Maslow's hierarchy of needs
Maslow's hierarchy of needs is predetermined in order of importance.It is often depicted
as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the first lower level is being associated with
Physiological needs, while the top levels are termed growth needs associated with
psychological needs. Deficiency needs must be met first. Once these are met, seeking to
satisfy growth needs drives personal growth. The higher needs in this hierarchy only
come into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are met. Once an individual has
moved upwards to the next level, needs in the lower level will no longer be prioritized. If
a lower set of needs is no longer being met, the individual will temporarily re-prioritize
those needs by focusing attention on the unfulfilled needs, but will not permanently
regress to the lower level. For instance, a businessman at the esteem level who is
diagnosed with cancer will spend a great deal of time concentrating on his health
(physiological needs), but will continue to value his work performance (esteem needs)
and will likely return to work during periods of remission.
 Deficiency needs
The lower four layers of the pyramid are what Maslow called "deficiency needs" or "Dneeds". With the exception of the lowest needs, physiological ones, if the deficiency
needs are not met, the body gives no indication of it physically, but the individual feels
anxious and tense. These deficiency needs are: physiological, safety and security, love
and belonging, and esteem.
For the most part, physiological needs are obvious - they are the literal requirements for
human survival. If these requirements are not met (with the partial exception of sex), the
human body simply cannot continue to function.
Physiological needs include:
With their physical needs relatively satisfied, the individual's safety needs take over and
dominate their behavior. These needs have to do with people's yearning for a predictable,
orderly world in which injustice and inconsistency are under control, the familiar
frequent and the unfamiliar rare. In the world of work, these safety needs manifest
themselves in such things as a preference for job security, grievance procedures for
protecting the individual from unilateral authority, savings accounts, insurance policies,
and the like.
For the most part, physiological and safety needs are reasonably well satisfied in the
"First World". The obvious exceptions, of course, are people outside the mainstream —
the poor and the disadvantaged. If frustration has not led to apathy and weakness, such
people still struggle to satisfy the basic physiological and safety needs. They are
primarily concerned with survival: obtaining adequate food, clothing, shelter, and seeking
justice from the dominant societal groups.
Safety and Security needs include:
Health and well-being
Safety net against accidents/illness and the adverse impacts
After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third layer of human needs is social.
This psychological aspect of Maslow's hierarchy involves emotionally-based
relationships in general, such as:
having a supportive and communicative family
Humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance, whether it comes from a large
social group, such as clubs, office culture, religious groups, professional organizations,
sports teams, gangs ("Safety in numbers"), or small social connections (family members,
intimate partners, mentors, close colleagues, confidants). They need to love and be loved
(sexually and non-sexually) by others. In the absence of these elements, many people
become susceptible to loneliness, social anxiety, and Clinical depression. This need for
belonging can often overcome the physiological and security needs, depending on the
strength of the peer pressure; an anorexic, for example, ignores the need to eat and the
security of health for a feeling of control and belonging.
All humans have a need to be respected, to have self-esteem, self-respect, and to respect
others. People need to engage themselves to gain recognition and have an activity or
activities that give the person a sense of contribution, to feel accepted and self-valued, be
it in a profession or hobby. Imbalances at this level can result in low self-esteem or an
inferiority complex. People with low self-esteem need respect from others. They may
seek fame or glory, which again depends on others. It may be noted, however, that many
people with low self-esteem will not be able to improve their view of themselves simply
by receiving fame, respect, and glory externally, but must first accept themselves
internally. Psychological imbalances such as depression can also prevent one from
obtaining self-esteem on both levels.
Aesthetic needs / Self Actualization
The motivation to realize one's own maximum potential and possibilities is considered to
be the master motive or the only real motive, all other motives being its various forms. In
Maslow's hierarchy of needs, the need for self-actualization is the final need that
manifests when lower level needs have been satisfied.
