Anything that motivates you starts with a need. A need refers to any biological or psychological demand of your body.
Further, a need derives from a lack of something that you desire or something that is useful. We, humans, have physiological and psychological needs.
For instance, we need food for our survival. Besides this, we also need social approval or self-esteem.
Further, the emergence of a need produces a drive. A drive is a psychological state of arousal as a result of an unfulfilled physiological need.
Such arousal motivates you as an individual to engage in behaviors that help you to maintain a balanced state of your body.
Thus, when your body returns to a balanced state, your drive reduces. Thus, the racing of motivation back to the basic physiological needs gave birth to the Drive-Reduction Theory.
Drive Reduction Theory of Motivation is one of the popular theories of motivation based on the biological notion of instinct. But, it lays stress on mediating the role of internal drives as psychological forces.
In this article, we are going to discuss, what is drive reduction theory, drive-reduction theory examples, and criticisms of the theory.
Overview – What is Drive Reduction Theory?
The Drive Reduction Theory is the behavioral approach of motivation and deals with drives and incentives.
According to the Drive Reduction Theory of Motivation, an organism becomes tense and agitated when it is deprived of something it needs or wants. As a result, it engages in random behaviors that help in relieving this tension.
According to drive-reduction theory, a need refers to a state of tension produced as a result of a lack of something desirable or useful.
What is a Need?
A need can be either physiological or psychological in nature. Your need for food and oxygen in order to survive is a physiological need.
Likewise, your need for self-esteem or social approval is your psychological need. And you learn about your psychological needs through experience and practice.
Thus, your need, whether physiological or psychological, produces a drive.
What is a Drive?
A drive is an internal condition that can change over time and aligns you towards a particular goal or goal.
This means you as an individual may have different drives having diverse goals. For example, needs like hunger and fatigue are your biological needs. Hunger drives you to eat and fatigue drives you to take rest.
Likewise, needs like curiosity and the desire to earn money are psychological needs. Your curiosity drives you to explore something and your desire to earn money drives you to work.
Thus, according to drive-reduction theory, you as an individual always try to reduce your drive emanating either from physiological needs or psychological needs.
In other words, the drive theory is based on the principle of homeostasis. Homeostasis is the tendency of your body to restore its internal state of equilibrium.
Thus, your drives activate the requisite behavior to restore a steady balance whenever there is an imbalance in your body’s homeostasis as per this theory.
Who Came Up With the Drive Reduction Theory?
The American Psychologist, Clark Leonard Hull, proposed the Drive-Reduction Theory in the 1930s. This theory is based on both motivation and learning.
Also, Clark’s colleague Kenneth Spencer further developed the drive-reduction theory.
Reinforcement Principle and Drive Reduction Theory
In fact, Hull’s theory focuses on the necessity of reinforcement described in terms of drive reduction.
Thus, the goal of the drive reduction theory is to explain the fundamental principle of reinforcement. The reinforcement includes both positive and negative reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement as per drive reduction theory definition is to present a stimulus and reduce a drive. Whereas, negative reinforcement refers to removing or avoid a stimulus and reduce a drive.
The Emergence of Drive Reduction Theory
Charles Darwin Theory
The history of the science of human motivation began with Darwin’s beliefs pertaining to emotion and motivation in 1872.
Darwin opinionated that humans have evolved emotions that lead to actions that are adaptive in nature. For instance, sexual arousal, fear, and anger lead to activities like reproduction, flight, or fight behaviors, respectively.
As per Darwin, such instinctive reactions remain in the facial expressions and bodily gestures and play a significant role in avoiding or attracting specific behaviors from others.
As a result, Darwin postulated that evolved instincts in humans motivate them towards specific behaviors.
McDougall’s Instinct Theory
Then, in 1923, McDougall extended Darwinian ideas into psychology and proposed his instinct theory. He proposed that an organism’s physical arousal motivates him towards a specific goal.
Thus, McDougall explained motivation as the psychological force that leads to specific actions. He advocated that behaviors are goal-oriented, irrespective of whether the individuals were consciously aware of the aim of a drive.
Woodworth’s Behavior-Primacy Theory
Subsequently, Woodworth introduced the behavior-primacy theory in 1958. As per this theory, Woodworth proposed that drives stimulate both inborn and learned mechanisms within the organism and such stimulation then steers actions.
However, he also emphasized the importance of an organism’s spontaneous or naturally occurring behaviors such as curiosity. Such innate behaviors direct an organism towards activities that help him adapt to the environment while the drive-based motives interrupt such activities.
Thus, Woodworth argued that an organism would not be able to adapt to a new environment without the innate exploratory tendency that is stronger than drive-oriented behaviors.
