Psychological Properties of Motivation


Psychological Properties of Motivation

Can two individuals be both the same and different in what motivates them? Do people with different needs, traits, and concerns know they are motivated by different things? The themes of this section are population thinking, differences between motives and traits, awareness of what is motivating, and self-concept as a motivational system. Population thinking emphasizes the notion that every person is different. Chapter 8 (Drives, Needs, and Awareness) shows people differ in the intensity of their psychological needs. Individuals with stronger psychological needs or motives are pushed harder toward satisfaction. Chapter 9 (Personality and Self in Motivation) stresses population thinking by emphasizing differences in personality traits. Trait differences explain why people are attracted or repelled by different incentives.

What is the motivational distinction between psychological motives and personality traits? One distinction is that motives like drives and psychological needs push behavior, whereas traits do not. Drives are created through incentive deprivation. For example, food deprivation creates a hunger drive, which pushes or motivates a person to seek, attain, and eat food. Psychological needs are persistent deficits that push an individual toward activi- ties or incentives that provide satisfaction. If left unsatisfied, needs produce psychological ill health. Thus, people are motivated from within to satisfy their needs and attain psycho- logical health. The need to belong or affiliate, for example, pushes people to join clubs, organizations, fraternities, and sororities in order to satisfy this need. Personality traits, however, determine whether incentives are valued positively or negatively. To illustrate, for the trait of extraversion, extraverts positively value and are pulled to attend large, noisy parties. Introverts, in contrast, negatively value those parties and decline to attend.

Are people aware that they are motivated by their psychological needs and personal- ity traits? Although needs and traits affect the motivation of behavior, people may not be aware of the source of that motivation. They seem to act automatically but with limited in- sight as to why. This lack of awareness may result from the fact that needs and traits are con- sidered stable and unchanging. Stable needs and traits cannot explain why the same person behaves differently at different times. However, people differ in needs and traits, and this can account for differences in their behavior.



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Does how you view yourself in the present and in the future motivate your behavior? A person’s view of him- or herself defines self-concept, which is an organized system of knowledge about the self. Envisioned future selves may serve as positive or negative in- centives. A positive future self motivates approach behavior toward that end while a nega- tive future self motivates avoidance behavior, which is designed to prevent a negative self from happening. Self-esteem, however, refers to the outcome of an evaluation about the self. Self-esteem depends on the outcome of evaluations that occur in critical domains. Positive evaluations in important domains boost self-esteem and negative evaluations lower self-esteem.

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Drives, Needs, and Awareness

By annihilating desires you annihilate the mind. Every man without passions has within him no principle of action, nor motive to act.

—Claude Adrien Helvetius, 1715–1771

Body cannot determine mind to think, neither can mind determine body to motion or rest or any state different from these, if such there be.

—Benedict de Spinoza, 1677

■ The focus of this chapter is on motives—that is, the internal source of motivation. Keep that idea in mind as you consider the following questions, which introduce the contents of this chapter:

1. What are the differences among physiological needs, drives, and psychological needs?

2. What is the relationship between psychological needs and incentives?

3. Can needs be categorized and ranked for their potential to motivate behavior?

4. What are some of the major psychological needs that motivate behavior?

5. Is awareness of a need or incentive necessary before it can motivate behavior?

Drives and Needs as Internal Sources of Motivation How does one become a world renowned actor, a popular musician, a Nobel-prize winning scientist, or a gold medal-winning athlete? To reach this level of achievement, it is proba- bly necessary to be a genius, such as an acting, musical, scientific, or athletic genius. With this provision in place, one source of motivation for these achievements is the value placed on financial rewards, fame, winning, or the adoration received from others. The philoso- pher Schopenhauer (1851/1970), however, suggests that these incentives are not enough. The money may not be worth it and fame is too uncertain. In addition, the possibility that these incentives will be the result of one’s actions is vague, uncertain, and far in the future. Schopenhauer instead suggests that there are processes inside these individuals that will explain their motivation. He reasons that these individuals possess some inner force or drive that compels them toward their achievements. Schopenhauer likens this inner drive to an innate instinctual process that compels these individuals into action toward their goals as if they had no choice in the matter. This inner force is today labeled drive because it refers to


