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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
This book is based on a thorough study of value-based motivation in order to identify the bases of each person's identity and behavior. Because of the methodology used, this work represents a breakthrough in understanding how and why individuals differ. It takes us for the first time beyond the frequently-cited Maslow hierarchy of needs onto a better metric for looking at individual differences.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in human motivation, how to have better relationships with others, self-understanding, and self-improvement as well as scholars in the field of human behavior. The book is written in a simple, clear style, but also contains the necessary references and rigor to appeal to the scholar.
The significance of this book is that it is the first scientific study to successfully challenge the often cited pain-pleasure principle of motivation and Maslow's hierarchy of needs. This study is based on developing a long list of human values, testing those using behavior-based questions asked of individuals and observers with a cross-section of society, and then looking for common value areas in a large sample drawn from the United States, Canada, and Japan. The resulting responses were then clustered statistically to locate 16 common value areas that were present in almost every individual tested.
These value areas are power, independence, curiosity, acceptance, order, saving, honor, idealism, social contact, family, status, vengeance, romance, eating, physical activity, and tranquility. You will have to read the book to find out exactly what is meant by these areas, but don't think about them too literally. The meanings are different from the common dictionary definitions in several cases (such as with romance, which is a cross that includes sex and beauty). There is a test you can use to find out how oriented you are (very, average, or less than average) to each area in the book that I found very interesting to take.
The book goes on to distinguish between enjoyment from pleasant sensations (which is fleeting and depends mostly on how well born and wealthy you are) and value-based pleasure which anyone can achieve at a high level. Christopher Reeve is cited as an example of someone who has lots of fear and pain from his paralysis, but lots of value-based pleasure based on his attachment to his family, his idealism, and his desire to help others like himself.
The author goes on to argue that these same values are found in the primates most like humans, so he thinks that the values are primarily inherited as a species. On the other hand, the degree of your feeling for these areas is conditioned by environmental influences like family values, exposure, and experiences.
He makes a strong case for individuality, because there are 43 million potential combinations of attributes possible. To drive that point home and to explain more about the values, the author also provides profiles of Howard Hughes, Jackie Kennedy, and Humphrey Bogart among others.
In his comparison to Maslow, he finds many similarities and many important differences. He finds more differences among individuals than Maslow did. His work is also based on measurement while Maslow's work is a theory, without a measurement basis. He also found that Maslow was wrong about the importance of safety and order.
In Part 2 of the book, the author takes on what all of this means for enjoying more personal fulfillment, improving your relationships with others, how men and women differ, the impact of aging, the implications for your working life, the effect on child rearing, and how it all relates to sports and spirituality.
A potentially controversial finding is that spirituality is not a basic human need, but rather a context for expressing more fundamental needs among the 16 listed above. I had some trouble with that, and found that what was written did not seem to describe spirituality as I experience it. Take a look, and see what you think.
The book goes on to relate many fundamental communications problems to differences in values, with many specific examples. I thought that this section was terrific because it helps explain the reasons why some stallbusting methods work better than others in overcoming the communications stall, the most common one we humans experience.
The book describes how many common psychological problems relate to certain value profiles (including the ones for depression), and how advertising slogans appeal to major value types.
I found the suggestions for experiencing greater fulfillment of these values to be useful and helpful. That's an important payoff for you in reading and applying the lessons of this book to your own life. Those who are looking for a potential spouse will like the section on matching values and how that can help establish a better relationship. I suspect that a lot of relationship problems really start with value conflicts that are never resolved.