He proposed that phenomena such as curiosity, constructiveness, and self-assertion are their own ends. However, such phenomena also satisfy other general motives of an organism.
Accordingly, motives such as seeking a reward or avoiding a punishment may lead to specific behaviors only when such motives run freely.
However, the Behaviorism movement overshadowed these instinct-based theories of motivation. This movement dominated the field of motivational psychology for much of the 20th century.
Behaviorists considered behavior as a function of external stimuli rather than internal instincts, drives, needs, or desires.
In other words, behaviorists focused on external factors controlling human behavior rather than the forces inside the human mind.
John Watson argued that behavior was the true subject matter of scientific psychology rather than the mind.
He advocated that animals and humans adjust to their environments by associating responses to varied stimuli. Thus, he placed relatively little emphasis on the nature of drives or needs pertaining to any specific species.
Edward Thorndike’s Law Of Effect
In 1913, Edward Thorndike proposed the law of effect. As per this law, Thorndike asserted that the likelihood that the behavior will recur increases when a given behavior gives satisfaction to an organism. However, the likelihood that the behavior will recur decreases if such behavior does not give satisfaction to the organism.
Thus, both Watson and Thorndike explained behavior as a direct result of external stimuli. Hence, these behaviorist theories gave way to Hull’s Drive Theory.
Clark Hull’s Drive-Reduction Theory
The Drive Theory of Clark Hull emphasized the strengthening of behaviors through reinforcement. Accordingly, Hull proposed that the reinforcing events are the ones that reduce the physical arousal occurring as a consequence of a drive.
Further, he asserted that these drives stem from four basic physiological needs: food, water, sex, and pain avoidance. Then, these physiological needs lead to drive states and behaviors that help an organism restore to the equilibrium level.
In other words, physiological needs lead to behaviors that are reinforcing and help reduce the biological drive of an organism. Such behaviors are primary reinforcers.
Hull also proposed the concept of secondary reinforcement that explained the behaviors other than the biological drives of an organism.
Accordingly, any behavior learned through experience and that helps in reducing the primary drive becomes a secondary reinforcer.
Theory of Operant Conditioning
Now, operant psychology is not concerned with the nature of drives. B.F. Skinner, an American Psychologist, introduced the operant approach of learning. His theory of learning asserted that the rate of change in response was based on the external and observable consequences of behavior.
Accordingly, reinforcements are the external consequences that increase the rate of response. Reinforcements may be positive or negative. Thus, the reinforcements are positive if their presence increases the probability of responding. Whereas, the reinforcements are negative if their removal increases the probability of a response.
As we can see, Skinner’s operant approach was not concerned with what activates or reinforces organisms. Rather, it emphasized the functional effects of external events. This was unlike the drive theories such as those proposed by McDougall or Hull.
Hull’s Drive Reduction Theory
As mentioned above, Clark Hall was the foremost proponent of the Drive Reduction Theory in the early 1950s.
Hull’s Drive Reduction Theory is based on the concept that humans have certain biological drives such as the need for food, water, and sex that demand satisfaction.
Thus, Hull considered the drive as a stimulus that emanates from a tissue need. Such a drive, in turn, stimulates behavior.
According to drive reduction theory, a need refers to a state of deprivation or deficiency. And a drive is a state of bodily tension like hunger or thirst that originates from needs that remain unsatisfied.
Accordingly, the drive’s intensity increases if it remains unsatisfied with the passing time. However, the drive’s strength reduces once there is drive satisfaction. Such a drive satisfaction is drive reduction.
Thus, Hull’s Drive Reduction Theory is based on the principle of Homeostasis – the tendency of a human body to maintain a steady internal state. Accordingly, an individual’s drives activate the necessary behavior to restore a steady balance when there is a disturbance in his body’s homeostasis.
In other words, Hull believed that the drive does not steer behavior. Rather, it stimulates behavior.
This clearly defines that needs and drives are distinct from each other. For instance, your body may have a need for a specific vitamin. However, you do not become aware of it until you develop a vitamin deficiency disorder. It means a need may exist in the absence of a corresponding drive.
In addition to this, the strength of a need and the corresponding drive to satisfy it may differ. The drive theory asserts that learning plays an important role, specifically operant conditioning. This is completely in contrast to the instinct theory.
Drives and The Principle of Reinforcement
Hull’s Drive Reduction theory focuses mainly on the principle of reinforcement. Accordingly, a drive reduction or satisfaction occurs as a result of the increased strength of the relationship between a stimulus (S) and a response (R).
