MOTIVATION TO LEARN AND AGE: FINDINGS OF A HUNGARIAN STUDY
Motivation is one of the key components of learning. Motivation to learn includes extrinsic (praises, grades, social and financial rewards) and intrinsic (mastering, knowledge) elements (Ryan and Deci, 2000). Learning seems to be related to the two highest-level Maslowian needs (1970): esteem needs and self-actualization. With respect to esteem needs, acquiring new knowledge and skills gives individuals the potential of achievement, mastery and competence as well as recognition, success and self respect. Concerning self-actualization, learning may help individuals to become actualized in what they potentially are, to become true to their own nature. Maslow attempted to explain motivation as a developmental process in which, the importance of the higher-level needs grows as one matures. This could also mean that, with age, motivation to learn should become more and more intrinsic, since learning based on internal motivation more reliably leads to (self) esteem and self-actualization. The tendency of older students attending college courses for intrinsic reasons appears in Justice and Dornan’s study (2001), too.
Goebel and Brown’s results (1981) gave only limited support to Maslow's theory as a developmental model. Also, Ojha and Pramanick (2009) found that the intensity and priority of all Maslowian needs changed with age, but the hierarchy of needs was not found to exist. Through a survey including more than 1600 Hungarians between 16-89 years of age, the present study found a significant difference in age between learners with different motivations, but the relationship was reversed: higher-age individuals tended to be more extrinsically motivated. Alternative explanations including aspects of the Hungarian social reality are offered.