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A Landmark Work in Identifying the Bases of Human Motivation
on August 12, 2000
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.