Basic Concepts

Motives are internal states that arouse and direct behavior toward specific objects o goals. A motive is often caused by a deficit, a lack of something; for example, if a per son has not eaten for many hours, he or she is motivated by hunger . Motives dif fer from each other in both type and amount. Hunger dif fers from thirst, for example, and both of these differ from the motive to achieve and excel. Motives dif fer in intensity, depending on the person and his or her circumstances. For example, the strength of the hunger motive varies considerably , depending on whether a person has merely skipped a meal or has not eaten for several days. Also, motives are often based on needs, states of tension within a person. As a need is satisfied, the state of tension i reduced. The state of tension is caused by a deficit—for instance, lack of food cause a need to eat. The need to eat creates the motive of hunger . The motive of hunger, in turn, causes the person to seek out food, to think about food constantly , and perhaps even to see food in objects not normally thought of as food. For example, a hungry

1In the 2000 Olympics at Sydney, Michael Johnson again won the gold medal in the 400-meter race but had to drop out of competition in the 200-meter race.


(have not eaten today)

Motive (hunger)

Thoughts and fantasies (thinking about food, fantasizing about a big meal, perceiving that a rock looks like a loaf of bread, etc.)

Behaviors intended to satisfy the need (go to the store, buy food, bring it home, cook it)

Figure 11.1

Deficits lead to a need, which leads to a motive to satisfy that need, either in realit , by fostering specifi actions, or in fantasy, by creating thoughts that are satisfying.

person gazing at the sky might exclaim, "W ow, that cloud looks just like a hamburger." Motives propel people to perceive, think, and act in specific ways that sat isfy the need. Figure 11.1 illustrates the relation between needs and motives. As you will see in the section on self-actualization later in this chapter , some motives are not based on deficit needs, but rather are based on growth needs

Motives belong in the intrapsychic domain for several reasons. First, researchers who study motives have stressed the importance of internal psychological needs and urges that propel people to think, perceive, and act in certain predictable ways. Motives can be unconscious, in the sense that the person does not know explicitly what he or she wants. Just as people may not be fully aware of why they engage in particular fantasies, they may not be consciously aware of what compels them to act in certain ways. This similarity leads to another feature shared by psychologists interested in motives and other intrapsychic constructs—the reliance on projective techniques. Motive psychologists, like psychoanalysts, believe that fantasies, free associations, and responses to projective techniques reveal the unconscious motivation behind many thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (Barenbaum & Winter, 2003).

Motive psychologists also share some core ideas with dispositional psychologists, whose work we covered in Part One of this book. Like dispositional psychologists, motive psychologists stress that (1) people dif fer from one another in the type and strength of their motives; (2) these dif ferences are measurable; (3) these dif ferences cause or are associated with important life outcomes, such as business success or marital satisfaction; (4) differences between people in the relative amounts of various motives are stable over time; and (5) motives may provide one answer to the question "Why do people do what they do?" The motive approach can be thought of as a halfway point between the intrapsychic domain and the dispositional domain (Winter, John, Stewart, Klohnen, & Duncan, 1998). We will discuss motives as we examine the intrapsychic domain because of the view that motives exist within the psyche and can operate outside of conscious awareness to af fect everyday behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.

One of the first researchers to develop a modern theory of motivation was Hem-Murray, a psychologist active in research from the 1930s through the 1960s. The path that ultimately led Murray to a career in psychology was decidedly untraditional. He went to medical school, became a physician, and interned in sur gery. Murray then pursued research in embryology, followed by a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Cambridge University. While studying in England, Murray went to Zurich during spring break in 1925 to visit the famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung (see Chapter 9). He met with Jung every day for three weeks, meetings from which he "emer ged a reborn man" (Murray, reprinted in Shneidman, 1981, p. 54). His encounter with psychoanalysis had a profound impact on Murray , leading him to abandon his medical practice and research and to turn his attention entirely to psychology . Murray was then trained in psychoanalysis and accepted a position at Harvard, where he remained until his retirement (Murray, 1967).


Murray began by defining the term need, a concept he viewed as similar to the analytic concept of drive. In a nutshell, according to Murray , a need is a "potentiality or readiness to respond in a certain way under certain given circumstances. . . . It is a noun which stands for the fact that a certain trend is apt to recur" (Murray, 1938, p. 124). Needs organize perception, guiding us to see what we want (or need) to see. For example, someone who has a high need for power , a need to influence others may see even everyday social situations as opportunities to boss others around.

