The group of motivational theories that falls under the umbrella category of Process Theories of Motivation is based on the use of our rational thought processes or cognitive processing abilities. Unlike a drive or needs-based theory, the process theories of motivation explore a step above the biological levels to examine how we think and rationalize our actions.
The Equity Theory of motivation is a process theory that explores an individual’s motivation to work based on the fairness or sense of equality he detects in the relationship, comparing the amount of effort he puts into any given situation to the benefits he is receiving. If there is any type of inequality perceived, the individual will feel distressed, whether he is giving too much or giving too little, and will act to rectify the inequity.
The Expectancy Theory of motivation suggests that human beings are driven to accomplish a goal when they deem the benefits of achieving the goal desirable and because it seems likely that the goal can be reached. If a goal fits into the framework of an individual’s expectations, appearing worthwhile and doable, he will be motivated to reach it. Three factors are implicated in the process of motivation for the Expectancy Theory. The goal must have valence (or value.) A sense of instrumentality, or belief that there is a way to complete the goal, must be present. Finally, the individual must have a sense of expectancy, meaning that he feels capable of taking the steps to achieve the goal.
Kahler’s Drivers theory explores the different drives that motivate us when we interact with one another. The drivers that Kahler suggests govern our interactions with one another are: the drive to be perfect, the drive to be strong, the drive to act quickly, the drive to please others, and the drive to try hard. He suggests that we are motivated by social cues in our individual environments to act a certain way, which always falls into one of those five categories. Responding too strongly to any one of these drivers can be psychologically damaging, posing the threat of a dysfunctional psyche.
The Needs Goal-Setting Theory puts forth the idea that individuals respond with great motivation when they presented with a goal that appears achievable, has clear parameters, and will garner them positive feedback. The number one thing that motivates us, according to the Needs Goal-Setting Theory, is our own desire to work. The parameters that will cause an individual to want to work are: a goal that fits into his value scheme, a goal that is clear and specific, a goal that is challenging but realistic, and positive feedback from those around the individual. According to this theory, knowing that we have multiple, particularly defined tasks to complete within a finite amount of time will motivate us to complete the tasks more quickly than if we had one ambiguous, long-term goal.
Porter-Lawler Theory is similar to the Expectancy Theory of motivation in that they agree with the premise that an individual is motivated to complete an action based on what they expect to receive upon completion. This theory further delineates the two types of rewards or benefits that we might expect to get upon reaching a goal. Intrinsic rewards come from within us and include rewards such as self-satisfaction or feeling a sense of accomplishment. Extrinsic rewards include rewards such as a pay raise or bonus for reaching a sales goal.
Ultimately these examples of process theories of motivation endeavor to describe human beings’ motivation and impetus for behavior as a symptom of our cognitive procedures and rational thought patterns.