Incentive theory views positive external motivations as pull factors that influence behavior toward an anticipated reward.
Incentive theory, which is also known as reward theory, proposes that individuals are motivated by extrinsic or outside rewards such as money, a job promotion, or sweet foods. These external incentives act as a pull on an individual and can be contrasted with the push of intrinsic motivators. Incentive theories were developed in the 1940s from ideas about drive and internal forces, which can be affected by psychological factors such as self-esteem and neurosis.
Motivation is what converts a person's potential for a certain behavior (arising from a learning process) to become a manifestation of that behavior. Motivation acts as a switch to activate or deactivate behavior. In incentive theory, the external stimulus acts as a goal that elicits anticipatory responses in the attempt to reach it and satisfaction responses upon completion. The force of the incentive is directly related to the anticipated amount of the award. A study undertaken by the psychologist Leo Crespi (1916–2008) investigated the applicability of incentive theory in experiments with rats and a food reward. This experiment showed that the speed of the rats running toward the food reward was correlated with the anticipated amount of food that would be available.
See also Applied psychology ; Behavior modification ; Classical conditioning ; Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation ; Motivation .
Latham, Gary P. Work Motivation: History, Theory, Research, and Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2012.
O'Neil, Harold F. Jr., and Michael Drillings. Motivation: Theory and Research. Hoboken, NJ: Taylor and Francis, 2012.
Weinstein, Netta. Human Motivation and Interpersonal Relationships: Theory, Research, and Applications. Dordrecht, Germany: Springer, 2014.
Ryan, Richard M., and Edward L. Deci. “Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions.” Contemporary Educational Psychology 25, no. 1 (2000): 54–67.
Association for Psychological Science, 1133 15th St. NW, Ste. 1000, Washington, DC, 20005, (202) 293-9300, Fax: (202) 293-9350, http://www.psychologicalscience.org .