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TABLE 8.1 Internal and External Motivation and Likelihood of Behavior

Strength of Internal Motive

Strength of External Incentive Weak Strong

Weak Behavior not likely Behavior likely

Strong Behavior likely Behavior very likely

Note: The combined effects of internal and external sources of motivation must be strong enough to exceed the threshold in order for behavior to occur. For example, eating depends on the palatability of food (external) and the degree of hunger (internal).

that internal push, urge, or force that moves a person into action. It could also refer to psy- chological needs such as a very high need for achievement, competence, or autonomy. What internal drives and psychological needs do humans possess that motivate their behavior?

The purpose of this section is to contrast internal with external sources of motivation, with a major emphasis on internal sources such as drives and physiological and psycholog- ical needs. The section will conclude with a description of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and an evaluation of that hierarchy.

Interaction of Push and Pull Motivation As emphasized in Chapter 1, motivation comes from internal sources that push and from external sources that pull an individual. Internal motivation refers to drives and physiolog- ical and psychological needs, while external motivation concerns incentives and goals. The combined push and pull effects of internal and external sources must exceed some thresh- old for behavior to occur, as described in Table 8.1. When above the threshold, behavior oc- curs; when below, it does not (Kimble, 1990). Behavior can result from little external motivation, provided that there is a lot of internal motivation. For example, the food may not be very tasty but a hungry person will eat it. Or behavior can occur with little internal motivation, provided there is a lot of external motivation. For example, even though a per- son may not be very hungry, he will still eat a bowl of delicious ice cream. Internal moti- vation is the disposition to perform a particular action. It can be created through depriving an organism of an incentive such as food, water, or visual stimulation. In other instances, the disposition to respond is dormant, and a situational stimulus will arouse it. For instance, a psychological need such as the need for power could be activated by being a member of the police force, which allows for the legitimate exercise of power.

Physiological Needs and Psychological Drives There is a very important difference between physiological and psychological needs that is anchored in the distinction between materialism and mentalism. Physiological needs refer to deficits that exist in the material body or brain. Psychological needs, however, do not have any material existence and are mental or psychological in nature. There is reference to a deficit of some psychological entity; a discrepancy between a desired level and a current amount. In some cases, psychological needs are assumed to emerge into consciousness


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C H A P T E R E I G H T / Drives, Needs, and Awareness 185

from physiological needs. Murray (1938), for instance, assumed that psychological needs emerged from processes that occurred in the brain. However, the possible physiological ori- gin of psychological needs is usually ignored.

Need as the Physiological Basis for Motivation. Homeostasis (see Chapter 5) describes the maintenance of constant conditions within the body. Motivation theorists who emphasize internal events, such as Clark Hull (1943, 1951, 1952) and Judson Brown (1961), accepted the idea that a set of ideal internal conditions was necessary for survival. Deviation from these conditions defines physiological need and is responsible for pushing an organism into action. The need for food can correspond to a low amount of glucose in the blood. The need for putting on a sweater corresponds to a drop in body temperature below 98.6°F. The need for iron exists when the amount in the body is so low so that the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen is reduced. This condition results in feeling tired and weak and being unable to per- form manual work without extensive feelings of fatigue (Sizer & Whitney, 1997). Thus, a physiological need implies that it is possible to specify a deficit in a physiological state that is detrimental to a person’s physical well-being. Another category of need refers to sensory stimulation that exceeds a certain intensity thereby causing pain or harm. Excessive sensory stimulation occurs when french fries are too hot, the volume on the stereo is too loud, or the light in one’s eyes is too bright. Sensations of pain or discomfort are warnings of possible tis- sue damage and prompt the need to escape and avoid such stimulation.

