Chapter 1. Human Behavior

Human Nature and Motivation

Human nature refers to the general psychological characteristics, feelings, and behavioral traits shared by all humans. Motivation (discussed more fully in Chapter 2, The Learning Process) is the reason one acts or behaves in a certain way and lies at the heart of goals. A goal is the object of a person’s effort.

Consider Jason, who came to aviation because he wanted to participate more actively in another realm of his business. Derek needs to capitalize on this motivation to keep Jason interested in the step-by-step procedures that must be learned in order to fly safely. There is a gap between Jason and his goal of earning a pilot certificate. It is Derek’s job to close the gap. The successful instructor channels student motivation and guides the student toward the goal of learning aviation skills through education, experience, practice, and study.

Building on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, social psychologist Douglas McGregor set out two opposing assumptions about human nature and motivation in 1960. [Figure 1-3] Although McGregor’s famous X-Y Theory was designed for use in human resource management, it offers information about how people view human behavior at work and organizational life which makes it useful for aviation instructors.

Theory X assumes that management’s role is to coerce and control employees because people need control and direction. Managers who think in Theory X terms believe people have an inherent dislike for work, avoid it whenever possible, and must be coerced, controlled, directed, or threatened with punishment in order to get them to achieve the objectives.

McGregor believed these assumptions were false, that the role of managers (or instructors) is to develop the potential in employees (students) and help them to release that potential toward common goals. This view of humans he termed “Theory Y” and holds that:

  • Work is as natural as play and rest. The average person does not inherently dislike work. Depending on conditions, work may be a source of satisfaction and, if so, it is performed voluntarily. On the other hand, when work is a form of punishment, it is avoided, if possible.
  • People exercise self-direction if they are committed to the goals (they are not lazy).
  • Commitment to goals relates directly to the rewards associated with their achievement.
  • People learn to accept and seek responsibility. Shirking responsibility and lack of ambition are not inherent in human nature, but are usually the consequences of experience.
  • Creativity, ingenuity, and imagination are widely distributed among the population. People are capable of using these abilities to solve problems.
  • People have potential.

Since it is human nature to be motivated, the responsibility for discovering how to realize the potential of the student lies with the instructor. How to mold a solid, healthy, productive relationship with a student depends on the instructor’s knowledge of human behavior and needs. Being able to recognize factors that inhibit the learning process also helps the instructor in this process.

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