A need also organizes action by compelling a person to do what is necessary to fulfill the need. A person who has a need to achieve, for example, often makes sacrifices and works hard at the task in which he or she wants to excel. Murray believe that needs referred to states of tension and that satisfying the need reduces the tension. According to Murray, however, it was the process of reducing tension that the person found satisfying, not the tensionless state per se. Murray believed that people might actually seek to increase tension (e.g., by going on a roller -coaster ride or viewing a horror movie) in order to experience the pleasure of reducing that tension (i.e., to end the roller coaster ride or the horror movie).

Based on his research with the Of fice for Strategic Services (a forerunner of th Central Intelligence Agency), Murray proposed a list of fundamental human needs, some of which are described in T able 11.1. Each need is associated with (1) a specifi desire or intention, (2) a particular set of emotions, and (3) specific action tendencies and each need can be described with trait names. Consider the need for af filiation which is the desire to win and maintain associations with people. The primary set of emotions associated with this need are interpersonal warmth, cheerfulness, and coop-erativeness, and the associated action tendencies are accepting people, spending time with others, and making ef forts to maintain contact with others. The associated traits that characterize people with a strong need for af filiation are attributes such as agree ableness, friendliness, loyalty, and goodwill.

Murray believed that each person had a unique hierarchy of needs. An individual's various needs can be thought of as existing at dif ferent levels of strength— for instance, a person might have a high need for dominance, an average need for affiliation, and a low need for achievement. Each need interacts with the various othe needs within each person. This interaction is what makes the concept of motive dynamic. The term dynamic is used to refer to the mutual influence of forces withi a person—in this case, the interaction of various motives within a person. To return

Table 11.1 A Brief Description of Several of Murray's Needs, Organized into Five Higher-Level Categories

Ambition Needs_

• Achievement: To master, manipulate, or organize others, objects, or ideas. To accomplish difficult tasks, and to do this as rapidly and independently as possible. To overcome obstacles and excel. To surpass rivals by exercising talent.

• Exhibition: To be seen and heard, to be the center of attention. To make an impression on others. To excite, fascinate, entertain, intrigue, amuse, entice, or amaze others.

• Order: To put things in orderly arrangement, to desire cleanliness, organization, balance, neatness, and precision.

Needs to Defend Status_

• Dominance: To seek to influence or direct the behavior of others by persuasion, command, suggestion, or seduction. To control one's environment, particularly the social environment. To restrain or prohibit others.

Needs Related to Social Power_

• Abasement: To accept injury, criticism, and blame. To submit passively to external force, to resign oneself to fate. To admit inferiority, error, or wrongdoing. To confess and atone and seek pain and misfortune.

• Aggression: To overcome opposition forcefully. To avenge an injury. To attack, injure, or kill another. To forcefully punish or oppose another.

• Autonomy: To shake off restraint, break out of confines. To get free, to resist coercion and restriction. To avoid being domineered. To be free to act according to one's wishes and to remain unattached.

• Blame-avoidance: To avoid humiliation at all costs. To avoid situations that may lead to embarrassment or belittlement. To refrain from action because of fear of failure or worry over the scorn, derision, or indifference from others.

Social Affection Needs_

• Affiliation: To enjoy cooperation or reciprocal interaction with similar others. To draw near to others. To please and win affection of those you like. To remain loyal to friends.

• Nurturance: To take care of others in need, to give sympathy and gratify the needs of helpless others, such as a child, or someone who is weak, disabled, inexperienced, infirm, humiliated, lonely, dejected, or confused. To assist persons in danger. To help, support, console, protect, comfort, nurse, feed, and heal others.

• Succor: To receive aid from others. To have one's needs gratified by another, to be nursed, supported, protected, advised, indulged, loved, and consoled. To always have a supporter or a devoted protector.

Source: Adapted from Murray, H. A. (1938). Explorations in personality. New York: Oxford University Press.

to our person with a high need for dominance, it would make a big dif ference in her overall behavior if her need for dominance were accompanied with a high or low need for affiliation. If her high need for dominance were coupled with a high need for a fil iation (e.g., a strong desire to develop and maintain relationships), then she would most likely develop the social and leadership skills to make others comfortable with her dominance. If her high need for dominance were combined with a weak need for affiliation, in contrast, then she might simply exercise power over others withou regard to their feelings. She might impress others as ar gumentative, quarrelsome, and just plain disagreeable and bossy .