Hull’s Drive Theory. Related to physiological need is psychological drive, which is a mo- tivational construct that results when an animal is deprived of a needed substance (Hull, 1943, 1951, 1952). Drive is the persistent internal stimulus or pushing action of a physio- logical need. Drive has several properties or characteristics (Hull, 1943, 1951, 1952). First, it energizes behavior by intensifying all responses in a particular situation. The more intense the drive, the more intense the behavior (Hull, 1943, 1952). This point is illustrated in an experiment by Hillman and associates (1953), who deprived two groups of rats of water for either 2 or 22 hours and then measured how long it took them to run a 10-unit T maze for a water reward. After 10 trials, one-half of each group remained at the original deprivation level, while the other half switched to the other deprivation level. For example, group 2-2 and group 22-22 remained at 2 and 22 hours of water deprivation, respectively, throughout the experiment. Group 2-22 switched from 2 to 22 hours of water deprivation after the first 10 trials, while group 22-2 switched from 22 to 2 hours of water deprivation. According to Hull’s theory, 22 hours of water deprivation corresponds to high thirst drive, while 2 hours of water deprivation corresponds to low drive. High drive should multiply or intensify instrumental behavior much more than low drive. As shown in Figure 8.1, the rats took less time to run the maze under high drive than under low drive. The interpretation based on drive theory is that high drive is a more intense source of internal motivation than low drive.

A second characteristic is that each drive has its own unique internal sensations that serve as internal stimuli for guiding behavior. For example, hunger and thirst feel different and provide the basis for knowing when to eat and when to drink. Leeper (1935) used thirst and hunger drives as cues for rats to choose the correct goal box when water or food de- prived. In his experimental apparatus, rats had to make a choice between an alley leading to food and another alley leading to water. The rats learned to choose the alley leading to


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R u

n n

in g

T im

e (m

ea n

lo g


1 0.0





2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Group 2-2 Group 22-22 Group 22-2 Group 2-22

Rats speed up (group 2-22)

Rats slow down (group 22-2)

FIGURE 8.1 Intensity of Drive and Running Behavior. Effects of deprivation time on mean log time to run a 10-unit T maze for a water reward by water-deprived rats. Note the increase in running time immediately after the 22-2 hour shift and the decrease in running time after the 2-22 hour shift.

Source: From “The Effect of Drive Level on the Maze Performance of the White Rat” by B. Hillman et al., 1953, Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 46, figure 1. Copyright 1953 by American Psychological Association. Reprinted by permission.

food on food-deprived days and to choose the alley leading to water on water-deprived days. Thus, hunger drive stimuli became associated with the location of food, and thirst drive stimuli became associated with the location of water. A third characteristic of drive is that it motivates the individual to behave in order to reduce its intensity. Hull considered drive to be unpleasant. In fact, he felt that “Bentham’s concept of pain is equated substantially to our own [Hull’s] concept of need” (Hull, 1952, p. 341). Recall from Chapter 2 that Bentham (1789/1970) is the utilitarian philosopher who claimed that people are under the governance of two masters: pain and pleasure. Humans are motivated to reduce drive—that is, to get rid of any painful or unpleasant feeling. Since drive is characterized as being painful, then the behavior that reduces it will be more likely to occur. Eating reduces an unpleasant hunger drive, and drinking reduces an unpleasant thirst drive. The importance of Hull’s drive con- cept is that drive motivates the voluntary behavior that restores homeostasis. Drive moti- vates an individual to reduce feelings of hunger, thirst, or internal temperature deviation, thus maximizing the conditions necessary for well-being and life.

Characteristics of Psychological Needs The definition of psychological needs parallels that of physiological needs since both center on the notion of a deficit. In the case of a psychological need, there is a deficit between a per- son’s desired or set point level and the current level of the matching incentive or behavior.

Chronic or Temporary Psychological Needs. Psychological needs are chronic if a per- son desires some incentive or behavior of which she is habitually deprived. For example, if


