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The motivators for sex are usually biological, just as the motivators for love are typically psychological. In this lesson, you’ll learn about psychological and biological motivators, as well as the various reasons that love and sex are motivators. Being in love can certainly push and inspire someone to be their best self for their love interest. Let’s take Emily, for example, who is in love with Max.

Emily begins running because Max is a marathon runner, even though she hated running previously.

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Being in love and desiring the love of others can be one of the strongest motivators.
couple in love

A motivator can be a person or thing that makes someone more likely to do something.

For example, cheerleaders are intended to motivate football players to play harder. A biological motivator is a physical, hormonal, or bodily element that makes someone excited to do something. For instance, a person who is hungry is motivated to buy a slice of pizza.

A psychological motivator is an emotional, social or cognitive influence that makes someone excited to do something. For example, a teenage boy who wants to impress the girl he is taking to prom may be motivated to buy a nice suit and style his hair. The story about Emily and Max in the opening scenario is another example of a psychological motivator.

Sex as a Biological Motivator

From the innate need to carry on one’s genes to the next generation to the simple desire for physical pleasure, sex is mostly a biological motivator. Here are some reasons:


Species need to reproduce for survival of their species. Therefore, reproduction is an innate motivator having to do with evolution. Research has shown that women subconsciously make their partner aware that they are ovulating by dressing nicer, wearing perfume, flirting and altering their tone of voice for about six days mid-cycle, both before and after the day that they ovulate.


Pleasure is known as the biggest motivator for sex. Even before children understand that species need to reproduce to survive, they may exhibit sexual behavior through masturbation in toddlerhood. They do this simply because it feels good, not because they are wanting to procreate.


Estrogens, progestins, and androgens are considered the sex hormones that incite sexual desire in men and women.

Androgens, most commonly testosterone, are more prevalent in men, which is why men generally have higher sexual desire compared to women. Estrogen occurs more frequently in women, though both men and women have estrogen and testosterone.

Stress Relief

Oxytocin and endorphins, often called the happy hormones, are released into the brain after sex, creating a sense of euphoria. These hormones can assist in relaxation. Research has shown that people who have sex more often have less stress, anxiety, and depression.

Love as a Psychological Motivator

Love can fulfill basic needs, like safety and security. Yet love can also be a psychological motivator, and its functions range from improving one’s emotional state to satisfying the need for attachment and intimacy. Here are some reasons that love is a psychological motivator:

Sadness and Loneliness

It may seem strange that negative emotions can be motivators, but it actually makes perfect sense. If a person is feeling sad and lonely, they will be motivated to connect with others. This will push them to reach out to others and become more loving, giving, and kind. So, essentially, love can be a motivator to feel happy.

Identity and Purpose

A parent who loves their child unconditionally and accepts all of his unique mannerisms and quirks is teaching that child that he can comfortably be himself and be accepted and loved for that. This love essentially allows him to shape his own identity. The same can be said about romantic love.

A person will try to find a lover that validates their identity, allows them to be themselves, and gives them purpose and drive.


The need for bond and attachment to others is a rudimentary need of all humans (and animals). We are social creatures. Our attachment to caregivers was vital when we were children because it provided us with a sense of love and security and helped shape our identity and self-esteem. After childhood, attachment to parents became less salient and a more social and romantic need for attachment came to the forefront. This need is, at its core, a desire for belongingness, connection and high self-esteem.

Parental Love

Research has shown that the pure, unconditional love of a child can be a powerful motivator for parents to change bad behavior or increase good behavior.

In fact, in a research survey, parental love was enough for 25% of parents to change negative behaviors or lifestyles (e.g. misuse of drugs and alcohol, sedentary lifestyles) or increase positive behaviors (e.g. going back to school, getting a job, eating healthier) for their children. Additionally, parents may be motivated to change so that they can be a positive role model for their child.

The immense love a mother feels for her child can be a strong motivator for her to be a better person.

Mom and baby love

Sex as a Psychological Motivator

While sex is usually thought to be a biological motivator, there are instances where it can be considered a psychological motivator in humans. These reasons may include:

Emotional Intimacy

Jim and Mary are having relationship problems.

Their marriage counselor suggests that they try having sex more often to improve intimacy. Jim and Mary have sex specifically for the purpose of improving their emotional connection.


If Jim felt like having sex, but Mary didn’t, Mary might still have sex out of obligation to the marriage. This is a psychological, rather than biological, motivation for sex.

Lesson Summary

A motivator is a thing or person that makes someone more likely to do something.

Biological motivators have to do with hormones, chemicals and the body, while psychological motivators have to do with the mind and emotions.Sex is a biological motivator due to the need to reproduce, desire for pleasure, release of stress, and hormones. Love is a psychological motivator because it helps get rid of sadness and loneliness, fills the need for attachment and belonging, and gives people a sense of identity and purpose. The pure and unconditional love of a child can motivate a parent to change behavior, too.Finally, sex can be a psychological motivator if there is no biological incentive to procreate or gain pleasure from the act of sex. For example, a couple who decides to have sex solely for the purpose of improving their relationship, or a person who has sex with their partner out of a sense of obligation to their relationship or marriage, are two situations where sex is a psychological motivator.

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