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behavior'

David C. McClelland and Robert I. Watson, Jr., Harvard

University

set higher or lower levels of aspiration for themselves? Why do

some people choose goals which are easy to achieve whereas

others choose goals in pursumg which they run a considerable

risk of failure? The classic explanation erf nsk-takmg behavior

was formulated by Atkmson m 1957 "The strength of motivation

to perform some act is assumed to be a multiphcative function

of the strength of the motive, the expectancy (subjective prob-

abihty) that the act will have as a consequence the attamment

of an mcentive, and the value of the incentive Motivation = f

(Motive X Expectancy X Incentive)." Although the formula-

tion IS given m general terms as if it applied to any motive mter-

actmg with any mcentive, in fact Atkmson and his associates

have worked exclusively with achievement motivation and gen-

erally assumed that to the extent that the model of nsk-takmg

behavior works for achievement motivation it will work for other

motives as well

The key to the success of the model m prechctmg choice be-

havior in task situations hes m the beautifully economical as-

sumption that the amount of achievement mcentive (la) in a

task situation is an inverse function of the probability of accom-

plishmg (Pa) the task successfully That is, the more difficult a

task (l-Pa), the greater the incentive value of succeedmg at it.

la = l-Pa. Atkinson writes Is or Ps to refer to the incentive value

of success or probability of success, but we have substituted la

and Pa to make it dear at the outset that more precisely the

model IS formulated to deal with the incentive value of achieve-

1 Hie researdi reported hare was made p<»sible hy a grant from the Na-

tional Institute of Mental Health, MH-02980, and horn ^ Natimal Sdeaee

Foundation, GS-31914X

122 David C McClelland and Robert I. Watson, Jr.

ment and probabihty of aeihievement. The term success is more

general and may refer to a successful outcome m terms of any

incentive, not just completmg a task successfully. Atkinson used

the more general notation because he beheved the model was

generally applicable, but we believe whether it is or not is an

empincal question to be settled by further research. So we prefer

the more precise notational system

Table l Appre>ach to tasks of different diflScnilty as a jomt function of

achievement motive (M,), expectancy (P,) and mcentive (la) where

Proportion of

lines distant from Predicted actual ciioices

peg* in nng toss M. X P. X 1. ~ approach out of 400 throws

Task A 1-3 1 99 01 01 00

Task B 4-6 1 88 12 11 05

Task C 7-9 1 70 30 21 09

TaskD 10-12 1 55 45 25 33

TaskE 13-15 1 38 62 24 34

ToskF 16-18 1 .25 75 19 .18

*Lines started 10" from peg and subsequent iines were 10" apart

the distnbution of actual choices m an achievement situation

in which college students had to decide how far away to stand

from a peg in trying to throw rmgs over it. Subj"ective estimates

of probability of gettmg ringers from various chstances (Pa) X

the assumed incentive value (la) of rmgers made from those

distances predicted a bow-shaped distribution of choiejes in which

most students should choose tasks of moderate difficulty (throw-

mg from lines 10-15). This in fact turned out to be the case,

though considerably fewer throws were made from the easy

distances (lines 7-9) than the model predicted, and in general

the students t<X)k greater risks than would be expected from the

theoretical me>del This discrepancy could be explained on the

grounds that they had higher n Achievement than an average

group. For other studies have shown that people with high n

AeJiievement tend to overestimate their ch£uic«s of succeeding

They find tasks to be most attractive for which the general esti-

mate of probability of succeeding may be as low as .33 (Task E in

Power motivation and risk 123

Table l ) because they thmk their personal chances erf success are

more like .50, which yields maximum attractiveness accordmg to

the model (Atkmson, 1957). Further research has shown the gen-

eral utihty of the model m explainmg how people react who are

trymg to avoid failure, why some people persist at a task more

than others, how an actual success or failure modifies the motiva-

tional determmants of subsequent choices, etc. Most recently

Wemer and Kukla (1970) have uncovered some of the reasons

why a subjective probabihty of acxiomplishment of around 50

IS so attractive to people with high n Achievement more than

most people they attnbute success to personal factors (effort

and abihty), and performance on tasks of intermediate diffi-

culty "is more hkely to yield mformation about one's capabihties

than selection of tasks which are very easy or very difficult"

(P- 19)

But obviously all of this extensive research effort restncts

its focus largely to workmg on tasks, achievement mcentives,

probabihties of accomplishmg somethmg yourself, etc Yet Atkin-

son's model of choice behavior which is based on earher formu-

lations of Lewm, Tolman, and Rotter is completely general So

it seemed highly desirable to us to see how well it fits choice

behavior where the dommant motive and mcentive are for power.