Near the end of his life Maslow revealed that there was a level on the hierarchy that was
above self-actualization: self-transcendence. "[Transcenders] may be said to be much
more often aware of the realm of Being (B-realm and B-cognition), to be living at the
level of Being… to have unitive consciousness and “plateau experience” (serene and
contemplative B-cognitions rather than climactic ones) … and to have or to have had
peak experience (mystic, sacral, ecstatic) with illuminations or insights. Analysis of
reality or cognitions which changed their view of the world and of themselves, perhaps
occasionally, perhaps as a usual thing."
Herzberg Motivation – Hygiene Theory
Frederick Irving Herzberg (1923 - 2000) was a noted psychologist who became one of
the most influential names in business management. He is most famous for introducing
job enrichment and the Motivator-Hygiene theory. His 1968 publication "One More
Time, How Do You Motivate Employees?" had sold 1.2 million reprints by 1987 and was
the most requested article from the Harvard Business Review. Herzberg attended City
College of New York, but left part way through his studies to enlist in the army. As a
patrol sergeant, he was a firsthand witness of the Dachau concentration camp. He
believed that this experience, as well as the talks he had with other Germans living in the
area was what triggered his interest in motivation. Herzberg graduated from City College
in 1946 and moved to the University of Pittsburgh to undertake post-graduate studies in
science and public health. He earned his PhD in psychology with a dissertation entitled
"Prognostic variables for electroshock therapy". He started his research on the workplace
while teaching as a professor of psychology at Case Western Reserve University in
Cleveland and later moved to the University of Utah where he held the position of
professor of management in the college of business.
Two factor theory
Herzberg proposed the Motivation-Hygiene Theory, also known as the Two factor theory
(1959) of job satisfaction. According to his theory, people are influenced by two factors:
Pay and Benefits
Company Policy and Administration
Relationships with co-workers
1. People are made dissatisfied by a bad environment, but they are seldom made
satisfied by a good environment.
2. The prevention of dissatisfaction is just as important as encouragement of
3. Hygiene factors operate independently of motivation factors. An individual can be
highly motivated in his work and be dissatisfied with his work environment.
4. All hygiene factors are equally important, although their frequency of occurrence
5. Hygiene improvements have short-term effects. Any improvements result in a
short-term removal of, or prevention of, dissatisfaction.
6. Hygiene needs are cyclical in nature and come back to a starting point. This leads
to the "What have you done for me lately?" syndrome.
7. Hygiene needs have an escalating zero point and no final answer.[3
McClelland’s Theory of Needs
McClelland proposes that each of us have three fundamental needs that exist in different
balances. These affect both how we are motivated and how we attempt to motivate
n-ach: Need for achievement:
Seeks achievement, attainment of goals and advancement. Strong need for feedback,
sense of accomplishment and progress
n-affil: Need for affiliation:
Need for friendships, interaction and to be liked.
n-pow: Need for power
Authority motivated needs to influence and make an impact. Strong need to lead and to
increase personal status and prestige.
It seems that some people have a very strong need to achieve, whilst the majority of
people are not motivated in this way. McClelland was so interested by this that he
focussed his research on the need to achieve.
In a famous experiment, people were asked to throw rings over a peg (like at a fair). The
distance that one should throw from was not specified, and as a result most people threw
their rings from random distances. However, people with a high need for achievement
chose their location carefully so that they stood a realistic chance of getting the ring on
the peg, but that it was not too easy. They set an achievable goal that would stretch
This seems to be the nub of the whole thing - achievement motivated people set goals
where they feel that they can influence the outcome and ensure that those goals are
balanced between challenge and realism.
An achievement motivated person sees the achievement of a goal as the reward; it is
more satisfying than praise or monetary reward. Money is seen as good only in that it is
seen as a measure of their achievement. This idea of feedback is essential to the
achievement motivated person: the feedback needs to be informative to enable them to
use it to improve their achievement. In addition there is an element of competition - it is
important for the individual to be able to compare their achievement against others.
The key differentiator between this group and others is that achievement motivated
people frequently spend time thinking how things could be improved.
