Motivational Chaos: A Simple Model

  • Julius Kuhl
Part of the Recent Research in Psychology book series (PSYCHOLOGY)


In psychology, the use of formal models is controversial. Some psychologists believe that the premature construction of formal models blinds us to the complexities of the phenomena to be explained, while others maintain that only formal models can achieve what science is all about: Replace our everyday intuitions about the world by precise formal statements whose implications can be tested empirically. Although descriptive methods are more adequate for capturing the complexities of behavior in natural settings than formal models, the former provide little explanatory value. However, descriptive and formal approaches are complementary rather than contradictory. Ideally there should be an optimal balance between documentation of behavioral phenomena and development of formal models explaining those observations. In most areas of social psychology this balance has not yet been achieved. Documentation of phenomena fills far more journal space than formal modelling. In the area of social motivation the development of formal models is more advanced than in most other areas due to the work of Atkinson and his associates (1957; 1958; 1981; Atkinson & Feather, 1966; Atkinson & Birch, 1970; 1978).


Subjective Probability Achievement Motivation Social Motivation Recursive Model Goal Discrepancy 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julius Kuhl
    • 1
  1. 1.University of OsnabrückDeutschland

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