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a person has a large appetite for social inclusion then she might be chronically unsatisfied if the current social environment does not provide enough social inclusion. A person might have an enduring need for cognition if she is consistently deprived of her daily opportunity to solve Sudoku or crossword puzzles. However, psychological needs can also be temporary and are aroused occasionally. In this case, it is as if psychological needs are preexisting but remain dormant until aroused by the appropriate stimulus situation. When aroused, the psy- chological need serves as a motive that reminds a person of the discrepancy between his current situation and a final desired state (McClelland et al., 1953). Redintegration describes the process by which a need is activated or restored (Murray, 1938). For example, a safety need is aroused or redintegrated when an unlighted parking lot late at night is discrepant from a person’s ideal level of lighting. The aroused safety need produces a hurried pace to reach one’s car and drive away. The need to achieve is activated or redintegrated by the sight of a textbook, reminding a student of the discrepancy between his current knowledge and the amount necessary to succeed on an exam. The resulting need state or achievement motive leads to studying a textbook to reduce the discrepancy. Stimuli activate, redinte- grate, or restore psychological needs because they have been associated with the arousal characteristics of needs in the past (McClelland et al., 1953). To illustrate, the presence of people arouses the need for affiliation, and textbooks arouse the need to achieve, because in the past these stimuli have been associated with feelings of affiliation and achievement.

Using Needs to Explain Behavior. A final consideration involves demonstrating the relationship between need intensity and need-satisfying behavior. Do people differ in their intensities of psychological needs? How is a person’s level of need intensity measured? These questions cannot be answered by measuring behavior that is instrumental in satis- fying the need, since this behavior could have resulted from other factors. For example, if a person’s residence hall room is neat and tidy, does that mean she has a high need for or- der (Murray, 1938)? Or could it be she is just expecting company or likes being able to find things easily? If the concept of need is used to explain behavior, then two steps are neces- sary: measuring need intensity and showing its relationship with behavior satisfying the need. First, psychologists measure need level with a valid scale or questionnaire. Just as the number on the bathroom scale reflects the amount a person weighs, the score on a need scale reflects the intensity of a need. Second, need scale scores must correlate with be- havior instrumental in satisfying the need. Thus, when need is high, there must be a greater amount of need-satisfying behavior than when need is low. For example, the greater a per- son’s measured need for affiliation, the more friends he visits and telephones (Lansing & Heyns, 1959). In the next few sections, we will examine how various psychological needs are measured and the relationship between specific needs and behavior.

Maslow’s Theory of Needs Are all needs equally important or are some more potent than others? One view is that there are categories of needs that differ in their potency to motivate behavior.

Abraham Maslow (1970) constructed a hierarchy of needs: physiological, safety, belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization. These needs are organized into five tiers whereby the lower tier of needs is more likely to be acted on first, followed by needs at higher tiers (see Figure 8.2). Notice that in ascending the hierarchy, needs have been


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Category of Need

D eg

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N ee

d Is

N o

t S

at is

fi ed

Physiological 0





Safety Belonging Esteem Self-Actualization

FIGURE 8.2 Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Physiological needs are most readily satisfied, and self-actualization needs are least easily satisfied. A person works to satisfy these needs in a hier- archical fashion, with the most time spent on the most potent need, which is lowest on the hierar- chy, then working up the hierarchy to the next potent need.

satisfied less and less. Physiological needs are based on homeostasis and include food, water, and a generally balanced internal state. Maslow also includes sexual, sleep, and activity needs in this category. Once physiological needs are addressed, then safety needs begin to emerge. Safety needs refer to the absence of fear, anxiety, and chaos and the presence of security, stability, dependency, and law and order. With the satisfaction of safety needs, next on the hierarchy are the belonging needs. In order to satisfy these needs, humans seek to establish social relationships with friends, lovers, and family members. Without these relationships the individual feels rejected and lonely. Next on the hierarchy are esteem needs, which concern the respect of self and the respect of oth- ers. These needs involve achievement, adequacy, mastery, and competence plus the pres- tige, fame, and glory derived from the recognition of others. Finally, at the top of the hierarchy is the most elusive of all needs, the need for self-actualization. This refers to the need to fulfill and utilize one’s abilities and talents to the fullest in whatever area one chooses.

The Need Satisfaction Inventory (Lester, 1990) in Table 8.2 provides a possible means for testing whether needs are indeed arranged in this hierarchy. The inventory measures the degree to which a person has satisfied each need category. The inventory has face validity, which means that its items appear to measure what they are supposed to (i.e., “on the face of it”). Thus, question 36, regarding the amount of exercise, would help determine the sat- isfaction of your physiological needs, while question 10, regarding whether life has mean- ing, is valid for determining satisfaction of your self-actualization needs. If Maslow’s (1970) theory is correct, then Lester’s inventory should show a decreasing amount of need satisfaction going up the hierarchy. In other words, a person’s physiological and safety needs should be satisfied more than her esteem and self-actualization needs.


