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Volume 1

Expanded Contents


1: Introduction [and Summary]
2: Physical Field Theories
3: Psychological Field Theories
4: Social Field Theories
5: The Field of Power
6: Field Theories in Summary
7: Perception and Reality
8: Actuality versus Potentiality
9: Manifests versus Latents
10: Latent Functions
11: Perception, Space, and Field
12: Cognitive Dissonance
13:Behavior, Personality, Situation, and Expectations
14: The Behavioral Equation: Behavior, Situation, and Expectations
15: Situation, Expectations, and Triggers
16: Person-Perception and Distance
17: The Behavioral Occasion
18: Social Behavior
19: Motivational Explanation
20: Energy and Attitudes in the Psychological Field
22: What About Other Motivations ?
23: The Dynamic Field and Social Behavior
24: The Sociocultural Spaces
25: The Biophysical Spaces
26: Intentions and The Intentional Field
27: A Point of View
28: The Self As a Power
29: The Will As a Power
30: Determinism and Free Will
31: Alternative Perspectives on Freedom of the Will
32: A Humanism Between Materialism and Idealism
33: Atomism-Mechanism versus Organicism
34: Between Absolutism and Relationism
35: Humanity and Nature

Other Volumes

Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix
Vol. 3: Conflict In Perspective
Vol. 4: War, Power, Peace
Vol. 5: The Just Peace

Other Related Work

The Conflict Helix: Principles and Practices...


Chapter 21

Motivation And
The Superordinate Goal*

By R.J. Rummel

We are all prompted by the same motives, all deceived by the same fallacies, all animated by hope, obstructed by danger, entangled by desire and seduced by pleasure.
----Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, No. 60


 In his influential book Motivation and Personality,1 A. H. Maslow points out that we should give up attempts to make "atomistic lists of drives or needs."2 Among the reasons for this he mentions that such lists imply an equality of potency, a probability of appearance, and a mutual isolation of drives they do not have. Moreover, such lists ignore what we know of the internal dynamics of drives and "are foolish also because drives do not range themselves in an arithmetical sum of isolated, discrete members."3 That is, the number of drives depends on the level of specificity at which they are analyzed. Finally, all such published lists seem to imply a mutual exclusiveness among drives that they do not have. Maslow concludes: "The weight of evidence now available seems to me to indicate that the only sound and fundamental basis on which any classification of motivational life may be constructed is that of fundamental goals or needs, rather than on any listing of drives in the ordinary sense of instigation (the 'pulls' rather than the 'pushes'). It is only the fundamental goals that remain constant through all the flux that a dynamic approach forces upon psychological theorizing."4

I mention Maslow's reasons, for not only do I agree with them (leaving aside their redundancy) but also such reasons may be the basis for criticizing the "list" I will present. Therefore, let me try to be clear as to what I am about, especially regarding Maslow's point. First, my concern is with the structure of motivations, specifically with their components. These have been defined in Section 10.3 of Chapter 10 as the common latent functions underlying the diversity, change, relationships, and so on in the manifestations of interest; that is, as the boundaries of our potentialities.

As Maslow argues, at the most basic level there may be interdependent and interwoven drives of unequal potency and potentiality (in my terms), and our view of them depends on our perspective. Quite right. And through my perspective I will be viewing drives as common latent functions underlying all their relationships and dependencies.5 For example, the furniture of a room may be organized in countless ways and surely the location of specific pieces (if one has any sense for balancing masses, colors, and usage) will be interdependent, and particular pieces (such as one's reading chair) will have special weight. However, all such arrangements no matter how complex or exotic are reducible to four latent functions (components) through which the particular manifest arrangements can be reproduced, and these refer to the height, width, and length of the room and time (arrangements are changed through time).

Thus, however complex in relationships or whatever the nature of the most basic drives, I am dealing with them through the perspective of components--latent functions--that bound them as potentials. In this perspective, Maslow's point not only loses its critical strength but can be used to justify my approach and perspective.

