Motivation and emotion/Book/2016/Intimacy motivation

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Intimacy motivation:
What motivates us to seek intimacy?
What are the positive and negative effects of intimacy motivation?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Holding Hands as Intimate Gesture

Intimacy is a hard concept to define accurately due to its ability to be applied to many different constructs (Patrick, Sells, Giordano, & Tollerud, 2007; Mackey, Diemer, & O'Brien, 2000). A commonly accepted definition of intimacy includes closeness, sexuality, knowledge of each other and affectionate acts (holding hands, kissing, hugging) (Heller & Wood, 1998). While others have defined it in less emotional and more observable terms, including tone of voice, activities shared and agreements (Talmadge & Dabbs, 1990). Others have described intimacy as the ability to maintain a strong sense of self while being able to relate and be present with others, implying that those who experience true intimacy are those who have a developed self-identity and higher levels of self-awareness (Lester & Lester, 1998).

Motivation is the energisation and direction of behaviour (Deci & Ryan, 1985) and the study of motivation looks explores what impacts and determines the energisation and direction of behaviour (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Deci and Ryan (1985) explain that energy consists of needs, both physiological to keep an organism healthy, and psychological that an organism acquires through the environment. Applying motivational theories to the need of intimacy will provide insight into the motivating factors that influence the need for intimacy.

The intimacy motive, as defined by McAdams and Vaillant (1982), is a recurrent preference or readiness for experiences of warm, close, and communicative interaction with others. This chapter will look deeper into what the intimacy motive is and what positive and negative effects it has on human psychological well-being.

Motivation[edit | edit source]

Ryan and Deci (2000) describe motivation as meaning to be 'moved' to do something. Motivation varies from individual to individual, and can vary in amounts or levels, and in types or orientation. Orientation is further explained as the attitudes and the goals that drive people to make actions (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Self-determination theory (SDT) puts forward the concept that these different orientations of motivation can be characterised by the different reasons that compel people to take action (Ryan & Deci, 2000). The most basic and common differentiation is between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. The source of motivation has been found to have effects on the degree to which people find enjoyment in a task, as well as their level of performance on said task (Ryan & Deci, 2000).

Amotivation Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Motivation
Intrinsic Motivation Extrinsic Motivation Amotivation
Internal source of motivation

Motivated for reasons such as interest, enjoyment, pleasure, and satisfaction

External source of motivation

Motivated for reasons such as to gain a reward or avoid punishment

Absence of motivation

Not motivated to engage in or continue goal-directed behaviour due to complete lack of motivation

I will study for this exam because I really enjoy the content and reading makes me feel relaxed. I will study for this exam because if I don't I will receive a fail grade. I will not study for this exam because I do not want to study.

Intrinsic motivation[edit | edit source]

Intrinsic motivation is when the motivation to do an activity is purely due to the individual finding it inherently interesting, pleasurable or enjoyable (Ryan & Deci, 2000a; Vallerand, 1997, Benabou & Tirole, 2003). Ryan and Deci (2000a) describe intrinsic motivation as doing something for the satisfaction that the individual gets out of it rather than the direct consequences or in other words "to do it for the fun of it" over the external pressures or rewards. This type of motivation reflects the positive potential of human nature (Ryan & Deci, 2000b). As humans are inquisitive, curious, playful and adventurous in nature, they are born with the readiness to learn and try new things, and therefore they do not require incentives to exercise this quality (Ryan & Deci, 2000a). Many perspectives can be taken on intrinsic motivation, but the main two are, firstly an operational perspective stating that interesting tasks are intrinsically motivating due to the rewards gained from the activity itself (Benabou & Tirole, 2003). Secondly, a psychological needs perspective that inherently interesting tasks are driven by the perceived satisfaction gained from completing the activity (Ryan & Deci, 2000a). The maintenance and enhancement of intrinsic motivation requires quite supportive conditons and is easily disrupted (Ryan & Deci, 2000b). Conditions that allow for autonomy and competence reliability support the use of intrinsic motivation whereas controlled conditions that limited behaviour and perceived effectance of, hindered intrinsic motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000b).

