MOTIVE (from Lat. movere, to move), in psychology, a general term signifying any element of consciousness which prompts an agent to a decision. The older psychology usually regarded motives as strictly analogous to mechanical forces exerting pressure or tension, and explained human action as necessarily determined by the resultant of various, possibly conflicting, motives. Contemporary psychological research tends to show with increasing clearness that we must recognize a power of decision in the self, and that the analogy of mechanical forces is inadequate to explain the facts. On this view motives will be regarded as solicitations to act in a certain direction, while the self decides by throwing its volitional weight on the side of the motive which it regards as preferable. The solicitations may come from the most diverse sources: they may be mere desires to avoid some pain or to gratify some appetite; or they may be of higher origin, such as the motive of patriotism, or the desire to advance knowledge. Purposes or ends are often termed motives. " Conflict of motives " means sometimes a conflict of purposes, when the agent has adopted two different lines of action and has difficulty in combining them; or it may mean a conflict of solicitations. It is better to call purposes or ends by those names when they have been definitely adopted by the agent : while they are still under deliberation the term " motive " may be used.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)