way. For Herzberg, motivation includes feelings of accomplishment of growth and professional recognition, which are manifested through the exercise of tasks and activities that offer sufficient challenge and meaning for the worker.


According to Maslow , in motivation there is a set of hierarchy of needs, since the needs of man grow throughout his life. As the latter satisfies his basic needs, more complex ones occupy the predominance of his behavior. For Maslow, human needs have the following order of hierarchy:
  1. Self-realization needs: (potential realization, full utilization of individual talents, etc.)
  2. Estimation needs: (reputation, recognition, self-respect, love , etc.)
  3. Social Needs: ( friendship , membership of groups , etc.)
  4. Security needs : (protection against danger or deprivation)
  5. Physiological needs: ( air , water , food , rest, coats, etc.)

According to Maslow:
  • A satisfied need does not originate any behavior. Only unmet needs influence behavior and lead to the achievement of objectives.
  • Insofar as the individual controls the physiological and safety needs, social needs, esteem and self-realization appear. When the individual manages to satisfy their social needs, the needs for self-realization arise; this means that such needs are complementary to social needs, while those of self-fulfillment are those of esteem.
  • The needs of self-realization, esteem and social require a much longer motivational cycle than the physiological and security ones.


Herzberg bases his motivational theory on the external environment and on the work of the individual (extra-oriented approach). Define two factors, namely:
  • Hygienic or unsatisfactory factors: refers to the conditions surrounding the employee while working. It includes physical and environmental conditions work, the wages, social benefits, the policies of the company, the type of supervision received, the climate of relations between management and employees, internal regulations, existing opportunities, etc.
  • Motivating or satisfactory factors: it refers to the content of the position, the tasks and the duties related to the position. They are the motivational factors that produce a lasting effect of satisfaction and productivity increase in levels of excellence, higher than normal levels.


For Vroom, (Contingent Motivation Model), three factors determine the motivation of the individual to produce and wish to increase productivity, namely these are:
  • The personal objectives of the individual: May include money, security in the position, social acceptance, recognition and interesting work.
  • The perceived relationship between satisfaction of the objectives and high productivity: If a worker aims to have a higher salary and works according to the remuneration for production, he may have a strong motivation to produce more.
  • The perception of their ability to influence their productivity: If an employee believes that a large volume of effort has little effect on the result, he will tend not to try very hard.

Definition of human cognition

The concept of cognition (from the Latin: cognoscere, "to know") refers to the faculty of beings to process information from perception, acquired knowledge and subjective characteristics that allow to value and consider certain aspects to the detriment of others. The cognitive approach has insisted on how individuals represent the world in which they live and how they receive information acting in accordance with it. Cognition is intimately related to abstract concepts such as mind, perception, reasoning, intelligence, learning and many others that describe numerous capacities.

Cognition, in general, is the general name of the operations performed by mental mechanisms when processing the information they receive. However, many researchers distinguish two types of mental operations: one properly cognitive and other non-cognitive or precognitive. In the first, the process will have a character (semi-) conscious. While non-cognitive or precognitive will be automatic operations with little or no possibility of becoming aware.

The concept of cognition is often used to signify the act of knowing, or knowledge, and can be defined, in a cultural or social sense, as the emerging development of knowledge within a group that culminates in the synergy of thought and action. Cognitive processes can be natural or artificial, conscious or unconscious. What explains, why his study has been approached from different perspectives including neurology, psychology, philosophy and information sciences - such as artificial intelligence and Knowledge management?

In psychology and artificial intelligence (AI) the concept refers to the functions, processes and mental states of intelligent agents, with a particular focus on processes such as understanding, inference, and decision making, planning and learning. Research in the field addresses capabilities of agents / systems such as abstraction, generalization, concretion / specialization and meta-reasoning in which subjective concepts such as beliefs, knowledge, mental states and preferences are involved.

The understanding of personal behavior

The human behavior is the set of behaviors exhibited by man; which is influenced by the culture, attitudes, emotions, values of the person and cultural values, ethics, the exercise of authority, persuasion, coercion and / or genetics. The behavior of the person is what is seen as common, unusual, acceptable, and outside of acceptable limits.

Human behavior is studied by psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology, criminology and its different branches. In sociology, behavior is considered as a void of meaning, not directed to another subject. Therefore, an essentially human action.

Human behavior cannot be confused with social behavior, which is a more developed action and is directed to another subject. Behavior is evaluated by the social norm and regulated by different means of social control. The purpose of human behavior lies in relating to other people to establish bonds of mutual protection, of help.

According to Chiavenato, there are three premises that explain the nature of human behavior, these are:
  • The behavior is caused. That is, there is an internal or external cause that originates human behavior, product of the influence of the inheritance and the environment.
  • The behavior is motivated. The impulses, desires, needs or tendencies are the reasons for the behavior.
  • The behavior is oriented towards objectives. There is a purpose in all human behavior, since there is a cause that generates it. The behavior is always directed towards some goal.

There are several factors that affect human behavior, among them:
  • The attitude: in this degree the person makes a favorable or unfavorable evaluation of the behavior.
  • The social norm: this is the influence of social pressure that is perceived by the individual (normative belief) to perform certain behaviors or not.
  • Control of perceived behavior: how the beliefs of the individual make the performance of the behavior easy or difficult.

Behavior is influenced by personality. This is the external reflection of the inner being, the sum total of the characteristics of the individual. The development of the personality implicitly involves the development of behavior. The sources of personality development are the inheritance and the social environment. These two causal factors are related as a multiplying factor.

