An achievement motive is an impulse to master challenges and reach a high standard of excellence. Both personality and situational factors influence achievement motivation.
Researchers often use the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) to measure people’s need for achievement. The TAT consists of a set of ambiguous pictures, such as one of a woman standing in the doorway of a room. Researchers ask subjects to make up stories about these pictures. Some subjects’ stories consistently contain themes that relate to achievement. Researchers consider these subjects to have a high need for achievement.
High-achievement motivation tends to lead to particular personality features. These include persistence, ability to delay gratification, and competitiveness:
Some situational factors also affect achievement motivation. They include the expectation of success, incentives, control, and opportunity:
Goals are most likely to increase motivation to achieve if they are specific, challenging but achievable, and positive:
Example: If Steve is trying to get all his reading done for a final exam, a specific goal, such as I will finish one chapter each week, is more effective than a more diffuse goal, such as I will make sure I’m ready for my final.
Example: If Kelly has been struggling to maintain a C average in a class all semester, a goal such as I will make a B on the final exam will be more motivational than a goal such as I will get an A in this class.
Example: A goal such as I will study for an hour every weekday evening is likely to be more effective than a goal such as I will not go out on weekday evenings.
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