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C H A P T E R E I G H T / Drives, Needs, and Awareness 189

TABLE 8.2 Need Satisfaction Inventory

For the 50 statements listed below, use the scale to indicate the extent you agree with each statement. Read each statement carefully and answer with your first impulse.

�3 � Strongly disagree �2 � Disagree �1 � Slightly disagree 0 � Neither disagree nor agree

�1 � Slightly agree �2 � Agree �3 � Strongly agree

Physiological Needs 1. I never have trouble getting to sleep at night. 6. I have an income that is adequate to satisfy my needs.

11. I get an adequate amount of rest. 16. I have a satisfactory sex life. 21. In general, my health is good. 26. In winter, I always feel too cold. (R) 31. I eat enough to satisfy my physiological needs. 36. I get an adequate amount of exercise. 41. There’s usually some part of my body that is giving me trouble. (R) 46. The summers are too hot for me ever to feel comfortable. (R)

Safety and Security 2. I think the world is a pretty safe place these days. 7. I would not walk alone in my neighborhood at night. (R)

12. My anxiety level is high. (R) 17. I feel secure about the amount of money I have and earn. 22. I feel safe and secure. 27. I am afraid to stay in my house/apartment alone at night. (R) 32. My life is orderly and well-defined. 37. I can depend on others to help me when I am in need. 42. I am often worried about my physical health. (R) 47. My life has a nice routine to it.

Belonging 3. I know my family will support me and be on my side no matter what. 8. I am involved in a significant love relationship with another.

13. I feel rootless. (R) 18. I have a group of friends with whom I do things. 23. I feel somewhat socially isolated. (R) 28. I have a few intimate friends on whom I can rely. 33. I feel close to my relatives. 38. I am interested in my ethnic roots and feel a kinship with others in my ethnic group. 43. I am religious and consider myself to be a member of a religious group. 48. I am able to confide my innermost thoughts and feelings to at least one close and intimate


Esteem 4. I feel dissatisfied with myself much of the time. (R) 9. I feel respected by my peers.



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TABLE 8.2 (Continued )

14. I seldom have fears that my actions will cause my friends to have a low opinion of me. 19. I can stand on my own two feet. 24. I feel confident in my present field of endeavor. 29. I would describe myself as a self-confident person. 34. I have earned the respect of others. 39. I do not spend much time worrying about what people think of me. 44. I feel that I am a worthy person. 49. In groups, I usually feel that my opinions are inferior to those of other people. (R)

Self-Actualization 5. I have a good idea of what I want to do with my life.

10. My life has meaning. 15. I am uncertain about my goals in life. (R) 20. I feel I am living up to my potential. 25. I am seeking maturity. 30. I find my work challenging. 35. I know what my capabilities are and what I cannot do. 40. I feel I am doing the best I am capable of. 45. I feel that I am growing as a person. 50. My educational achievements are appropriate given my ability.

Note: To score, first reverse your answer for the items followed by an (R). For example, change a �2 to a �2 and change a �1 to a �1. Sum your score in each category. A higher score means a greater amount of need satisfaction for that category.

Source: From “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Personality” by D. Lester, 1990, Personality and Individual Differences, 11, p. 1188. Copyright 1990 by Elsevier Science Ltd. Reprinted by permission.

Section Recap The body requires an ideal set of internal conditions for its well-being, and any deviation from these conditions produces a physiological need. Whenever an organism is deprived of a needed substance, a psychological drive results. This hypothetical construct is felt as un- pleasant and thus motivates and guides the organism to search for the appropriate incentive that reduces the drive. A psychological need is an internal motive to achieve a desired end- state. Needs exist permanently because the environment does not provide the means for sat- isfaction. Or needs lie dormant until activated by the appropriate stimulus situation through a process known as redintegration. There are two requirements for using psychological needs to explain behavior. One is to measure the intensity of a psychological need; the second is to show that this intensity correlates with the magnitude of need-satisfying behavior. A very in- fluential need theory is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which includes physiological, safety, belongingness, self-esteem, and self-actualization needs. Needs must be satisfied from the lower tier on up. For example, physiological and safety needs must be satisfied to some extent before a person can begin satisfying needs higher up in the hierarchy.