Second, Maslow argues that we must define needs and goals, rather than drives (pushes) inferred from behavior. Leaving aside terminological issues over needs, goals, and drives, the approach underlying the determination of motivational components does rest in part on goals, as well as on observed behavior and physiological processes. The empirical basis of the motivational components are attitudes, as defined in the last chapter (Chapter 20), the ingredients of which are both our "I want" and our goals or courses of action. The motivational components will then tell us that the desire or want of individual i in a specific situation to do or achieve x with y is a function of his position in his motivational space as defined by these components.

Enough for an introduction. Let us actually describe these components.


 It is time to be specific about our needs. By need I mean an innate psychophysical potential which, when actualized, is a cluster of dispositions associated with specific emotions (such as feeling hungry), a common goal (food), provocative situations (the smell of bacon and eggs cooking), and goal gratification (eating). The need itself depends on the constitutional nature of a person in addition to the history of how the need has been satisfied.

Moreover, the strength of the actualized need depends on a person's physiological state in relation to the degree of associated goal gratification.6

A drive is that part of an actualized need referring to the purely physiological urge in relation to the physiological gratification received. Inherent in the person, a drive is felt irrespective of external stimulation. Need is therefore the broader concept, not only involving the drive, but also the constitutional and hereditary nature of the individual (for example, some have constitutionally stronger sex drives), his past history of gratification, and the overall present satisfaction of the need.

An erg, however, is the source of energy (power) that underlies a need7 and empowers the dispositions associated with a need's regional energy in the dynamic field. Ergic tension, where tension has been defined in the last chapter (Chapter 20) as the overall interest or strength of associated attitudes, is then the momentary actualized need of an individual in relation to an external situation or stimuli. For my practical purposes, the differences among erg, need, and drive can be ignored. Henceforth, as in the previous sections, the term need will refer to the associated ergic energy, drive, goals, and actions; tension will mean ergic tension which relates the level of gratification to the need; and ergic components8 refer to the personality components associated with these potential or actualized needs. To be sure these distinctions are clear, let me repeat them:

the state of a purely innate physiological urge in relation to its gratification.


drive strength in relation to a person's constitutional nature, history of gratification, and present level of gratification. The need constitutes a psychophysical potential or dispositions toward manifest goals, actions, and emotions; that is, needs comprise related attitudes or a potentiality toward such attitudes.

Ergic tension (or just tension):

a need in relation to a situation.

Ergic component:

a component defining a specific need and structuring the personality space and field.

One example of the use of these terms may suffice. The sexual drive is universal at the physiological level. As a need, however, it becomes differentiated: there are constitutional differences in potency and virility and different environmental and cultural influences will have modified the inner expression of this drive and associated emotion. For some the drive will find expression in a felt need for homosexual relations; in others certain perversions may be required to gratify the need. Cultures differ in the sexual routines that a person learns to associate with the drive--routines that become part of the need he feels. Finally, the amount of sexual tension a person feels at any one moment will depend not only on his need, but also on what he is doing, the context and associated stimuli, in short, in the situation. Individuals seeking sex soon learn to manipulate situations to heighten the sexual tension of another.

My aim is to present a minimum list of needs. Now, multivariate empirical research on needs has been under way only in the last three decades. Inconsistencies among studies have yet to be clarified, and some apparently minor needs have yet to be discerned. Accordingly, I will concern myself only with the following, well-defined needs appearing in a number of studies (with attendant clarification if necessary):




(4) Protectiveness,

which includes attitudes toward helping people in distress, ensuring the best possible education for our children, and reducing the danger of our dying from disease or accidents.

(5) Curiosity


which includes attitudes toward better protection against nuclear weapons, stopping nations that threaten ours, punishing those responsible for inflation, having more health insurance, wanting one's country to have more power and influence, and being safe at home.