Rather than being the preserve of a privileged few with these characteristic, Mclelland
believed that these characteristics could be taught and developed training programmes.
Dave is someone who has a high need for achievement and I must admit that it does
explain a lot to me. I can normally see very quickly how to improve a system, and
struggle to understand why others might not want to improve it too. I also find it difficult
to understand why people do the things that they do more generally. Maybe it is because
rather than wanting to make everything as good as it can possibly be they have higher
needs for power or affiliation.
It seems that I might not be alone in my difficulties as although n-ach people make good
business leaders and entrepreneurs their management style can suffer because they
expect everyone to be motivated in the same way as themselves.
However, it is the need for power that I have the most difficulty with. It seems very
destructive to have a need for power without a strong need to achieve as well. Surely
having a strong motivation to increase personal status and prestige will always lead to
Vroom’s Expectency Theory of Motivation
The expectancy theory of motivation is suggested by Victor Vroom. Unlike Maslow and
Herzberg, Vroom does not concentrate on needs, but rather focuses on outcomes.
Whereas Maslow and Herzberg look at the relationship between internal needs and the
resulting effort expended to fulfil them, Vroom separates effort (which arises from
motivation), performance, and outcomes.
Vroom, hypothesises that in order for a person to be motivated that effort, performance
and motivation must be linked. He proposes three variables to account for this, which he
calls Valence, Expectancy and Instrumentality.
Expectancy is the belief that increased effort will lead to increased performance i.e. if I
work harder then this will be better. This is affected by such things as:
1. Having the right resources available (e.g. raw materials, time)
2. Having the right skills to do the job
3. Having the necessary support to get the job done (e.g. supervisor support, or
correct information on the job)
Instrumentality is the belief that if you perform well that a valued outcome will be
received i.e. if I do a good job, there is something in it for me. This is affected by such
1. Clear understanding of the relationship between performance and outcomes – e.g.
the rules of the reward ‘game’
2. Trust in the people who will take the decisions on who gets what outcome
3. Transparency of the process that decides who gets what outcome
Valence is the importance that the individual places upon the expected outcome. For
example, if I am mainly motivated by money, I might not value offers of additional time
Having examined these links, the idea is that the individual then changes their level of
effort according to the value they place on the outcomes they receive from the process
and on their perception of the strength of the links between effort and outcome.
So, if I perceive that any one of these is true:
1. My increased effort will not increase my performance
2. My increased performance will not increase my rewards
3. I don’t value the rewards on offer
...then Vroom’s expectancy theory suggests that this individual will not be motivated.
This means that even if an organisation achieves two out of three, that employees would
still not be motivated, all three are required for positive motivation.
Here there is also a useful link to the Equity theory of motivation: namely that people will
also compare outcomes for themselves with others. Equity theory suggests that people
will alter the level of effort they put in to make it fair compared to others according to
their perceptions. So if we got the same raise this year, but I think you put in a lot less
effort, this theory suggests that I would scale back the effort I put in.
Crucially, Expectancy theory works on perceptions – so even if an employer thinks they
have provided everything appropriate for motivation, and even if this works with most
people in that organisation it doesn’t mean that someone won’t perceive that it doesn’t
work for them.
At first glance this theory would seem most applicable to a traditional-attitude work
situation where how motivated the employee is depends on whether they want the
reward on offer for doing a good job and whether they believe more effort will lead to
However, it could equally apply to any situation where someone does something because
they expect a certain outcome. For example, I recycle paper because I think it's
important to conserve resources and take a stand on environmental issues (valence); I
think that the more effort I put into recycling the more paper I will recycle (expectancy);
and I think that the more paper I recycle then less resources will be used
Thus, this theory of motivation is not about self-interest in rewards but about the
associations people make towards expected outcomes and the contribution they feel they
can make towards those outcomes.
Other theories, in my opinion, do not allow for the same degree of individuality between
people. This model takes into account individual perceptions and thus personal histories,
allowing a richness of response not obvious in Maslow or McClelland, who assume that
people are essentially all the same.