In this way its generality might be explored empirically.

Recent studies (D. G. Wmter, m McClelland et al, 1972)

support the conclusion that the mcentive for a power-oriented

person is to "have impact," to "stand out" m some way, or to

be considered important. He may pursue this mcentive m a

vanety of ways—by trymg to wm arguments (Veroff, 1957), by

collecting prestige possessions (Winter, in McClelland et al,

1972), by nurturmg others, by bemg aggressive, or even by

dnnldng to increase fantasies of personal power (McClelland

et al, 1972). Domg well at a task, the achievement mcentive,

may help a person "stand out" or attain a power incentive, but

only in a pubhc situation where others will notie» the superior

performance and probably only where the person can stand out

relative to othrars—that is, can be judged superior to others. Thus

pubhc competition involves both achievement and power in-

centives, but it is known that the person with high n Achieve-

ment is if anythmg "thrown off" (Atkmson & Reitman, 19^) by

124 David C. McClelland and Robert I. Watson, Jr

power mcentives (pubhc competition) and it might be assumed

that if the person with high power motivation can find a way to

attam his goal of "standmg out" without workmg or achieving,

he will do so Contrariwise, a pure achievement situation will

have no special attraction for him, since it gives him no chance

for the public recognition he wants This analysis suggests the

first hypothesis to be tested

Hypothesis l In che>osmg tasks to work on m pnvate, persons

with high n Achievement will che>ose tasks of mtermechate

difficulty, but persons with high n Power will show no particular

preferences for tasks as a function of their difficulty. The hy-

pothesis smiply tests the assumption that while the Pa X l-Pa

model will predict task choices for people with high n Achieve-

ment, it will not predict task choices for people with high n

Power, because very simply l-Pa (the difficulty of the task)

IS not an incentive for them They are mterested m standing out

m some way, and the choice of tasks differmg m difficulty is

irrelevant to that goal when no one will know what levels of

cJifficulty they have chosen

Next it IS essential to find a game situation in which people

with high n Power can pursue their incentive and pee)ple with

high n Achievement cannot. Cambling is an obvious choice be-

cause previous studies have shown n Achievement is not as-

sociated with moderate nsk taking in chance situations, pre-

sumably because the mcentive to demonstrate success by per-

sonal effort is not present (Littig, 1963) Furthermore public

gamblmg, as m roulette, should be attractive to people with

high n Power because they have a chance to "stand out" m

front of others by bemg "big nsk takers'* or "big winners." Mc-

Clelland et al (1972) m fact report that high n Power among

lower-middle-class men is significandy associated with the ten-

dency to gamble more. If the analysis of the power mcentive is

correct, however, people with high n Power should not be as

drawn to "plungmg," taking big risks, m private, where no one

will notice, as they are m pubhc. The second hypothesis foUo-w^

from this analysis.

Hypothesis 2 In a public, but not in a private, gambling

situation, people with high n Power will take more extreme

Power motivation and risk 125

nsks, whereas people with high n Achievement will show no

particular preferences for bets as a function of their risk

The current study was designed to test these two hypotheses

but it also permitted checking to see whether people with other

dommant motive dispositions would seek other goal satisfac-

tions either under working or gamblmg conditions That is,

smce the subjects were given a Thematic Apperception Test to

get the n Achievement and n Power scores, it could also be

scored for the two mam subtypes of power motivation, p (for

personal) and s (for social) Power (cf McClelland et al, 1972)

and for n Affiliation No strong hypotheses could be made as to

how people with these motive dispositions would react to the

experimental conditions, but previous work has suggested that

p Power might be more related to extreme nsk takmg and

gamblmg behavior than s Power and that high n Affiliation

might be associated with strategies of trymg to avoid or with-

draw from mterpersonally competitive situations, as m public

gamblmg Terhune (1968) found, for mstance that teams made

up entirely of people with high n Affiliation seemed to be trying

to refuse to participate in a competitive interaction game simula-

tion by showing a lower frequency of all types of acts (cooper-

ative, competitive, etc )