Intrinsic motivation emerged as an important concept to educators. At younger age students are motivated in more of an intrinsic orientation, and studies have found that as students progress through each year, they become less intrinsically motivated and more extrinsically motivated (Ryan & Deci, 2000).

Extrinsic motivation[edit | edit source]

In contrast to intrinsic motivation there is extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation refers to doing something because it leads to a clear outcome (Ryan & Deci, 2000). There are multiple levels of extrinsic motivation depending on the perceived level of autonomy in doing the task. The four forms are:

  1. external regulation - least autonomous
  2. introjection regulation
  3. identification regulation
  4. integration regulation - most autonomous

External regulation tasks are completed to satisfy an external demand or to receive a reward that had been provided by an external source (Ryan & Deci, 2000). These tasks are viewed by the person undertaking them as being controlled by an external locus of causality. Introjection regulation tasks a perceived as still being considerably controlled and tasks are completed due to feelings of pressure to avoid aversive or undesirable emotions (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Another perspective to this level of external motivation is that tasks are completed to enhance or maintain self-esteem Ryan & Deci, 2000). Identification regulation is a more self-determined form of extrinsic motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000). In this form the individual has identified with the behaviour and the importance, it has personally and has then accepted the obligation as theirs (Ryan & Deci, 2000). The final and most autonomous of the four is integrated regulation. This form occurs when the self, has been completely assimilated to the identified reasons for completing the task. This is close to intrinsic motivation and shares many of the same characteristics but differs in the way that integration regulated behaviours are still extrinsic because the behaviour is done for its identified instrumental value (Ryan & Deci, 2000).

Amotivation[edit | edit source]

Amotivation is the lacking of intention to act (Ryan & Deci, 2000) or relative absence of motivation (Vallerand, 1997). When an individual is amotivated, their behaviour lacks purpose and a sense of personal causality in their actions (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Similar to the theory of learned helplessness due to the way that individuals with amotivation experience negative feelings like incompetence and uncontrollability (Vallerand, 1997). Amotivation is a consequence of not valuing an activity, having a sense of inadequacy in completing the task or activity or not believing that completing the behaviour will produce the desired outcome.

Pelletier and his colleagues proposed that there are four major types of amotivation in contrast to Deci and Ryan's (1985) original definition. The four types are (Vallerand, 1997): (1) capacity beliefs, and refers to Deci and Ryans original definition that amotivation is due to lack of ability to complete task or behaviour. (2) strategy beliefs amotivation beliefs that the strategy required will not bring about the desired outcome. (3) Capacity-effort beliefs amotivation which results from the belief that the behaviour required is too strenuous to complete therefore the participant does not feel inclined to expel the effort needed to engage in the action. And the final type is (4) helplessness beliefs amotivation which is derived from the concept that an individual's efforts are insignificant reflecting the monstrousness of the task to be completed (Vallerand, 1997).

Intimacy motivation theories[edit | edit source]

In the 1980 McAdams developed the intimacy motive. As stated by McAdams, the intimacy motives theoretical background stems out from the work of Bakan in 1966 on his work on human existance[spelling?], the works of Sullivan in 1953 on interpersonal intimacy, Maslows[grammar?] (1968) "being-love" and finally on Bubers{grammar}} (1965) work on the I-Thou encounter (McAdams & Constantian, 1983). The intimacy motive was term to help differentiate between the need for affiliation, (n Aff) which was defined as a need for social acceptance and security in interpersonal relations. Affiliation motivation has been described as more of a "doing" process, whereas intimacy has been considers a "being" process or state (McAdams, 1980). In 1981, McAdams and Power compared how predictable intimacy and affiliation motivation though an exploration of interpersonal behaviour[Rewrite to improve clarity]. Finding that the intimacy motive was stronger as a construct due it its high correlation with nonverbal and verbal manifestations of warmth and openness (McAdams & Powers, 1981){grammar}}.

