Understanding Of Motivation: Motivation And Personality Psychology

Personality psychology focuses on the differences and similarities in various patterns of personality. A personality is a combination of traits, feelings, and thoughts that define a person as unique and dissimilar to others. Personality consists of motivation, behavior, and emotions, and each of these patterns influences how people view themselves and how they treat the world around them. Understanding of personality psychology informs the understanding of motivation, demonstrating how the concepts of personality and motivation are interrelated and interdependent. Motivation systems strongly affect personality, generating responses to rewards and punishments, thus, causing approach and avoidance conduct.

Motivation can be explained with the help of self-determination theory and the need to belong. These approaches can be related to personality psychology since they both involve personal traits, behavior, and emotions. According to the self-determination theory, people should evolve their “inner resources for personality development and behavioral self-regulation” (Ryan & Deci, 2000, p. 68). The need to belong is another essential factor that influences motivation. If a person feels a lack of belongingness, they will be unmotivated and experience psychological distress and depression (Baumeister & Leary, 1995, p. 498). Psychologists distinguish two main types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation, or self-motivation, depends on human inner desires and needs, while extrinsic motivation is the outcome of external factors. One can apply personality psychology to explain both types of motivation.

Self-determination theory helps better understand the types of motivation and the factors that affect human behavior related to motivation. Thus, intrinsic motivation occurs when a person is guided by the sense of satisfaction and enjoyment. My understanding of personality psychology can help explain intrinsic motivation in the following way. If a person is an introvert, and they are usually guided by their inner desires and emotions, they will tend to be self-motivated. This type of personality does not require any external sources to receive awards and reassurance. They pretend to focus on their internal feelings and spend more time alone than with other people. In comparison, extroverts are more socially active people, and their desires and motivations are often interrelated with external factors. Such people prefer to “adopt activities that relevant social groups value” when they want to attain their goal (Ryan & Deci, 2000, p. 73). Therefore, extrinsic motivation is associated with completing a task, while intrinsic motivation is related to satisfaction with the process.

The understanding of motivation from this perspective has some weaknesses. For example, different types of personalities may be motivated both internally and externally in different periods of human lives. If an introvert prefers spending most of the time alone, it will not mean that they cannot be motivated by an external power. The same can be said about extroverts, who are usually motivated by external sources. Motivation may vary based on human mood, goals, emotions, and many other internal and external factors, and it does not always depend on personality type. Moreover, if a person has a personality disorder, they may be amotivated, and no external or internal power will influence their decision (Ryan & Deci, 2000, p. 72). In such a way, personality and motivation are not always interdependent, and many other factors influence a person’s decision to act or not to act.

Such factors as gender, age, culture, and ethnicity may influence motivation. For example, minority students are more often extrinsically motivated than majority students, and such factors as family, school environment, and peer support are crucial to their academic motivation. According to Isik et al. (2018), the main factors for improving motivation include “student, teacher, content, method/process, and environment” (p. 18). Student-related factors are primarily intrinsic, and they involve the hierarchy of needs, achievement, perceived well-being, and social factors (Isik et al., 2018, p. 18). At the same time, process-related factors involve external motivation, such as positive social interactions, awards, competition, praise, and encouragement (Isik et al., 2018, p. 18). If an ethnic minority student feels that their academic performance is vital to their future career, they will be more motivated than those who do not have any career goals or feel that they are unvalued in their current environment. The same can be said about the representatives of different cultures and nationalities whose motivation may decrease if they suffer from discrimination or harassment.

Human motivations change with their age, and the older they become, the more likely they are driven by other people. Recent research by YouGov showed that people aged 18-24 and those aged 60 and over are motivated by “having goals (44% vs 21%) and money (26% vs 9%),” and those under 25 (28%) are motivated by other people’s enthusiasm (Waldersee, 2018, para. 3). Children are motivated by their need to belong: those who stay with adults are more likely to survive until adulthood because they are more likely to receive care and support (Baumeister & Leary, 1995, p. 499). Gender affects motivation as well because men and women have different goals and life preferences. One can see that motivation depends on diverse factors, and each of these factors can influence it positively or negatively.

An understanding of personality theory can be applied in a professional setting to improve an individual’s motivation in the following way. Understanding personality types can help understand the preferences and possible goals of the employees. Consequently, an approach to different personality types will be different too. Thus, managers and supervisors can choose their leadership styles based on their personality type, as well as on personality types of their employees. Introverts and extroverts should be treated differently, making use of their abilities and skills. The choice of a communication style will also depend on the personality type. Knowing the personality types of the employees may be helpful in coaching and decision making. If a person works in the sales department, an understanding of personality types will help them motivate their consumers to buy a product or service. The need to belong can also be used to motivate workers and encourage them to improve their performance. The organizations can use this knowledge to foster an appropriate work environment that allows workers to grow and develop according to their needs and goals.

Having analyzed the relationship between personality psychology and motivation, one can conclude that these two notions are interdependent and interrelated. Personality traits influence motivation, whereas motivation affects human behavior, either encouraging or discouraging them from acting. Knowing personality types may be helpful in a professional setting, allowing employers to find an individual approach to every worker. Fostering the sense of belonging, creating a competitive environment, or offering personalized awards and promotions – all these factors may be used to improve the employees’ motivation and increase their productivity.


Baumeister, R.F., & Leary, M.R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529. Web.

Isik, U., Tahir, O.E., Meeter, M., Heymans, M.W., Jansma, E.P., Croiset, G., & Kusurkar, R.A. (2018). Factors influencing academic motivation of ethnic minority students: A review. SAGE Open, 8(2), 1-23. Web.

Ryan, R.M., & Deci, E.L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78. Web.

Waldersee, V. (2018). How your motivations change as you get older? YouGov. Web.