Overview of the Theories of Motivation

Once we started to research the theories on motivation, we realized there are a lot of them. We thought we would categorize them to provide an overview – only to realize they can be categorized in different ways. The categorization here is based on Huitt (2001), which is based on the sources of motivational needs (see Sources of Motivation) and the corresponding fields and theoretical frameworks of psychology. The graph below outlines the major categories of theories:


This wiki will focus on the humanistic, cognitive, and social-cognitive theories because they are especially useful in the field of adult education, and here is a visual representation:


For interest’s sake, here is a link to the breakdown of the remaining theories.


Huitt, W. (2001). Motivation to learn: An overview. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved February 2, 2010, from http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/topics/motivation/motivate.html