(7) Self-assertion,

which includes attitudes toward increasing salary and status, excelling others in one's chosen pursuit, commanding the respect of others and one's self, maintaining a good reputation, and seeing that one's team wins.

These seven are the ergic components of subsequent concern.


 Motivations not only include needs,but sentiments as well. Sentiments constitute a clustering around one goal of attitudes which relate to a variety of needs. These attitudes represent cultural, social, and learned goals that have developed in part through past rewards and punishments, socialization and education. Although a sentiment is not a need and thus an original source of motivational tension, it comprises a separate motivational component because it has become invested with need-qualities and energy. In some complex manner, in satisfying a variety of needs, a sentiment takes on a need's emotional and psychic qualities.

Figure 21.1

For a better definition of sentiment, consider the lattice pictured in Figure 21.1.10 The needs involve the most basic goals requiring satisfaction. The attitudes are dispositions toward the more specific goals, such as abortion or foreign aid, and their gratification subsidiates through the lattice toward (from right to left in the figure) gratifying one or more needs. Through individual learning and the increasing complexity of society, we have developed long circuits of attitudes eventually gratifying the needs.11 That is, our increasing experience and learning and society's increasing differentiation of roles and institutions mean an increasing extension of the attitudinal lattice from left to right. Within this lattice, many attitudes will converge on and cluster around a common goal such as religion or the self, as shown in the figure.

Of course, what sentiments we emphasize becomes a matter of degree. Some attitudes, for example, will cluster around a political party, some around welfare, some around world government, and so on. However, these long circuited (far to the right in the figure) sentiments are not common to most people, nor are they relatively large clusters of covarying attitudes. Consequently, the detailing of sentiments at this basic stage should be limited to those most consistently found as common components in motivation. With the understanding that we are dealing with the largest common sentiments--common goals among diverse attitudes--we have the following:12

(1) Self-sentiment:
the attitudes centered on the self, which include wanting to control one's mental processes, avoiding damaging self-respect, being first-rate in one's job, having a reputation for honesty and high principles, and wanting to be responsible and in charge of things.

(2) Superego sentiment:13

the attitudes centered on being moral, including duty to church and parents, unselfishness, avoiding sexual sin, gambling, and drinking, and maintaining good self-control. ,

(3) Religious sentiment:

which includes attitudes toward worshiping God or higher principles and going to church, increasing the standards of organized religion, and being against birth control.

(4)Career sentiment:

which includes learning skills required for a job, increasing salary and status, continuing in present career, accepting leadership and responsibility.

(5)Sentiment to sports and games:

attitudes centered on sports and games, such as watching or talking about athletic events, being active in sports, hunting or fishing, and playing cards.

(6) Material-mechanical sentiment:

attitudes centered on mechanical and material things, such as cars or motorcycles, handling gadgets, enjoying buying or selling things, owning a home, and knowing more about physical science.

No doubt this list is incomplete, and tentative evidence points to additional sentiments associated with the home, patriotism, and sweethearts. However, the above are evidently the best defined in empirical work so far, and will suffice for our purposes.


 Social role has become something of a central concept in American sociology, and for some has become a magic key to our social nature. Infatuation with sensible concepts is bound to bubble up from time to time, and the notion of role is no different. Actually, the notion that we don different clothing as we move in and out of social positions has a long lineage, going back at least to the classical Greeks. The point of the concept is simply that a person's behavior will differ depending on his social position--role--and that (1) those perceiving an individual expect certain behavior from him because of his role, (2) the inhabitant of the role expects others to behave toward him in certain ways, and (3) he also has a tendency to behave congruent with others' expectations of the role.

It is this last characteristic that concerns us. From the actor's perspective, perceived situations trip appropriate role behavior, or at least the disposition to so behave. To have my daughter come to me for help brings out my fatherly role; to have a student telephone for advice brings out the professor in me; to attend a conference on international relations is to play the professional; and so on for the multiple roles for which we turn different masks to the world. Therefore, in spite of a similarity in needs and sentiments from moment to moment or person to person, behavior still may differ considerably depending on the activated roles. I may have the same need for self-assertiveness while giving a lecture as when on a picnic with my family, but my behavior on these occasions may differ as do my roles.

