Categorical goal hierarchies and classification of human motives


Requests for reprints should be addressed to Frank W. Wicker, Department of Educational Psychology, Education Building 504, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712.


To explore a structural approach to motivation based on hierarchies of goal inclusion, 231 subjects in two studies rated the valence of 46 or 56 general goals, and ratings were subjected to hierarchical cluster analysis and factor analysis. Factors over all subjects were labeled Interpersonal Concern, Competitive Ambition, Exploration-play, Balanced Success, Economic Status, and Intellectual Orientation. Cluster analyses produced corresponding clusters, as well as Security, Personal Growth, Transpersonal Orientation, and Tranquility Seeking, arranged in hierarchies of class inclusion, culminating in a broad goal dichotomy described as Individual Striving vs. Harmony Seeking. The paper explicates a type of hierarchical interdependency among motives which supplements interdependencies implied by motivation theories, and suggests an alternative to the assumption of some fixed number of “basic” motives. It gives descriptive data on very broad motivation categories which influence self-reports of goal importance and which relate to prior classifications of motivation, personality, and social behavior.