Contemporary Theories of Motivation: Self-Determination Theory, Self-Efficacy Theory, Vroom’s Expectancy Theory
Early motivation theories were based on the assumptions and sometime these theories were not supported by strong evidence. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a good example of this approach. Therefore, alternative theories of motivation have been put forward over time.
- Self-determination Theory
Self-determination theory suggests that people are motivated to grow and change by three innate and universal psychological needs.
This theory suggests that people are able to become self-determined when their needs for competence, connection, and autonomy are fulfilled.
The concept of intrinsic motivation, or engaging in activities for the inherent rewards of the behavior itself, plays an important role in self-determination theory.
Self-determination theory grew out of the work of psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, who first introduced their ideas in their 1985 book Self-Determination and Intrinsic Motivation in Human Behavior. They developed a theory of motivation which suggested that people tend to be driven by a need to grow and gain fulfillment.
Two key assumptions of the theory
(i) The need for growth drives behavior
The first assumption of self-determination theory is that people are actively directed toward growth. Gaining mastery over challenges and taking in new experiences are essential for developing a cohesive sense of self.
(ii) Autonomous motivation is important
While people are often motivated to act by external rewards such as money, prizes, and acclaim (known as extrinsic motivation), self-determination theory focuses primarily on internal sources of motivation such as a need to gain knowledge or independence (known as intrinsic motivation).
According to self-determination theory, people need to feel the following in order to achieve psychological growth:
- Competence: People need to gain mastery of tasks and learn different skills. When people feel that they have the skills needed for success, they are more likely to take actions that will help them achieve their goals.
- Connection or Relatedness: People need to experience a sense of belonging and attachment to other people.
- Autonomy: People need to feel in control of their own behaviors and goals. This sense of being able to take direct action that will result in real change plays a major part in helping people feel self-determined.
Imagine a person who fails to complete an important project at work. If this person is high in self-determination, they will admit their fault, believe that they can do something to fix the problem and take action to correct the mistake.
If that same person was low in self-determination, they might instead look for other things that they can blame. They might make excuses, assign blame, or refuse to admit that their own role. Most importantly, perhaps, is that this person won’t feel motivated to fix the mistake. Instead, they might feel helpless to control the situation and believe that nothing that they do will have any real effect.
- Self-efficacy Theory
Experience refers to your past experience of completing similar tasks. This is the most important factor in self-efficacy.
If you performed a similar task well in the past, then you are more likely to be confident that you can complete similar tasks well in the future.
(ii) Vicarious Experience
You can develop self-efficacy vicariously by watching other people perform a task.
If you watch someone similar to you perform a task and succeed at that task then your self-efficacy will increase. Conversely, if you watch someone similar to you perform a task and fail then this can have a negative effect on your self-efficacy.
(iii) Social Persuasion
You can increase your self-efficacy if others give you encouragement that you can perform a task. Likewise, your self-efficacy will decrease if you receive discouraging or disparaging remarks about your ability to perform a task.
(iv) Physiological Feedback
When confronted with a task you experience a sensation from your body. How you interpret these signals will impact you self-efficacy.
For example, if you are due to perform a presentation to a large crowd of people you might experience butterflies in your stomach.
- Vroom’s expectancy Theory
Vroom’s Expectancy Theory was proposed by Victor. H. Vroom, who believed that people are motivated to perform activities to achieve some goal to the extent they expect that certain actions on their part would help them to achieve the goal.
Vroom’s Expectancy Theory is based on the assumption that an individual’s behavior results from the choices made by him with respect to the alternative course of action, which is related to the psychological events occurring simultaneously with the behavior. This means an individual selects a certain behavior over the other behaviors with an expectation of getting results, the one desired for.
Thus, Vroom’s Expectancy Theory has its roots in the cognitive concept, i.e. how an individual processes the different elements of motivation. This theory is built around the concept of valence, instrumentality, and Expectancy and, therefore, is often called as VIE theory.
The algebraic representation of Vroom’s Expectancy theory is:
Motivation (force) = ∑Valence x Expectancy
It refers to the value that an individual places on a particular outcome or a strength of an individual’s preference for the expected rewards of the outcome. To have a positive valence, one should prefer attaining the outcome to not attaining it. For example, if an employee gets motivated by promotions, then he might not value offers of increased incentives. The valence is zero if an individual prefers not attaining outcomes to attaining it. In the above example, an employee agrees with the increased incentives.
Another major input into the valence is the instrumentality of first level outcome in obtaining the second level outcome, i.e. a degree to which the first level leads to the second level outcome. For example, suppose an employee desires promotion and he feel that superior performance is a key factor to achieve the goal. Thus, his first level outcomes are superior, average and poor performance and the second level outcome is the promotion.
Hence, the first level outcome of high performance acquires the positive valence so as to have the expected relationship with the second level outcome of the promotion. Thus, an employee will be motivated to perform efficiently with a desire to get promoted.
Expectancy, another factor that determines the motivation, refers to the probability that a particular action will lead to the desired outcome. The expectancy is different from the instrumentality in the sense; it relates efforts to the first level outcome, whereas the instrumentality relates to first and second-level outcomes to each other. Thus, expectancy is the probability that a particular action will lead to a particular first-level outcome.