PROC^EDUEIE

Subfects

Seventy-two volimteers participated m the study (36 males and 36

females) They were all Harvard summer school students, recniited

through advertisements posted on campus Their ages ranged from

16 to 45 with a mean age of 20 6 They were paid $2 cx) for attendmg

two sessions, eacii of which lasted about an hour

Firs* Session Motive Measurement

In the flrst session, the suhjects who appeared m groups of 20-30

were first shown four shdes of standard Thematic Apperception Test

pictures and asked to wnte a brief imagmative story to each one As

part of another study, they also wrote a fifth story to Homer's fear of

success verbal cnie (1970). The four pictures were- Man at drawmg

hoard, ship's captam, two lawyers, man and woman m bar. They were

known to cemtam cues which would ehcit a wide range of power and

126 David C. McClelland and Robert I. Watson, Jr.

achievement concerns although they were weak m affihation cues

The stones were scored blmcUy for n Achievement (sconng —l for

unrelated imagery), n Power, usmg Wmter's revised system (1972),

p Power, s Power, and n Affihation Tlie coders had previously estab-

lished their expertness by demonstratmg agreement with expertly

coded stones of 88 percent for n Achievement, 86 percent for n

Power, 81 percent for s Power and p Power, and 88 percent for n

Affibation Each TAT story booklet was numbered beforehand, and

the subjects used these code numbers throughout the experiment to

preserve their anonymity After completmg the TAT, each subject

filled out a biographical information and activities questionnaire, as

part of another study Then they were asked to return the next day

or the day after that for the final session which mvolved the roulette

bettmg game and the achievement task

When the 14-20 subjects amved for the second session, they were

divided randomly mto two groups, one to take part m the bettmg game

first while the other performed the achievement task Upon complet-

mg the first activity, the groups switched rooms and proceeded with

the remammg task Seven to ten subjects went through each of the

tasks as a group This meant that order was systematically varied so

that half the subjects gambled first, and half worked on Ae achieve-

ment task first. There were ten groups m all, two run at eac^ of five

sessions

Achievement task The achievement task segment of the expenment

mvolved two different test-hke operations used by Homer (1968)

The first was a long set of mental anthmetic problems while the second

consisted of three sets of triangular puzzles that the subjects were to

trace After mducmg an achievement onentation by descnbmg the

tasks as reflectmg "abstract and mtellectual abihty," the expenmenter

told the subjects that performance on the two were highly correlated

so that after seemg how well they did on tiie first task, he could de-

termme what tasks he should give a person whicii would correspond

to the level of difiBculty they wanted to work at. In his mtroduction to

the first task, the expenmenter said, "111 use the first test, which youil

now work on, to tell you how difficult the next task will be for you

m tenns of tius particular skill Do your best" Once the subjects

finished the first task (anthmetic problems) the experimenter said.

Now well go on to the test mvolving abstract reasonmg As you

see, tiiere are many different stacks of puzzles on the table

Power motivation and risk 127

What I'd hke you to do is choose how difficult a set you want

to work on 111 then use your score on the test you just finished

to determme which stack of puzzles matches that level of diffi-

culty for you personally

The expenmenter then explamed how to do the tnangular puzzles by

tracmg all lmes without retracmg, usmg a Ime segment more than

once, or hftmg the pencil from the paper He then asked them to

choose the level of difficulty of the puzzle they would hke to try

tracmg first, makmg it clear they would also have two more such

choices to make They chose the difficulty level by circlmg a number

between l ("very easy for you") and 9 ("very difficult for you")

