!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Steven Reiss on Intrinsic Motivation

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Steven Reiss on Intrinsic Motivation

In two previous posts I've talked about intrinsic motivation — the desire to do something for its own sake, as opposed to doing it in response to some outside incentive, such as payment.

Now I'd like to add a level of detail about the dimensions of intrinsic motivation that are available thanks to research conducted over several decades by Steven Reiss, a professor of psychology at Ohio State University.

In "Multifaceted Nature of Intrinsic Motivation: The Theory of 16 Basic Drives," (pdf) published in the Review of General Psychology in 2004, Reiss summarizes his research. He begins by defining motives as "reasons people hold for initiating and performing voluntary behavior." He then explains the thinking and research that led him and co-researchers to conclude that there are sixteen "end purposes of human behavior." These end purposes are the desire:
  • to influence (including leadership)

  • for knowledge

  • to be autonomous

  • for social standing (including desire for attention)

  • for peer companionship (desire to play)

  • to get even (including desire to compete, to win)

  • to obey a traditional moral code

  • to improve society (including altruism, justice)

  • to exercise muscles

  • for sex (including courting)

  • to raise own children

  • to organize (including desire for ritual)

  • to eat

  • for approval

  • to avoid anxiety, fear

  • to collect (relates to the value of frugality)
Reiss has developed and validated a series of assessment instruments called Reiss Profiles, which vary in straightforward ways according to the setting in which they will be used — school, business, hospital, etc. The instruments are used to assess the degree of priority an individual gives to each of the 16 dimensions above. This information can be used to analyze and predict people's behavior.

You can read more about Reiss's theory of motivation here and here. (Don't be misled by the title of the second item.)