The Need To Achieve and The Need To Avoid Failure

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I was particularly interested in the section on the “need to achieve and the need to avoid failure” in chapter 8. I rather enjoy reducing behavior, cognition, or psychology to algebraic equations. It tends to reduce complex paradigms to simple, quantifiable expressions. For example, the text stated that if the motive to succeed (Ms) outweighs the motive to avoid failure (Maf) then a person is more apt to pursue achievement tasks (Ms>Maf); whereas, if Maf overcomes Ms then a person is more prone to avoid achievement tasks (Ms<Maf) (Deckers, 2005). Also, as the subjective probability of success (Ps) decreases the incentive value of success (Is) increases (Is = 1 – Ps). So, the road less traveled by indeed makes all of the difference. Also, as the subjective probability of failure (Pf) increases the negative incentive value of failure (-If) decreases (-If = Pf). Taken collectively, these formulae seem to suggest that it is better to succeed in the face of adversity than fail at an easy task. It is also more important to pursue achievement than to avoid failure. The conclusion is that the sum of the tendency to succeed (Ts) and the tendency to avoid failure (Taf) equals the overall tendency to attempt an achievement task (Ts + Taf). The overall formula to express the tendency to approach an achievement task is = Ts + Taf = (Ms X Ps X Is) + (Maf + Pf X –If). It would seem that several physiological and psychological functions of the body act in this way. For instance, the tendency for a neuron to create an action potential is mediated by the sum of the neurochemical concentrations within and without the cell…the subjective sensation of vision is the sum total of visual information coming from the optic nerve combined with the perceptive nature of the visual cortex…the actual expression of genetic material is the sum total of dominant and recessive genes, and so on. It is a wonder that the world we perceive even actually exists. The perception of the sensations that become the sum total of psychological experience is moderate, modulated, and mediated by several internal and external processes. 

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Deckers, L. (2005). Motivation: Biological, psychological, and environmental, Second Edition. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. 

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