The University of MichiganNews Services
The University Record Online
search
Updated 10:00 AM July 10, 2006
 

front

accolades

briefs

view events

submit events

UM employment


obituaries
police beat
regents round-up
research reporter
letters


archives

Advertise with Record

contact us
meet the staff
contact us
contact us

  Research
American focus on achievement may explain innovative edge

Today's U.S. college students are more focused on achievement than power, an attitude that could help them be more innovative and successful than foreign rivals, according to psychology research.

In a study published in the current Journal of Personality Assessment, psychologists Joyce Pang and Oliver Schultheiss compared the motivations of more than 700 American and German college students.

Using an indirect measure that taps into individuals' non-conscious needs for achievement, affiliation and power, Pang and Schultheiss found that U.S. students scored higher in achievement motivation and lower in power motivation than German students.

In past research, the need for achievement has been linked to innovation, small business success and economic growth. The need for power, on the other hand, has been linked to successful leadership, but also to sex and aggression.

So do these findings suggest that educated Americans are more entrepreneurial and less imperial than educated Germans? "The difference in achievement motivation is very consistent with the fact that the U.S. currently has a stronger economy than Germany does," Pang says.

She believes that the difference in achievement motivation may be at the core of these economic differences. "The design of our study does not allow us to draw a direct causal inference," she says. "But past research clearly shows that increases in people's achievement motivation boost productivity through increased self-reliance and a willingness to take calculated risks."

Schultheiss, associate professor of psychology, points out that even after World War II, Germany's collective concern with power may have contributed to the Wirtschaftswunder, Germany's post-war effort to regain respectability through building a strong economy.

"What helped us then may hamper us now," says Schultheiss, a German expatriate. He speculates that the high levels of power motivation observed in German students may reflect a collective concern with status, a concern that may make Germans less willing to compromise and give up privileges for the sake of reforms that would help Germany's economy to get back on track.

More Stories