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C H A P T E R E I G H T / Drives, Needs, and Awareness 191

Some Important Psychological Needs As described in Chapter 2, from Georges Le Roy in 1764 to Henry Murray in 1938, stu- dents of human motivation have speculated on the existence of a wide variety of needs. Of these needs, seven have become important for the motivation of behavior: achievement, power, cognition, esteem, autonomy, competence, and relatedness. This last need has also been labeled the need to affiliate or to belong. The purpose of this section is to describe these needs in more detail.

Achievement Motivation The motive or need to achieve has been a theme in popular literature. In a long series of books described as “rags to riches stories,” the 19th-century author Horatio Alger, Jr., implied that the road to success is by way of persistence and hard work. The main theme of all of Alger’s stories is the motive to achieve or need to achieve (Tebel, 1963). Beginning with Murray (1938), the need to achieve has also been a popular theme with researchers and has proba- bly received more attention from psychologists than any other psychological need.

Need to Achieve and Need to Avoid Failure. The need to achieve or motive to achieve success (Ms) is a disposition to engage in task-oriented behavior or achievement behavior. It is characterized by doing things better than before or surpassing a high external or inter- nal standard of excellence. The standards can be defined on the job, in sports, or in school and are based on the performance of others or on the person’s own standards. The achieve- ment motive is assumed to be dormant until activated by an associated achievement cue (McClelland et al., 1953), such as the sight of textbooks, instruments, or tools.

Do all individuals concentrate on achievement, or do some simply want to avoid failure? In addition to the motive to achieve success (Ms), people also vary in their moti- vation to avoid failure. The motive to avoid failure is the opposite of the need to achieve and inhibits a person from attempting achievement tasks (Atkinson, 1957/1983). Motive to avoid failure (Maf) is characterized by anxiety and fear about failing a task. The strength of Ms and Maf combine to determine the tendency to attempt an achievement task (Atkinson, 1974). On the one hand, Ms motivates an individual to engage in the task, while on the other, Maf motivates the individual to avoid tackling the task. Individuals in whom Ms is greater than Maf (Ms > Maf) are more likely to pursue achievement tasks, while individuals in whom Maf is greater than Ms (Maf > Ms) are more likely to avoid them (Atkinson, 1958/1983). Thus, individuals are attracted to and repelled from achieving a task to a degree consistent with the strength of these two motives. For example, in selecting a major or a final career goal, students are driven toward their choices by their Ms but at the same time are inhibited from pursuing those choices by their Maf. For instance, if a student has a career goal to become a marriage and family counselor, then her Ms pushes her toward that goal while at the same time her Maf pushes her away from it.

Measuring the Need to Achieve and Need to Avoid Failure. Claims about the rela- tionship between Ms and Maf and achievement behavior are based on the measurement of each construct. How does a psychologist determine the extent of an individual’s Ms and Maf? This section examines various procedures that are used to measure each construct.

If the need to achieve is dormant, then the test used to measure it must also activate it. This is one of the reasons different projective tests have been employed to measure the


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FIGURE 8.3 Picture Resembling One from Thematic Apperception Test. The picture shows two women in lab coats and resembles one of the actual TAT pictures. Need to achieve is measured by evaluating respondents’ answers to questions about this and other pictures in the test.

Source: Photo © The Stock Market Agency/William Taufic.

need to achieve (Fineman, 1977). In a projective test a person verbally responds to an unstructured stimulus, such as an inkblot, in a manner that is presumably consistent with her activated motives. McClelland and associates (1953) adapted a projective test procedure pioneered by Murray (1938) known as the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). The TAT con- sists of a series of pictures of people in ambiguous but potential achievement settings. The respondent is instructed to tell a story, which the picture may hint at but does not contain. Figure 8.3 resembles the TAT picture of two women in lab coats (McClelland, 1975, p. 387). To a series of such pictures, participants are asked the following questions:

1. “What is happening? Who are the persons?” 2. “What has led up to this situation? That is, what has happened in the past?” 3. “What is being thought? What is wanted? By whom?” 4. “What will happen? What will be done?” (McClelland et al., 1953, p. 98)

What determines whether a person tells a story with an achievement theme? The analyses provided in Table 8.1 provide the basis for the answer. Whether a story is indica- tive of achievement motivation depends on the strength of a person’s dormant achievement motive and the instigating force of the TAT card (Tuerlinckx et al., 2002). If either motive strength or TAT card force increases, then the likelihood of an achievement story increases. An individual with a strong need to achieve, however, is more likely to respond with achieve- ment imagery regardless of the force of the TAT card. Answers to the TAT-relevant questions


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are scored for achievement motivation based on references to competition with a standard of excellence, a unique accomplishment, or long-term involvement. For example, a protocol might state that the two women in lab coats have been working for many years (long-term involvement) developing a vaccine that has no negative side effects (high standard of excel- lence), which no one has ever accomplished before (unique accomplishment).

The TAT as a measure of the achievement motive has not escaped criticism. Entwisle (1972) challenged the reliability of the TAT pictures used to measure the need to achieve. The TAT has low reliability, which means that each picture is not measuring the need to achieve consistently. However, this is to be expected, since not every picture is equally forceful in evoking achievement imagery (Tuerlinckx et al., 2002). Also, test-retest relia- bility of the pictures is low, which means that from one week to the next, for example, individuals’ need-to-achieve scores seem to fluctuate. This is an important point because the need to achieve is assumed to be a stable motive. Additional criticism comes from Klinger (1966), who questioned the validity of TAT measures. He found many studies show- ing no relationship between TAT measures and achievement-relevant behavior such as school grades. However, more recent analyses by Spangler (1992) indicate that a large number of studies found a positive correlation between TAT measures of achievement mo- tivation and achievement behavior. Furthermore, many psychologists researching the area maintain that the TAT is a valid measure not only of the need to achieve but also of the need for affiliation and the need for power (Smith, 1992).

One solution to the problems of reliability and validity inherent in projective tests is to construct questionnaires that are structured and less open to interpretation. Objective tests serve that purpose. The Achievement Motives Scale is a short questionnaire, revised by Lang and Fries (2006), that was designed to measure both the motive to achieve success and the motive to avoid failure. For example, to what extent do you agree with the statements: “I am attracted to tasks, in which I can test my abilities” and “If I do not understand a prob- lem immediately, I start to feel anxious” (p. 221)? The first statement measures the motive to achieve success while the second statement measures the motive to avoid failure. Several studies verified that the Achievement Motives Scale was a valid measure of the motive for success (Ms) and the fear of failure (Maf).

Factors That Affect Achievement Motivation Individuals high in Ms or Maf show their differences in three important aspects of achieve- ment behavior: difficulty of a task, probability of achieving a task, and persistence in trying to achieve a task.

Probability and Incentive Value of Task Success. Whether a person pursues an achievement task also depends on estimates of the probability of successfully achieving the task and on the incentive value of that success. In other words: “What are the chances I can do it, and what is the value of doing it?” The probability and incentive value of success can be portrayed as opposite sides of the same coin. Atkinson (1957/1983, 1974) assumed that the incentive value of a task is inversely related to how difficult it is to achieve. The greater the difficulty of succeeding at a task, the higher its incentive value. The difficulty of a task is based on a person’s subjective estimate of the probability of suc- cessfully achieving it. To illustrate, imagine a course that has a reputation of being very easy; almost everyone earns an A. A student might rate the probability of earning an A to be very high, and so the incentive value of earning an A is quite low. Imagine a differentIS


0- 55

8- 46

77 0-


Motivation: Biological, Psychological, and Environmental, Third Edition, by Lambert Deckers. Published by Allyn & Bacon. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.



194 P A R T T H R E E / Psychological Properties of Motivation

course that has the reputation of being tough; very few students earn an A. A student might rate the subjective probability of earning an A to be very low, and so the incentive value of earning an A is quite high. Thus, in general as the subjective probability of success (Ps) decreases, the incentive value of success (Is) increases according to the formula:

Is� 1� Ps

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