Reiss Motivation Profile


People that like to think over-complicate things because it gives them more to think about.

This isn’t a direct quote but it comes close to the words Dr. Steve Reiss Professor of Psychology, used during his recent presentation in Chicago on his research on motivation. He turns previous models of motivation on their head. Reiss claims that motivation is a lot clearer and more direct than theorists have proposed. He further claims that emotions are not what motivates behaviour. Reiss has researched and scientifically validated 16 motives that are universal and encompass all aspects of needs, wants, values and desires.

In a blog post on Psychology Today Reiss explains:

I consider motives as goals, and motivation as the assertion of values. I pay some attention to emotions as indicators of whether or not motives are satisfied, but I don’t view emotions as motivational.

In the case of people who like to think, the motive has been labelled by Reiss as “intellectual curiosity”. He goes on to add that “the goal of curiosity is understanding; the emotion is wonder; and the value are ideas.”

Library shelves imagesOne distinction of Reiss’s work on motivation is that he has married his findings to various applications such as sports motivation, school, advertising and relationships. In a school setting, a person who is motivated by curiosity will seek multiple ways to find understanding. They will feel at home amongst books such as a library environment, they will buy and read books, they will explore ideas through research or on the internet. Satisfying their curiosity in one area will only spark more curiosity and more desire to understand. This motivation does not apply to every student. Someone who is motivated by Power may learn to receive awards.

Reiss tells us that the emotion of wonder does not play a role in predicting the behaviour of a person motivated by curiosity but that we need to look at the value they have for ideas and how they assert that value will give us an idea of their behaviour. Put them in an environment where things are done by rote and opportunities to explore ideas and think are restricted and the emotions associated with boredom, frustration and anger will indicate that the value is being thwarted. They may also not care about receiving recognition in the form of awards or money for learning.

Many people talk about emotion as an end goal…”I just want to be happy.” What gives one person happiness will not match another person’s motivational profile. When considering the role of emotion, observe that the emotion is an indicator of whether a person’s is fulfilling their desires or values or not. This will tell you what you need to know to motivate them. Don’t complicate it -it is that simple.

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