The direction and intensity of one's effort

"The internal mechanisms and external stimuli which arouse and direct behaviour" (Sage, 1974)

The combination of the drive we have within us to achieve and external factors that effect our motivation and performance; what psychologically makes us successful or not. We can classify these into Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.


  • Innate need to feel in control, self determined and successful

  • Based on perception of events

  • Meeting goals, feeling satisfied

  • Chasing adrenaline


  • External attribution feeds motivation

  • Derives from rewards; tangible or not

  • Links into reinforcement theories

  • Medals, Badges, Trophies

  • Praise from coaches or crowd

Let's look at different theories and how these explain the motivation levels of athletes in different situations.

Achievement Theory


Developed by Atkinson, the achievement theory distingushes motivation into two groups:

  • Need to Achieve- wanting to do well, looking to learn, win or develop a skill; it's the need for achievement to be recognised.
  • Need to Avoid Failiure- the need to not be recognised as having not achieved or failed
The difference between how much you lean towards one side or the other makes up the person's motivation.

Nichols later developed this theory, noting three factors that affect a person's motivation:

  • Achievement- Running away from failiure or towards success
  • Percived Ability- The belief they have in their ability to succeed
  • Achieved behavior- Links back into what they've done previously. We feel more comfortable doing something that we have achieved before and may be more motivated in the same situation, knowing we can.

Attribution Theory

Where do the reasons for success or failiure lie

We look at attribution when trying to understand the reasons for observed intentional behaviors that someone does on their own accord-withouth being forced to do so.

Weiner described three dimentions to Attribution:

  • Locus of control
  • Locus of Stability
  • Locus of Casuality

When someone if more intrensic they may take responsibility for a situation so the control will lie within them. For example when accidently injuring another player a locus of causality may be seenas how much responsibility one takes; as an apology due to realising that you played a part in the event, or denying responsibility, thinking that it "just happened".

The locus of stability talks about how changable the factor is. For example if someone attributes the match being lost to the lack of effort of the team, this would be an unstable attribution whereas saying that the other team was better would be a stable attribution.

Lastly control talks about weather the attributuon is internal or external, how much power the person believes they had to effect the events. Attributing success or failiure to skill or effort is internal, wheras task and luck is external.

A successfull athlete, may take into consideration some extertal factors however, to get where they are, they will have taken responsibility, internalising control and reducing causality, making their motivational factors more intrensic allowing them to see mistakes and successes and to improve their peformance for next time.

Somoene who attributes externally, to unstable factors is less likely to succeed as they may refuse, or simply not be able to see the ways in which they could improve themselfs and where they did well or not so well. This will make it unlikely to improve next time and even if they do succeed they may just see it as "lucky" which again hinders their improvement.

Personality and Peformance

Someone who is very introverted may naturally lean towards having more intrensic motivation than someone who is very extroverted such as a footballer who would strive from the crowd's motivational support. Similarly someone who has had many positive interactions that stimulated fantasy, co-operation and recognition will have more intrensic motivational factors as they will be following curiosity and feel furfilled when completing a challage.

Much extrensic motivation becomes intrensic and depending on how the person internalises an event, it can increase motivation levels. For example a coache's words of criticism can be interpreted as constructive or as depleting, depending on the individual's personality; somone who's more stable and has practiced this skill is more likelY TO internalise it by becoming motivated to improve- I think these will be people who have more Need to Achieve motivation as they want to improve and get motivated from learning more.
On the other hand someone who want's to simply avoid failiure could internalise it as they haven't achieved and are a failiure for this, making them more likely to drop a sport sooner as they may rely more on someone mentioning all the things they have done wrong; this doesn't allow much room for development and so their achived behavior doesn't add much motivation to the picture.

Following on Nicholl's theory, we can link in achievement to Attributions as well as personality; The ego, not wanting to take penalties and comparing itself to others around them may motivate someone to become the best in their sport. Someone who's more intrensic may be more motivated by simply achieving the task and doesn't need to be the best to feel like they have achieved something.

Someone who attributes their actions to their ability and the effort they put in is taking more control and therefore is more likely to be able to see areas of improvement and act on them as a pose to feeling like they are at cause of the event and that for example the task, which was out of their control, was the main reason for their failiure or success. this mentality can be detrimental as it can depleat motivation if you don't think you can do anything about it and also it means that you may not be as likely to look at areas to improve in to become a better athlete.