Human Motivation & Affective Neuroscience Lab
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Assessment of implicit motives

Since the pioneering work of David C. McClelland, John Atkinson and colleagues in the 1950s, implicit motives have been assessed with the Picture Story Exercise (PSE), a descendant of Henry Murray's Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). Unlike the TAT, however, the PSE uses different and often more modern, everyday picture stimuli to which respondents write imaginative stories. Also, unlike the TAT, the PSE approach to motive assessment relies on thematic content coding systems that were derived from studies in which a motivational need was experimentally aroused in one group of participants, but not in a control group, and picture stories written by both groups were then systematically compared for differences in thematic content. Themes that turned out to reliably differentiate experimental and control groups were then used to create scoring systems for motivational imagery. PSE-based implicit motive scores are reliable (test-retest), objective (i.e., two independent coders can typically agree on 85% of the scores or better), and relate to a broad range of validity correlates (Schultheiss, 2008; Schultheiss & Pang, 2007).

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