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Basics

The Reiss Motivation Profile®

There are 16 motives that determine our lives. They are the substance from which we are made, which gives purpose and meaning to our existence. And the intensity and expression of these motives are different in every human being.

Background: People are completely individual. They often live in a contradiction and try to adapt to others while at the same time trying to be themselves. To briefly explain this with an example: Children in day-care learn that being different is not always beneficial. As cruel as it can be, when you grow up it does not necessarily change. When we live our identity, we run the risk to succumb and risk being marginalized, despised or, in the worst case, bullied. And all this because we are not understood.

The need for “fitting in” does not only apply to your workplace – it happens to us just as much among our friends, with our children and partners and always, when we meet other people. Rarely is a person automatically appreciated by others because he or she is different. Individuality can separate people. Whenever two people think very different about their priorities, it’s hard to understand why the other part think, feel and act differently. However, the more you get caught up in such self-perspectives, the greater the risk of projecting a view of “what is good for me is good for others” on partners, friends and colleagues. This leads to many conflicts and misunderstandings.

Those who know their own motives and the motives of others and understand that neither one is “better” or “worse” than the other, can provide an enormous amount of positive impulses for living together, cooperating and being together. Above all, this knowledge teaches us to recognize and accept others as they are, and to value their differences rather than condemn them.

Seven principles of Motivational Psychology

Principle of Universal Goals. Certain goals are common to everyone and deeply rooted in human nature. The motivation to experience these universal goals is called “intrinsic motivation” or “basic desire.” Examples of universal goals include curiosity, status, and structured environment. Reiss’s list of 16 basic desires is the first scientifically derived and validated taxonomy of universal goals.

Principle of Intrinsic Motivation. Intrinsic motives (basic desires) have two characteristics: what is desired, which is the universal in human motivation, and how much is typically desired, which is the particular in human motivation. We all want the same things – acceptance, understanding, sustenance, offspring, character, justice, freedom, structure, exercise, competence, sex, preparedness, belonging, respect, safety, and victory — but not to the same extent. Everybody embraces the 16 basic desires, but individuals prioritize them differently. How an individual prioritizes the 16 basic desires is called a “Reiss Motivation Profile®” or “Reiss Profile®. “ It reveals personality traits and core values.

Principle of Relationship Compatibility. People are naturally motivated to assert their basic desires in relationships. Couples with similar desire profiles typically have shared values and bond. Those with dissimilar desire profiles typically have opposite values and quarrel.

Principle of Strong Basic Desires. Strong basic desires motivate interest in multiple gratification objects. People with hearty appetites eat many different kinds of food; curious people are interested in learning about different topics; romantic people seek multiple partners.

Principle of Counseling/ Coaching. A person thrives in relationships, work, and family situations that satisfy his or her most important basic desires. Better to marry the right person to begin with than to need a counselor to learn to get along with your partner.

Principle of Self-Hugging. We often think our values are best, not just for us, but for everyone. We use the tactics of “everyday tyranny” to pressure others to change their priorities for ours, thinking it is for their own good. We are a naturally intolerant species.

Principle of a Greater Motive. Personality change can occur only when the basic desire(s) motivating change is/are stronger than the one(s) motivating the current traits. Often there are few or no such greater motives, or they cannot be practically applied. Hence personality change is difficult to accomplish.

The 16 basic motives

Flip through an overview of the 16 basic motives.

Power

High need for power:
Has the desire to lead and influence others, willingness to take responsibility, ambitious, success-oriented and performance-oriented, assertion of will

Low need for power:
Dislikes leadership roles, does not like to influence others, more comfortable with following somebody else’s lead rather than serving as the leader herself/himself

Independence

High need for independence:
Values personal freedom and selfsufficiency, does not want to be dependent upon others, tends to do things alone, without help from other people, likes to live his/her individuality, places a high value on autonomy

Low need for independence:
Desire to bond with others, wants to be part of a community, team-oriented, prefer to rely on others

Curiosity

High need for curiosity:
Places a high value on understanding things, tends to “get to the bottom of things“, intellectual behavior, eager for knowledge, thoughtful, analytical, cares about ideas, knowledge and theories, regardless of practical relevance

Low need for curiosity:
Highly interested in practical things and practicability, believes that “actions speak louder than words”, prefers a practical approach, dislikes having to analyze things, “Doer”

Acceptance

High need for acceptance:
Sensitive to criticism and rejection, seeks acceptance and positive self-esteem, avoids criticism

Low need for acceptance:
Self-reliant, self confident, constructively opposed to criticism, optimism, is able to handle setbacks better than other people

Order

High need for order:
Seeking for organization, has a structured approach , places
a high value on safety, stability and order, pays attention to
details, prefers to plan, difficulty to adapt to changes

Low need for order:
Prefers flexibility and less structure, likes changes, low need
for security, may seem unstructured/chaotic, appreciates
spontaneity, low need for order

Saving

High need for saving:
Likes to collect things and keep things, takes care of his/her belongings/property, tends to be frugal, dislikes to throw things away or to waste them

Low need for saving:
No interest in keeping or collecting things, has no difficulty with giving or throwing things away, tendency to material generosity

Honor

High need for honor:
Oriented to principles, high need for moral integrity, appreciates moral, character and tradition, places a high value on loyalty

Low need for honor:
Expedience, strongly motivated by own personal code of conduct, little oriented to general principles and traditions

Social Contact

High need for social contact:
Communicative, sociable and outgoing, active social life, loves jokes, prefers close contact with friends, has many friends, loves to spend time with others and appreciates common activities

Low need for social contact:
Dislikes an active social life, prefers time alone, little need for companionship and social interaction

Idealism

High need for idealism:
Places a high value on social justice, fairness, need to make
the world a better place, humanitarian orientation