Attachment theory[edit | edit source]

The theory of attachment highlights the importance of intimacy and feelings of closeness for the development and maintenance of felt security and trust (Mashek & Aron, 2004). Attachment theory aids in identifying the differences and similarities in an individual's attachment style, which helps to shape the quality of intimate relations (Mashek & Aron, 2004). As well as this it provides information on the role that early family interactions play in the development and nurturance of intimacy related skills and future intimate goals (Mashek & Aron, 2004).

Two main processes are considered in the attachment theory (Mashek & Aron, 2004),[grammar?] those are normative processes and individual differences. Normative processes reflect the general procedure of the attachment behaviour system regarding its adjustable purpose and its social and psychological undercurrents[vague]. Normative processes reflect the general procedure of the attachment behaviour system regarding its adjustable purpose and its social and psychological undercurrents [vague] [Repeated information](Mashek & Aron, 2004). Individual differences include the unique way the attachment system is displayed in different people. These depend on attachment experiences, current relationship circumstances and cultural context (Mashek & Aron, 2004). Four types of adult attachment are secure, preoccupied, dismissing avoidant and fearful avoidant (Mashek & Aron, 2004). Emotional well-being in adulthood will depend on having an attachment figure that[grammar?] is accessible and can serve as a reliable, safe haven, for times of need and when exploring new activities and environment (Mashek & Aron, 2004). Attachment theory is usually assessed using self-report measures. Mashek and Aron (2004) concluded that we seek intimacy because it makes us feel emotionally and physically safe.

Attachment Theory Four Category Model
  Thoughts of Self
  Positive Negative
Positive Secure
Comfortable with intimacy and autonomy
Preoccupied with relationships
Negative Dismissive
Dismissing of intimacy
Strongly independent
Fearful of intimacy
Socially avoidant

Erikson's theory of personality development[edit | edit source]

Erikson described personality as a universal concept for life-long development (Ochse & Plug, 1986). Erikson's theory of personality development proposes that developmental progression involves the mastery of eight subsequential stages (Beyers & Seiffge-Krenke, 2010) and each stage is essential to the development of particular dimensions of personality (Ochse & Plug, 1986). The eight stages are (Ochse & Plug, 1986):

  1. Trust vs. mistrust
  2. Autonomoy vs. shame and doubt
  3. Initiative vs. guilt
  4. industry vs. interiority
  5. Identify-formation vs. identity diffusion
  6. Intimacy vs. Isolation
  7. Generativity vs. stagnation
  8. Integrity vs. despair

Intimacy vs. isolation is stage six in the development of personality (Ochse & Plug, 1986) and is focused on developing close intimate relationships with others. Stating that to have the ability to engage in close relations with others, one must have a stable self of identity beforehand (Ochse & Plug, 1986)[grammar?]. Beyers and Seiffge-Krenke (2010) stated that healthy development and movement through these stages up to teenage years are good precursors of intimacy in romantic relationships in adulthood. Furthermore, the ability to have high-quality intimate relationships is a crucial developmental point for young adults (Beyers & Seiffge-Krenke, 2010). Due to the complexity of committing to a partner without the fear of loss of ego is considered a central and difficult task for young adults (Beyers & Seiffge-Krenke, 2010)[grammar?]. The positive outcomes from this stage are the interpersonal relations developed, close friendships and loving, sexual relationships (Beyers & Seiffge-Krenke, 2010). The negatives from this stage are reflected in an individual's levels of loneliness, isolation and future fear of relationships (Beyers & Seiffge-Krenke, 2010). Erikson also argued that although during the earlier stages of personality development, during young age there are other forms of intimacy present and experience as a normal part of development (Beyers & Seiffge-Krenke, 2010), only after all previous stages have been completed and a reasonable sense of self has been established, then a genuinely intimate relationship with another person can be developed. Concluding that “the condition of twoness is that one must first become oneself”(Beyers & Seiffge-Krenke, 2010).

Other theories[edit | edit source]

Other theories to note are Maslow's hierarchy of needs and Cloninger's biosocial theory of personality. Maslow (1943) had love and belonging, which you could say includes the feelings of intimacy in the middle of his hierarchy of needs, implying that the need for intimacy and belonging are more crucial to human development than self-esteem, achievement and respect from other are.

