Contextualism and Human Motives

  • Joseph Veroff
Part of the Recent Research in Psychology book series (PSYCHOLOGY)


My commitment to psychology in general and to the study of motivation in particular grew out of an undergraduate thesis that Jack Atkinson helped me design and execute: A study of achievement motivation in high school girls and boys, as measured by a new fangled story-telling device called the Thematic Apperception Test, in which we had subjects tell stories in response to pictures and then coded these stories for motivational content. When I was a senior at Wesleyan, not sure where my main interests would lead and whether this field of psychology was really a legitimate enterprise after all, Jack’s enthusiasm for a new approach to motivation and its measurement enabled me to discover the joys of research on human needs. Jack and Dave McClelland, whose slot at Wesleyan Jack had taken over for a year while Dave was on leave, were putting together materials for The Achievement Motive with Russ Clark and Ed Lowell (McClelland, Atkinson, Clark & Lowell, 1953). The promise of a new systematic story-telling technique indeed seemed revolutionary at that time. And it still does to this day. In my senior research I wanted to demonstrate that it was a technique that was valid for people other than college males for whom it was originally devised—namely high school students, and especially high school females, who, up to that time had not been studied. The research made me a convert. It was not because the data were that clear-cut. In fact, the results were really very perplexing, as they are today (Sutherland & Veroff, 1985), despite thirty-five years of many related studies.


Social Comparison Motive Score Achievement Motive Motivational Orientation Motivational Content 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph Veroff
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MichiganUSA

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