Reiss Motivation Profile - how did it start?

For Steven Reiss, there was a mystery in life that he wanted to solve: Why are people the way they are and how do I understand AND predict their behaviour?

Using these two questions, he developed the Reiss Motivation Profile, a tool that reveals a person’s fundamental goals and values. The personality profile that was created through this has so far helped countless people to understand themselves and other people better. He reduced the main psychological motivators down to 16 basic desires. Assessing each of these 16 motivators in life helps you to create a picture of your intrinsic behavioural motivators, i.e. the things within you that drive you.

This means that every person who receives their results of the Reiss Motivation Profile can see why they consider certain actions to be reasonable; by combining their own, personal, individual motivators in life, they can understand and see the reasons behind their behaviour.



Influence, Success, Performance, Leadership

People with a strong need for power in the Reiss Motivation Profile®, may like to assert their will and influence things. They like to be a leader, take responsibility and have an impact on their environment. People with a strong need for power might be willful and determined.

People with a weak need for power in the Reiss Motivation Profile®, may have a little desire to influence, lead, or advise others. They might dislike leadership roles.



Freedom, Autonomy

People with a strong need for independence may value their independence and personal freedom more than most people do. They may have a desire for self-reliance and the need to feel free.

People with a weak need for independence may have a strong need for interdependent relationships. Many interdependent people are comforted knowing they can rely on others when they need help.



Wisdom, Truth

People with a strong need for curiosity may place an unusually high value on understanding things. A strong need for curiosity motivates intellectual behavior.

People with a weak need for curiosity may be practical. They believe that "actions speak louder than words" and take a practical approach to accomplishing their goals.



social acceptance, belonging, positive self-worth

People with a strong need for acceptance may be more sensitive to failure and criticism than the average person is. They are tuned in and sensitive to what other people think and say about them.

People with a weak need for acceptance may be less sensitive to the possibility of failure and criticism than is the average person.



Stability, Clarity, Structure

People with a strong need for order on the Reiss Motivation Profile®, may be fine tuned to how organized things are. They like to organize things, make plans, make up a schedule, write down a list and set rules.

People with a weak need for order on the Reiss Motivation Profile®, may feel uncomfortable when their environment is highly organized or scheduled. Some dislike having to conform their behavior to detailed rules, schedules, and plans.



Collect, Property

People with a strong need for saving may like to collect things. Sometimes this can involve saving things of value, such as saving money or collecting things one likes. Other times it may involve holding on to things that have no practical value.

People with a weak need for saving on the Reiss Motivation Profile®, may not feel the need to save or hold on to things. Many are generous people.



Loyalty, moral Integrity

People with a strong need for honor may be tuned into the moral aspects of life. They value personal character and accept responsibility for their actions.

People with a weak need for honor may be strongly motivated by their own personal code of conduct. When an important opportunity presents itself, they are willing to do whatever it takes to exploit it.



social justice, Fairness

People with a strong need for idealism may be strongly motivated by social justice and may be tuned in to the welfare of the needy.

People with a weak need for idealism may believe that injustice and unfairness are part of life.

Social Contact

Social Contact

Friendship, Happiness, Humor

People with a strong need for social contact like socializing with friends and peers. They seek an active social life.

People with a weak need for social contact may place less value on social life than does the average person. They like to spend time away from the crowd to rejuvenate themselves.



Parentship, Education of own children

People with a strong need for family may be family oriented. They put their family first and arrange their schedules so they can spend significant time at home.

People with a weak need for family may not be a family oriented person. They care about family members, but they may not feel the need to spend significant amounts of time with them.



Prestige, Reputation, public attention

People with a strong need for status may be impressed with prestige. They are impressed with fame and popularity.

People with a weak need for status may be relatively unimpressed with the prestige value of the things they own. They might be humble and down-to-earth.



retribution, competition

People with a strong need for vengeance may have a fighting spirit. They revenge themselves when others have insulted them.

People with a weak need for vengeance may try to avoid conflict and may look for common ground and compromise.



Beauty, Sex

People with a strong need for romance may be more romantic and attracted by eroticism than is the average person.

For people with a weak need for romance, romantic and erotic situations might be less important than for the average person.



Food, cooking, pleasure

People with a strong need for eating may have a strong appetite for food and a tendency to eat a lot.

People with a weak need for eating may have a weak appetite for food and a tendency to eat little.

Physical Activity

Physical Activity

Sports, Fitness

People with a strong need for physical activity may enjoy muscle exercise, physical exertion, or motion.

People with a weak need for physical activity may dislike vigorous muscle exercise, physical exertion, or motion.



emotional comfort, relaxation

People with a strong need for tranquility may have a high sensitivity for danger, risk, or pain. They might experience a fair amount of anxiety or stress.

People with a weak need for tranquility may have a low sensitivity for anxiety, fear, and pain. They are slow to frighten.


Who am I? What do I actually want?

Until now, psychologists have worked on the basis of only a few different, yet dominant, impulses that determine people's actions; Steven Reiss’ empirical research, on the other hand, identified a significant number of factors.