Due to the increasing intensity of such a relationship, there is an increased chance that similar situations lead to the same prior response in the future. Provided when similar situations associate with the same stimulus.
According to Hull, drives can be primary or secondary in nature. The drives arising from your biological needs are primary needs. Thus, the drive-reduction theory defines hunger, pain, and thirst as your primary needs.
Likewise, the drives that are learned through classical or operant conditioning are called secondary drives.
For instance, a drive to gain monetary wealth is something that is not inborn in us humans. It is a secondary drive as we learn through our life experience that money is a resource that helps us to satisfy our primary and other secondary drives.
Thus, according to Hull’s drive reduction theory, if the intensity of the stimulus is reduced as the result of a primary drive, it will act as primary reinforcement. On the contrary, if the intensity of the stimulus is reduced as the result of a secondary or learned drive, it will act as a secondary reinforcement.
Further, Hull stated that the way to increase the strength of the S-R response is to increase the number of reinforcements.
Clark Hull’s Mathematical Deductive Theory of Behavior
Hull believed that the relationship between a Stimulus (S) and Response (R) must be the one that has an impact on the manner in which an organism responds.
For instance, fatigue, learning, motivation, injury, etc. are some of the ways in which an organism responds.
Thus, Hull termed this relationship as “E” or as ‘sEr’ – a reaction potential. Clark’s aim was to deduce a mathematical or a logical relationship between all the factors that contributed towards impacting the manner in which an organism responded.
The following is the formula of Hull’s theory of behavior.
sEr = (sHr x D x K x V) – (sIr + Ir) +/- sOr
He categorized this formula as the Global Theory of Behavior.
As per this formula,
It refers to the Reaction Potential, that is, the probability and speed with which behavior occurred to a given stimulus.
This is Habit Strength that is determined by the number of reinforced training sessions. It means more the number of reinforced training sessions, more is the improvement in the S – R connection in learning.
The letter ‘D’ stands for Drive Strength that is measured by the hours of deprivation of a need. Hull was of the view that the deprivation of a drive improves the performance of an organism.
Just like other psychologists, he conducted experiments with rats running through the mazes. In one of such experiments, two rats received the same amount of training.
However, the rat who was deprived of food for a greater period of time was more likely to find a solution to a maze in order to obtain food.
This refers to the Incentive Value of a Stimulus, that is, the size of a reward. It has a direct impact on the level of motivation to achieve a certain goal.
For instance, an athlete performs well in a playoff rather than during regular season play. This is because the incentive motivation of each game increases.
The letter ‘V’ refers to the Degree of Connectedness or Intensity. This means that some stimuli may impact the performance level more than other stimuli.
The term sIr stands for Inhibitory Strength that is indicated by the number of non-reinforcements. These are the training sessions that do not result in drive reduction. Rather, such training leads to a reduction in the probability of showcasing certain behaviors (extinction).
The term Ir stands for Reactive Inhibition. It refers to a condition when the organism has to work hard for a reward and becomes fatigued.
The term sOr stands for Random Error.
Hull believed that this formula would take into account all behavior. As a result, it would give more accurate empirical data. Such accuracy would eliminate all ineffective subjective methods within the laboratory.
Drive Reduction Theory Example
The following are a few of the examples of drive reduction theory:
- Your body’s biological needs like thirst, hunger, and need for warmth are all examples of drive-reduction theory. When you feel hungry, your physiological need for hunger drives you to seek food and satisfy your hunger. Accordingly, once you have food, your physiological drive of hunger gets reduced.
- Likewise, your psychological need for social approval arises from your experiences in life or conditioning. As an infant, you receive the care and concern of your parents or loved ones. However, as you grow older, you experience a number of events or situations that become responsible for your conditioning. As a result, you feel the need to seek validation or approval from the people around you.
- Another example of drive-reduction theory is that of an individual consuming drugs on a consistent basis. Certain drugs induce the brain to release large amounts of brain chemicals. As an individual consumes drugs, his brain gets habituated overtime to release chemicals only when the drug is present. As a result, such a person needs to consume drugs in order to feel normal. This is unlike the case when the consumption of drugs once made them feel high. In this way, the drug becomes a need for such a person just like food, water, or sex. When such individuals do not consume drugs, they experience pain as consumption of drugs changes their brain artificially over a period of time. Such a change in brain structure stimulates the individual to consume drugs. And this need for drugs becomes stronger than the need for food, water, or sex.
Criticisms of Drive-Reduction Theory
- As per certain psychologists, Hull’s Drive Reduction Theory of Motivation explains only the effectiveness of primary reinforcers. However, this theory fails to explain the effectiveness of secondary reinforcers. In other words, this theory fails to explain how secondary reinforcers like money motivate individuals since such reinforcers do not reduce drive on their own.