Outcomes of intimacy motivation[edit | edit source]

Positive outcomes[edit | edit source]

There are multiple positive effects of having high intimacy motivation. McAdams and Bryant (1987) stated that various Western societies consider the ability to engage in intimate relationships a key component to sound psychological well-being. While Kadner (1994) found intimacy to be positively related to psychological resilience, this is due to intimacies interaction with close interpersonal personal relationships with others (McAdams & Constantian, 1983) these interpersonal relationships help clarify and validate interpersonal opinions (Kadner, 1994) thus enhancing psychological resilience.

McAdams and Bryant in 1982 studied the subjective mental health of a [which?] nationwide sample, looking into the correlations between intimacy and perceived well-being in multiple facets of being. Interestingly this study displayed many sex differences in the effects of high levels of achievement[say what?] motivation. For men, they found that those with elevated levels of intimacy motivation had a positive association with lack of strain, uncertainty and were more assured about the future (McAdams & Bryant, 1987). Furthermore, they found that those males also reported less psychophysical symptoms such as physical ill health, severe anxiety and drug/alcohol abuse. While for women, they found a high level of intimacy motivation is positively associated with a general effective[say what?] factor of happiness and gratification. These women also report that they are happy in life and are satisfied with the roles in work, family and leisure activities (McAdams & Bryant, 1987)

McAdams, Krause, &[grammar?] Healy (1984) found that participants with high intimacy levels appeared to be highly satisfied with interpersonal situations, and expressed fewer wishes to be isolated when those who reported low-intimacy levels. However, these participants are not unsatisfied with non-interpersonal situations either, concluding that they also do not want to be with others while they are spending time alone (McAdams, Krause, & Healy, 1984). Also, when spending time with friends the individuals with higher levels of intimacy tend to share more intimate and personal stories and information and display heightened levels of self-disclosure than those who displayed low levels of intimacy motivation (McAdams, Krause, & Healy, 1984). A positive correlation between high-intimacy motivation levels and the capacity to experience pleasure has also been found (Zeldow, Daugherty, and McAdams, 1985). McAdams and Vaillant (1982) conducted a longitudinal study on intimacy motivation assess men in their early 30s and then again 17 years later. The results indicated that those who reported high-intimacy motivation levels at the first point of tested were found to predict adequate overall psychosocial adjustment positively[Rewrite to improve clarity].

Another interesting finding from Adams, Booth, Selyik (1981) they found that those that reported higher levels of intimacy motivation were more likely also to report images of themselves in positive lights[Rewrite to improve clarity], for example as friends, lover, caregiver to other people. This indicates that high intimacy motivation may be related to increases in self-esteem and therefore an individual's overall well-being. As those who have these high scores in intimacy motivation prefer close, warm and communicative environments and interaction with other people over other types of situations, they are more likely to have a positive association with being close to others than those who prefer distance (McAdams, Jackson, & Kirshnit, 1984). In relation to these findings, McAdams, Booth, & Selyik (1981) found that these people with high intimacy motives have significant recollections of memories that have a strong emphasis on love, friendship, communication and nurturance, suggesting these are important mental health aspects to these participants' intimacy experiences. Another positive outcome from the intimacy motive or high levels of the intimacy motive are receiving higher peer-ratings on things like "[grammar?]friendliness, sincerity and how natural you appear (McAdams, 1980), this would be effective on the person's overall self-esteem.

There have been interesting findings for sex differences regarding intimate motivation interacting with well-being (Constant, Vallet, Nandrino, & Christophe, 2016). Men and women differ significantly in many aspects of this (Constant, Vallet, Nandrino, & Christophe, 2016)[vague]. Firstly in how central, warm and close their interpersonal relationships are with keeping in view of themselves and their world but also in how their relationships function in their overall health and well-being (McAdams & Bryant, 1987)[grammar?] .

