Almost from the beginning of research on motives measured in imaginative story content, there has been a continuing interest in how various motive combinations affect behavior (Atkinson, 1958a; Murray, 1938). Over the years a number of different motive configurations have been identified to help explain the ways in which people differ. Sometimes the way in which the configuration has been defined has developed out of theoretical considerations, sometimes out of simple curiosity, and sometimes out of a need to explain findings that are confusing when viewed from the standpoint of only one particular motive.
To do justice to the complexity of personality, we need to consider many aspects acting simultaneously. We investigate motives one at a time primarily to validate our measures and learn about them, not because we think they act in isolation. Furthermore, different tasks arouse different motives or motive combinations. So we need to know what cues in the situation elicit different motives. A task requiring cooperation may appeal to people high in both achievement and affiliation motivation whereas a competitive task may appeal to those high in achievement and low in affiliation motivation (Sorrentino & Sheppard, 1978).
This chapter first reviews research on specific motivational configurations and on moderator variables that affect the relation of motives to behavior.