What Is “drive Theory” in Sports?

Drive theory is the idea that arousal levels can be linked to an increase or decrease in sports abilities. As arousal increases, so does the quality of performance.

Drive reduction theory became popular in the 1940s and 1950s. Drive theory was thought up by behaviorist Clark Hull and later studied and developed further by Hull’s partner Kenneth Space. According to the theory, reduction in drive or arousal is the primary cause for lack of motivation. Hull came up with the theory not too long after he began working at Yale University.

Hull based his theory on the idea that the body is actively trying to stay in balance or maintain an equilibrium. The way the body controls body heat to ensure it does not get too hot or too cold is an example of the body trying to stay balanced. Hull thought behavior was one of the ways the body maintained balance.

While Hull’s theory is not currently used, it did lead others to conduct more research of psychology in the 1950s and 1960s. Many of the motivational theories are based on Hull’s original theory. One famous theory is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which became an alternative to Hull’s theory.