How does behavior which varies with social position fit in with our motivations? In answering this, consider that an attitude is the disposition to want to do this (goal or action) with that regarding a certain situation. And consider that a role is a correlation between situations and actions or goals. Thus, insofar as a person's various attitudes are concerned, a role is a clustering of attitudes that share provocations by, or invocation in, the same situation and have a common goal or action. My role as a teacher, therefore, involves a variety of diverse attitudes stimulated by students, classrooms, certain questions (which may invoke a lecturing manner in my response, even among friends at dinner), and committee meetings, which attitudes have a common pedagogical goal and behavior. Thus people can develop firm expectations regarding my behavior associated with teaching, and in general, can predict one another's behavior from role-related situations.

Unlike needs, which provide the basic goals from which the lattice of attitudes ensue, and unlike sentiments, which consist of attitudes with a common goal, a role, from the actor's perspective, comprises both common attitudinal goals (or action) and provocative situations. Roles, therefore, are subclasses of sentiments, or subsentiments provoked by a common situation.14 As subsentiments, the variety of roles in society are clearly multitudinous and often specific to a culture or society. We can, however, define certain roles that are common among all societies, such as those of mother, husband, priest, headman, and so on.

Empirical research has yet to delineate the common components of roles among individuals, although surely the ones just mentioned would be among them. Nonetheless, we can define a set of motivational components--latent functions--that structure those attitudes associated with the major social roles people play.

In sum, then, the motivational space consists of components structuring the needs, sentiments, and role-related attitudes. These frame the dynamics of human perception, intentions, situations, expectations, and behavior.


 We now can focus on a person's central goal. In a previous section, I pointed out that the attitudes subsidiating to needs form an equilibrium constituting a state of tension, and that this equilibrium comprises an integration of interests and attitudes around a self-ideal or goal. Specifically, this organization--the integrated self--involves the id, superego, and ego elements in attitudes and their powers (interests).15

The question as to the central goal around which this integration occurs has been implicitly answered in the previous section, but should now be made

explicit. We clearly have a multitude of goals: some are fleeting desires or instrumental to higher goals; some are basic, long-term visions, hopes, or ends; and some are at the core of one's being--those that we might die for. Whatever these goals, at their foundation lie at least several needs, such as security, self-assertion, and curiosity. Through the evolution of society and its differentiation, we have learned to satisfy these fundamental goals through a variety of subsidiary motives and aims (attitudes), many of which coalesce around the same goal (sentiment) or situation and goal (roles). Thus, our goals form a lattice structure of the kind shown in Figure 21.1 with goals being interrelated and interdependent in a variety of ways, but always subsidiating to the fundamental ones that constitute our needs.

Within this lattice, this complex hierarchical system of goals, we have developed out of our primitive and primate ancestry an integration of these various goals by a self composed of the ego and superego. And this integration is in terms of a superordinate goal. So much has been described in the previous sections.

Then what is this goal? Consider again the sentiments. Two of the most general (and empirically consistent, so far as the evidence is concerned) are the superego and self-sentiments. By their nature, these sentiments refer to two of the most common subsidiary goals (attitudes) in the lattice. Let us first look at the self-sentiment which focuses such attitudes as


maintaining self-respect,

being first rate in one's job,

maintaining a reputation,

taking the responsibility of a leader,

satisfying a sense of duty to one's nation,

wanting not to be insane.

Clearly this attitudinal cluster concerns our self-concept or ideal in our own and others' eyes. It concerns our self-esteem, our self-realization among other people. It is what in the Orient is called "face," the loss of which causes many suicides and contributes to a high anxiety with attendant psychological illnesses.16 Clearly, the essence of this self-sentiment is similar to Adler's future-oriented self-ideal, our striving upward for self-esteem and perfection. Moreover, it resembles Maslow's17 and Goldstein's18 highest motivation, our need for self-actualization or fulfillment. I will call this self-sentiment, self-esteem. This is the superordinate goal we strive to maintain or enhance. Most of our attitudes and other goals are subordinate to it. It is a future goal and its constant pursuit integrates our psychic field.

