Motivation as a Function of Expectancy and Incentive

  • Jürgen BeckmannEmail author
  • Heinz Heckhausen


Striving to realize affect-laden goals is a central facet of motivation. Incentive theories of motivation assume that behavior is goal-oriented. Behavioral regulation is seen as progressive and not as reactive as it is in the case of instinct models. The value of incentives energizes behavior: no drive that “pushes” is required because the goal is “pulling” the acting individual. The theories also assume that individuals do not learn stimulus-response connections but instead expectations about relationships (contingencies). This leads to a simple cognitive model of motivation: motivation as a function of expectancy and value. According to the expectancy times value model, individuals prefer behavioral options which maximize the product of value realized (incentive) and probability of realization (expectancy). More recent theories of motivation are all built on the fundamental claims of expectancy-value theories. Their simpler iterations, however, lack the inclusion of individual differences such as motives or personal dispositions. Many critics also pointed out that although the multiplication of expectancy and value might be rationalistic, it is not psychological. Modern theories of motivation therefore address these issues.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sport and Health SciencesTechnical University of MunichMunichGermany
  2. 2.Max Planck Institute for Psychological ResearchMunichGermany

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