Content Validity of an Objective Personality Test for the Assessment of Achievement Motive

Article excerpt


Traditionally, variables of achievement motive have been assessed using projective or questionnaire techniques. Under focus here is the test "Work Style", a new technique applying Cattell's objective personality testing approach in the field of achievement motive. "Coding symbols" (CS), a goal setting task and "figure discrimination" (FD), an endurance task are discussed in the framework of achievement motive theory. Using available samples in two different motivational settings (a selection situation and a voluntary research situation), the hypotheses are formulated to test whether achievement motive is activated by the tasks.

The CS-task is currently suitable for evoking achievement motive, which is the precondition for the construction of content valid OPT-variables. First allusions to the construct validity of variables derived from this task are positive. Content validity of the FD-task can not be ensured as the structure of the task is not suitable for deriving valid OPT-variables.

Key words: achievement motive, assessment, objective test, aspiration level, endurance

Although the achievement motive is used in a wide sphere of psychological research and practical work areas (e.g. educational psychology) there are only a few psychometric tests quoted to measure this important construct. Within the traditional achievement motive research there are two major approaches to assessing variables of the achievement motive: (1) The story-based measures in Thematic Apperception Test (TAT, McClelland, Atkinson, Clark, & Lowell, 1953; Murray, 1942) have been the standard for assessing the approach component hope for success and the avoidance component fear of failure. For more practical use, especially in the personnel selection context, a projective technique certainly does have certain disadvantages. The recording of answers should be done individually, scoring requires experience with the category system and objectivity is difficult to obtain. Therefore the second approach attempts to replace the TAT with easier to administer and to score questionnaires. However, none of the numerous questionnaires have proved to relate consistently to the story-based motive measures (for an overview see: Schmalt & Sokolowski, 2000). According to McClelland, Köstner and Weinberger (1989) this is due to the nature of the construct. One part of the achievement motive, the self-attributed need achievement, represents the deliberate opinion of a person concerning achievement and can be assessed with questionnaire-type measures. The other part, the implicit need achievement, is unconscious and therefore is only accessible with story-based measures. The two motives have construct validity in different areas. Implicit motives are said to be good predictors of what people do, how they spent their time, and of long-term operant behaviour like career development. Explicit motives predict attitudes, values goals, and effort. Originally conceptualised as independent motive-constructs there is increasing evidence that implicit motives and self-attributed motives are significantly correlated, albeit modestly (Spangler, 1992). Current research focus on identifying factors that influence the degree of concordance between the two constructs, and their power in predicting the adoption of goals and behaviour.

However, this new conception of achievement motive doesn't solve the fundamental problems experienced in assessment. The difficulties in administering and interpreting projective techniques still exist and the use of questionnaires in personnel selection context is still controversial because they are prone to faking (Kubinger, 2002).

Worth mentioning in this context is the recent successful attempt to integrate the advantages concerning validity of story-based measures and the advantages from the administration and scoring using questionnaire-based measures in the semi-projective MMG Multi-Motive-Grid (MMG, Schmalt, Sokolowski, & Langens, 2000). …