Process theory

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Process theory is a commonly used form of scientific research study in which events or occurrences are said to be the result of certain input states leading to a certain outcome (output) state, following a set process.

Process theory holds that if an outcome is to be duplicated, so too must the process which originally created it, and that there are certain constant necessary conditions for the outcome to be reached. When the phrase is used in connection with human motivation, process theory attempts to explain the mechanism by which human needs change. Some of the theories that fall in this category are expectancy theory, equity theory, and goal setting In management research, process theory provides an explanation for 'how' something happens and a variance theory explains 'why'.[1]

Some theorists claim that all natural processes have complex phases in which the output state of the process is not determined by the input states of the processes. The condition is defined by Robert Rosen as being "complex".[2]

A Classification of Motivation Theories (Content vs. Process)[edit]

Motivation theories can be classified broadly into two different perspectives: Content and Process theories.

  • Content Theories deal with “what” motivates people and it is concerned with individual needs and goals. Maslow, Alderfer, Herzberg and McClelland studied motivation from a “content” perspective.
  • Process Theories deal with the “process” of motivation and is concerned with “how” motivation occurs. Vroom, Porter & Lawler, Adams and Locke studied motivation from a “process” perspective.1

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mohr, Lawrence B. (1982). Explaining Organizational Behavior. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. pp. 36–38, 43–45, 52–60. ISBN 087589514X. 
  2. ^ Mikulecky, Donald C. "Robert Rosen: The Well Posed Question and Its Answer - Why Are Organisms Different From Machines". Virginia Commonwealth University. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 


1.A Brief Introduction to Motivation Theory