Need for Achievement

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Need for Achievement
Chapter 8 Motivation and Emotion
Achievement Motivation
䉴 Why do some people try harder than others to succeed?
Removed due to copyright
permissions restrictions.
Source: Murray (1971).
Assessing Achievement
This picture is similar to those included in
the Thematic Apperception Test, or TAT
(Morgan & Murray, 1935). The strength of
people’s achievement motivation is inferred from the stories they tell about TAT
pictures. A response like “The young
woman is hoping that she will be able to
make her grandmother proud of her”
would be seen as reflecting high achievement motivation.
need achievement A motive reflected
in the degree to which a person establishes specific goals, cares about meeting them, and experiences satisfaction
by doing so.
This sentence was written at 6 A.M. on a beautiful Sunday in June. Why would someone get up that early to work on a weekend? Why do people take their work seriously
and try to do the best that they can? People work hard partly due to extrinsic motivation, a desire for external rewards such as money. But work and other human activities also reflect intrinsic motivation, a desire for internal satisfaction.
The next time you visit someone’s home or office, notice the mementos displayed
there. Perhaps there are framed diplomas and awards, trophies and ribbons, and photos of children and grandchildren. These badges of achievement affirm that a person has
accomplished tasks that merit approval or establish worth. Much of human behavior is
motivated by a desire for approval, admiration, and a sense of achievement—in short,
for esteem—from others and from within. In this section, we examine two of the most
common avenues to esteem: achievement in general and achievement in one’s work.
Need for Achievement
Many athletes who already hold world records still train intensely; many people who
have built multimillion-dollar businesses still work fourteen-hour days. What motivates
these people? One answer is a motive called need achievement (Murray, 1938). People with a high need for achievement seek to master tasks—such as sports, business
ventures, occupational skills, intellectual puzzles, or artistic creation—and feel intense
satisfaction from doing so. They work hard at striving for excellence, enjoy themselves
in the process, and take great pride in achieving at a high level.
Individual Differences How do people with strong achievement motivation differ from others? To find out, researchers gave children a test to measure their need for
achievement (Figure 8.4 shows a test for adults) and then asked them to play a ringtoss game. Most of the children who scored low on the need-for-achievement test stood
either so close to the ring-toss target that they couldn’t fail or so far away that they
could not succeed. In contrast, children scoring high on the need-for-achievement test
stood at a moderate distance from the target, making the game challenging but not
impossible (McClelland, 1958).
Experiments with adults and children suggest that people with high achievement
needs tend to set challenging but realistic goals. They actively seek success, take risks
when necessary, can wait for rewards, and are intensely satisfied when they do well
(Mayer & Sutton, 1996). Yet if they feel they have tried their best, people with high
achievement motivation are not too upset by failure. Those with low achievement motivation also like to succeed, but instead of joy, success tends to bring them relief at having avoided failure (Winter, 1996).
Differences in achievement motivation also appear in the kinds of goals people seek
in achievement-related situations (Molden & Dweck, 2000). Some tend to adopt learning goals. When they play golf, take piano lessons, work at problems, go to school, and
engage in other achievement-oriented activities, they do so mainly to get better at those
activities. They realize that they may not yet have the skills necessary to achieve at a
high level, so they tend to learn by watching others and to struggle with problems on
their own rather than asking for help (Mayer & Sutton, 1996). When they do seek help,
people with learning goals are likely to ask for explanations, hints, and other forms of
task-related information, not for quick, easy answers that remove the challenge from
the situation. In contrast, people who adopt performance goals are usually more concerned with demonstrating the competence they believe they already possess. They tend
to seek information about how well they have performed compared with others rather
than about how to improve their performance (Butler, 1998). When they seek help, it
is usually to ask for “the “right answer” rather than for tips on how to find the answer
Achievement Motivation
Learning-oriented goals are especially appropriate in classrooms, where students
typically have little knowledge of the
subject matter. This is why most teachers
tolerate errors and reward gradual improvement. They do not usually encourage performance goals, which emphasize
doing better than others and demonstrating immediate competence (Reeve, 1996).
Still, to help students do their best in the
long run, teachers may promote performance goals, too. The proper combination
of both kinds of goals may be more motivating than either kind alone (Barron &
Harackiewicz, 2001).
themselves. Because their primary goal is to display competence, people with performance goals tend to avoid new challenges if they are not confident that they will be successful, and they tend to quit in response to failure (Grant & Dweck, 2003; Weiner,
1980). Those with learning goals tend to be more persistent and less upset when they
don’t immediately perform well (Niiya, Crocker, & Bartmess, 2004).
Achievement motivation develops
in early childhood under the influence of both genetic and environmental factors. As
described in the personality chapter, children inherit general behavioral tendencies,
such as impulsiveness and emotionality, and these tendencies may support or undermine the development of achievement motivation. The motivation to achieve is also
shaped by what children learn from watching and listening to others, especially their
parents. Evidence for the influence of parental teachings about achievement comes from
a study in which young boys were given a task so difficult that they were sure to fail.
Fathers whose sons scored low on achievement motivation tests often became annoyed
as they watched their boys work on the task, discouraged them from continuing, and
interfered or even completed the task themselves (Rosen & D’Andrade, 1959). A much
different response pattern emerged among parents of children who scored high on tests
of achievement motivation. Those parents tended to (1) encourage the child to try difficult tasks, especially new ones; (2) give praise and other rewards for success; (3)
encourage the child to find ways to succeed rather than merely complaining about failure; and (4) prompt the child to go on to the next, more difficult challenge (McClelland,
1985). Other research with adults shows that even the slightest cues that bring a parent to mind can boost some people’s efforts to achieve a goal (Shah, 2003).
More general cultural influences also affect the development of achievement motivation. Subtle messages about a culture’s view of the importance and value of achievement often appear in the books children read, the stories they hear, and the programs
they see on television. Does the story’s main character work hard and overcome obstacles, thus creating expectations of a payoff for persistence? Or does a lazy main character drift aimlessly and then win the lottery, suggesting that rewards come randomly,
regardless of effort? And if the main character succeeds, is it the result of personal
effort, as is typical of stories in individualist cultures? Or is success based on ties to a
cooperative and supportive group, as is typical of stories in collectivist cultures? These
themes appear to act as blueprints for reaching one’s goals. It is not surprising, then,
Development of Achievement Motivation
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