Motivation: needs and drives

Learning outcomes

By the end of this module, you will be able to:


  • differentiate between primary and secondary drives


  • explain the principles of homeostasis and how these relate to hunger


  • explain the relationship between arousal and motivation as described by the Yerkes-Dodson law


  • describe neurological models of reward pathways involving dopaminergic and neuropeptide neurotransmitters


  • differentiate between extrinsic and intrinsic models of motivation


  • describe McClelland’s 'need for achievement' model


  • describe integrated models of motivation, including Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.


Module introduction

Why are you reading this module? Maybe you derive a sense of accomplishment from understanding the topic. Or you really don’t want to fail the exam. Perhaps you find learning pleasurable in itself. Or maybe you want to understand something better that the average trainee!


Why do we do the things we do? This question lies at the heart of what it means to be human and has been debated by prophets, priests, philosophers and most recently psychologists. Most have attributed motivation to being an internal state. This module gives an overview of theories on motivation.


Learning notes

We recommend that you make some notes as you work through this module.

The 'TrOn Notebook' facility can be accessed throughout the module (allowing you to make notes on each page), and these notes will be saved in your personal area 'My TrOn', for future reference. However, you will not be able to print these notes as one single document.


If you would prefer to make your notes in a separate document you may wish to download the 'learning notes' below. This downloadable Word document will allow you to keep a personalised record of your learning, which you can then save and/or print for future reference.


Download the learning notes document for this module


Continue to Section 1

If you like this module, you may also be interested in:


Emotion by Dr Carl Fredrik Johansson


Learning theory by Dr Hayley K Andrews


Personality by Dr Georgios Mikellides and Ms Yiasemina Ioannidou


British Journal of Psychiatry


BJPsych Advances


Related BJPsych and BJPsych Advances articles


Download take-home notes to print and annotateDownload take-home notes to print and annotate


Key readingKey reading: selected texts to read with this module


The exam syllabus

Exam syllabus




© 2020 Royal College of Psychiatrists