Science explains people’s motivation

Video: RSA Animate – Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us


The RSA’s animation entitled “Drive” is about the surprising truth about what motivates us. This was adapted from Dan Pink’s talk at the RSA. The video animation illustrated the hidden truths behind what really motivates us at home and in the workplace. (

It contained facts, theories, researches, and stories that would help us understand and explore people’s different perspectives on motivation. It can also open our minds to the things that can affect a person’s motivation and also the things that are out of the bow–there is culture, norms, behavior, and respective point of views. At the end of the video, we can learn and discover the proper ways to make decisions and actions that will suit the motivations of different people. This will be very useful because it can contribute ways to be respectful to other people; or for managers, knowing their employees’ vibrancy and that will help the company perform at its best efficiency. The researches and terms mentioned were doubtless because they were able to defend it and discuss it smoothly with references or names and with real experiences. It is actually interesting because in order to learn an individual’s motivation, you have to observe their behavior and learn from it before making your own move. Although, above everything, the main and attracting point is that it is on science. Yes, they believe that science can make it right; that it can save organizations and make the world a better place.

The video included live or on-the-spot drawings (the artist drew flawlessly!), supporting phrases for the images, highlighted terms, and a talking man who explains and discusses everything. Overall, the video was pretty interesting and nicely done. The only thing that I did not like is the speaker who talked unclear but he made me laugh in some points of the video when his voice rose and it seemed like his emotions were getting in the way. I also admired their message in the end of the video. It was very stirring and motivating because it wanted to make and start change for the better of all. In some ways and for other people, it can be hard to accept and to believe in because it is based on science and there are people who think that science can be inhumane. Even me, I may believe in science but I still have my intuitions, opinions, and faith.

Key points:

Dan Pink started the discussion about how motivations are “unbelievable interesting” and followed by science as surprising and a little bit freaky. He stated the basic idea of people which is, “if you reward something you get more of the behavior you want. If you punish something, you get less of it.”  Then there came the evidences and studies about people’s behaviors toward motivations. First is the study done at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in the northeastern part of United States. They chose a group of students to test the study by giving them a set of challenges and there will be incentives corresponding to their performance. They prepared three levels rewards in cash: small, medium, large monetary rewards. The results are… the task that involved only mechanical skills worked as expected, better performance with higher pays; but the task that involved cognitive skills, poorer performance with larger reward. That’s when he revealed that the members of the group who did the test were all economists. Then the idea of socialist conspiracy came next.

The Federal Reserve Bank, left-wing socialist group, financed a research about these conspiracy theories. In order to come to a conclusion, they held another test. Instead of giving away 50 dollars to an MIT student who thinks there is nothing less than the said reward, they used a different setting that is in Madurai, the rural India, where in 50 dollars is a very significant amount. Still, they used the three levels of rewards but in different settings where in their performance correspond to salary: 2 weeks; 1 month; 2 months. The results are… the people who were offered the medium reward did no better than the people who were offered the small reward but the people who were offered the top reward did the worst of all. In short, higher incentives led to worse performance. Although, he is right, it is very interesting because this already happened a lot of times by as witnessed by psychologists, sociologists, and economists. This ended up with a fact that money is just a motivator but if and only if they don’t get enough of it. Then another paradox approached saying that the best use of money as a motivator is to pay people enough so they will not think about money but work. That’s where and when science came in again. It showed three factors that can lead people to better performance and personal satisfaction: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Autonomy is the desire to be self-directed or to direct our own lives. To explain this further, Dan gave a proven and real example: In Atlassian, an Australian company, the employees can work on anything they want with whomever they want with the way they want on a Thursday afternoon once a quarter and in exchange, they have to show the results to the company after 24 hours. And yes, it led to success. Next is mastery which is the urge to get better at stuff. This is giving people some time to spend on their own, do something or work on something for free that will make them happy and satisfied. In the end, what they get is challenge in mastery and making a contribution. Last is purpose and this is more on the organization to make work better and get better talent. They also said that bad things happen when motive gets unmoored from the purpose motive. This is why organizations gets disturbed by the categories between what’s profit and what’s motive. Towards the end of the video, they gave examples for this last factor that were used to start the inspirational conclusion of the clip: The founder of Skype said, “Our goal is to be disruptive but in the cause of making the world a better place,” and Steve Jobs is, “I want to put a Ding in the universe.”


Overall, and personally, I believe and approve the points of this video. If I get the chance to choose on what to believe in, I would want to rely on the perspective of science. People also deserve and need some alone time for themselves. It’s like providing oneself fresh air to rejuvenate himself from the world of humanity. They also would also live better and happier if they experience success or satisfaction, at least, on their own.

But of course, it is inevitable to agree to everything he said; there are some points that can be protested by other people and I think I can understand them if they have the same idea with me–practicality. As a citizen of the Republic of the Philippines that belongs to a third-world country, the fact that money is a motivator is already enough. This may not be applicable to the fortunate ones but majority of the employed citizens, especially the vendors, fishermen, etc., need money to survive their everyday lives.  There are even employees who have side jobs and there are working students as well. A lot of Filipinos would accept to have a difficult job that will not be favorable for them in physical or mental aspects as long as they receive extra income. It would be even harder now because of globalization.

Nevertheless, I think it is right and I could not agree more to believe in science. I also agree when he said that it could make our world a little bit better because I believe that this principle can bring healthful notions to people; become open-minded and seek the world and its opportunities in a bright and smart perspective. I also think that it is possible for Philippines to rise and revive its good image if people would have the same belief as mine. Science can be doubtful but in this case, it stands a possibility and as a sunshine.


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