The Expectancy Theory of Motivation
The expectancy theory of motivation is one interesting way to examine motivation. It comes from research in the field of psychology, originally proposed by Victor Vroom.
The basic premise is that there are three specific factors that together drive the level of motivation we will have to take an action.
Expectancy theory postulates that in determining your level of motivation you:
(1) evaluate how much you want the outcome,
(2) examine how likely you are to get the outcome if you take action, and
(3) determine whether you can perform the action(s) that may lead to the outcome.
Each of these factors combine into your overall self motivation. Each has equal weight, so in deciding what actions to take your motivation will be highest for the action that has the the highest level of the combined factors. Vroom named these factors Valence, Instrumentality, and Expectancy.
Valence basically refers to how much you value the ultimate outcome that may result from your action. For example, if you highly value money, then the more you get paid for taking a certain action, the higher your motivation. But if money isn't as important to you, then the amount you get paid will have little impact on your motivation.
Your level of motivation will be directly influenced by how much you want the outcome. The more you value the outcome, the more motivation you have to make the effort and take the action to achieve the outcome.
The next factor in Vroom's theory of motivation is instrumentality. This refers to your level of certainty that performing an action will lead to the desired outcome. For example, you may feel fairly certain that showing up for work and doing your job will mean you get paid, but you may not be as certain that putting in extra effort and time will result in a big raise.
The more certain you are that your efforts will lead to your desired results, the more motivation you will have to put forward the effort.
The last factor is expectancy. This refers to the belief that you have the ability, resources, knowledge, etc. to actually perform the action and achieve the expected outcome. An example of this would be the belief that by working harder or more efficiently, that you would end up producing more. It is the belief that your attempts to take action will be successful.
So how does this relate to self motivation? The interesting thing about the theory is that all three elements are based on your perceptions - your perceptions of the outcome itself, how likely you are to get the outcome, and your ability to perform the action.
Based on the expectancy theory of motivation, if you are lacking motivation to act, potentially changing your perceptions about any or all of the elements can increase your level of motivation. This can mean re-evaluating what you value, further exploring the possibility of your effort bringing a reward, or rethinking your ability to act. Expectancy theory provides a multifaceted perspective to motivation that can help you understand your own self motivation.
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