link: deficit motivation



              (as opposed to growth motivation or 'abundance motivation')

 theme: Faith in one's own identity or 'self-esteem' is the precondition for independence, freedom and solitude for communication with one's conscience as the source of inner approval and the guardian of personal integrity. Lack of 'self-esteem' originates in the lack of recognition of basic psychological needs or 'ego needs' also known as 'deficit needs'. Motivation by the deficit needs is 'deficit motivation'.

 "So-called learning theory in this country has based itself almost entirely on deficit-motivation with goal objects usually external to the organism, i.e. learning the best way to satisfy a need. For this reason among others, our psychology of learning is a limited body of knowledge, useful only in small areas of life and of real interest only to other 'learning theorists'. This is of little help in solving the problem of growth and self-actualization. Here the techniques of repeatedly acquiring from the outside world satisfactions of motivational deficiencies are much less needed. (Maslow Toward a Psychology of Being)


 human organism as social organism...  human motivation...   range of motivational states...

 range of human needs...   urgency or 'prepotency'...  

growth as function of fulfillment of needs...   extent of devlopment determines character...   basic needs as 'ego needs'...   mature growth or 'self-actualisation'...   neurotic development or 'neurosis'...   limited human relationships...

implications for education...

The human organism is a social organism which depends on fulfillment of human needs for social adaptability The human organism is a social organism which depends for survival on successful adaptation to changes in the social environment i.e. 'adaptability'. Human adaptability depends on intelligent behaviour based on social adaptation and cooperation i.e 'social intelligence'. Social intelligence is a function of personality development and psychological wholeness... moral consciousness or 'morality'. Morality depends on personality development to spiritual maturity or 'self-actualisation'.  Self-actualisation results from psychological wholeness or 'health' i.e. 'wellness'. Psychological wholeness depends on fulfillment of developmental needs - intrinsic capacities, talents, yearnings, preferences and values i.e. motives for human behaviour or 'human needs'. There is a range of human needs which includes the most urgent physiological and psychological needs or 'lower' needs and the less urgent spiritual needs or 'higher' needs.

 Both 'lower' and 'higher' needs are shared by all members of the human species.

The range of human needs The basic physiological and psychological needs of the human organism are derived from the biological instinct for self-preservation. They include firstly the 'basic physiological needs' related to the physical needs for survival of the organism and the species - physical needs for safety and development - food, water, warmth, sleep, protection and right conditions for reproduction; secondly the 'basic psychological needs' or 'emotional needs' for security and belongingness which come from parental approval and lead to rational faith in the persistence of the self i.e self-respect or 'self-esteem' - the 'ego needs'; thirdly, the needs for mature growth or 'self-actualisation' - growth needs or 'spiritual needs' for spiritual growth and 'self-transcendance'. Motivations by the different needs - spiritual needs as well the physiological and psychological needs - originate in the instinct for self-preservation. The biologically based human needs are the source of human motivation for learning behaviour i.e. 'intrinsic motivation'.

Human needs must be met for the organism to function fully as a socially intelligent integrated being able to adapt to changing social conditions

Human needs are described in terms of urgency or 'prepotency' The range of human needs can be described in terms of a hierarchy of urgency or 'prepotency'. Lowest in the hierarchy of prepotency... most urgent are the physiological needs related to physical needs for survival. Survival needs are prepotent to the basic or 'lower' psychological needs for self-esteem or 'ego needs'. Gratification of the ego needs depends on unconditional parental love and affection which communicates security and a sense of belongingness. These conditions must be met for maturity of development... mature growth or 'self-actualisation'. Individuals whose basic psychological needs are met can be described by those human attributes which have survival value in a changing social environment - self-respect, self-directedness, self-discipline, sense of purpose, sense of worthiness and so on. Mature growth depends on gratification of the 'higher' psychological neeeds for spiritual growth -  the 'spiritual needs' or 'metaneeds'. Motivation by the metaneeds is 'growth motivation' or 'metamotivation'. If external social forces are focused on the more prepotent survival needs and ego needs then the least prepotent metaneeds are denied and metamotivation is repressed. In the course of human development, the repressed individual will give up growth to retain approval from significant adults.... problem of repression:

With freedom from repression, the individual is motivated by the metaneeds and lives by values on the level of ego-transcendance... the 'Being -values' or spiritual values. Spiritual values are 'social values'.

 The prepotent more urgent basic psychological needs - 'deficiency needs' - ..motivation for the ego needs of self-esteem - 'deficiency motivations' are prerequisite to the metaneeds - the 'growth motivations'. In a cultural environment which focuses on the basic physiological and psychological needs, 'metamotivation' is inhibited by forces external to the individual. The individual in a cultural environment which focuses on the basic needs is deprived of the means for gratification of the 'metaneeds which are repressed ...denied... in an environment in which conditional love is refused.. the environment is feared dreaded... is perceived as a menace to the organism's individuality, development, instinctive strivings to grow for freedom and happiness...basic anxiety develops... the child's free use of energies is thwarted, self-esteem and self-reliance are undermined, fear is instilled by intimidation and isolation, expansiveness is warped through brutality or overprotective 'love'...fear is grounded in reality..