spaced across a hne segment He then matched their choice of chffi-

cnilty level with a puzde set aceordmg to a conversion table which

he had told the subjects used their score from the first test to de-

termme what puzzle difficulty would correspond for them personally

to the level of difficulty at which they wanted to work After the sub-

jects received their puzzle sets and worked for two mmutes, the same

procedure was followed for the next two sets of puzzles Thus each

subject made three successive choices of level of chfficnilty of tasks

to work on, when he believed that the difficulty was defined in terms

of his demonstrated abihty Actually the expenmenter did not adjust

what puzzles he gave them on the basis of demonstrated abihty, but

simply gave each subject the same puzzle for the level of difficulty

chosen Note that all of the choices were made pnvately so that no

subject knew how well other subjects were domg or what levels of

difficulty they had chosen

Roulette game. A group settmg was deliberately used for the

bettmg game since it was hypothesized that m a pubhc bettmg condi-

tion subjects with high n Power would attempt to impress the others

by takmg high nsks at the roulette table The setting, a very nicely

furnished, comfortable lounge, was as naturalistic as possible The

expenmenter acted as croupier and attempted to keep the game

movmg durmg the actual play After all tiie subjects were seated

aroimd the lounge with the roulette table m the middle of the room,

the expenmenter explamed the game and how to play it

We are now gomg to play a bettmg game based on roulette

As most of you know, roulette is a game of chance based on

numbers and color. There are two colors, red and black, and 36

numbers on the wheel and the board where you place your

bets There are many different ways to bet in this game. One

can bet cm a single number, which is the hardest bet, or on a

128 David C. McClelland and Robert I. Watson, Jr.

color (red or black so that you have a 50 50 chance of wmnmg),

or on different combmabons of numbers. I h e odds range from

J2 to 1 up to 35 to 1 On the next page is a bnef descnption of

the different types of bets, the odds for each bet, and tiie pay-

off for wmnmg that bet Read this over carefully There is

also a diagram of the roulette playmg board which shows

you how to place the vanous bets

As soon as he had read through the vanous odds and methods for

placmg bets, the expenmenter demonstrated the bets on the table

Each subject was then given a dittoed sheet which was a rephc^ of

the bettmg doth they would be playmg on The subjects were then

directed to place 15 bets on the sheet by markmg a dot m pencil m

the same position a chip would occupy for that particular bet This

was the pnvate bettmg condition Once they had marked these 15

bets, they were asked to step up to the table Eacdi subject was given

10 chips for ten bets. It was explamed that they could place only

one-chip bets and that they should choose one bet at a bme from their

ongmal 15 Those they finally chose to play were circled so that the

expenmenter would have a record of them. The game began with the

expenmenter actmg as the bank, paymg out the chips to the subjects

when they won and collectmg all the losmg bets Obviously some

subjects lost most of their cibips while others won On the whole,

interest m the game was high m most sessions and many subjects

were cx>mpebbvely mvolved m whether they won or lost even though

no money actually passed hands After the subjects had placed ten

bets, the expenmenter collected their chips and either dismissed them

or took them to another room to work on the achievement task

RESULTS

2). The p and s Power subscores are moderately related to the n

Power total, but remain sufficiently distinct for possible differ-

ences m relationships to the nsk-takmg variables to appear.

Also as expected the pictures yielded considerable variability in

individual scores for n Achievement and n Power. The mean

for n Achievement appears low because —1 is scored for each

unrelated story so that the lowest possible score is —5 whereas

it is o for n Power and n Affiliation. The pictures did not evoke

madx affiliation imagery. Only 15 of the 72 subj'ects included any

thoughts about affiliation m their stories.

Power motivation and risk 129

Table 2 Intercorrelabons and means of the mobve measures (N = 72)

n Adi , , - 14 -01 - 12 11

n Power 55*** 37** .00

p Power — 26* 01

s Power — -06

Mean 82 6 29 1 11 64 54

SD 4 04 3 25 I 00 91 1 50

*p < 05

**p < 01

***p < 001

and gamblmg (N = 72).

Work

(Figure tracing) Gambling (Roulette)

n Achievement 31** - 14 05 32** - 45***

n Affiiiation 19 -04 31** - 17 -09

^Number out of three problems chosen of moderate difficulty (levels 4-6 on scale of 1-9)

''Sum of difficulty levels of three problems chosen

'Number out of 10 bets placed at odds of Vz or 1 to 1

•'Number out of 10 bets placed at odds of 8 or 11 to 1

•Number out of 10 bets placed at odds of 17 or 35 to 1

*p < 05

**P < 01

***p < 001

hypotheses. A fuU correlational analysis showed that neither sex

nor order (roulette or achievement task first) bore any significant

relationships to the variables involved m the two mam hypothe-

ses. So more complex analyses of vairance seemed unnecessary.

The first hypothesis is clearly confirmed The subjects high in n

Achievement significantly more often chose tasks of moderate

difficulty (levels 4-6 on a scale of 1-9) relative to their own

abihty. This of course is a frequently reported findmg, but it is

reassuring to know that under the conchtions of the present ex-

penment the n AeJiievement scores obtamed are vahd to this

extent. The n Power score did not relate significantly to moderate

130 David C McClelland and Robert I. Watson, Jr.

nsk-takmg m a work situation, as predicted, nor did it relate to

a tendency to choose extremely difficult (risky) tasks. These

results are consistent with the hypothesis that tie mcentive for

people with high n Power is to stand out or be considered im-

pressive m some way, rather than to work on somethmg which

they could do well at. Smce difficulty levels were chosen in

private, those with high n Power could not even get credit in

the eyes of others for trymg to solve very diflBcult puzzles. The

subjects with high n Affihation were also not particularly moved

to choose high or moderate difficulty levels m the achievement

task.

The picture is qmte different for nsk takmg m roulette.

