On the most basic psychological level, there are three prime motivators which will determine a person's actions and how they will respond to any given situation. One thing I would like to stress is that most people will not be conscious of these motivations and, moreover, would much rather concoct other, more socially acceptable or logical justifications for their behavior; rather than to admit what is really inspiring them to do what they do (F.Y.I. this would usually fall under the category of ego, but we'll get to that in a moment). These three emotional motivations (as if you haven't already figured it out) are fear, ego and stimulation.
We already examined the influence fear can have over people in the Fear rant. Fear is usually the most obvious and most easily detectable of these three motivations. This is not just because it is more visible, but in some ways it is more universal and often more socially acceptable to admit to as a motivation than the other two. Basically, what I mean is that an individual's fears are often more congruent with the fears of others, then their ego and preferable form of stimulation might be. Fear is the best of these three motivators for society as a whole. This is because it helps to keep people together and inline (you could argue that fear is the reason that we have societies in the first place). Stimulation's value to society is completely dependent upon how it manifests itself and how it can be manipulated and leveraged. It should be obvious that individual ego or pride is usually not of much direct benefit to the larger society. Examining how societies and communities typically view each of these psychological motivations, can tell us something about the tendencies themselves.
I think I should note that there are situations in which fear is not so easily discernible as a motivation. Usually these are situations in which fear motivates someone not to do something. Unless you're Shaggy from Scooby Doo and are constantly pressured to go into places which are obviously frightening, then there's a good chance that you may not be consciously aware of how much your fear is affecting your decision making process. One good reason for this is that our egos often don't want to admit that we're afraid of something that, logically, we know cannot really hurt us and we shouldn't be afraid of (as I've said before, knowing something logically is not the same as grasping it emotionally). Not only does fear contribute to many of our beliefs, as was examined in the aforementioned rant, but it can also act as a demotivator. It has the ability to quell creativity and to impede the boldness which is often necessary for success in any aspect of our lives.
Although they're ultimately one and the same, for the purposes of analyzing human motivation, we can divide the concept of ego into two parts. The first part is the section of our personalities that are affected by other people. Often referred to as social pressure or "peer pressure" (despite different connotations, they're the same thing as far as I'm concerned), it cannot be denied that other's expectations and opinions of us, frequently affect our actions and how we conduct ourselves for better or worse. Individual temperaments vary, but most people, if given the choice would rather be shown a certain level of respect by others. There are many people who don't necessarily need too much respect to feel comfortable and have a thoroughly developed sense of humor about themselves or even exhibit extremely passive personalities; just as there are others whom will not tolerate anything but complete and total respect. It should also be observed that what separate individuals might consider respect or placation of ego can vary tremendously depending on the situation. There are individuals who might be able to joke about themselves one way, but who find no humor in making fun of other aspects of their lives.
Ironically, the very thing which often motivates people to show a deliberate lack of respect to others is the second part of the ego concept. This is the more pure ego, or how we ultimately view ourselves. When it comes to evaluating a person's motivation, the concept of "insecurity", in the therapeutic sense, is often an essential ingredient. Few people seem to fully grasp just how much of what people do, say and feel is governed by a need to placate their own egos. One reason for this is that the act of accepting and embracing this fact would present a threat to their egos in and of its self! How many folks out there are too proud to admit that much of what they do is designed to enhance their own pride? One realization you must come to terms with, in order to truly understand people, is that people are, by their very natures, egotistical beings. And the more pathetic, stupid, weak or worthless they are, the more they will try to hide it or at least try to compensate for it. Despite what many people say, there is no true equality; it's a myth. We are all biological organisms and our abilities and attributes can vary immensely. Of course this means that some of us will be better suited to our environments than others. Or, to put it bluntly, some of us will be great and others will just suck. Many people don't like to hear this (a good indication that they might be towards the suck-end of the spectrum), and everyone likes to think of themselves as quality individuals, without any regard for reality. In this sense, discovering how a person feels about the myth of equality and individual ability could give you a lot of insight into the person's psychology right there.
Stimulation is something which we all crave; however, personal preference can vary significantly. Despite this variation in taste, the fact remains that almost everyone needs to feel something, constantly. We're biologically programmed to receive sensory input on a regular basis. It has been observed that feeling emotional (and for some, physical) pain can be better than feeling nothing at all. This should always be considered when evaluating people's motivations (I feel no need to discuss more positive motivational stimulation, if you can't figure that stuff out then you obviously have bigger awareness issues than I have time to deal with here). A person whom remains in a bad relationship may say that they do it because "they really do love the person", but it could just be that the stress and drama they are exposed to within the relationship, causes them to feel something. This same thing applies to any situation where a person seems to be unhappy, but when given the opportunity to improve things, chooses not to (of course this does often overlap with fear). Usually they will give some seemingly reasonable excuse for this that will not really stand up to harsh logical scrutiny. Many people are comforted by their stress and torment (and they get to complain and worry about it, another favorite hobby). Regardless of what kind of stimulation people become accustomed to, they will always be very hesitant or downright hostile about giving it up. In this sense it's unfortunate for most people that pain is often more powerful and more readily obtainable than pleasure.
By truly understanding these somewhat unpopular ideas about human motivation, it becomes easier to make sense of the seemingly chaotic and irrational behavior of the human race. People's emotions might be irrational, but this does not mean that they cannot be accurately analyzed or gauged. The key is to always look at what they do, and never assume that they're being verbally honest about why they're doing it. Comprehending this information and using it is a prerequisite to psychological manipulation; a very important skill for a villain to have. And you know with a pen name like mine, I'm all for psychological manipulation.