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Factors associated with the formation of the power motive and sex differences in motive expression Dewis, Elizabeth (Van Tassel)

Abstract

This investigation was designed to investigate some aspects of the dynamics of power motivation. An analysis was made of possible factors influencing the early formation of this motive in individuals, and of sex differences in the nature of fantasy responses which reflect the degree or strength of power motivation. Power motivation was here conceived to be a latent predisposition of a person to act in such a way as to gain control of the means of influencing and manipulating other person(s). Concerning the formation of motives, it was hypothesized that subjects with a strong power motive would be those with an older sibling more often than subjects low in power motivation; that they would come from larger families; that they would have siblings closer in age; and that ordinal position, in relation to family size and spacing, would be related to strength of power motivation. It was further hypothesized that subjects high in power motivation would identify with their dominant parent, that is, they would tend to perceive themselves as like the dominant parent and as closer to the dominant parent as a child, more often than would low power subjects. It was also, predicted that high power subjects would identify with their father more often than low power subjects, and that there would be a relationship between sex of the dominant parent and the strength of a subject's power motivation. Concerning sex differences in the expression of power motivation, it was predicted that the fantasy responses of women would contain more statements of an emotional nature, more expressions of obstacles to their goal-seeking, and more frequent, reference to failure experience than would the imagery of males. The method employed was similar to that devised by McClelland et al (1953) for the measurement of achievement and affiliation motives. Following an arousal task designed to activate the power motive, four pictures similar to those of the Thematic Apperception Test were projected on a screen. Subjects were required to write a short story in response to each stimulus picture. The subjects were 238 psychology students of whom 167 were males and 71 females. Their protocols, written in response to the pictures, were scored according to the scoring conventions for need power established by Veroff (1958). On the basis of these scores, subjects were divided into low and high need power groups. A t test and chi square tests of association were applied to the data. The results indicated that ordinal position, in relation to family size and spacing, is related to strength of power motivation at the five percent level of significance. None of the remaining hypotheses concerning the formation of motives were confirmed. The hypothesis concerning sex differences in the expression of power motivation was not confirmed. It was concluded that the fantasy measure of power motivation does isolate a variable for study, although evidence that fantasy may measure frustration of a need rather than strength of need limits the validity of interpretations based on fantasy material. The results of this investigation indicate that family structure is an important variable in the development of the power motive, and possibly other personality characteristics as well.

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