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Motives refer to internal states that arouse and direct behavior toward specific objects or goals. A motive is often caused by a deficit, by the lack of something. Motives differ from each other in type, amount, and intensity, depending on the person and his or her circumstances. Motives are based on needs and propel people to perceive, think, and act in specific ways that serve to satisfy those needs.


Needs refer to states of tension within a person; as a need is satisfied, the state of tension is reduced. Usually the state of tension is caused by the lack of something (for example, a lack of food causes a need to eat).

hierarchy of needs

Murray believed that each person has a unique combination of needs. An individual's various needs can be thought of as existing at a different level of strength. A person might have a high need for dominance, an average need for intimacy, and a low need for achievement. High levels of some needs interact with the amounts of various other needs within each person.


Dynamic refers to the interaction of forces within a person.


Murray used the term press to refer to need-relevant aspects of the environment. A person's need for intimacy, for example, won't affect that person's behavior without an appropriate environmental press (such as the presence of friendly people).

alpha and beta press

Murray introduced the notion that there is a real environment ("alpha press" or "objective reality") and a perceived environment ("beta press" or "reality-as-it-is-perceived"). In any situation, what one person "sees" may be different from what another "sees." If two people walk down a street and a third person smiles at each of them, objectively (alpha press), it is the same smile; subjectively (beta press), it may be a different event for the two people (e.g. happy smile or smirk).


The notion that a person's needs influenced how he or she perceives the environment, especially when the environment is ambiguous. The act of interpreting the environment and perceiving the meaning of what is going on in a situation is termed apperception.

thematic apperception technique

A projective assessment technique (by Murray and Morgan) which consists of a set of black and white ambiguous pictures. The person is shown each picture and is told to write a short story interpreting what is happening in each picture. The psychologist then codes the stories for the presence of imagery associated with particular motives. The TAT remains a popular personality assessment technique today.

state levels

A concept that can be applied to motives and emotions, state levels refer to a person's momentary amount of a specific need or emotion, which can fluctuate with specific circumstances.

trait levels

A concept that can be applied to motives and emotions, trait levels refer to a persons average tendency, or his or her set-point, on the specific motive or emotion. The idea is that people differ from each other in their typical or average amount of specific motives or emotions.

multi-motive grid

The multi-motive grid, designed to assess motives, uses 14 pictures representing achievement, power, or intimacy and a series of questions about important motivational states to elicit answers from test subjects. In theory, the motives elicited from the photographs would influence how the subject answers the test questions.

implicit motivation

Implicit motivation refers to motives as they are measured in fantasy-based (i.e., TAT) techniques, as opposed to direct self-report measures. The implied motives of persons scored, is thought to reveal their unconscious desires and aspirations, their unspoken needs and wants. McClelland has argued that implicit motives predict long-term behavioral trends over time, such as implicit need for achievement predicting long-term business success.

self-attributed motivation

McClelland argued that self-attributed motivation is primarily a person's self-awareness of his or her own conscious motives. These self-attributed motives reflect a person's conscious awareness about what is important to him or her. As such, they represent part of the individual's conscious self-understanding. McClelland has argued that self-attributed motives predict responses to immediate and specific situations and to choice behaviors and attitudes. See also implicit motives.

need for achievement

The need for achievement, according to McClelland, is the desire to do better, to be successful, and to feel competent. A person with a high need for achievement obtains satisfaction from accomplishing a task or from the anticipation of accomplishing a task. They cherish the process of being engaged in a challenging task.

independence training

McClelland believes that certain parental behaviors can promote high achievement motivation, autonomy, and independence in their children. One of these parenting practices is placing an emphasis on independence training. Training a child to be independent in different tasks promotes a sense of mastery and confidence in the child.

need for power

Winter defines the need for power as a preference for having an impact on other people. Individuals with a high need for power are interested in controlling situations and other people.

responsibility training

Life experiences that provide opportunities to learn to behave responsibly, such as having younger siblings to take care of while growing up. Moderates the gender difference in impulsive behaviors associated with need for power.

power stress

According to David McClelland, when people do not get their way, or when their power is challenged or blocked, they are likely to show strong stress responses or "power stress." This stress has been linked to diminished immune function and increased illness in longitudinal studies.

need for intimacy

McAdams defines the need for intimacy as the "recurrent preference or readiness for warm, close, and communicative interaction with others" (1990, p. 198). People with a high need for intimacy want more intimacy and meaningful human contact in their day-to-day lives than do those with a low need for intimacy.

humanistic tradition

Humanistic psychologists emphasize the role of choice in human life, and the influence of responsibility on creating a meaningful and satisfying life. The meaning of any person's life, according to the humanistic approach, is found in the choices that person makes and the responsibility they take for those choices. The humanistic tradition also emphasizes the human need for growth and realizing one's full potential. In the humanistic tradition it is assumed that, if left to their own devices, humans will grow and develop in positive and satisfying directions.

