Brief notes on the Measurement of Human Motives


It is not easy to measure human motives. The attempts made earlier proved to be too complex. Apart from the practical difficulties involved in putting people into an activity wheel, the very idea of measuring human motivation through activity is ridiculous. The main reason is that at the human level, there can motivate inactivity as well as unmotivated activity.

It is true that in human beings motivation shows a high degree of complex. As discussed earlier, Freudian concept of unconscious motivation adds the possibility of different forms of activity springing from the same motive. This has necessitated the development of a variety of tools and techniques measuring motivation. Taking this problem into consideration, psychologists have developed a variety of tools serving different purposes. The two approaches to the measurement of human motives are: (a) dir measurement, and (b) indirect measurement.

When motives are measured directly through objective observation, approach is the “Direct Measurement of Motives”. This approach also includes conscious self-reports, administering questionnaires, and inventories assess specific motives as required by the observer. To measure the drink like hunger, thirst, many gadgets have been derived. These gadgets have a precise quantitative measure of the level of deprivation, physiological changes accompanying the drive and some behavioral changes, as a whole. In these types of measures, the tools are basically structured and responses classified into predetermined categories.


Some psychologists rejected the concept of “direct approach” of measuring motivation. They have opined that motives cannot be measured directly, can be inferred through certain indirect means. Hence, they use projective techniques for the measurement of motivation.

In these techniques, the stimuli are deliberately made somewhat ambiguous in nature and the organism is free to give the responses he wishes. Popular projective techniques used to assess motives are ink-blots, pictures, incomplete sentences, and ambiguous figures. Chances of faking are less in this case, because the individual does not know what kind of demands are being made of him. In this test, he is more likely to project his own needs and motives into responses.

The most popular projective technique used by experts in motivational arch is the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). This test was originally introduced by Morgan and Murray in 1935. The TAT test consists of a series of pictures about which the person is asked to write stories. These stories are analyzed and coded as motives, needs, wishes, and desires etc., which are assumed to have been projected by the respondent into the characters in the pictures.

No doubt, the studies on motivation invited many criticisms later on. Despite flaws, the plethora of studies in this area has opened avenues for human beings to understand themselves.

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