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Psychological Motivators and How to Use Them to Get Actionable Results (Part I)

Mihai Cepoi

6 MIN READ

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We don’t yet know everything about the human brain, but from what we do know our internal lives are way richer than our external ones. As our inner world is highly active, a lot of our internal processes pass on without us mapping the actual route or even its consequences. 

But if there’s just one thing about the human brain that everybody - whether you’re a recruiter or an employee or simply someone living disconnected from the world - should know is that our neural pathways dictate who we are and how we react to different contexts. 

What this says about the human brain is that our actions, our beliefs and our motivations are the result of past experience to such an extent, that once a certain neural pathway is created, it will influence us into using it in the future. The brain is lazy in this respect and that’s a scientific fact. Instead of creating neural pathways for every type of new situation we find ourselves in, we tend to repeat our behavior based on what we’ve already experienced. 

What we’re going to tackle about psychological motivators is our capacity of educating our brain into reacting the way we’re wanting it to through the reinforcement of different habits we can create and perpetuate through our behavior. 

So we’ve put together a list of the most common things we can do to leverage our brain’s tendencies into behaviours that we actively want to pursue. 

 

  • Loss Aversion 

What this means is that our brains are wired into thinking that losing something is the worst outcome of a situation. So much so, that it’s better not to have it in the first place. You’re reading this right - it’s better to never win the lottery than it is to win the lottery and then lose that money. 

It’s why promotions work, and it;s why FOMO is a painfully real social phenomenon. 

How can I leverage this? 

If you’re a recruiter, make sure to communicate competitive advantages that set you apart from the rest of the companies in your industry or category.

If you’re a human person who’s stumbled across this article by sheer chance, you should trick your brain into not losing resources that you care about. Loss aversion can be used as a motivator to be more productive (aka not lose time from your own personal limited lifespan) or to be more economical (aka not to lose money or experiences that the money can buy you). 

 

  • Self Validation

This one’s right there in Maslow’s widely known pyramid. Validating yourself through what you do and through who you are is an important part of belonging to a social group and, however much we’re trying to not compete outside of ourselves, our instinct is to actively search for validation in our social environment. It’s why we have fake news and conspiracy theories - birds of a feather will create a self-validating bubble that the rest of society can do nothing about. 

How can I leverage this? 

If you’re an employer, make sure to emphasize the value of your projects and to underline the performance of your teams. This way, it’s more likely to have candidates follow your company, as it’s only natural for every professional to aspire to a competitive & rewarding environment. However, you should make sure that these benefits are real and an objective part of the workplace experience. Tricking people into working with you is very 20th century and you should know better. 

If you’re a human person who’s stumbled across this article by sheer chance, make sure to constantly create a competitive environment that helps you evolve. For instance, you may want to get out of your social circle and take a solid look around you to check your privilege, your context and to get a real chance to challenge your views every time you get a chance. It’s an invaluably healthy way to keep yourself grounded. 

 

  • Maintaining a Positive Self Image 

This one’s a no brainer. Evidently we’re social creatures and we crave being perceived as people with positive traits. While depending on our values these traits might be different, their bottom line is that we constantly need to be perceived in a certain way. 

Of course this is a social trick that brands use to sell us what we most desire, and this profoundly humane feature should be taken with a grain of salt. But there’s a lot about the way we need to be perceived that actually motivates us to achieve our goals. While this is an extrinsic type of motivation, it should be used carefully, but whenever something feels like a little too much, you should give it a try. 

How can I leverage this? 

If you’re working in the HR industry, you might motivate your candidates through understanding their values. If they are very competitive by nature, placing them into a contest-like environment will certainly be effective. 

If you’re a human person who’s stumbled across this article by sheer chance, you can use these very important traits that you want to be perceived as having to motivate yourself into actually achieving your goals. If it’s important for you to be perceived as smart, perhaps you should remind yourself of this when you’re in the position to read an impossible book or to understand an impossible concept.

Instead of Conclusion

What’s essential about human motivators is that there’s two types of them: internal (or intrinsic) and external (or extrinsic). Contrary to what science thought 50 years ago, we now know that external motivators can also be channelled to accomplish positive things. But what’s really important is to always be aware of yourself and your reactions and, instead of judging a situation, to try and evaluate it and think of a way of tricking your brain into complying. 

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