Drive theory  

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The terms drive theory and drive reduction theory refer to a diverse set of motivational theories in psychology. Drive theory is based on the principle that organisms are born with certain physiological needs and that a negative state of tension is created when these needs are not satisfied. When a need is satisfied, drive is reduced and the organism returns to a state of homeostasis and relaxation. According to the theory, drive tends to increase over time and operates on a feedback control system, much like a thermostat.



In Freudian psychoanalysis, drive theory refers to the theory of drives, motivations, or instincts, that have clear objects. Examples include what Freud called Eros and Thanatos, the drives toward Life and Death, respectively.

Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents was published in Germany in 1930 when the rise of fascism in that country was well under way, and the warnings of a second European war were leading to opposing calls for rearmament and pacifism. Against this background, Freud wrote "In face of the destructive forces unleashed, now it may be expected that the other of the two 'heavenly forces,' eternal Eros, will put forth his strength so as to maintain himself alongside of his equally immortal adversary." (Civilization and its discontents)

Learning theory

According to such theorists as Clark Hull and Kenneth Spence, drive reduction is a major cause of learning and behavior. Primary drives are innate drives (e.g. thirst, hunger, and sex), whereas secondary drives are learned by conditioning (e.g. money).

There are several problems that leave the validity of drive theory open for debate. The first problem is that it does not explain how secondary reinforcers reduce drive. For example, money does not satisfy any biological or psychological need, but it reduces drive on a regular basis by a pay check. Secondly, drive reduction theory has trouble explaining why humans and other animals voluntarily increase tension by exploring their environments, even when they are not hungry or thirsty.

Social psychology

In social psychology, drive theory was used by Robert Zajonc in 1965 as an explanation of the phenomenon of social facilitation. The audience effect notes that in some cases the presence of a passive audience will facilitate the better performance of a task; while in other cases the presence of an audience will inhibit the performance of a task.

Drive theory states that due to the unpredictable nature of people, a person performing a task rarely knows for certain what others are going to do in response. Therefore, there is a clear evolutionary advantage for an individual's presence to cause us to be in a state of alert arousal. Increased arousal (stress) can therefore be seen as an instinctive reaction to social presence.

This arousal creates a "drive" that causes us to enact the behaviors that form our dominant response for that particular situation. Our dominant response is the most likely response given our skills at use.

If the dominant response is "correct" (that is to say, if the task we are to perform is subjectively perceived as being easy), then the social pressure produces an improved performance. However, if the dominant response is "incorrect" (the task is difficult), then social presence produces an impaired performance.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Drive theory" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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