Hypothesis 2 is only partiy confirmed, for quite unexpectedly n

Achievement did relate significantly to moderate nsk takuig

(odds of 8 or 11 to 1) m a game of chance. It also led to avoid-

ance of extremely risky odds (17 or 35 to 1) One can only assume

that this situation somehow evoked the charactenstic tendency

of people with high n Achievement to choose moderate nsks,

even though they clearly could not affect the outcome by person-

al effort. It may be that in other gamblmg situations, like Littig's

(1963), the probability preferences were stated under such

complex con(iitions (betting for poker dice hands) that the

tendency to generalize from achievement to nonachievement

situations was elimmated

However, the more crucial aspect of Hypothesis 2 was con-

firmed: subjects with high n Power did significantly more often

place the most nsky bets (17 or 35 to 1) m the public gamblmg

situation The tendency was especially marked for bettmg on

single numbers where the odds were known to every one to be

35 to 1. Of the 32 subjects above the median in n Power (score

7 or more) 69 percent placed at least one such bet as compared

with only 43 percent of the 40 subjects at or below the median

in n Power (jt* = 5.01, p < .05).

What about choosmg risky bets in private? There the results

are not striking, but they are definitely m the expected direction.

The n Power score correlates only msignificantiy (f = .18) with

the number erf extremely risl^ bets chosen privately to be among

the 15, 10 of which they would actually play m pubhc. The

reason the corrdiation is not lower (in fact it is fairly close to tlie

Power motivation and nsk 131

.24 correlation with nsky bets placed) seems probably due to

the fact that those with high n Power knew they had to choose

nsky bets if they were gomg to be able to play them later

A more direct test of the hypothesis mvolves observmg how

many of the extremely nsky bets chosen were actually used

under conditions of pubhc competition To make the test, it is

necessary to omit those 12 subjects who chose no extreme bets

(17 or 35 1), smce they couldn't then place any later. Of those

who chose extreme bets, 61 percent of those with high n Power

used all or all but one of them, contrasted with only 34 percent

of those with low n Power (x^ = 4 09, p < .05). In other words

under the stress of public competition, or under conditions where

they had a chance to be observed as being 'Tsig gamblers," those

with high n Power were more likely to use the extremely risky

bets they had available than those with low n Power

No significant correlations were obtamed for the p and s

Power scores and risk takmg under work or chance conditions

However one near significant findmg for p Power is worth re-

porting because it helps delmeate the kind of person who sees

power m terms of personal dommance. Of the 49 subjects at

or above the median m p Power (score 1 or more) 63 percent

chose more than the median number (4 or more) of very risky

bets (17 or 35:1) as contrasted with 39 percent of the 23 subjects

With a zero p Power score (^^^ = 3.74, p < 06). However, this

difference practically disappears for very risky bets placed under

conditions of pubhc competition. Forty-mne percent of those

with high p Power scores placed two or more very risky bets

as contrasted with 39 percent of those with low p Power scores

(5C^ = 57, p = n.s.). Nor is there any tendency for those with high

p Power scores, like those with high n Power scores, to use more

of the very risky bets they have chosen What is interesting about

this findmg is that it is the reverse of what was found for people

wiiii high n Power who tended not to chcrase more very nsky

bets in private but to place more of what they had chosen in

pubhc. It looks as if people high in p Power might be boasters,

ten(hng to imagine or represent themselves as bigger risk takers

than in fact they tum out to be under the stress of public com-

petition. Such an interpretation is consistent with other findings

which show the person high in p Power to be oriented more

132 David C. McClelland and Robert I. Watson, Jr.

toward self-aggrandizmg actions (drmking, collecting prestige

supphes, aggressive thoughts, McClelland et al., 1972) than

toward actual social competition or leadership behavior m the

real world

Fmally Table 3 shows a strong tendency for those subjects

who give affiliative responses to these picture cues to place bets

with the lowest risk {% or 1.1) in the gamblmg situation. This

finding is quite consistent with others whicJi show that people

with high n Affihation tend to dislike and avoid interpersonal

competition. Smce they have to play roulette m this experiment,

they avoid competition the only way they can—by choosmg bets

with as httie nsk as possible

Figure 1 has been constructed to give a somewhat better

descriptive picture of the results m the roulette expenment which

he behmd the correlations m Table 3. Since we are primarily

interested in the goals or incentives sought m the situation by

individuals high in one motive or another, we decided to simplify

the pictoxo'iSy eliminating subjects who were high in more than

one motive and whose risk takmg would therefore be under the

competing influences of two or more mcentives Thus we found

15 subjects who were above the median in n Power but below

the me(han m n Achievement and in n AflSliation. To smooth

the curves of how they distnbuted the 150 bets made among

them (10 by each subject), we combmed adjacent bets (}^ and

1:1, 2 and 5 1, 8 and 11 1, and 17 and 35 1) and plotted the

proportion of the total number of bets placed at each of these

four levels of nsk takmg. As can be seen in Figure 1, those who

scored high only in n Power placed more of their bets toward

the more risky end of the contmuum, those with only high

n Achievement concentrated their bets at the 8 or 11.1 level

and those with high n Affihation only (just three subjects,

or 30 bets) concentrated their bets at the low-risk end of the

(X)ntmuum These curves simply show m another way the more

statistically sound findings presented in Table 3 However they

do suggest an interpretation of the incentive charactenstics erf

a social or task situation whicJi is somewhat different from the

one given often by socaal psychologists. The curve for all bets by

all aibjects in Figure 1 is definitely bow shaped with a greater

proportion of the bets being placed at moderate odds of 2, 5,

Power motivation and nsk 133

. 6 0 I-

high n. Ach only <*

a>

u

"i .40 Bets by Ss with

high n. Aff only

XI

.30

.20

o

Q.