Another important contribution of Murray to personality psychology was a specific wa of thinking about the environment. According to Murray , elements in the environment affected a person' s needs. For example, a person with a high need for af filiation might b sensitive to the social aspects of his or her environment, such as how many people are present, whether they are interacting, and whether or not they look approachable and outgoing. Murray used the term press to refer to need-relevant aspects of the environment. A person's need for af filiation, for example, won t affect that person's behavior without an appropriate environmental press (such as the presence of friendly people). People with a high need for af filiation would be more likely to notice other people, and to see mor opportunities for interaction with others, than someone with a low need for af filiation

Murray also introduced the notion that there is a so-called real environment (which he called alpha press, or objective reality) and a perceived environment (called beta press, or reality-as-it-is-perceived). In any given situation, what one person sees may be different from what other people see. Consider what might happen if two people are walking down the street and a third person approaches and smiles at each of them. One person who is high on the need for af filiation might see the smile as a sig of friendliness and a nonverbal invitation to start a conversation. The other person who is low on the need for af filiation might see the same smile as a smirk and consequentl become suspicious that the stranger is laughing at them. Objectively (alpha press), it was the same smile. Subjectively (beta press), it was a very dif ferent event for these two persons, due to their dif ferences in the need for af filiation. The need for af filiatio can be distinguished from the need for intimacy . People high on the need for af filia tion seek out relationships, build social networks, and find approval from others ver satisfying. They tend to prefer being part of a team rather than acting as an individual. The need for intimacy, on the other hand, refers specifically to the need for close warm, and loving relationships with others.

Apperception and the TAT

Murray held that a person' s needs influenced how he or she perceived the environ ment, especially when the environment is ambiguous (as when a stranger smiles at the person). The act of interpreting the environment and perceiving the meaning of what is going on in a situation is termed apperception (Murray, 1933). Because our needs and motives influence apperception, if we want to know about a person s primary motives, we might ask that individual to interpret what is going on in a variety of situations, especially ambiguous situations.

The simple insight that needs and motives influence how we perceive the worl led Murray and his research associate Christiana Mor gan to develop a formal technique for assessing these two constructs (Mor gan & Murray, 1935). They called this the Thematic Apperception Test (or TAT, for short). The TAT consists of a set of black-and-white drawings, which are ambiguous. The person is then asked to make up a story about what is happening in the picture. For example, in the drawing of a person on a windowsill, the person may be going in (to rob the house?) or going out (jumping to commit suicide?). Some pictures contain no people at all, such as a picture of a rowboat on the shore of a small creek. Such pictures are perhaps the most ambiguous: Who put the rowboat there? Are they coming or going? Why are they not in the picture right now? It is easy to make up a story because the picture is so ambiguous with respect to what is happening.

— ., . ■ ' '? V ^'v'i

This photo, obtained from U.S. Government archives, was used by Morgan and Murray as one of the TAT pictures. Can you make up a story about the child in this photo? What do you think happens next?

In administering the TAT, a person is shown each picture and told to be creative and make up a short story , interpreting what is happening in each picture. He or she is encouraged to tell a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The psychologist then codes the stories for the presence of various types of imagery associated with particular motives. For example, a subject might write the following: "The boat in the picture is being used by a young boy to take produce to market. The boy has stopped to gather some wild berries to take to the market to sell, along with his farm produce. This boy works very hard and eventually grows up, puts himself through college, and become a famous scientist, specializing in the study of plants, primarily agricultural crops." This story has a lot of achievement imagery , so the subject who wrote it would be seen to have a high need for achievement.

Morgan and Murray published the TAT in 1935. Since then, many researchers have modified its administration (e.g., using fewer cards, selecting other drawings and using a slide projector to show the pictures to lar ge groups). Because the pictures in the original TAT are dated (e.g., clothing and hair are styles from the 1950s), newer versions of TAT-type pictures have been developed and found to function similarly to the original set in terms of soliciting need-relevant themes (Schultheiss & Brunstein, 2001). The essential features of the TAT and similar projective techniques are that (1) the subject is given an ambiguous stimulus, usually a picture, and (2) he or she is asked to describe and interpret what is going on.

Morgan and Murray did not derive a formal scoring system for the TAT, and instead preferred simply to interpret a person' s level on the various needs. Other researchers worked to develop and validate objective scoring strategies for the TAT (Winter, 1998a, 1999). Take the need for achievement motive, which can be scored

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