Then, what about the superego sentiment? Recall that it is the categorical imperative of sentiments; it composes the moral structures that underlie our attitudes, such as our duty to parents and church, unselfishness, and virtue. That the superego sentiment is separate from the self-sentiment only indicates that people vary in the relative strengths of the two. Some may have a strong goal of self-esteem but weak superego guidance; others may be the opposite, and so on. Nonetheless the two are cooperative in the sense that the superego attitudes inhibit and guide behavior directed toward gratifying the goal of self-esteem, while such behavior helps fulfill the oughts composing the superego. Thus, the pursuit of self-esteem is not without certain principles of morality; such principles are not without a point.

Figure 21.2

Figure 21.2 summarizes the above. Note that the integrated self (the equilibrium among needs, powers, and attitudes) is central within the lattice as a master sentiment, although not inclusive of all attitudes. Some attitudes and minor goals are unintegrated in all of us, but a widespread lack of motivational integration can cause serious emotional-psychological problems, among them extreme neurosis.19 In any event, the picture of concern to us is now complete; the motivational framework and organization have been described. What remains is fitting this within the tetradic structure of the dynamic field described in Parts I and II (see The Dynamic Psychological Field).


"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master--that's all.
----Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, VI

Recall that our dynamic psychological field is structured by personality, situation, behavioral dispositions, and expectations. Briefly, the personality consists of our common abilities, temperament, motivations (needs, senti- ments, and roles), and moods and states, in addition to the unique aspects of our personality. The situation comprises those surrounding dispositions that we perceive as a dialectical outcome of conflict between external reality and our perspective on it. Our behavioral dispositions are a product of our personality and situation; however, which disposition becomes manifest depends on our expectations about the behavioral outcomes. Thus, the tetradic structure. How do motivations, attitudes, superego, and so on fit in then?

Motivations generate the dynamic field; they are the ultimate seat of psychic forces in a constant state of balance and flux. However, cognitive processes are always in play not only in response to motivations but also in relation to the whole personality including temperament, abilities, and moods and states. And the core of this dialectical balance is the integrated self (ego and superego) and its goal of self-esteem, which organizes both consciously and unconsciously this interplay.

Motivations are what we want to do. Our abilities define how well we do it. The primary abilities are verbal, numerical, ideational, induction, memory, deduction, reasoning, closure (speed), closure (flexibility), and spatial relations and speed of perception, and at their most general divide into fluid versus crystallized intelligence,20 fluency, and visualization.21

While our abilities define how well we do that which we are motivated toward, our temperaments comprise our style and manner of such behavior. At the highest level of organization, the temperamental components are extroversion versus introversion, anxiety versus integration, sensitive subjectivity, unbroken success versus maturity by frustration, and constitutional adaptability.22 Our moods and states, the final group of components in personality, simply add our day-by-day emotional and mental tone (whether depressed, bored, happy, or tired) to our "behavioral" tendencies.

In sum, then, the psychological field consists of situation, personality, behavioral dispositions, and expectations. And within this structure an attitude expresses a person's motive and goal or course of action regarding a specific situation. The outcome is a behavioral disposition, a tendency toward manifesting specific behavior. Whether this disposition or some other will be manifest depends on how the integrated self assesses its expectations about the outcomes of such behavior--and these expectations themselves are, of course, perceptions subject to all the dialectical psychological forces of the field.