Bets by Ss with

.10 high n Power only

j_

.60 .50 .40 .30 .20 .10 .00

Probobility of success

ODDS '

t t f t

8 or II I 17 or 35 I

or I I 2 or 5-1

Figure 1 Proportions of roulette bets placed at vanous odds by all

subjects and subjects high m n Power, n Achievement, and n AflSliation

only.

8 and l i . i rather than either J* and l . i or 17 and 35.1. The

obtamed distnbution of bets differs significantiy from a chance

distribution which would lead one to expect an equal number in

all categoric (x* = 107.3, df = 4, p< .001). So one might be

inclined to infer that the demand characrfieristics of roulette are

sucdi that it (X>ntains a greater m(entive for moderate risk taking

rather than low or high risk takmg ^ However, it seems clear

from companng the curves for those high in n Achievement

2 Actually die smoothed curve is a htde misleading m detail because & e

proportion choosing the 17 1 altemative is actually lower ( 5 3 percent) than

tibe 35 1 alternative ( 1 7 3 percent) But this does not aSect the general argu-

134 David C. McClelland and Robert I. Wotson, Jr.

and in n Power that the overall distnbution of bets could just

as well be a simple function of the sample of people playing the

game If they happened to be generally high m n Power and

low in n Achievement and n Affihation, the over-all curve would

lose its bow-shaped characteristic. If they were high m n Affiha-

tion and n Power, it might became approximately flat The fact

that it is bow shaped here might well be attributed to the fact

that this particular sample of students, gomg to Harvard sum-

mer school, IS probably fairly high m n Achievement Professional

soldiers and actual roulette players might yield quite a different

distribution of bets, since they are probably more power-oriented.

So many of the findmgs of experimental social psychology may

be seen not as relationships between a situational vanable (de-

gree of nsk) and a typical human bemg's response (choice of

moderate risk) but as a statement about the (usually unknown,

or unspecified) personahty characteristics of the sample of people

participating m the expenment. This is another way of saymg

that the Pa Xia function m Atkinson's model (Table l) obviously

has no power to ehcit differential approach behavior if the Ma

term is reduced to zero, l e, if there are no motivational dis-

positions toward achievement m the population sampled. Yet

many generalizations m psychology are made lgnormg the

samplmg of personahty charactenstics involved, just as one

might mcorrectly conclude on the basis of the overall nsk-taking

curve m Figure l that there is a general tendency for people

playmg roulette to choose moderate risks

DISCUSSION

different dominant motives seek out mcentives m game situations

which satisfy those motives. Those with high n Achievement

seek moderately difficult tasks in work situations as the outcome

will be most rea(hly attributed to their effort to do well. Those

with high n Power take extreme risks in roulette because doing

so satisfies the incentive they seek—to stand out in some way.

Let us examme the n Power case in more detail to see whether

or not it fits readily into the Atkinson model statmg that choice

is a function of Motive X Expectan(;y X Incentive value.

Power motivation and risk 135

If the incentive of people with high n Power only is just to

be noticed or admired for being big gamblers, why don't they

make all 35 1 bets, when m fact only 27 percent of their bets

are m this category? Three explanations come to mmd

1. Our motive measures contain error Even those high m n

Power only have some residual concerns (and possibly higher

than measured) for achievement and affiliation which lead them

to distnbute their bets m other categones. Still the proportion of

extremely nsky bets is so low that one may legitimately wonder

if it can all be attributed to measurement error

2. Those high in n Power only may be attracted primarily

to makmg very risky bets but they are unsure as to whether m

fact they will be noticed by others when they make them From

this viewpomt the key probability for them is not the probability

of wmmng but the probability of bemg noticed and admired

for being a "big gambler " Unfortunately we have no measure

of how the latter probabihty varies m this expenment and we

can only note that it may be a factor which should be taken

mto account m future work.

3 Fmally it seems highly likely that the mcentive for those

with high n Power only mvolves not only "risking big" but

"winning big " So such people may take the probability of wm-

mng mto account just as the Atkmson model predicts they should

m placing bets at (hfferent odds.