Negative outcomes[edit | edit source]

The negative effects of intimacy motivation has not been widely covered. As intimacy motivation is a relatively new term it may talk a while for studies to direct there[grammar?] attention away from the positive and toward the negative outcomes that are associated with intimacy. In saying that, the above results can be applied inversely. Stating that those low in intimacy motivation experience less psychophysical well-being ect.[grammar?] Whoever[grammar?] this is not an accurate or just way to conclude the negative effects.

Measuring intimacy[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Thematic apperception test[edit | edit source]

The Thematic Apperception Test or TAT is a projective psychological test that was developed by Henry A. Murray and Christiana Morgan in the 1930's[grammar?] (Murray, 1943). The test uses sets of ambiguous pictures divided according to sex and age (males under 14, males over 14, females under 14 and females over 14). With 19 pictures in each set and one blank, they are divided into two sets of ten for the two separate sessions (Murray, 1943). Those undergoing the test are asked in the first session to write "as dramatic a story as you can for each"(Murray, 1943). In the second session they final ten cards are presented with the instruction to "disregard the commonplace realities and let your imagination have its way, as in myth, fairy story, or allegory."(Murray, 1943). From here each story is analysed, all of the events leading up to actions of the central character and the environment. The manual for the test comes with criteria for interpreting the tests (Murray, 1943).

The TAT has many different scoring systems that are used to analyse TAT stories in a systematic and consistent manner. The most common regarding assessing the intimacy motive is the social cognition and object relations SCOR Scale (McAdams & Bryant, 1987; McAdams & Vaillant, 1982; McAdams & Constantian, 1983; McAdams, Jackson, & Kirshnit, 1984). This is done by assessing thought samples through the stories told in the TAT (McAdams & Constantian, 1983). The scale assesses four facets of object relations those being (1) Complexity of Representations of People, (2) Affect-Tone of Relationship Paradigms, (3) Capacity for Emotional Investment in Relationships and Moral Standards and (4) Understanding of Social Causality (Westen, Lohr, Silk, Gold, & et al., 1990). Though its not always used in conjunction with intimacy motivation studies[grammar?].

Self-report measures[edit | edit source]

Another popular measure of intimacy is by self-report. Self-report measures are low-cost and easily distributed to a large number of participants (Constant, Vallet, Nandrino, & Christophe, 2016) by using questionnaires. Though they have their obvious advantages, self-report measures have many downfalls; some include imprecise measurement, self-report biases, social desirability biases and the list continues. Though they are a very efficient and effective way to gather information, therefore, they should not be discounted entirely (Adams, Soumerai, Lomas, & Ross-Degnan, 1999). Using self-report measures in conjunction with other measures, like the thematic apperception test will help to enhance the reliability of the results (Adams, Soumerai, Lomas, & Ross-Degnan, 1999). As this is a great way to learn a lot of information about a group of people in a short period of time, they are a valued measure in psychology and should be used as such.

Quiz[edit | edit source]

Choose your best guess and click "Submit":

1 What other need/motivation is similar to intimacy?


2 High levels of intimacy benefit ____

Psychosocial well-being
Ability to make friends
Sleep quality
Academic achievement

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

This chapter attempted to uncover what motivates us to seek out intimacy and the positive and negative consequences of intimacy motivation. To understand intimacy motivation first an understanding of motivation was required, using the self-determination theory a brief overview of motivation was discussed. Intimacy motivation is still in its infancy in terms of research, while there have been many interesting and intriguing findings, there are still many aspects of this concept that are in need of further research[vague]. The interesting sex differences in the way intimacy effects well-being in adulthood, the negative effects of seeking intimacy, or being intimate are areas where further research should be heading go help support and increase the pool of information on this topic.[vague]

As high levels of intimacy motivation have such positive effects on those individuals lives, that is incentive enough to continue studying and uncovering new information on this topic because the consequences thus far have provided mainly positive incentives to further study intimacy. Intimacy is a central theme to multiple theories of personality suggesting that it is a central part of human behaviour and uncovering more information on this topic would be highly valuable to understanding and interpreting this idea.[vague]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Adams, A., Soumerai, S., Lomas, J., & Ross-Degnan, D. (1999). Evidence of self-report bias in assessing adherence to guidelines. International Journal For Quality In Health Care, 11(3), 187-192.

