Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 1–10 | Cite as

Toward a general theory of motivation: Problems, challenges, opportunities, and the big picture

Original Paper


Motivation theories have tended to focus on specific motivations, leaving open the intellectually and scientifically challenging problem of how to construct a general theory of motivation. The requirements for such a theory are presented here. The primacy of motivation emphasizes that cognition, emotion, agency, and other psychological processes exist to serve motivation. Both state (impulses) and trait (basic drives) forms of motivation must be explained, and their relationship must be illuminated. Not all motivations are the same, and indeed it is necessary to explain how motivation evolved from the simple desires of simple animals into the complex, multifaceted forms of human motivation. Motivation responds to the local environment but may also adapt to it, such as when desires increase after satiation or diminish when satisfaction is chronically unavailable. Addiction may be a special case of motivation—but perhaps it is much less special or different than prevailing cultural stereotypes suggest. The relationship between liking and wanting, and the self-regulatory management of motivational conflict, also require explanation by an integrative theory.


Motivation Wanting Desire Addiction Self-regulation Impulse Drive Liking Motivational plasticity 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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