Motivation Theory: Explaining Tourist Behavior

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Motivation theory “Crompton (1979) notes it is possible to describe the who, when, where, and how of tourism, together with the social and economic characteristics of tourist, but not to answer the question “why,” the most interesting question of all tourist behaviour. ” (Fodness 1994, p. 556) While motivation is only one of many variables in explaining tourist behaviour, it is nonetheless  a very critical one, as it constitutes the driving force behind all behaviour (Fodness 1994).

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Motivation sets the stage for forming people’s goals (Mansfeld 2000) and is reflected in both travel choice and behaviour; as such it influences people’s expectations, which in turn determine the perception of experiences. Motivation is therefore a factor in satisfaction formation (Gnoth 1997). Basic motivation theory suggests a dynamic process of internal psychological factors (needs, wants and goals), causing an uncomfortable level of tension within individuals’ minds and bodies, resulting in actions aimed at releasing that tension and satisfying these needs (Fodness 1994).Motives, implying such an action, require the awareness of needs, as well as objectives, promising to satisfy these now conscious needs in order to create wants and move people to buy (Goosens 2000). Objectives or goals are presented in the form of products and services, it is therefore the role of marketing to create awareness of needs and suggest appropriate objectives, promising the satisfaction of these (Mill and Morrison 1985). Several authors suggest (Dumazedier 1967, Krippendorf 1987, Parker 1983) that in the Western World free time and holidays are connected to the concept of self-actualisation or self-realisation.The latter defined by Grunow-Lutter (1983. p. 76) as “a person’s dynamic relationship between the real and the ideal self, constituting a process of decreasing the distance between these two cognitive systems, themselves subject to continuous change. ” It is the individual’s aim to achieve a state of stability, or homeostasis (Goosens 2000), which is disrupted when the person becomes aware of the gap between real and ideal self, or as Goosens calls it a need deficiency. The resulting need to self-actualise represents the motive, which under the constraints of the situation sets the stage for the process of motivation (Gnoth 1997).But to what extent does tourism satisfy the intrinsic need for self-actualisation? Tinsley and Eldredge (1995) summarise 15 years of research into psychological needs, satisfied by leisure activities, and proposed leisure activities clusters such as novelty, sensual enjoyment, cognitive stimulation, self-expression, creativity, vicarious competition, relaxation, agency, belongingness and service. It is questioned however; whether these superficial needs are intrinsically motivated (Goosens 2000, p. 303), suggesting that these motivations are merely culturally learned stereotypes or explanations for leisure behaviour.As Fodness (1994) states, a widely accepted integrated theory for needs and goals behind motivation is lacking. The question is of course why this is the case. Research into motivation can be distinguished into two categories, the behaviourist and the cognivist approach (Gnoth 1997). The discussion has therefore traditionally revolved around either push or pull factors influencing tourist behaviour (Crompton 1979). Push factors represent lasting dispositions, as they are internally generated drives. The individual, energised by such drives, will then search objects for the promise of drive reduction and develop a motive (Gnoth 1997).The behaviourist view thus emphasises the emotional parameter of decision-making, while the cognivist approach focuses on situational parameters in which motives are expressed, consequently encompassing a certain knowledge which the tourist holds about goal attributes as well as a rational weighing up of situational constraints (Gnoth 1997). This cognitive process results in motivations, which are more object specific than motives, as these only imply a class of objects and may result in a range of different behaviours, depending on the situation.This unidimensional approach has been criticised however (Pearce 1993, Parinello 1993), as push and pull factors influence the consumer simultaneously (Hirschman and Holbrook 1986), integrated by the concept of involvement, an unobservable state of motivation, arousal, or interest (Goosens 2000), which is evoked by stimulus or situations. This is the case, since pull factors such as marketing stimuli as well as the destination’s and service’s attributes respond to and reinforce push factors.Consequently research increasingly seeks to integrate emotions and cognition in the individual’s decision-making process (Hartmann 1982, Pearce and Caltabiano 1983, Braun 1989, Gnoth 1997), indicating a more holistic approach. As a result it became