These are the 4 most powerful motivators of success

In a new meta-analysis published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a team of researchers uncovered the most common aspirations that drive the modern world, in addition to the factors that animate these aspirations.

What drives success?

Consistently, prominence, inclusiveness, negativity prevention, and tradition were cited as the most compelling motivators that will humans to strive toward ambitions. 

The authors define these terms–categorized under the PINT system–as the following:

  • Prominence refers to the goal to achieve things and to have power.
  • Inclusiveness refers to having empathy for others and treating people equitably.
  • Negativity-prevention focuses on the avoidance of a variety of things in life that can go wrong.
  • Tradition focuses on the desire to engage with significant cultural norms like patriotism and religion.

Even if some lack the awareness to identify elements of the PINT system as compelling motivators of success within their own lives, evidence of their general prevalence is hard to refute.

“What do people want? Few questions are more fundamental to psychological science than this. Yet, existing taxonomies disagree on both the number and content of goals. Thus, we adopted a lexical approach and investigated the structure of goal-relevant words from the natural English lexicon,” the authors wrote in the new paper.

“Through an intensive rating process, 1,060 goal-relevant English words were first located. In Studies 1–2, two relatively large and diverse samples (total n = 1,026) rated their commitment to approaching or avoiding these goals. Principal component analyses yielded 4 replicable components.”

The 1,060 of the 140,000 nouns reviewed by the authors were associated with abstract goals expressed by various participants involved in the report. This was determined by applying a scale ranging from: “I have an extremely strong commitment to this” to “I have an extremely strong commitment to avoiding this” to each of the nouns presented to the sample.

The researchers developed an additional scale to refine the results above. They soon discovered that there are slight variations within each factor detained in the PINT system.

For instance, some people who were energized by prominence evidenced extraversion, but not as a rule. 

Psychologist Carl Jung defines introversion as an “attitude-type characterized by orientation in life through subjective psychic contents”, and extraversion as “an attitude-type characterized by concentration of interest on the external object.” 

Some seem to appreciate the latter as a tactical social mode relevant to their immediate goals. This became more apparent in the penultimate legs of the new study.

“Studies 3–7 (total n = 1,396) supported the 4-factor structure of an abbreviated scale and found systematic differences in their relationships with past goal-content measures, the Big 5 traits, affect, and need satisfaction. This investigation provides a data-driven taxonomy of higher-order goal-content and opens up a wide variety of fascinating lines for future research,” the authors continued. 

Those who were motivated by Negativity-prevention did in fact experience fewer adverse outcomes than the rest of the participants in the study group. The authors note that these go out of their way to reduce risks that have the potential to bring negativity to their lives.

“In addition, this analysis was developed just from an exploration of words related to goals. The researchers did not attempt to explain why these goals are important or what mechanisms might drive this,” Art Markman Ph.D. said of the new analysis. 

“To the extent that this structure is obtained in future studies, then (as was done with studies of personality traits), research will then have to be done to understand the psychological mechanisms underlying this set of goals.”