Incentive Theory of Motivation

The Incentive Theory of Motivation, which focuses on behavior and motivation, incorporates the ideas of conditioning, homeostasis, and positive reinforcement. The theory is one of the ones that behaviorists use to explain motivation. Using incentives to motivate someone to act may seem logical. We employ incentives to inspire our friends, kids, employees, or anyone else. However, it hasn’t always been so clear what this concept is.

Incentive Theory Of Motivation: 

What is the Incentive Theory of Motivation? An incentive is given for further activity, such as a promise or an action. Employees are compelled to put in more effort when they obtain more pay or benefits. According to this idea, the critical employee motivators are non-cash rewards, including job satisfaction, pride in one’s accomplishments, employment stability, and promotion.

These incentives, however, go beyond primary rewards that motivate you to act a certain way. Penalties that prevent you from engaging in specific activities are another type of incentive. The incentive theory of motivation precepts that incentives and punishments, in addition to intrinsic motivation, can motivate us.

History Of Incentive Theory:

Who proposed Incentive Theory of Motivation? B.F. Skinner is the most well-known behavioral psychologist who adheres to the Incentive Theory of Motivation. However, there are many others. 

Who created the Incentive Theory of Motivation? Building on earlier drive theories developed by psychologists like Clark Hull, incentives theory began taking shape in the 1940s and 1950s. The incentive hypothesis says that people are drawn toward activities that result in rewards and driven away from behaviors that can have adverse effects rather than emphasizing the internal mechanisms underpinning motivation

How Does Incentive Theory Work?

Unlike other theories, the incentive theory implies that external incentives can affect our behavior. The difference is that instead of desiring to get away from the stimulus, the person starts to be drawn to it.

The incentive theory and operant conditioning are comparable since people learn behavior to get rewarded or avoid punishment. It implies that rewards are what motivate us to do things. The two basic categories of incentives are positive and negative ones.

Incentive Theory of Motivation in the Education 

Using incentives is essential because they can inspire you to work hard in class and achieve success. One sort of motivation is receiving excellent grades.

Incentive Theory of Motivation in the Workplace

To attract employees, management must provide the following two types of rewards:

As part of monetary incentives, employees receive cash rewards. In addition to monetary rewards, other non-monetary rewards might meet employees’ requirements for ego and self-actualization.

Incentive Theory of Motivation in the Sports

Athletes participate in sports for various reasons, such as the need for exercise and competition or the satisfaction of being a part of a team. Coaches may raise the team’s performance by identifying the best incentive for each situation and player.

Incentive Theory Of Motivation Examples: 

There are multiple Incentive Theory examples: 

  • In some circumstances, getting your parents’ approval may be a strong motivator, but not in others. Your parents’ praise could inspire you at home, but not when you’re with your friends. 
  • Students require encouragement to work hard in their studies by rewards like good grades. The prizes at the end of the year can also serve as incentives.
  • When a young girl is starving rather than when she is full, she may be more inspired to learn how to make noodles.
  • Young girls require motivation to clean the house by the incentive of a new outfit.

Why Some Incentives Are More Motivating Than Others? 

Not all incentives are created equal; the benefits that you find compelling might not be enough to get someone else to take action. Your motivational preferences may be influenced by psychological, social, and cognitive factors.

For instance, when you are genuinely thirsty versus when you are not, you are more likely to be motivated to drink water. A play station could entice a teenage kid to clean his room, but another individual might find such a game repugnant.

These examples show the importance of the incentive theory of motivation plays a vital role. It demonstrates what is highly motivating to one person may not be the same for another. It also shows how rewards can lose their motivating power depending on the situation.

Incentive Theory Strengths And Weaknesses:

According to incentive theory, creating a reward system will improve behavior-inspiring positive reinforcement. This approach emphasizes the benefits of individuals’ activities, establishing a positive environment where achievement is the main focus.

Unfortunately, incentives must always be available because rewards are crucial to the incentive theory. Additionally, incentives ought to be something that everyone using the system wants. For instance, the other employees won’t be motivated to act better if your organization applies the incentive theory and chooses rewards that only appeal to a limited number of employees.

Criticism of Incentive Theory of Motivation: 

Many psychologists criticize this theory because they believe it falls short of explaining situations where someone works while having little to no reason to do so. Such as working hard but failing to receive the deserving payment or performing work that is not their strength.

Take Away

Consider your motivations as you work toward your goals. Are you attempting to obtain an incentive, or are you trying to prevent a negative outcome? You can choose the best way to motivate yourself by understanding what aspect of the incentive theory of motivation encourages you to take action toward your goals.


What are the 4 examples of incentives?

Here are some examples of incentives that are successful tools for the engagement and encouragement of workers over time.

  • Referral programs.
  • Profit-sharing. 
  • Rewards and recognition.
  • Bonuses. 

What is an incentive in psychology?

An incentive is an external element, situation, or object influencing behavior.

Why are incentives important in society?

Incentives are essential since no one works for free. The desire for a reward motivates every action. It’s not necessary to always receive money in exchange for receiving something. Although it is a significant factor in our society, money is not the primary driver of motivation. You might receive anything as straightforward as a gift, respect, love, companionship, entertainment, etc. 

Who developed the incentive theory of motivation?

B.F. The most well-known behavioral psychologist advocates the Incentive Theory of Motivation. According to Skinner and other radical behaviorists, a person will be more likely to carry out a positive action and refrain from doing a negative one.

How do incentives influence behavior?

Incentives can promote specific behaviors in people and inhibit particular actions. Incentives only have actual power when the recipient values the reward. Rewards must be reasonable to be motivating.

How do incentives motivate students?

Incentives motivate students to work harder because they instill a sense of pride and achievement. Every success story boosts students’ confidence. It encourages and pleases them to accomplish another successful result.

How can an incentive plan motivate employees?

Incentive systems work because they take advantage of behavior. A study found that quick incentives increase intrinsic motivation by linking an action to a goal. As a result, those who receive rewards more frequently are more motivated to complete related tasks.

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