evident that people’s intrinsic needs are influenced by external factors. Rojek (1990) asserts that in post-modern society the superstructure of advertising, television, fashion, lifestyle magazines and designer values increasingly take the role of forming knowledge and beliefs.People’s needs are neutral (Heckhausen 1989), as motives however, they require an object towards which the need is directed, and when linked to actual situations, cultural and social impacts are also applied (Gnoth 1997). Situations raise motives to the level of values, as such they are evaluations based on learned behaviour and perception (Lewin 1942, Vroom 1964). If a drive is reduced satisfactorily the individual is likely to remember the behaviour and employ the same behaviour again, thus acquiring habits (Hull 1943).Tourism experiences may therefore become learned behaviour and acquire the role of habit enforcers. Cognivists argue that knowledge and beliefs in future rewards, anticipatory in nature (Vroom 1964), are equally a product of formerly encountered situations (Murray 1938), and external formation. It may be concluded that motives merely represent learned behaviour, which are influenced by offered objects or tourism activities, while motivations represent knowledge and beliefs formed by society and culture or tourism marketers.The psychogenic need for self-actualisation, abstract in nature, is therefore operationalised in a learned and practical manner and expressed in values, which are learned strategies to either adapt one’s environment to one’s needs or adapt one’s self to a given environment (Kahle 1983). Such values equally include effects of enculturation and socialisation (Fodness 1994). Furthermore the perceived gap between real and ideal self, may indicate both externally and internally controlled evaluations (Gnoth 1997).McCabe therefore asks what researchers can expect to know about individuals’ drives, by asking them about their motivations and needs as these may not be available to individuals as part of their consciousness (2000a, p. 215). Iso-Ahola (1982) states that “people do not walk around with numerous leisure needs in their minds and do not rationalise specific causes of participation if their involvement is intrinsically motivated” (cited in Goosens 2000, p. 303). Hence it may be assumed that needs are suggested by mmediate social peers, and the wider context of particular social realities as well as the influence of the media (McCabe 2000a). Yet as Weissinger and Bandalos (1995) stress, intrinsic leisure motivation, which is a global disposition and describes a tendency to seek intrinsic rewards, is characterised by self-determination, an awareness of internal needs and a strong desire to make free choices based on these needs. While self-actualisation may be accepted as a need intrinsic to all individuals, society exercises a great deal of influence on the formation of the ideal self and thus perceived needs.However the notion of authentic or true self, determined by way of experience, offers a solution to the predicament. According to Waterman (1984), individualism symbolises four psychological qualities, the first one is a sense of individual identity, based on the knowledge of who one is and what one’s goals and values are, as such it is related to the philosophical concept of true self, which indicates what an individual reckons personally expressive and what it is to be actualised (p. 30).The second is Maslow’s self-actualisation, which is the driving to be one’s true self. The third quality is Rotter’s (1966) internal locus of control, which reflects a willingness to accept personal responsibility for one’s life, and finally prinicipled (postconventional), moral reasoning (Kohlberg 1969), which involves consistency with general abstract principles (cited in Kim and Lee 2000, p. 156). Consequently, only if  tourists become more autonomous and thus aware of intrinsic needs and motives are they able to self-actualise.As McIntosh and Goeldner (1990) explained, order is becoming less important in Western society and a desire for disorder in the tourism experience is becoming more important. Kim and Lee point out that “opportunities for unplanned action and freedom from institutionalised regulations are distinctive of Western tourists” (2000, p. 157). This indicates that tourists exhibit a certain desire to liberate their identities. According to Krippendorf (1984), in order for tourists to cease being just users of holidays, they must come to know themselves, their motives and other cultures.It may therefore be assumed that self-actualisation is an intrinsic need, characteristic of any tourist, but must be understood in terms of true self as opposed to ideal self and as such is independent of societal pressures and involves the transcendence of habitual behaviours and mindstates. This proposition requires further elaboration and must be viewed in the context of modernity, which hinders this process but at the same time brought about its awareness.