- The majority of studies were conducted on animals in order to collect data and support Hull’s theory of motivation. Thus, the studies conducted on humans in order to explain human motivation and behavior were quite limited.
- Besides this, this theory also fails to explain the underlying reasons as to why humans engage in certain behaviors that do not result in the satisfaction of a need or a reduction in drive.
- As per research, not all motivation results from homeostatic regulation. In other words, a reduction in the drive is not the only cause of learning in organisms. Learning in organisms can also happen due to external stimuli or non-homeostatic factors.
- The drive-reduction theory of motivation fails to explain the anticipatory response. Anticipatory responses refer to a response that occurs before the evoking stimulus is presented to the organisms. Accordingly, this theory fails to explain why animals voluntarily increase rather than decrease their drive deviation, even in the absence of any physiological deprivation or need.
1. What is drive reduction theory?
Ans: As per APA, the Drive Reduction Theory is a theory of learning in which the goal of motivating behavior is to reduce a drive state. It is assumed that all motivated behavior results from drives. Further, these drives arise from a disturbance in homeostasis – the tendency of an organism to restore to an internal equilibrium level. Also, it is assumed that the responses leading to reduction of those drives tend to be reinforced or strengthened.
2. According to drive-reduction theory, what occurs each time a behavior results in drive reduction?
Ans: According to drive-reduction theory, an organism becomes tense and agitated when it is deprived of something it needs or wants. As a result, such an organism engages in random behaviors that help in relieving this tension. Thus, according to drive-reduction theory, a state of tension gets reduced or eliminated each time a behavior results in drive reduction.
3. Which of the following activities is inconsistent with drive-reduction theory?
- Eating food that tastes bad
- Going swimming on a hot day
- Eating when you are not hungry
- Smoking pot to relax
Ans: Option C
Eating food when you are not hungry is an activity that is inconsistent with the drive-reduction theory. As per drive-reduction theory, a need is a state of deprivation that leads to a drive.
A drive is a state of bodily tension that arises from unsatisfied needs. The intensity of a drive increases when it remains unsatisfied.
However, the strength of a drive decreases once the drive is satisfied. Such satisfaction of a drive is what is called drive reduction.
Accordingly, when you feel hungry, your body experiences a state of tension. Thus, in order to reduce this tension, you engage yourself in behaviors that help you in reducing such a physiological drive. For instance, eating food in this case.
Thus, option C, Eating When You Are Not Hungry, is a behavior that is not explained by drive-reduction theory.
4. How does the arousal theory of motivation differ from drive-reduction theory?
Ans: The drive-reduction theory of motivation aims to bring back the human body to a state of Homeostasis.
This is because if your body deviates from the state of Homeostasis, it creates certain physiological needs. Such physiological needs lead an individual to certain psychological drive conditions.
Further, these psychological conditions direct your behavior to meet the physiological needs and bring your body back to a state of Homeostasis.
Say, for instance, it’s been six hours that you haven’t eaten anything. As a result, your body’s glucose level comes down and hence creates a physiological need. Further, such a physiological need will instigate a drive state, that is, hunger in this case.
So, once you eat food, your hunger is eliminated and your body’s glucose levels are back to normal.
On the other hand, the arousal theory of motivation drives an individual to achieve an optimal level of arousal.
As per the arousal theory, if an individual is under aroused, he will get bored and as a result, will start looking out for some kind of stimulation.
Whereas, if an individual is over-aroused, he will seek those behaviors that help him reduce his arousal levels.
For instance, during exams, it’s extremely important for students to maintain their calm during the exams. Students often get anxious during the exam days and as a result, get overwhelmed. This certainly hampers their performance.
So, if students need to maintain an optimal level of arousal, they need to engage in behaviors that help them in keeping their calm.
This brings us to our next difference. The drive reduction theory of motivation focuses fundamentally on the biological factors as the source of motivation for humans. While the arousal theory of motivation analyzes the impact of the dopamine transmitter as the very source of motivating an individual.
Further, the drive-reduction theory of motivation focuses on reducing certain urges. Whereas, the arousal theory of motivation focuses on attaining an optimal level of arousal.
5. Which of the following behaviors is not an example of drive-reduction theory?
- Getting something to drink when you are thirsty after running
- Getting something to eat when you are hungry in the morning
- Dancing when you hear music on the radio because you are bored
- Going to sleep when you are exhausted
- Smoking a cigarette to reduce nicotine withdrawal symptom
Ans: Option C
All the options apart from option C refer to a deprived physiological need. For instance, hunger, thirst, fatigue, and low chemical levels (nicotine).