Sigmund Freud believed that libido was almost the only driving force. Alfred Adler believed that people want to belong and become better / grow / learn / be significant / respected and muster the courage to compensate for their flaws. The American psychologist Abraham Maslow considered the striving for self-actualisation to be the driver for human behaviour.

“These schemata do not take any account of how different people are,” says Reiss. There was no system that included human diversity when it came to looking at the motivators for behaviour.

What makes people tick is so varied that it cannot be explained by just a few impulses

In a series of nine, large trials that included over 8000 men and women, Reiss looked into the psychological ‘essential motivators’, which he later called ‘basic desires’, that ultimately drive people.

The basic desires that Steven Reiss identified are the result of this comprehensive scientific research. “For the first time in scientific studies, we looked at the question of what motivates individual people,” says Reiss. The result is a breakthrough in motivation research, as it enables you to describe precisely what drives people, i.e. their individual needs and motivations behind their actions. “The intensity of individual desires varies widely from person to person,” explains the psychologist. “This is what constitutes a personality.” Every person has their own, almost unique set of basic desires. Having your individual needs fulfilled makes you happy and content.

What's behind it all?


Scientifically founded by means of factor analysis (meanwhile tens of thousands of profiles from many countries around the world have been evaluated) 16 different motives for life can be distinguished using the Reiss Motivation Profile®: Acceptance, romance, curiosity, eating, family, honor, idealism, independence, order, physical activity, power, saving, social contact, status, tranquillity, vengeance.

The 16 motives for life differ from the many lists of basic motives and intentions in psychology because they are based on a broad empirical basis and the investigation of thousands of people. Many other approaches are based almost without exception on pure introspection as with Plato, observations of animal behavior - as with James and McDougall - or theoretical in-depth psychological approaches - as with Murray.

The 16 Basic Desires

  • were determined strictly empirically,
  • are based on factor-analytical evaluations,
  • and have been confirmed in numerous follow-up studies across cultures.

Steven Reiss assumes that at least 14 of the identified motives have a genetic determination. Our motives thus have an evolutionary origin, but are shaped by culture, our beliefs and our individual experiences. What we wish for is largely determined by our genes, but how we fulfill our desires is mainly determined by our culture and our experiences.

These 16 life motives are independent dimensions ("factors"), which have a high explanatory value in relation to human behavior and also have a high predictability of behavior. Every human being has a motivational fingerprint - just like everyone else has his or her genetic fingerprint. The different motivators are combined and more or less pronounced in each person in their own way. Thus, the individuality of man is taken into account and not attempted to classify people in typologies.

  • The motives determine our behavior per se: to live them out is their purpose.
  • The motive profile of a person is basically stable.
  • We find a distinction between feel good-happiness and value-based happiness. By well-being happiness, Steven Reiss understands a person's efforts to create a good feeling as quickly as possible and to find meaning in it. In contrast to this there is value-oriented happiness, which means to have found the meaning of one's own actions and to orientate one's life towards one's own values and motives.

Last but not least, we understand the Reiss Motivation Profile® as a plea for tolerance: Steven Reiss advocates understanding and accepting the motives of other people. Because we tend to consider our own values as desirable and to underestimate those of others.

On request, we will be happy to provide you with the quality criteria for the individual motives of life.


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Renormalization process 2017

What are standards/norms? In order to be able to say something about the test values of a single person, the values of this person are compared and related to a norm sample that is as large and representative as possible. This makes it possible to interpret individual test results. Reiss Motivation Profile® standards In the original sample from 2001,1,749 test participants were recorded. In 2007, the Reiss Motivation Profile® was standardized based on a sample of approx. 7,800 test participants. In 2012, 45,000 test persons have already been registered in a renormalization process. Since September 2017, the new standards have been in place, covering a period from 2007 to 2017. The standard sample of the Reiss Motivation Profile® now comprises 79,888 test persons from 23 countries and 3 continents (America, Asia, Europe). This process was conducted by William Aflleje of Reesh LLC in collaboration with Mike Reiss and Maggi Reiss of IDS Publishing.

The Reiss Motivation Profile®

What Motivates You?

What determines your life? What is really important to you?
What makes you successful? What makes you happy?

As US psychologist Steven Reiss found out after many years of research with thousands of test subjects, not only one or two basic desires determine our existence, but 16 vital needs and values - our basic desires. Thereby, every person has – like an individual fingerprint – a distinctive “basic desire profile”.

His Reiss Motivation Profile®

Steven Reiss

Born in New York in 1947, Steven Reiss was Emeritus Professor for Psychology and Psychiatry at Ohio State University (USA) and Director of the Nisonger Center for Mental Retardation. He is the author of numerous research papers and specialist books and has received several awards for his work.

In Europe, he is primarily known as the creator of the Reiss Motivation Profile®; this is a diagnostic procedure in personality analysis that can be applied across a range of consultancy contexts, e.g. personal development, career coaching and elite sport. Thousands of people around the world have been able to work out what makes them tick and what their individual motivators are. He focused on the deep fulfilment of a person’s true needs, conflict-free interpersonal relationships and a better understanding of people’s individual differences throughout his life.

Steven Reiss died on 28/10/2016 from illnesses associated with a long-term, chronic ailment.