Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

pp 1-3

Date: Latest Version

Achievement Motives

  • Emily J. HangenAffiliated withDepartment of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology, University of Rochester Email author 
  • , Andrew J. ElliottAffiliated withDepartment of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology, University of Rochester

Synonyms

Achievement dispositions; Competence motives

Definition

Achievement motives are appetitive and aversive dispositions toward competence/incompetence.

Introduction

The achievement motive construct was introduced by Harvard psychologist Henry Murray (1938) and systematically formalized in the 1950s by David McClelland, John Atkinson, and their colleagues (see McClelland et al. 1953). These theorists described motives as learned associations between environmental cues and resulting affective responses. These learned associations spawn anticipation of the affective responses, which subsequently prompt achievement behavior (McClelland et al. 1953; Murray 1938). Anticipatory emotions relevant to achievement motives include anticipatory pride and shame. Anticipatory pride and shame function as the basis for the two predominant achievement motives that have received attention in the literature – need for achievement and fear of failure (Atkinson and Feather 1966; McClelland et al. 1953).

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