Motivation for human behaviour  Freedom from anxiety and fear... 'inner freedom'... is the precondition for growth through curiosity, exploration and learning... for independence and solitude for contemplation or 'meditation'.  Meditation is communication with oneself... one's moral consciousness or 'conscience'. The conscience is the source of inner approval and the guardian of personal integrity and the source of 'human values' . Awareness of human values provides the inner approval and the self-esteem which allows for continued growth and development. ... 'motivation'. Motivation has to do with the individual's ability to maintain a proper balance between actions and restraint required for adaptive behaviour. 

The motivations for behaviour are different for different individuals.There is a range of human behaviours - from adaptive to destructive - which depends on the different causes for action or 'motivation'. Individual differences in behaviour patterns are a function of type of motivation or 'motivational state'. The motivational state is a dimension of the individual's own conceptual system of values including meanings, goals, beliefs and assumptions. The configuration of the value system depends on the individual's experience, environment and extent of psychological and emotional growth and development. Personal decisions are made on the basis of the need which must be gratified and within the framework of an equivalent value system.

Range of motivational states  The range of motivational states is a function of the range of emotions which are associated with human needs and whether these are fulfilled or frustrated during growth. Motivational state is a function of 'mental health'. Mental health is a function of the extent of fulfillment of human needs.

 'wellness'. Wellness is a function of the complete development to maturity 'personality integration' of mature growth or 'self-actualisation'.

 Human growth is a function of fulfillment of human needs The human organism has an instinctive sense of responsiblity for its own growth. During the growth process   each level of needs becomes apparent as the more urgent needs are fulfilled. As the various needs are met, motivations for behaviour shift from strong expression to subtle expression. An individual's type of motivation or 'motivational type' depends on the extent to which their personality has developed i.e. their 'motivational state' or 'character'. The range of motivational states is a function of the range of emotions which are associated with human needs and whether these are fulfilled or frustrated during growth. Character is a function of mental health and the extent of psychological development or 'personality development'.

The well developed and balanced personality is motivated by the metaneeds.

Extent of development determines 'character'  An individual's character is defined by the mode of orientation through which they relate to the world - whether through competition and 'hate' or cooperation and 'love'. Their mode of relatedness determines the framework of assumptions within which the individual thinks and behaves - their 'worldview' or 'paradigm'. Character formation is a function of the extent of fulfillment of the  biologically based physiological, psychological, emotional and spiritual needs. During development, the individual responds to the character of parents and their cultural backgrounds, adjusting to a particular social structure and acquiring a specific mode of feeling, thinking and acting i.e. 'behaviour.'

 Uniqueness of character is the result of the combined effects of constitutional temperament, personalities of parents and demands of the social environment.

Basic psychological needs are the 'ego needs' The ego-needs are the instinctive needs for responsiblity to the persistence of the self or 'ego' - the needs for freedom from fear and anxiety i.e. 'security'. Security needs are basic to self-respect or 'self-esteem'. Self-esteem is rational faith in oneself and  a precondition for growth through curiosity, exploration and learning i.e. optimal learning or 'optimalearning'.  Optimal learning is learning motivated by the metaneeds of growth. Conditions for growth include the gratification of the ego needs for security and self-esteem and depend on the communication of unconditional  approval of significant others - parents and teachers or 'facilitators of learning'.  Security is communicated through the intelligence of understanding and the kindness of compassion i.e. 'loving kindness' or 'love'.

Such conditions enable the individual to reach maturity through knowledge of their own nature or 'self-knowledge' i.e. 'human nature'.  Human nature is defined in terms of the fulfillment of human needs during development and especially at certain critical stages or 'sensitive periods'. If sensitive periods are  hindered by inner anxieties resulting from repressive social conditions then further psychological growth is thwarted and the result is dysfunctional or neurotic development or 'neurosis'. Neurosis is characterised by the pathology of deficit motivation. 

If gratification of psychological needs occurs in a normal growth process, the individual continues in a process of mature growth... achieves maturity i.e. 'self-actualisation'. The self-actualised individual is a well developed and balanced personality... or 'self-actualising'.