Table 4 has been prepared to check on the adequacy of

vanous models for predictmg the actual (hstnbution of choices

for bets of different nsks by subjects high m n Power only

Obviously the Atkmson model for people high m n Achievement

does not work here because Ps X l-Ps yields maximal approach

tendencies m the low- to moderate-nsk range, and the subjects

high in n Power only are more attracted to extreme nsks. This

IS just another way of saymg that difficulty or "challenge" (l-Ps)

is not an incentive to people with high n Power, either in the

work or the gambhng situation.

But of course the E X I mcxiel might still hold if we could

identify some oiher incentive which is operating for subjects

with high n Power only. One obvious possibihty is that they

are attracted by the size erf the payout—the number of chips to

be won if their bet is su(xessful. Table 4 shows the calculations

136 David C McClelland and Robert I Watson, Jr.

(Ps) and mcentive (I) for subjects high m n Power only

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Predicted

Payout from

Odds Ps X 1* = valence Predicted Obtained l-Ps only

2 and 5 1 25 X 35 = 875 26 27 25

8 and 11 1 096 X 95 = 912 28 29 30

17 and 35 1 042 X 26 = 1 092 33 39 31

X" = 9 0 n.s 12 1

P < <D5

m the E X I model The first column gives the odds or payouts

per chip bet combmed for adj'acent categones For example, if

he places a chip on red, he has a fifty-fifty chance of vraonmg

smce half of the numbers are red and half are black If he wins,

he receives one chip for each chip bet. This is explamed as a

1 1 bet. If he bets on a smgle number, he has one chance m

36 of winning, and receives 35 chips if he wins Column 2 gives

the average probabihty of success (Ps) for combined odds

categories which is close to but not identical with the odds, smce

the house keeps a percentage Column 3 defines the mcentive

vanable (I) not as l-Ps but as the average payout in chips for

a win (size of mcentive) The product of columns 2 and 3 gives

the attractiveness or valence of various bet opportunities usmg

this E X I model To translate these mto predictions of the

proportion of bets placed m various categones, it is necessary

to assume that all bets have some attractiveness at a given

moment and that the frequency with which one type wQl be

chosen will be a function of its attractiveness in proportion to

the sum of the attractiveness of all bets Thus the valence of the

most extreme bets (1092) is 33 percent of the sum of the

valences of all bet opportunities. So the model pre(hcts that 33

percent of the bets placed will be of the extremely risky variety.

The predicted distribution of bets (column 5) can then be com-

Power motivation and risk 137

pared with the obtamed distribution (column 6) and a Chi-

square test computed as an index of the goodness of fit of the

predictions by tiie model. As Table 4 shows, the fit is rather

close, the Chi-square value actually being below the 05 level,

showmg that the obtained values might well have deviated to

this extent from the prechcted values by chance It looks as if

the subjects with high n Power only were functionmg accordmg

to an E X I model m which "winnmg big" was important to

them. That is, their bets were not only determined by the size

of the payoff but by the probabihty of attainmg it as well

Unfortunately there is another possibihty that predicts the

results almost as well As noted earher, they might also be mter-

ested m "nskmg big" since that will also gam attention from

others If this were their main incentive, the probabihty of

wmmng would not enter m to modify their choices How well

does such a model predict their bettmg behaviorf* Column 7

shows It makes the simple assumption that nsk (l-Ps) alone is

determmmg their choices and shows how their bets would be

distnbuted proportionally based on such an assumption. The

fit with actual choices is not as good as for the E X I model, the

X^ test actually showmg a significant deviation from chance, but

it IS surpnsmgly good. It certainly is not so much worse than the

E X I pre(hctions that one would feel much confidence in m-

sistmg tiiat for people with high n Power only, it is essential to

assume that they take probabihty of v^onmng into account m

making their choices, the way people with high n Achievement

do. It IS possible that people vsath high n Power are attracted

to nsky situations per se regardless of the expectancy of win-

nmg, if taking a nsk bnngs them the attention and re(X)gmtion

they seek. As noted earher, the crucial factor here may be the

profcabihty of bemg noticed rather than the probabihty of win-

mng

Incidentally, it clearly is nsk that attracts them here rather

than size of payout. One c;an also attempt to predict the distribu-

tion of bets based on (xjlumn 3 alone (payouts), Imt the ex-

pected distribution is then very different from what is obtained

(x" = 76.8, df = 4,p< .001) For example if payout alone were

determining their (jioices one would expect 65 percent of their

bets to be in tiie riskiest category instead of the 39 percent ob-

138 David C. McClelland and Robert I Watson, Jr.

tamed. So subj'e(rt5 with high n Power seem not to be mterested

m mcentive size per se, but rather m the attention they get from

taking the big nsk that goes with trymg for the large payouts.

