Valle publishes journal article on new measure of psychological needs

Matthew Valle, Martha and Spencer Love professor of business and professor of management, and colleagues have published a report on a series of investigations of a newly developed measure of psychological needs.

Matthew Valle, Martha and Spencer Love professor of business and professor of management, along with Vickie Gallagher of Cleveland State University, Liam Maher of Florida State University and Kevin Gallagher of Cleveland State University, have published the results of a three-study analysis of a new measure of individual psychological needs.  The article, “Development and validation of a comprehensive work-related needs measure,” was published in Psychological Reports (May 2017: DOI:

Matt Valle,&nbsp;<span style=”font-size: 13.9997px;”>Martha and Spencer Love professor of business and professor of management</span>
Individual differences in needs serve as the impetus for all manner of volitional functioning, subsequently driving disparate cognitions, attitudes, and behaviors for individuals across a wide variety of work and non-work situations (Milyavskaya & Koestner, 2011; Ryan, 1995; Weinstein, Przybylski, & Ryan, 2012). Self-Determination Theory posits that humans possess innate psychological needs to experience autonomy, competence and relatedness, for example, and that the fulfillment of these needs is essential for personal growth and emotional well-being (Ryan & Deci, 2000).

Additionally, recent research has shown that that the satisfaction of psychological needs is associated with positive outcomes such as task persistence, improved work performance (Baard, Deci, & Ryan, 2004; Bipp & van Dam, 2014), positive work attitudes, job satisfaction and organizational commitment (Vansteenkiste & Ryan, 2013). Conversely, decreased need fulfillment can significantly diminish employee, and subsequently organizational, functioning (Gagne´ & Deci, 2005). Therefore, the accurate assessment of individual needs is essential to understanding and managing individual behavior in organizations.

ABSTRACT:  The purpose of this research is threefold. First, we define and specify the psychological needs under investigation, briefly highlight extant research, and differentiate needs from other individual difference variables. Second, we demonstrate the limitations of one of the most highly cited psychological needs instruments and introduce a new needs model. Third, we develop and evaluate a multi-dimensional needs inventory using a multi-study design. The strengths and limitations of the proposed and tested model are discussed, as are implications for future research.

One of the first comprehensive operational measures of individual needs was the Manifest Needs Questionnaire (MNQ) (Steers & Braunstein, 1976). The MNQ includes scales to measure four distinct sub-categories of needs: nAff, nAch, nDom, and nAut. The Steers and Braunstein measure is based on the theoretical work of Murray (1938) and further developed by McClelland, Atkinson, Clark, and Lowell (1953). Although Steers and Braunstein contributed immensely to our understanding of the complexities of individual needs, scholars have criticized the MNQ for its unsatisfactory psychometric properties. This may explain why so little research has been conducted with regard to nAff and nAut utilizing the Steers and Braunstein (1976) measure. In addition, one of the more popular needs measures used by Bretz Ash, and Dreher (1989) requires payment of a fee for usage of the measure (Jackson, 1984) which further contributes to the paucity of research which includes all four needs dimensions

Study 1 demonstrated that criticism of the MNQ (Steers & Braunstein, 1976) is justified. We found, similar to other studies (Dreher & Mai-Dalton, 1983), that the psychometric properties of the MNQ were fair at best. For instance, only the nDom subscale of the MNQ demonstrated adequate reliability (i.e., above .70; Nunnally, 1978). Further, the nAch and nDom subscales of the MNQ were not found to be empirically distinct. Conceptually, the MNQ captures behaviors thought to reflect manifestations of individuals’ needs rather than actual workplace preferences. Therefore, on both empirical and conceptual grounds, we felt that the development of a comprehensive, psychometrically sound, and nonproprietary needs measure was necessary given that individuals’ needs have wide-reaching effects on individual behavior and organizational outcomes.

In Study 2, we developed items for the new needs measure utilizing the inductive method of scale development articulated by Hinkin (1995). The removal of items that had low item-to-total correlations, items that correlated significantly with the aggregate social desirability scale, and/or items that cross-loaded on more than one factor resulted in the removal of 25 items. The resulting nAff, nAch, nDom, and nDom scales consisted of five items, four items, five items, and four items, respectively. The psychometric properties of these remaining items were relatively strong in Study 2. Our new measure of needs is markedly improved from the MNQ evidenced in Study 1.

In Study 3, support was found for the hypotheses that nAch, nAff, and nDom were positively related to PA. With regard to the new measure itself, the psychometric properties were found to be adequate in a subsequent test with a new sample.  The resulting scales demonstrate strong convergent and discriminant validity.