The RMP is The Science of Motivation®

This is the first in a series of articles summarizing the research that established the Reiss Motivation Profile® as “The Science of Motivation®.”  

The RMP is the first – and may be the only – scientifically developed, comprehensive test of what motivates an individual. After being diagnosed with a life threatening illness in 1995, Professor Steven Reiss began thinking about what made his life meaningful - what was important to him - what motivated his behavior. Realizing that the field of motivation lacked a standardized measure, he spent the next several years developing a psychological test that explains why people do what they do. 

The RMP was developed empirically. Professor Reiss did not start with preconceived notions of what motivates people. Instead, he started with more than 500 items reflecting every imaginable goal that might drive behavior. After paring this list to 328 items by eliminating redundancies, he conducted a series of studies with four separate samples of subjects in which he used a statistical technique called factor analysis to interpret the data. Along with another study led by graduate student Susan M. Havercamp, the end result of the research was 16 scales, each comprised of eight items, that defined the universal goals motivating each of us.

Over the next several years Professor Reiss and his colleagues conducted further research to establish the reliability and validity of each of the RMP scales. The initial research as well as the subsequent studies passed independent peer review for publication in scientific journals. Additional evidence for the test’s reliability and validity was provided by four independent researchers at universities in Canada, Poland, and the United States.

Professor Reiss’s first journal article on the RMP, which was published with Havercamp, summarized the results of five studies that were used to develop and then refine the initial questionnaire.  

  • In Study 1 a 328-item questionnaire was administered individually and anonymously to a diverse sample of 401 adolescents and adults from six sources. Exploratory factor analysis revealed 15 scales, with few items loading on multiple factors. For all studies, an item was retained only if it had a loading of at least .3 on just one scale.
  • Study 2 retained 68 items, modified 42 items, and added 110 new items, for a total of 220 items. Based on 380 new subjects from nine sources, exploratory factor analysis suggested 17 scales as the best fit for the data.
  • Study 3 included 341 new subjects from 14 sources. Of the 187 items, 89 were retained from the previous study, 24 were reworded, and 74 were new.  Exploratory factor analysis indicated 15 scales as the best fit for the data.  
  • Study 4 retained 118 items and added three new items, for a total of 121 items. Confirmatory factor analysis of data based on 398 new subjects from six sources provided evidence for a robust 15-factor structure. The Cronbach’s alpha coefficients ranged from .74 to .92, with a median of .82, which is considered to be “good” internal reliability.
  • Study 5 assessed test-retest reliability in a sample of 31 undergraduate students who completed the questionnaire on two occasions with a time interval of two weeks. Based on a significance level of p < .01, Pearson product moment coefficients for the 15 scales ranged from .80 to .96, with a mean of .83.  These findings provided evidence for the stability of the scale scores over time.

Professor Reiss’s purpose in conducting these studies, which took years to complete, was to advance knowledge about the universal goals that motivate everyone. Most, if not all, other tests in the field of motivation were created for commercial purposes, which necessitates taking shortcuts in the development process so the product can be brought to market quickly.  One common shortcut is to start with preconceived notions of intrinsic motivators and then to write items to assess those predetermined motives.  This is not the process that was followed with the Reiss Motivation Profile®.  Rather, Professor Reiss developed the RMP scientifically by allowing data, not preconceived ideas, to identify the basic needs of human nature.

To read the complete article, click here.

Reiss, S., & Havercamp, S.M. (1998). Toward a comprehensive assessment of fundamental motivation: Factor structure of the Reiss Profiles.  Psychological Assessment10, 97-106.

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