The social environment is structured by culture. This determines the experiences that a person has, the frustrations and adjustments that he must face and the rules of conduct that are required of him. Thus the culture influences the personality because it imposes many of the characteristics that a person will acquire. The process of acquiring the personality traits that are typical of members of a particular culture is called socialization. Culture molds personality, because it provides already prepared and tested solutions. For many of life's problems. Culture develops over time in a way of life. Hence, talk about a business or organizational culture as a modeler of human behavior. Such modeling determines the attitudes of people.

Attitudes are predispositions towards an object or situation, which provide tendencies to respond favorably or unfavorably to certain kinds of stimuli. On the other hand, attitudes have social reference, both in their origins and in their development, which are inherent to the individual and are intimately related to the behavior and psychological make of it.

There are three kinds of attitudes, namely
  • Affective: what a person feels about an object or situation. It evaluates it favorable or unfavorable. They are sympathetic nervous responses. Verbal affection statements.
  • Cognitive: what a person believes about an object or situation. How is that object objectively. Predictive responses to individual or social situations are verbal affirmations of beliefs.
  • Behavioral: how a person responds to an object or situation based on the previous two. They are verbal affirmations concerning behavior.

In this sense, it is possible to determine, at least, three types of behavior:
  • The behavior is caused: There is a causality of behavior. Both the inheritance and the environment decisively influence the behavior of people, which originates in internal or external stimuli.
  • Behavior is motivated: In every human behavior there is a purpose. The behavior is not random or random, it is always directed or directed towards some goal.
  • The behavior is oriented towards objectives: In every behavior there is a "drive", a "desire", a "need", a "trend", expressions that serve to indicate the "reasons" of behavior.

According to Katz, there are four main functions of attitudes
  • Function of knowledge: Seeks consistency and stability in the perception of the world, gives meaning and direction to the experience, providing frames of reference for judging events, objects and people.
  • Adaptive function (instrumental or utilitarian): Obtains favorable responses from others through socially acceptable attitudes, so that these are associated with important rewards.
  • Value function: Achieves self-expression through values for which you feel appreciated. The reward is the confirmation of a sense of integrity.
  • Self-defense function: Helps to protect oneself from having to admit personal deficiencies. It often means the avoidance and denial of self-knowledge.

Theory of expectation

Vroom's expectation valence theory proposes that motivation is the product of the valence or the value that the individual puts in the possible outcomes of their actions and the expectation that their goals will be met. The importance of this theory is the insistence it makes on the individuality and the variability of the motivating forces. Vroom, argues that individuals harbor hopes and expectations regarding future events in their lives, these are based on beliefs and attitudes. Highly motivated individuals are those who perceive certain goals and incentives as valuable, at the same time, they perceive that the probability of achieving them is high. The most outstanding aspects of this theory are:
  • Every human effort is made with the expectation of a certain success.
  • The subject trusts that if he achieves the expected performance, he will follow certain consequences for him. This type of expectation is called instrumentality.
  • Each consequence or result has a certain value for the subject, which is called valence.
  • The motivation of a person, to perform an action, is greater the greater the product of expectations, (instrumentality + valence).
  • The relationship between effort and performance depends on two factors: (The skills of the subject and his perception of the position).
  • Each person has a certain idea of the level of performance they are able to achieve in the task.
  • People expect that whoever does the best job achieves the best rewards.
  • The strength of the motivation in a given situation is equivalent to the product between the value that the person assigns to the reward and the expectation of its possible achievement. (Strength of motivation = Value of reward + Probability of achievement).

Some of the consequences can be:
  • The definition of standards, goals and objectives must respond to real estimates.
  • It is about defining demands that can be achieved but with effort.
  • Rewards for achievement must be aligned with true expectations.
  • It is necessary that people are convinced that the rewards they receive are fair. On the contrary, who performs a very low performance will not earn the same rewards.

The expectation theory of Vroom has application in the management by objectives as motivation formula. Management by objectives is a decentralized administration formula, which consists of subdividing, in a given period, the general objectives into partial objectives that are assigned to each department, which have necessary autonomy and acquire the responsibility to achieve them.

For the objectives to be a motivating factor, it is necessary that the heads of the departments give sufficient value to their achievement, so that the appropriate incentives must be established, associated with the achievements of those.


In this essay we have tried to review the most important aspects that concern the subject of motivation, cognition and theories of human behavior, always focused on the area of human resources. In this regard, we can mention several points that we think should be highlighted, among them:

Motivation is the impulse that makes it possible for the individual to act towards an end he intends to achieve. This, on the other hand, facilitates the evolution of a system of values and personal knowledge, which is important as a mediation between incentive and response. The theory of motivation is aimed at accounting for the causes by which individuals move in pursuit of an objective, hence the importance it has in the administration of human resources.

The human cognition that manifests itself in diverse attitudes, leads to determine different types of human behaviors and their causes. This allows to plan models of labor socialization. Since, the relationship between motivation and human behavior allows the development of programs aimed at personal improvement. We must include in this relationship the theory of expectations that, as we appreciate, encourages motivation.

Motivation, as an instrument of labor organization, and knowledge of people's behavior can facilitate achieving better goals and objectives within the organizational world. Those companies capable of associating motivation and a real knowledge human behavior to organizational tasks can achieve high levels of integration and productive development.