Low need for idealism:
Values social self-responsibility, realistic and pragmatic attitude
towards social issues and questions

Family

High need for family:
Wants to have children and a family life, likes to spend a lot of time with children and family, places a high value on bonding to siblings

Low need for family:
Might not want to have own children, can enjoy time without the family

Status

High need for status:
Places a high value on prestige, wealth, titles and reputation, public attention and money are essential

Low need for status:
Places a high value on modesty, believes in social equality, rejects snobbery, formality, status symbols and prestige

Vengeance / Winning

High need for vengeance / winning:
Searches for retribution and revenge, has a fighting spirit, high need for competition and contest, likes to win

Low need for vengeance / winning:
Avoids conflicts and arguments, low need for comparison, willing to compromise, prefers harmony

Beauty

High need for beauty:
Places a high value on beauty, art, design, fashion or sensuality

Low need for beauty:
Little interest in beauty, beautiful things or sensuality, prefers sobriety, value function before form

Eating

High need for eating:
Loves to eat, has a hearty appetite, appreciates variety in taste and food, food is enjoyed and celebrated

Low need for eating:
Does not place a high value on food, has little appetite, fussy eater, not interested in food

Physical activity

High need for physical activity:
Enjoys movement and physical fitness, energetic, active, loves physical exertion

Low need for physical activity:
Does not value sports and physical exercise, comfortable, avoids physical exertion or sports

Tranquility

High need for tranquility:
High sensitivity to danger, risk or pain, gets nervous easily, experiences stress and anxiety frequently

Low need for tranquility:
Little sensitivity to danger, risk or pain, deals well with stress, remains “cool” under pressure, brave and fearless

Background and research

Steven Reiss

Steven Reiss – Born in New York in 1947, Steven Reiss was Emeritus Professor for Psychology and Psychiatry at Ohio State University (USA) and Director of the Nisonger Center for Mental Retardation. He is the author of numerous research papers and specialist books and has received several awards for his work.

In Europe, he is primarily known as the creator of the Reiss Motivation Profile®; this is a diagnostic procedure in personality analysis that can be applied across a range of consultancy contexts, e.g. personal development, career coaching and elite sport. Thousands of people around the world have been able to work out what makes them tick and what their individual motivators are. He focused on the deep fulfilment of a person’s true needs, conflict-free interpersonal relationships and a better understanding of people’s individual differences throughout his life.

Steven Reiss died on 28/10/2016 from illnesses associated with a long-term, chronic ailment.

Reiss Motivation Profile – how did it start?

For Steven Reiss, there was a mystery in life that he wanted to solve: Why are people the way they are and how do I understand AND predict their behaviour?
Using these two questions, he developed the Reiss Motivation Profile, a tool that reveals a person’s fundamental goals and values. The personality profile that was created through this has so far helped countless people to understand themselves and other people better. He reduced the main 

psychological motivators down to 16 basic desires. Assessing each of these 16 motivators in life helps you to create a picture of your intrinsic behavioural motivators, i.e. the things within you that drive you.This means that every person who receives their results of the Reiss Motivation Profile can see why they consider certain actions to be reasonable; by combining their own, personal, individual motivators in life, they can understand and see the reasons behind their behaviour.

Research

Who am I? What do I actually want? Until now, psychologists have worked on the basis of only a few different, yet dominant, impulses that determine people’s actions; Steven Reiss’ empirical research, on the other hand, identified a significant number of factors. Sigmund Freud believed that libido was almost the only driving force. Alfred Adler believed that people want to belong and become better / grow / learn / be significant / respected and muster the courage to compensate for their flaws. The American psychologist Abraham Maslow considered the striving for self-actualisation to be the driver for human behaviour. “These schemata do not take any account of how different people are,” says Reiss. There was no system that included human diversity when it came to looking at the motivators for behaviour. What makes people tick is so varied that it cannot be explained by just  

a few impulses. In a series of nine, large trials that included over 8000 men and women, Reiss looked into the psychological ‘essential motivators’, which he later called ‘basic desires’, that ultimately drive people.The basic desires that Steven Reiss identified are the result of this comprehensive scientific research. “For the first time in scientific studies, we looked at the question of what motivates individual people,” says Reiss. The result is a breakthrough in motivation research, as it enables you to describe precisely what drives people, i.e. their individual needs and motivations behind their actions. “The intensity of individual desires varies widely from person to person,” explains the psychologist. “This is what constitutes a personality.” Every person has their own, almost unique set of basic desires. Having your individual needs fulfilled makes you happy and content.

Validity and Reliability of RMP

Steven Reiss, Ph.D., conducted scientific surveys and then used factor analytic methods to delineate 16 human needs. He and independent researchers, notably Ken Olson, Ph.D., then validated each of the 16 needs against personality measures (e.g., Big 5 scales, motivation scales, Anxiety Sensitivity Index, romance scales) as an indicator of behavior (e.g., interest in college major, club memberships, television viewing habits, participation in sports, participation in humanitarian causes, etc.). Reiss reported this work in 17 scientific journal articles -three published in prestigious APA journals – and three books. Since then, others have published books on the RMP. The instrument is gaining wide use. Practitioners usually can “see” the validity of the tool (meaning that the validity is apparent and not limited to statistics).

The scientific criteria of Reiss Motivation Profile

Objectivity
The online test guarantees objectivity when taking the test irrespective of who is your Reiss Master.

Validity
The 16 scales show high levels of concurrent and criterion-related validity. Several scales also show high convergence validity.

Test-Retest-Reliability
The four-week Test-Retest-Reliability of the 16 scales scores between 0.69 and 0.88, internal consistency – measured using Cronbachs Alpha – between 0.71 and 0.92.

 

Read more: Scientific article about test-retest validity of  Reiss Motivation Profile.