Mature growth or 'self-actualisation'  Individuals whose basic psychological needs are met can be described by those human attributes which have survival value in a changing social environment - self-respect, self-directedness, self-discipline, sense of purpose, sense of worthiness and so on. If gratification of psychological needs occurs in a normal growth process, the individual achieves maturity in the sense . of developed and balanced personality. Growth continues as 'mature growth' or 'self-actualising growth' i.e. 'self-actualisation'. The self-actualising individual is independent of others. They are motivated by the spiritual needs for creation and productivity or 'work'. Meaningful work intensifies their sense of cooperation with the environment and the individual continues in their authentic striving to work or 'calling'. Authentic work satisfies the human needs for creativity or 'meaning'. Motivation for productive work - 'metamotivation' - is facilitated with freedom from repression... the individual lives by spiritual values on the level of ego-transcendance. The individual who  is motivated by the prepotent more urgent basic psychological needs is not motivated by the metaneeds

 If external social forces are focused on basic physiological and psychological needs. metaneeds are denied and metamotivation is repressed. 

Failure to satisfy ego needs results in the pathology of 'neurotic development' or 'neurosis'... 'deficit motivation' Denial or frustration of ego-needs for self-esteem leads to the psychopathology of motivation by deficiency of needs i.e. 'deficiency motivation' or 'deficit motivation'.

Neurotic development or 'neurosis' is a function of  the control of motivation by deficiency of the basic psychological needs also known as 'deficiency needs' or 'deficit needs'. Failure to satisfy the ego needs results in lack of self-esteem which is threatening to the individual's 'sense of identity' or sense of 'self'. As a result the individual learns to depend on the approval of others for the approval of themselves. They will even give up their own growth to retain the approval of others.

Deficit motivation is pathological because it involves reliance on external sources for the gratification of need deficiencies...  results in human behaviour which is destructive and non-adaptive i.e. 'human wickedness' or 'evil'.

The individual who is motivated by deficit needs - described as 'deficiency motivated' - subscribes to the values which correspond to those needs i.e. 'deficit-values' - accumulation, personal attention, appreciation, recognition, importance, reputation, status, dominance, political power and so on.

Limitations in human relationship The deficiency motivated individual depends on others as sources of supply for their gratification needs. Since they depend on others for their own need gratification they perceive them in terms of  their usefulness as sources of gratification for their need deficiencies..  Their dependence on others requires flexibility and responsiveness to their reactions i.e. 'reactive-responsive behaviour'. They lack the freedom of self-reliance and they become anxious and hostile. They fail to perceive others in terms of their own intrinsic values.The deficiency motivated individual has to rely on changeable factors in a non-reliable social environment... They must constantly change to fit react and respond... to 'adapt'. For them adaptability is 'fitting in'. Since their interpersonal relations are based on need gratification, their relationships are limited and interchangeable.

Self-reliance comes from freedom as 'inner freedom'. Lack of freedom results in lack of self-reliance which contributes to general anxiety and hostility.

Implications for education  Deficiency motivation and the lack of faith in human potential the basis for manipulation and so-called 'banking education'. Faith in human potential and metamotivation is education for personal growth and freedom. Human potentialities for freedom, love, happiness, reason, justice and so on are like seeds. They are stifled and fail to develop if not given the proper conditions required for development.If not given the proper conditions. Education for freedom - 'holistic education'  - engages the metaneeds for spiritual growth as well as the basic psychological needs for security and self esteem.  Faith in human potential and metamotivation is education for personal growth and freedom.

 Deficiency motivation and the lack of faith in human potential the basis for manipulation and so-called 'banking education'... 'extrinsic motivation'

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 Mental health is a function of the extent of fulfillment of human needs. 

Years of living avoidance strategies undermines the sense of power and accounts for peoples drive to 'succeed.' The reactive-responsive orientation contains the basic premise that one is powerless. The power lies in the circumstantial stimuli. "Success is an empty victory" "Most people in our society were nurtered and trained within a reactive-responsive orientation." The majority of behavioral rules people were given as children were based on avoidance or prevention strategies. "Don't do this, that etc... Children are told either what they can't do or how bad they are because of what they are doing. Most educational systems also reinforce a reactive-responsive orientation. "One focus of education is to weave the child into the fabric of society"(26) "The power in the situation is clearly defined as being in the school or the parents. So the students are really learning about power. What they learn about power is that they are powerless. " They are learning about their purpose in life. Unfortunately what they learn is that they are only an insignificant one among many, and that they need to conform. Under these conditions, what purpose or meaning does their life ultimately have? One survey by the Carnegie Institute of Education reports that 90 percent of high school students in the US feel that their lives are useless. If you go along with the notion that things are the way you are told they are, and act appropriately - responsive behavior- you might be labeled a 'good student' or a 'nice person'. "Responsive students usually receive good grades in school, actively adapt to the norms and standards set by people in positions of authority." As adults, they continue to respond in certain ways. Result is that people don't master the skills they need to create their lives. They learn only how to respond and 'adapt' in the sense of 'conform'. "Reactive" behavior implies an active opposition to society's message that things are the way they are portrayed at home or at school, but reactive people are usually labeled as 'rebellious students' 'difficult people' 'political activists' 'extremists' and so on. (Robert Fritz. Path of Least Resistance).