Accordingly, physiological needs like hunger, thirst, fatigue, or low chemical levels are deprived needs. Such deprivation leads to a drive. Such a drive induces an individual to seek behaviors that help him satisfy the deprived needs.
As a result, the individual drinks water, eats food, goes to sleep, and smokes a cigarette to satisfy his needs or reduce his drive.
6. Which of the following examples would contradict drive-reduction theory?
- Marshall is hungry but has not eaten all day so he can eat more during Thanksgiving dinner.
- John is thirsty and spends money on a bottle of water.
- Virginia is sleepy and decides to take a nap.
- Jessica exercises very hard and eats a snack when she arrives home.
Ans: Option A
As per Drive-Reduction Theory, when your blood sugar levels drop below the normal level, it induces a physiological need and a corresponding drive state (i.e., hunger). The hunger drive state directs you to consume food.
Consuming food is a behavior that will satisfy your physiological need for hunger. In other words, it will eliminate hunger and your blood sugar levels will return to normal levels.
Thus, when Marshall feels hungry, he experiences tension inside his body. According to drive-reduction theory, the hunger drive must motivate him to have food and eliminate hunger.
However, in this case, he is resisting the drive and is not consuming food to satiate hunger. This means the hunger drive is not motivating Marshall to take appropriate action. The Thanksgiving dinner is motivating him to starve for a long time and inducing him not to have food.
7. Which of the following is explained by the drive-reduction theory of motivation?
- Humans seek to satisfy their drives in order to reduce a state of tension within themselves and achieve homeostasis
- The Humans seek to satisfy their drives in order to gain external rewards like money or approval
- Humans seek to satisfy their drives in order to enjoy the intrinsic value of the actions involved in satisfying those drives
- The humans seek to satisfy their drives in order to achieve further knowledge about the truth of their surroundings
Ans: Option A
The drive reduction theory states that various drives motivate human behavior. For instance, These drives can be This behavior is undertaken in hopes of reducing the state of tension these drives create. The most basic of examples would be that when people are hungry they experience the distress of hunger and are motivated to look for food. A more nuanced example might be humans’ drive to connect with romantic partners. If humans seek connection and don’t find it with one partner, they may look for it in another person.
8. What does the drive-reduction theory fail to explain?
Ans: The Drive-Reduction Theory of Motivation fails to explain how secondary reinforcers like the desire to earn wealth reduce drive or reasons why individuals engage in pleasure-seeking behaviors.
Further, the drive reduction theory also failed to explain why certain behaviors increase rather than decrease tension within the human body. For instance, many people enjoy river rafting despite such an activity gives anxiety or fear.
9. What is a major criticism of the drive-reduction theory of motivation?
Ans: One of the major criticisms of the drive-reduction theory of motivation is that it does not explain why people engage in certain behaviors that do not reduce drives. For instance, individuals often eat food or drink even when they are not feeling hungry or thirsty.
Another criticism of the drive-reduction theory of motivation is that secondary reinforcers do not reduce physiological and biological needs directly.
For instance, earning money does nothing to directly reduce your physiological and biological drives. However, it does act as a source of reinforcement.
10. According to drive-reduction theory, needs create drives, which in turn motivate ____________.
Ans: According to drive-reduction theory of motivation, needs create drives, which in turn motivate behavior.
Hull’s drive-reduction theory was based on the principle of homeostasis, the tendency of a human body to maintain a balance or equilibrium of its internal processes.
Accordingly, he suggested that motivation occurs as a consequence of an individual’s biological needs like hunger, thirst, etc.
A biological need develops a state of tension or arousal within the human body. Such a state of tension is called drive. Thus, a human being always engages in activities to reduce this state of tension.
For instance, when you feel hungry, you eat food. Likewise, when you feel thirsty, you have water.
11. According to drive-reduction theory what occurs each time a behavior results in drive reduction?
Ans: The drive-reduction theory of motivation was the first motivation theory that Clark Hull developed to explain human behavior.
According to drive reduction theory, the goal of drive reduction is to reduce the tension produced within the body as a result of deprivation of a need.
A need is something that an individual wants or is deprived of. Such a need, whether physiological or psychological, develops a state of tension inside the human body.
As a result, the individual gets motivated to seek behaviors that help him reduce such tension. So based on this theory, what occurs each time a behavior results in drive reduction is that the tension within the body is reduced.
12. In the drive-reduction theory, motivation decreases once _____ occurs.
Ans: Option C. That is, in the drive-reduction theory, motivation decreases once homeostasis occurs.