The book is very affirming, because it does not exalt one set or combination of values over others. In a sense, it creates a full appreciation for the uniqueness and specialness of each individual.
The book will be a paradigm shifter of the sort that overcomes the disbelief stall (why do you do what you do?) about the sources of human behavior, makes major progress on the communications stall, and shows many improved ways for people to make rapid progress in the best tradition of 2,000 percent solutions.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2000
In "Who Am I" Steven Reiss does an excellent job of presenting 16 basic desires that motivate human behavior. Reiss shows how differences from one person to another in the relative strengths of these desires contribute to personality. He also does a fine job of discussing how child rearing and culture determine how such desires are fulfilled. Among other topics, the book describes how people fail to accurately gauge others' motives because they project their own motives or misunderstand motives different from their own.
As Reiss describes, the notion of a diverse set of innate human motives, differing in strength and manner of satisfaction from one person to another, can be traced to William McDougall (1921). Reiss has taken McDougall's basic insights and elaborated them in a carefully planned scientific program of research. Readers may disagree with the selection of some motives as basic or with the characterization of specific motives. For example, Reiss identifies competitiveness as a component of the motive for vengeance, although outdoing others might be more closely related to the motivation for status. These issues aside, Reiss has written an important and informative book.
"Who Am I" has great value for capturing the diversity of human motives, based upon a rigorous research program. This work deserves serious attention by both the general public and the scientific community
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2000
Reiss' easy writing style and comprehensive scientific approach make this book unique to readers who want to get to know themselves and others better. While other books give plenty of advice based on the opinions of their authors, "Who Am I" is based on actual scientific research and is therefore much more credible. Reiss explains what make people different from one another and how these different people react to life. Especially interesting are the chapters on celebrity profiles (e.g. Jackie Kennedy-O.) and the chapter about relationships. I finally get why I always seem to have the same arguments about the same things. It happens when my basic needs are at odds with another person. This is especially true with people with whom one has a close relationship like spouses or bosses. Other interesting topics include Religion, Sports Motivation, and Work related issues. I strongly reccommend this book to anybody who is curious about why people are different from one another and why some people find things rewarding that others are totally not interested in doing. Read the book!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2000
Dr. Steven Reiss psychologist and professor at Ohio State University has written a very insightful book that delves into the reasons for why you are who you are. Based on his scientific research after overcoming a life threatening illness, Dr. Reiss pondered the question of what truly makes one happy. His conclusion was that there are 16 basic desires all which in some way motivate us and shape us as humans into becoming who we actually are. According to Dr. Reiss, by understanding what ones strong and weak desires are amongst the 16, one can shape these attributes towards leading a more fulfilling life personally and profesionally. After examining my own background and by using the questionaire in the book, I was able to understand what my psyche craves the most to be a happy person and what temptations I need to avoid. By understanding the strenghts and short comings that I have inherited and developed over the years, I find myself far more capable in slowly pursuing with confidence the mythical balanced life that I desire. Dr Reiss might say that I am seeking a more "value based happiness"-which I am and thanks to his book my life is slowly evolving for the better.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2011
Of course when you read the title of this book, you immediately want to know what the 16 basic desires are that motivate our behavior and define our personality. So let's get to it: 1.) Power 2.) Independence 3.) Curiosity 4.) Acceptance 5.) Order 6.) Saving 7.) Honor 8.) Idealism 9.) Social Contact 10.) Family 11.) Status 12.) Vengeance 13.) Romance 14.) Eating 15.) Physical Exercise 16.) Tranquility.