While the gamblmg expenment clarifies what subjects high

m n Power are seeking, it introduces considerable confusion

into the picture of what governs the choices of subjects high m n

Achievement only m such a situation The E X I model predicts

for them that they should prefer the shortest odds For example,

m the lowest category of risk, the probability of success is 58,

which multiphed by l-Ps or 42 yields a value that is 43 percent

of the sum of the attractiveness of aU odds alternatives usmg

this model Thus 43 percent of the bets should be at this level

whereas m fact only 11 percent were actually placed at this level

by subjects high m n Achievement only As previously noted,

other investigators have reported results more m lme with pre-

diction, m chance situations subjects with high n Achievement

have preferred the shortest nsks they can take, which is not the

case here. We can only assume that our subj'ects somehow

generalized their tendency to choose intermediate risks m work

situations In terms of the E X I model, this could be taken into

account only by assummg that they more or less ignored the

stated probabilities of winning and superimposed their ovm

subjective probabihties of success, such that short odds were

considered "easy," middle odds "moderately nsky," and long

shots "difficult." Thus while the objective Ps for odds of H and

1 1 IS .58, maybe the subjects with high n Achievement acted

as if it was .80 (easy) meaning that the E X I attractiveness of

these bets (.80 X .20 = .16) would only be in the low range,

explaining the fact that they placed only l i percent of their

bets in this category. Similarly the 8 and 11 1 bets may have

been thought to be moderately risky ( P s ~ 40) whereas in fact

Ps = .10 hi this way the strong preference of the subjects with

high n Achievement for these bets (50 percent placed in this

category) could be explained (.40 X .60 = .24). Nevertheless

It IS a httie hard to believe tiiat the subj'ects with high n Achieve-

ment have so wildly distorted the actual probabilities of success

and we must simply confess that their behavior m the gambling

experiment is not readily explainable according to the E X I

model. At any rate further speculation seems pointiess without

Power motivation and risk 139

more data on what subjects really feel their chances are of

Manning when they place each bet

SxiMMARY

To summarize, the expenment has clanfied the contrastmg

incentives which influence nsk-takmg behavior for subj'e(rts

strongly motivated for achievement, for power, or for affiliation.

Those high in n Achievement set goals pnvately for themselves

of mtermediate difficulty so that they are hkely to get a sense

of personal accomplishment Those high in n Power seek to stand

out pubhcly and do so m gamblmg by taking more extreme

nsks Those high in n Affihation try to avoid public competition

by takmg low risks. The Atkmson model predicting choice of

risk by multiplying Expectancy X Incentive works well when

an achievement mcentive is sahent, improves prediction of

behavior shghtly when a power incentive is salient (eg nsk

takmg in gamblmg), but does a poor job of predicting how

people onented toward achievement incentives will react when

a power mcentive is sahent, as in gambling

REFEBENCES

Atkinson, J W Mofavational determmants of nsk-takmg behavior Psychologicd

Revtew, 1957, 64, 359-372

Atkinson, J W , & Reitman, W R Perfonnance as a function of motive strengA

and expectancy of goal attainment Joumd of Abnormd and Sodd Psy-

chology, 1956, 53, 361-366

Homer, M S Sex difFerences m achievement mobvataon and performance m

competitive and noncompetitive situations Unpublished doctoral dissertation.

University of Michigan, 1968

Littig, L W. Effects of motivation on probabihty preferences Joumd of Per-

sonahty, 1963, 31, 417-427

Litwin, G H Achievemrait motivation, expectancy of success, and risk-taldiig

behavior In J W Atkinson and N T Feather (Eds ), A theory of achieve-

ment mottviOton New York Wiley, 1966

McClelland, D C , Davis, W N , IKahn, R, & Wanner, H E The dHiiking num.

New Yoric Free Press, 197a

Terhune, K W Studies of motives, cooperation and conflict widun laboratory

microcosms In G H Snyder ( £ ^ ), Studies tn interruOiorud confhct Buffdo

Studtes, 1968, 4, 29-58

Veroff, J Development and vahdation dF a projecttve measure of power motiva-

tion Joumd of Abnormd and Sodd Psychology, 1937, 54, 1-^

Wemer, B , & KvJda, A An attributional analysis of adiievement motivation

Joumd of Personality and Sodd Psychology, 1970, 15, l - a a

Winter, D G. Hie need for power in coOege men In D C McQeDand. W N

Davis, R. KaUn, & H E. Wanner, The drmking num. New York. Free Fiess,

1972

Manuscript received November 30, 1971

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