A common theory explored on motivation is the one put forward by Abraham Maslow commonly called 'Maslow's hierarchy of needs'.
When people "malfunction", says Maslow, it is because they cannot meet their needs through constructive and socially acceptable behaviour. Maslow A (1954).
Before Maslow came along conventional thinking was that motivation was something one person did to another. Maslow identified that motivation was an internal drive.
He established that we all have needs and these motivate our behaviour e.g. if you are hungry you are motivated to eat. A need that is satisfied will not motivate us e.g. Once you have eaten the need is satisfied until you become hungry again. Also, there is a hierarchy to these needs e.g. If you are worrying about something this may override the motivation you have to eat.
Maslow identified five levels of need, classified under two general headings: primary needs (physiological and safety needs) and secondary needs (social, esteem, and "self-actualisation" or self-fulfilment). The primary needs are also known as the "belly" needs; the secondary are known, as the "brain" needs.
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