Going by Hull's drive-reduction theory, as stated in Psychology, by Ciccarelli, 4th edition:

A need is a requirement of some material (such as food or water) that is essential for survival of the organism. When an organism has a need, it leads to a psychological tension as well as a physical arousal that motivates the organism to act in order to fulfill the need and reduce the tension. This tension is called a drive (Hull, 1943).

In the abstract of Mahatoo's (1989) paper, "Motives must be Differentiated from Needs, Drives, Wants: Strategy Implications", the following is stated:

In a suggested model, motives are suggested as the specific motivational element that directs the consumer′s drive towards a particular response. Thus while needs generate the response tendency, motives determine the specific behavioural action.

What I'm inferring from these two sources of information is that:

1) Need is a physiological/psychological requirement

2) Drive is what propels the organism to eliminate imbalance

3) Motive is the course of action the organism takes when faced with a drive.

An example of point 3 could be the instance where a recuperating substance abuse addict feels the drive to relapse, they may not with the help of proper clinical intervention if their motive is to achieve sobriety.

My question: Am I correct? If not, I would appreciate it if you could post the correction, both for the differences and the example.


In this context, motive does not refer to an overarching goal, but rather, a more immediate one. Judging from the excerpts you provided, here is an example:

1) My body needs nutrients in order to survive. 2) This need results in psychological and physiological discomfort, AKA a drive: hunger. 3) As a result of my hunger, I order take-out. My motive for doing this is that I want food.

The way I conceptualize the distinctions is that it goes need-> drive -> motive -> resulting action.


Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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