Where do society and culture enter into this field? First, certain sentiments of the motivational field comprise the roles one learns through his culture and society. Second, the integrated self is a sentiment-structure in part developed through socialization. It has a reality component (ego) honed through transaction with social reality and a superego that embodies cultural values and morality. And finally, perceptions are but the end of a process of psychological transformations through which the external situation is clothed with sociocultural meanings. These meanings comprise the only dictionary through which the various aspects of the psychological field can communicate, cooperate, and conflict, and according to which the self can pursue and assess its self-esteem. 


* Scanned from Chapter 21 in R.J. Rummel, The Dynamic Psychological Field, 1975. For full reference to the book and the list of its contents in hypertext, click book. Typographical errors have been corrected, clarifications added, and style updated.

1. Maslow, Motivation and Personality (New York: Harper, 1954).

2. Ibid., p. 70.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid., p. 71.

5. A rereading of Chapter 10 may help here.

6. This description of a need follows closely Raymond Cattell's "ergic-tension" equation in Personality and Motivation (Yonkers-on-Hudson, N.Y.: World Book Co., 1957), op. cit., p. 547, and his discussion on p. 109 of Personality: A Systematic and Theoretical and Factual Study (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1950) and passim, except that I am treating an erg as purely an energy source (potential) and accord to a need more of the characteristics it should have by virtue of Cattell's discussion and equation. Note that his ergic tension equation in The Scientific Analysis of Personality (Baltimore: Penguin, 1965: 202) differs from that given in the first reference, and where differences appear between the two I am following the one in The Scientific Analysis of Personality.

7. "Erg" is derived from the Greek "work." Erg thus has a meaning analogous to energy in physics, which is the capacity or ability to do work.

8. To use the term motivational component would cause confusion among needs, sentiments, and roles, which are all motivational components, as will be explained subsequently. In spite of its jargon-like nature, therefore, I will use erg to modify component in referring to a need, for it has the virtue of precision and is the preferred term in the related multivariate literature.

9. Hunger does not appear in the earlier works by Cattell or in John L. Horn, "Motivation and Dynamic Calculus Concepts from Multivariate Experiment," in Raymond B. Cattell (ed.), Handbook of Multivariate Psychology (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1966): 625-631.

10. The basic idea of this lattice comes from Cattell.

11. It is outside my concern here, but this would be the perfect juncture to bring in learning theories.

12. These are the sentiments listed in Cattell, Personality and Motivation, op. cit., pp. 520-526; Horn, op. cit., p. 633; or Cattell, The Scientific Analysis of Personality, op. cit., pp. 191-195.

13. This sentiment is only mentioned tentatively (pp. 525-526) in the earlier Cattell and is only referred to incidentally in his The Scientific Analysis of Personality (see Table 22, p. 196). Horn, op. cit., includes it as having the same status as the other sentiments.

14. Cattell considers roles as similar patterns of behavior between people and does not deal directly with the relation of roles to attitudes or the lattice of attitudes. See Cattell, The Scientific Analysis of Personality, op. cit., pp. 157-160, and especially his "Group Theory, Personality and Role: A Model for Experimental Researchers," in Defense Psychology (New York: Pergamon Press, 1961). Horn (op. cit., pp. 63-68) does describe roles as sentiments keyed off by certain situations.

15. See Section 20.3 of Chapter 20.

16. Cattell, The Scientific Analysis of Personality, op. cit., p. 245.

17. Maslow, op. cit., pp. 91-92, chap. 12.

18. Kurt Goldstein. The Organism: A Holistic Approach to Biology Derived From Pathological Data in Man (New York: American Books, 1939): 197-198.

19. Cattell, The Scientific Analysis of Personality, op. cit., pp. 208 ff.

20. This is the difference between native or raw intelligence and that honed by experience.

21. See Kurt Pawlik, "Concepts in Human Cognition and Aptitudes," in Cattell (ed.), Handbook of 'Multivariate Experimental Psychology, op. cit., pp. 535-562; Raymond B. Cattell, Abilities: Their Structure, Growth and Action (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971).

22. Cattell, Personality and Motivation, op. cit., pp. 317 ff.

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