Motivation can be defined as a state or process in the mind that stimulates, promotes, and controls action toward a goal. Cognition is the means by which the mind obtains knowledge, and relates to thought processes and perception. In psychology, cognitive motivation is a theory that seeks to explain human behavior in terms of the examination and consideration of received information, as opposed to an inbuilt set of instructions that govern responses to different situations. In other words, a human action results from a process of thought, rather than an automated response based on preprogrammed rules.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
Psychologists and behavioral scientists generally recognize two forms of motivation, although this is not universally accepted. Intrinsic motivation refers to tasks that are rewarding in and of themselves, such as the pleasure of solving a puzzle, learning, or playing a game. In these cases, the motivating factor is internal. Extrinsic motivation involves engaging in a task because of external factors, such as working for money and food, or taking actions to avoid harm. Theories of motivation attempt to explain how behavior directed by these factors comes about.
Need-based motivation theories would state that a person chooses the job that best allows him to provide for his needs, which usually involves making money to obtain food and shelter, and to provide for children. Cognitive motivation theories explain why people sometimes choose jobs that they like more even though they pay less and provide less. There is an intrinsic motivation factor that drives people to do things just for the enjoyment it provides them, even if that means sacrificing their needs to some degree.
Cognitive motivation is based on two primary things: information available and past experience. A person will think about a situation based on what sensory input is available, and he will also refer to his past and try to relate previous experiences to the situation at hand. Motivation theories are used in education, sports, in the workplace, and in helping people overcome health problems such as poor diet, overeating, and alcohol or drug abuse. Under the broad heading of cognitive motivation, behavioral scientists have developed a number of theories about why people take the actions they do that are not mutually exclusive.
Social Cognitive Theory
According to this theory, behavior is strongly influenced by observing others. People learn by considering the actions of other people and whether these actions resulted in success or failure, reward or punishment, and so on. It is not always necessary to interact with others to be influenced by them; experiments have shown that television, video, and other media can have an important effect on behavior and motivation. There is more to it than simply copying someone else's behavior: the observer thinks about what he sees and draws conclusions from it. This kind of learning is often quicker, and may be safer, than a trial and error approach.
This approach is based on intrinsic motivation and states that individuals are motivated by inbuilt psychological needs, three of which have been identified. Competence is the need to achieve a successful outcome to a task through one’s own efforts; autonomy is the need to be in control of, or at least to significantly influence, events in one’s life; and relatedness is the desire to be connected to others through social interaction. Studies have found that the introduction of extrinsic factors, such as financial rewards, tend to undermine intrinsic motivation. People engaged in a task that satisfies the need for autonomy, for example, may tend to focus more on the reward and to find the task itself less satisfying.
Attribution theory deals with peoples’ perceptions of the reasons for their successes and failures. There are three main elements, based on whether individuals attribute successes and failures to internal or external factors, to stable or unstable factors, or to controllable or uncontrollable factors. People in general tend to regard their successes as due to internal factors, such as talent and hard work, and their failures to external factors, such as bad luck or the actions of others. Some gender differences are also apparent: men tend to regard ability as the main factor in success and laziness as the reason for failure; women tend to attribute success to hard work and failure to inability. Studies have shown that people are less likely to change their behavior when they regard failure as due to factors that are both stable and beyond their control.
This theory states that a person is motivated to pursue a goal by a combination of her expectation of success and her estimation of its value. The value is determined in terms of the cost of pursuing the goal and the possible reward for achieving it. When both expectation and value are viewed as high, an individual will be highly motivated and will display effort and determination. When both are low, motivation is low and the person will not pursue the goal, or will do so only half-heartedly.
Cognitive motivation is just one of several explanations of why people and animals do what they do. Most theorists who do not support this idea believe that motivation is need-based or drive reducing. Need-based motivation assumes that peoples’ actions are based on their needs, like for food, water, or reproduction. Drive-reducing theories are based on the idea that animals, including humans, have powerful drives for food, sex, and other goals, and that they are motivated to take action only to reduce these drives. Cognition may have a place in these theories, but it is not thought of as the basis of motivation and behavior.