Biological Aspects of Human Motivation

  • D. C. McClelland


Our attempt to measure the strength of human motive dispositions was very much influenced by Freud’s ideas about motives based on his clinical investigations of individuals. The principal ideas that influenced us were that:
  1. 1.

    A scientist cannot believe what people say about their motives. Often, further analysis shows that quite different, unconscious motives are at work in producing symptoms or the psychopathology of everyday life.

  2. 2.

    The best place to observe these unconscious motives is in dreams, fantasies, or free associations.

  3. 3.

    These unconscious motives are associated with emotional or affective states which have physiological consequences leading to bodily symptoms and illness.

  4. 4.

    Unconscious motives are based on early preverbal experiences which can explain why they are unconscious or not easily reportable.

  5. 5.

    There are a relatively few, simple, and sovereign motives like sex, aggression, and anxiety which characterize all people and can explain a lot of the variation in individual and social behavior.



Human Motivation Power Motivation Biological Aspect Achievement Motivation Free Association 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. C. McClelland
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Applied Social ScienceBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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