Need for achievement (N-Ach) refers to an individual’s desire for significant accomplishment, mastering of skills, control, or high standards. The term was first used by Henry Murray and associated with a range of actions. These include: “intense, prolonged and repeated efforts to accomplish something difficult. To work with singleness of purpose towards a high and distant goal. To have the determination to win”. The concept of NAch was subsequently popularized by the psychologist David McClelland
This personality trait is characterized by an enduring and consistent concern with setting and meeting high standards of achievement. This need is influenced by internal drive for action (intrinsic motivation), and the pressure exerted by the expectations of others (extrinsic motivation). Measured by thematic appreciation tests, need for achievement motivates an individual to succeed in competition, and to excel in activities important to him or her. Need for Achievement is related to the difficulty of tasks people choose to undertake.
Those with low N-Ach may choose very easy tasks, in order to minimize risk of failure, or highly difficult tasks, such that a failure would not be embarrassing. Those with high N-Ach tend to choose moderately difficult tasks, feeling that they are challenging, but within reach. People high in N-Ach are characterized by a tendency to seek challenges and a high degree of independence. Their most satisfying reward is the recognition of their achievements. Sources of high N-Ach include: 1. Parents who encouraged independence in childhood . Praise and rewards for success 3. Association of achievement with positive feelings 4. Association of achievement with one’s own competence and effort, not luck 5. A desire to be effective or challenged 6. Intrapersonal Strength.
7. Desirability 8. Feasibility 9. Goal Setting Abilities employed to establish the presence of an achievement motive was the type of fantasy a person expressed on the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), developed by Christiana Morgan and Henry Murray, who note in Explorations in Personality that “… hen a person interprets an ambiguous social situation he is apt to expose his own personality as much as the phenomenon to which he is attending… Each picture should suggest some critical situation and be effective in evoking a fantasy relating to it” (p531). The test is composed of a series of pictures that subjects are asked to interpret and describe to the psychologist. The TAT has been widely used to support assessment of needs and motives. In 1961 McClelland published The Achieving Society, which articulated his model of human motivation.
McClelland contended that three dominant needs -for achievement, for power, and for affiliation- underpin human motivation. McClelland believed that the relative importance of each need varies among individuals and cultures. Arguing that commonly used hiring tests using IQ and personality assessments were poor predictors of competency, McClelland proposed that companies should base hiring decisions on demonstrated competency in relevant fields, rather than on standardized test scores. Iconoclastic in their time, McClelland’s ideas have become standard practice in many corporations.
The procedure in McClelland’s initial investigation was to arouse in the test audience a concern with their achievement. A control group was used in which arousal was omitted. In the course of this experiment, McClelland discovered through analyzing the stories on the TAT that initial arousal was not necessary. Instead, members of the control group — individuals who had had no prior arousal — demonstrated significant differences in their stories, some writing stories with a high achievement content and some submitting stories with a low achievement content.
Using results based on the Thematic Apperception Test, McClelland demonstrated that individuals in a society can be grouped into high achievers and low achievers based on their scores on what he called “N-Ach”. McClelland and his associates have since extended their work in fantasy analysis to include different age groups, occupational groups, and nationalities in their investigations of the strength of need for achievement. These investigations have indicated that the N-Ach score increases with a rise in occupational level.
Invariably, businessmen, managers, and entrepreneurs are high scorers. Other investigations into the characteristics of the high achievers have revealed that accomplishment on the job represents an end in itself; monetary rewards serve as an index of this accomplishment. In addition, these other studies found that the high achievers, though identified as managers, businessmen, and entrepreneurs, are not gamblers. A high emotional intelligence calls for a high need for achievement while a low emotional intelligence calls for a lower need for achievement.
They will accept risk only to the degree they believe their personal contributions will make a difference in the final outcome. An experiment realized to entry level managers of AT;T from 1956 to 1960, studied the level of achievement attained during a period of 8 to 16 years, showing that High n-Achievement was associated with managerial success at lower levels of management jobs, in which promotion depends more on individual contributions than it does at higher levels.
At the higher levels, in which promotion depends on demonstrated ability to manage others, a high n-Achievement is not associated with success; by contrast, the leadership motive pattern is so associated, in all likelihood because it involves a high n-Power, emerging as a concern for influencing people. These explorations into the achievement motive seem to turn naturally into the investigation of national differences based on Max Weber’s thesis that the industrialization and economic development of the Western nations were related to the Protestant ethic and its corresponding values supporting work and achievement.
