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Chapter 16
Theories of Learning




Once we learn how to do something, why do we continue doing it?  MOTIVATION”!   An internal state, that drives us to action, pushes us in a particular direction and keeps us engaged in certain activities.




Motivation effects learning and performance in at least four ways:


  • It increases an individual’s energy and activity level


  • It directs an individual toward certain activities


  • It promotes initiation of certain activities


  • It affects the learning strategies and cognitive processes an individual employ





Extrinsic motivation exists when the source of motivation lies outside of the individual and the task being performed.


Example:  I file an income tax return every year partly because I usually get a refund when I do so and partly because I will be fined if I don’t file.  You give your house a through cleaning when preparing to host a party because you would hate for your friends to discover you are a slob. You come to class and do home work for this course because you want to receive a good grade.


In contrast, Intrinsic motivation exists when the source of motivation lies within the individual and task.


The individual finds the task enjoyable or worthwhile in and of itself.  Example:  I frequently read books and articles about human learning because they continue to shed new light on a topic that is, to me, fascinating.  I watch basketball games on television because I enjoy the competition and as I view the games I eat junk food because it tastes good.







Disadvantage” of Extrinsic motivation:    Although it promotes learning,  extrinsically motivated students are likely to exert only minimal effort to achieve success (occasionally this may mean copying someone else’s work) and they may stop whatever the activity is as soon as the reward disappears. 


“Advantage” of Intrinsic motivation:  Is more enduring and has numerous advantages over extrinsic motivation.  For any particular task, intrinsically motivated learners are more likely to:


  • Pursue the task on their own initiative, without having to be prodded.
  • Be cognitively engaged in the task by keeping attention focused on it.
  • Undertake more challenging aspect of the task.
  • Learning information in a meaningful rather than a rote fashion.
  • Persist in the face of failure.
  • Experience pleasure, sometimes even exhilaration, in what they are doing.
  • Seek out additional opportunities to pursue the task.
  • Achieve at high levels.





A drive is an internal state of need within an individual.  When one is motivated by 

a drive, it could be said that something necessary for optimal functioning is missing (e.g. food, water, warmth, or rest).


Incentive motivation can be viewed as the reward one receives at the conclusion of an activity. 




Abraham Maslow proposed five different needs that motivate individuals.


And since we have been talking about Motivation, Drive and Incentives, it is important to know that Maslow believed that a satisfied need is no longer a motivator of behavior. 


  • Physiological needs:  People are motivated to satisfy needs related to their physical survival.


  • Safety needs:  People have a need to feel safe and secure in their environment.


  • Love and belongingness needs:  People seek affectionate relationships with others and like to feel that they “belong” and are accepted as part of a group.


  • Esteem needs:  People need to feel good about one self and to believe that others also feel positively about them.


  • Need for self actualization:  People have a need to develop and become all they are capable of becoming.


Maslow proposed that the five sets of needs form a hierarchy, beginning with the lowest needs being met first and then progressing up the hierarchy to higher needs.

He also believed that if a need is not met at any stage the individual could not progress on to the next stage until that need was fulfilled.




(What motivates You?)



Up to this point, we have been discussing forms of motivation that might characterize all of us at one time or another.  It may be well to note, that people differ with respect to the kinds of motivation they display.  However, there seems to be at least three motives or needs in particular that most all people display.


Need For Affiliation

Need For Approval

Need For Achievement


Need for Affiliation


 Is the degree to which a person wants and needs friendly relationships with others.


People with high need for affiliation have a number of characteristics in common.  For example:


  • They tend to become nervous when other individuals observe their performance


  • They spend considerable time communicating with others and their attitudes and opinions are easily influenced by those around them


  • They are more interested in interpersonal relationships than in task accomplishment, hence when choosing a partner, they are apt to select an incompetent friend over a competent person they don’t particular care for.


Need for Approval


 Some people have a strong desire to “look good” to others; in other words, they have a need for approval.  For example:

  • one student may continually seek teacher recognition for even the smallest accomplishments in the classroom.


  • Another may do everything possible to appear cool in front of his or her peers.


Need for Achievement:


 This is the need for excellence for its own sake, without regard for any external rewards that one’s accomplishment might bring.  For example:


  • A person with a high need for achievement might work diligently to maintain a 4.0 grade point average.


  •  practice long hours to become a professional basketball player, or play monopoly with a vengeance.



People with a high need for achievement are realistic about the tasks they can accomplish, and they persist at tasks that are challenging yet achievable.  They are willing and able to delay their gratification:  they put off small, immediate rewards for larger rewards that their long term efforts are likely to bring.


 Theorists suggest that there are two types of motivations:


       1.   Motivation For Success

       2.   Motivation to avoid failure.   


      Motivation for success is the desire to do well and accomplish goals.


Motivation for avoid failure is anxiety about failing to accomplish goals and therefore, resulting in inhibition of activities that are likely to result in failure. 

For most people one of these needs is stronger than the other, and achievement behavior depends on which need predominates.


It naturally stand to reasons that people with Motivation for Success tend to seek and tackle moderately difficult tasks, while those with Motivation for Avoiding Failure typically forego such risky tasks in favor of a sure thing.



ANXIETY pg 443


Perhaps the most widely studied form of affect, at least within the context of human learning, is Anxiety.




Anxiety and Fear are related concepts, but with a distinct differences. 


ANXIETY is a feeling of uneasiness and apprehension about a situation, typically one with an uncertain outcome.  


FEAR is a response to a specific threat, whereas anxiety is vague and relatively unfocused. 


For example, people are afraid of certain things, but they don’t always know exactly what they’re anxious about. 


Anxiety has two components:      WORRY and EMOTIONALITY


Worry is the cognitive aspect of anxiety, which includes troubling thoughts and beliefs about one’s ability to deal with a situation.



Emotionality is the affective aspect of anxiety, which includes such physiological responses as muscular tension, increased heartbeat, and perspiration and such behavioral responses as restlessness and pacing.







Psychologists use the term arousal to refer to the level of internal energy a person is currently experiencing.  People experiencing low levels of arousal are relaxed, perhaps even asleep.  People experiencing high levels of arousal are highly energized. perhaps to the point of being excessively anxious.


Arousal affects learning and performance in a curvilinear fashion.  More specifically, a small degree or arousal facilitates learning and performance.  A high degree of arousal may facilitate learning and performance when the task is easy but is likely to interfere when the task is more difficult.     




SUMMARY pg 453



Motivation is an internal state that arouses us to action, pushes us in particular directions, and keeps us engaged in certain activities.  Intrinsic motivation is ultimately more beneficial than extrinsic motivation; for example, intrinsic motivated individuals do things on their own initiative, whereas extrinsic motivation is driven by external rewards.


Related to motivation is the concept of affect ---- the feelings and emotions that an individual brings to bear on a task.  Affect influences learning.


Anxiety is a form of affect that facilitates learning or performance on easy tasks, but interfere with performance or learning on difficult tasks.


Theorists and researchers offer numerous suggestions for promoting students’ motivation to achieve and succeed in the classroom.  Perhaps the most important suggestion is that teachers should emphasize the intrinsic motivating aspect of school learning more than the external rewards.



























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