This is according to the author, Steven Reiss, professor of psychology and psychiatry at Ohio State University who conducted original scientifc research upon which this information is based upon. It took me a while to warm up to it, but once I processed the information through my own life filter, I found it to be astonishingly accurate. For example, His contextualization of the vengeance desire is one that can be misinterpreted. By placing it in the context of sports it makes a great deal of sense considering that for many athletic teams, beating a rival who previously defeated them.

Other desires such as power, independence, acceptance, and status, have received there share of attention in the press, but once again, Steven's research sheds a new light upon them, and how they manifest and impact the motivations and decisions of people who have a greater intensity of these desires.

Kudos to Steven for denouncing the MBTI Personality test. I've never liked it, didn't believe in it, and I'm frankly shocked that the mother daughter team who invented it have no educational background in psychometrics, but have created a "color" test that is used as the barometer to measure how well people will get along in corporate America.

Finally, with regard to getting along, Steven much of the disharmony we feel in work and in our personal relationships comes down to mismatched desires (incongruent desires and/or intensity of desires). In other words, a person who has a strong desire to save, is gonna be mismatched in terms of desire, with a person who has a stronger desire for status.

The key is to identify your own desires (which the book has exercises that enable you to determine them), and recognize the desires which motivate others. This is one of the few psychology books I've read which masterfully simplifies the subject matter in a way that is accessible, applicable, and instantly useful. You will enjoy it.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2001
This is a very interesting book on the way we identify what is important to each of us and then how we communicate to each other. The author provides a "model" of how to understand what is important to you based on your drives, etc. Imagine two people arguing over something simple. Now imagine if what each person values is different. One person values color, the other texture. If one person has read the book there is an oppurtunity for this person to identify the difference in communication styles. In other words, you may not be disagreeing with the other person, you are both talking about something different, what is important to you. In other words, there is an oppurtunity to build a bond with better communication.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2014
This book is little more than a masters thesis on human characterization. There is no academic rigor in the conclusions as they are based solely on the author's opinion of his graduate assistant's responses to simple selections. It is easy reading as it appears to be written at the 6th grade level for mass market consumption.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Despite grievous defects, over-simplification, superficiality, and unjustified generalizations (on top of being principally a "self-help" book), if one learns its central thesis, "supported" from empirical data rather than theory, the book will be immensely valuable.

The thesis is this: There are two types of happiness, (1) feel-good happiness and (2) values-based happiness. While both are desirable, the former is fleeting, the latter is enduring. Cultivate the latter. Except for Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which is entirely theoretical, I am unaware of desire-fulfillment as motivation for action being on psychology's radar. For that reason, this book makes a significant contribution.

The author and his assistant through undisclosed means came to the conclusion that all humans have 16 desires, which in turn undergird their values. Power, independence, curiosity, acceptance, order, saving, honor, idealism, social contact, family, status, vengeance, romance, eating, physical activity, and tranquility. Oddly, he could have significantly strengthened his claim of 16 desires from a variety of resources, all of which he chose not to do. So, you have to take his word that these 16 desires are true, and the only true desires.

He proceeds to define each desire and the conditions for their satisfaction, and asks the reader to evaluate degree of correspondence to himself (he should have used a numerical value). The second, and equally valuable step, of ordering the degree of importance of each desire is omitted (but one I recommend.) But these "technicalities" (and many other omissions) are probably not the point. It's not the quantification, but the qualification that is the objective. The purpose is to help one see that (1) every individual is truly unique, because each individual will value each desire differently, (2) and that values, based on fulfilling those desires, are the backbone to happiness, and not pleasures.

I cannot underscore how superficial and ad hoc this book is, especially in terms of its invaluable insight and the wealth of biological literature it could have been used to support his hypothesis before collecting people's answers ("mining data" from questionnaires, by the way, is not my definition of "scientific"). The insight deserves a "5," but the presentation a "1."
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2002
Amazon Summary
Steven Reiss's book, -Who am I?, is effective in helping people discover who they are and why they react in certain ways. Although whether or not one valued some of the desires were obvious, others were not what one would have suspected. The desire for romance involved both the drive for sex and the need for beauty. I like the way Dr. Reiss looks at human desires and behaviors holistically and attempts to prove his theory scientifically and not just theoretically. He does not just disagree with the theories of such people as Freud and Skinner, but he clearly states why he thinks their theories are fallacies, or if he partially agrees with them, he still expands on them. Like for example, he feels that more than just the pleasure principle (behaving to maximize pleasure, minimize pain) governs our desires. He goes through great effort to make sure he covers and explains all aspects of his theory of the 16 desires that people might argue. Although I found his comparisons to people like Maslow and Adler helpful, Dr. Reiss often loses me in over explaining his theory. Perhaps he should have written two books, one for those of us who are more interested in determining how the 16 desires relate to us, and another for those of us who are out to disprove his theory. After reading for a little bit I felt like yelling: "I believe you already!" All in all, I guess that is what makes a good research book though. When one is able to connect the reader to his theory, and substantiate it with proof and explanations, the reader is more apt to believe it and use it to evaluate her life.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I can't say enough good things about this book. Reiss has not written a self help book here, he has written a book that will provide the foundation for the next 1,000 self help books. You will definitely learn the core desires that drive human behavior and if Reiss is write the applications of this material will soon determine who gets hired for what, when and where. I'd love to see the research that formed this book. The text really has no shortcomings. Like Goleman's Emotional Intelligence, you will see many books that take the principles in this book and apply them to every psychological field. Wonderful. Fabulous. Superb...and encore! Kevin Hogan, ...
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