physiological needs

At the base of Maslow's need hierarchy are the physiological needs. These include those needs that are of prime importance to the immediate survival of the individual (the need for food, water, air, sleep) as well as to the long-term survival of the species (the need for sex).

safety needs

At the second to lowest level of Maslow's need hierarchy are the safety needs. These needs have to do with shelter and security, such as having a place to live and being free from the threat of danger. Maslow believed that building a life that was orderly, structured, and predictable also fell under safety needs.

belongingness needs

At the third level of Maslow's motivation hierarchy are belongingness needs. Humans are a very social species, and most people possess a strong need to belong to groups. Being accepted by others and welcomed into a group represents a somewhat more psychological need than the physiological needs or the need for safety.

esteem needs

At the fourth level Maslow's motivation hierarchy are esteem needs. There are two types of esteem: esteem from others and self-esteem, the latter often depending on the former. People want to be seen by others as competent, as strong, and as able to achieve. They want to be respected by others for their achievements or abilities. People also want to feel good about themselves. Much of the activity of adult daily life is geared toward achieving recognition and esteem from others and bolstering one's own self-confidence.

self-actualization need

Maslow defines self-actualization as becoming "more and more what one idiosyncratically is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming" (1970, p. 46). The pinnacle of Maslow's need hierarchy is the need for self-actualization. While Maslow was concerned with describing self-actualization, the work of Carl Rogers was focused on how people achieve self-actualization.


A subjective state that people report when they are completely involved in an activity to the point of forgetting time, fatigue, and everything else but the activity itself. While flow experiences are somewhat rare, they occur under specific conditions; there is a balance between the persons skills and the challenges of the situation, there is a clear goal, and there is immediate feedback on how one is doing.

fully functioning person

According to Rogers, a fully functioning person is on his or her way toward self-actualization. Fully functioning persons may not actually be self-actualized yet, but they are not blocked or sidetracked in moving toward this goal. Such persons are open to new experiences and are not afraid of new ideas. They embrace life to its fullest. Fully functioning individuals are also centered in the present. They do not dwell on the past or their regrets. Fully functioning individuals also trust themselves, their feelings, and their own judgments.

positive regard

According to Rogers, all children are born wanting to be loved and accepted by their parents and others. He called this in-born need the desire for positive regard.

conditions of worth

According to Rogers, the requirements set forth by parents or significant others for earning their positive regard are called conditions of worth. Children may become preoccupied with living up to these conditions of worth, rather than discovering what makes them happy.

conditional positive regard

According to Rogers, people behave in specific ways to earn the love and respect and positive regard of parents and other significant people in their lives. Positive regard, when it must be earned by meeting certain conditions, is called conditional positive regard.

unconditional positive regard

The receipt of affection, love, or respect without having done anything to earn it. For example, a parent's love for a child should be unconditional.

positive self-regard

According to Rogers, people who have received positive regard from others develop a sense of positive self-regard; they accept themselves, even their own weaknesses and shortcomings. A person with high positive self-regard would trust themselves, follow their own interests, and rely on their feelings to guide themselves to do the right thing.


Anxiety is an unpleasant, high-arousal emotional state associated with perceived threat. In the psychoanalytic tradition, anxiety is seen as a signal that the control of the ego is being threatened by reality, by impulses from the id, or by harsh controls exerted by the superego. Freud identified three types of anxiety: neurotic anxiety, moral anxiety, and objective anxiety. According to Rogers, the unpleasant emotional state of anxiety is the result of having an experience that does not fit with one's self-conception.

emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is an adaptive form of intelligence consisting of the ability to: 1. know one's own emotions; 2. regulate those emotions; 3. motivate oneself; 4. know how others are feeling; and 5. influence how others are feeling. Goleman posited that emotional intelligence is more strongly predictive of professional status, marital quality, and salary than traditional measures of intelligence and aptitude.

client-centered therapy

In Rogers' client-centered therapy, clients are never given interpretations of their problem. Nor are clients given any direction about what course of action to take to solve their problem. The therapist makes no attempts to change the client directly. Instead, the therapist tries to create an atmosphere in which the client may change him or herself.

core conditions

According to Carl Rogers, in client-centered therapy there are three core conditions that must be present in order for progress to occur. The three core conditions are: 1. an atmosphere of genuine acceptance on the part of the therapist; 2. the therapist must express unconditional positive regard for the client, and 3. the client must feel that the therapist understands him or her (empathic understanding).


In Rogers's client-centered therapy, empathy is understanding the person from his or her point of view. Instead of interpreting the meaning behind what the client says (e.g., "you have a harsh super-ego that is punishing you for the actions of your id."), the client-centered therapist simply listens to what the client says and reflects it back.

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