McClelland and his associates have satisfied themselves that such a relationship, viewed historically through an index of national power consumption, indeed exists. Differences related to individual, as well as to national, accomplishments depend on the presence or absence of an achievement motive in addition to economic resources or the infusion of financial assistance. High achievers can be viewed as satisfying a need for self-actualization through accomplishments in their job assignments as a result of their particular knowledge, their particular experiences, and the particular environments in which they have lived.
Purposive behaviorism Purposive behaviorism is a branch of psychology that was introduced by Edward C. Tolman. It combines the objective study of behavior while also considering the purpose or goal of behavior Tolman thought that learning developed from knowledge about the environment and how the organism relates to its environment Tolman’s goal was to identify the complex cognitive mechanisms and purposes that guided behavior.  His theories on learning went against the traditionally accepted stimulus-response connections (see classical conditioning) at this time that were proposed by other psychologists such as Edward Thorndike.
Tolman disagreed with Watson’s behaviorism, so he initiated his own behaviorism, which became known as purposive behaviorism. Tolman’s purposive behaviorism focused on meaningful behavior, or molar behavior, such as kicking a ball. This focus was in contrast to simple muscle movements aka molecular behavior such as flexing of the leg muscle. Tolman regarded the molecular behavior as fairly removed from human perceptual capacities for a meaningful analysis of behavior.
This approach of Tolman’s was first introduced in his book, Purposive Behavior in Animals and Men, published in 1932. To Tolman, it was obvious that all actions of behavior are goal-oriented, including those for animals. The main difference between behaviorism and Tolman’s purposive behaviorism is that behavior is goal oriented. Tolman’s published works on purposive behaviorism From 1920 to 1928, Tolman published numerous articles in the Psychological Review that attempted to objectively define such concepts as instinct, consciousness,emotions, purpose, and cognition.
Tolman coined the term “purposive behaviorism” when he published “Purposive Behavior in Animals and Men” (1932), which summarized these theoretical concepts and supported them with data he obtained from numerous studies. In this publication, Tolman demonstrated that insight, or our cognitive control of learning, was not restricted by evolutionary capabilities. Like many other behaviorists in his time, he carried out these studies with rats, believing that “everything important in psychology can be investigated in essence through the continued experimental and theoretical analysis of the determiners of rat behavior at a choice point in a maze. In this book, he described purposive behavior as behavior directed toward some ultimate goal. Examples he gave of this kind of behavior were “a rat running a maze, a man driving home to dinner, a child hiding from a stranger, a woman gossiping over the telephone, etc. ” Tolman’s purposive behaviorism was not as widely received in its day as other psychological theories. This was largely due to the fact that many did not consider its foundation to being in line with behaviorism at all, which was the dominating force in psychology at the time.
However, the insistence on studying implicit mental concepts as opposed to looking solely at explicit behavior was an idea that opened the door to the school of cognitive psychology. While much work in purposive behaviorism was dismissed by the mainstream of psychologists in its time, many of Tolman’s publications, most notably “Purposive Behavior in Animals and Men” and “Cognitive Maps in Rats and Men”, continue to be cited in today’s research. Self-determination theory Self-determination theory (“SDT”) is a macro theory of human motivation and personality, concerning people’s inherent growth tendencies and their innate psychological needs.
It is concerned with the motivation behind the choices that people make without any external influence and interference. SDT focuses on the degree to which an individual’s behavior is self-motivated and self-determined. In the 1970s, research on SDT evolved from studies comparing the intrinsic and extrinsic motives, and from growing understanding of the dominant role intrinsic motivation played in an individual’s behavior but it was not until mid-1980s that SDT was formally introduced and accepted as a sound empirical theory. Research applying SDT to different areas in social psychology has increased considerably since the 2000s.
Key studies that led to emergence of SDT included research on intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation refers to initiating an activity for its own sake because it is interesting and satisfying in itself, as opposed to doing an activity to obtain an external goal (extrinsic motivation). Different types of motivations have been described based on the degree they have been internalized. Internalization refers to the active attempt to transform an extrinsic motive into personally endorsed values and thus assimilate behavioral regulations that were originally external.
Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan later expanded on the early work differentiating between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and proposed three main intrinsic needs involved in self-determination. According to Deci and Ryan, the three psychological needs motivate the self to initiate behavior and specify nutriments that are essential for psychological health and well-being of an individual. These needs are said to be universal, innate and psychological and include the need for competence, autonomy, and psychological relatedness.