Bakan, D. (1966). The duality of human existence. Chicago: Rand McNally.

Benabou, R. & Tirole, J. (2003). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation. The Review Of Economic Studies, 70, 489-520. Retrieved from

Beyers, W. & Seiffge-Krenke, I. (2010). Does Identity Precede Intimacy? Testing Erikson's Theory on Romantic Development in Emerging Adults of the 21st Century. Journal Of Adolescent Research, 25(3), 387-415.

Buber, M. & Smith, R. (2002). Between man and man. London: New York.

Constant, E., Vallet, F., Nandrino, J., & Christophe, V. (2016). Personal assessment of intimacy in relationships: Validity and measurement invariance across gender. Revue Européenne De Psychologie Appliquée/European Review Of Applied Psychology, 66(3), 109-116.

Deci, E. & Ryan, R. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.

Heller, P. & Wood, B. (1998). The process of intimacy: similarity, understanding and gender. Journal Of Marital And Family Therapy, 24(3), 273-288.

Kadner, K. (1994). Therapeutic intimacy in nursing. Journal Of Advanced Nursing, 19(2), 215-218.

Lester, A. & Lester, J. (1998). It takes two. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press.

Mackey, R., Diemer, M., & O'Brien, B. (2000). Psychological Intimacy in the Lasting Relationships of Heterosexual and Same-Gender Couples. Sex Roles, 43(3/4), 201-227.

Mashek, D. & Aron, A. (2004). Handbook of closeness and intimacy. Mahwah, N.J.: L.E. Associates, Publishers.

Maslow, A. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-396.

Maslow, A. (1968). Toward a psychology of being. New York: Van Nostrand.

McAdams, D. (1980). A thematic coding system for the intimacy motive. Journal Of Research In Personality, 14(4), 413-432.

McAdams, D. & Bryant, F. (1987). Intimacy Motivation and Subjective Mental Health in a Nationwide Sample. J Personality, 55(3), 395-413.

McAdams, D. & Constantian, C. (1983). Intimacy and affiliation motives in daily living: An experience sampling analysis. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 45(4), 851-861.

McAdams, D. & Powers, J. (1981). Themes of intimacy in behavior and thought. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 40(3), 573-587.

McAdams, D. & Vaillant, G. (1982). Intimacy Motivation and Psychosocial Adjustment: A Longitudinal Study. Journal Of Personality Assessment, 46(6), 586-593.

McAdams, D., Jackson, R., & Kirshnit, C. (1984). Looking, laughing, and smiling in dyads as a function of intimacy motivation and reciprocity. J Personality, 52(3), 261-273.

Murray, H. (1943). Thematic apperception test manual. [Cambridge, Mass.]: [Harvard University Press].

Ochse, R. & Plug, C. (1986). Cross-cultural investigation of the validity of Erikson's theory of personality development. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 50(6), 1240-1252.

Patrick, S., Sells, J., Giordano, F., & Tollerud, T. (2007). Intimacy, Differentiation, and Personality Variables as Predictors of Marital Satisfaction. The Family Journal, 15(4), 359-367.

Ryan, R. & Deci, E. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 54-67.

Ryan, R. & Deci, E. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78.

Sullivan, H. (1953). The interpersonal theory of psychiatry. New York: Norton.

Talmadge, L. & Dabbs, J. (1990). Intimacy, Conversational Patterns, and Concomitant Cognitive/Emotional Processes in Couples. Journal Of Social And Clinical Psychology, 9(4), 473-488.

Vallerand, R. (1997). Toward A Hierarchical Model of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation. Advances In Experimental Social Psychology, 29, 271-360.

Westen, D., Lohr, N., Silk, K., Gold, L., & et al,. (1990). Object relations and social cognition in borderlines, major depressives, and normals: A Thematic Apperception Test analysis. Psychological Assessment, 2(4), 355-364.

External links[edit | edit source]