Expectancy theory could also be overlaid over another theory (e.g. Maslow). Maslow
could be used to describe which outcomes people are motivated by and Vroom to
describe whether they will act based upon their experience and expectations.
B. F. Skinner’s Reinforcement Theory
B. F. Skinner’s entire system is based on operant conditioning. The organism is in the
process of “operating” on the environment, which in ordinary terms means it is bouncing
around its world, doing what it does. During this “operating,” the organism encounters a
special kind of stimulus, called a reinforcing stimulus, or simply a reinforcer. This
special stimulus has the effect of increasing the operant -- that is, the behavior occurring
just before the reinforcer. This is operant conditioning: “the behavior is followed by a
consequence, and the nature of the consequence modifies the organisms tendency to
repeat the behavior in the future.”
Imagine a rat in a cage. This is a special cage (called, in fact, a “Skinner box”) that has a
bar or pedal on one wall that, when pressed, causes a little mechanism to release a food
pellet into the cage. The rat is bouncing around the cage, doing whatever it is rats do,
when he accidentally presses the bar and -- hey, presto! -- a food pellet falls into the cage!
The operant is the behavior just prior to the reinforcer, which is the food pellet, of
course. In no time at all, the rat is furiously peddling away at the bar, hoarding his pile of
pellets in the corner of the cage.
A behavior followed by a reinforcing stimulus results in an increased probability of that
behavior occurring in the future.
What if you don’t give the rat any more pellets? Apparently, he’s no fool, and after a few
futile attempts, he stops his bar-pressing behavior. This is called extinction of the
A behavior no longer followed by the reinforcing stimulus results in a decreased
probability of that behavior occurring in the future.
Now, if you were to turn the pellet machine back on, so that pressing the bar again
provides the rat with pellets, the behavior of bar-pushing will “pop” right back into
existence, much more quickly than it took for the rat to learn the behavior the first time.
This is because the return of the reinforcer takes place in the context of a reinforcement
history that goes all the way back to the very first time the rat was reinforced for pushing
on the bar!
Schedules of reinforcement
Skinner likes to tell about how he “accidentally -- i.e. operantly -- came across his
various discoveries. For example, he talks about running low on food pellets in the
middle of a study. Now, these were the days before “Purina rat chow” and the like, so
Skinner had to make his own rat pellets, a slow and tedious task. So he decided to reduce
the number of reinforcements he gave his rats for whatever behavior he was trying to
condition, and, lo and behold, the rats kept up their operant behaviors, and at a stable rate,
no less. This is how Skinner discovered schedules of reinforcement!
Continuous reinforcement is the original scenario: Every time that the rat does the
behavior (such as pedal-pushing), he gets a rat goodie.
The fixed ratio schedule was the first one Skinner discovered: If the rat presses the
pedal three times, say, he gets a goodie. Or five times. Or twenty times. Or “x” times.
There is a fixed ratio between behaviors and reinforcers: 3 to 1, 5 to 1, 20 to 1, etc. This
is a little like “piece rate” in the clothing manufacturing industry: You get paid so much
for so many shirts.
The fixed interval schedule uses a timing device of some sort. If the rat presses the bar
at least once during a particular stretch of time (say 20 seconds), then he gets a goodie. If
he fails to do so, he doesn’t get a goodie. But even if he hits that bar a hundred times
during that 20 seconds, he still only gets one goodie! One strange thing that happens is
that the rats tend to “pace” themselves: They slow down the rate of their behavior right
after the reinforcer, and speed up when the time for it gets close.
Skinner also looked at variable schedules. Variable ratio means you change the “x”
each time -- first it takes 3 presses to get a goodie, then 10, then 1, then 7 and so on.
Variable interval means you keep changing the time period -- first 20 seconds, then 5,
then 35, then 10 and so on.
In both cases, it keeps the rats on their rat toes. With the variable interval schedule, they
no longer “pace” themselves, because they can no longer establish a “rhythm” between
behavior and reward. Most importantly, these schedules are very resistant to extinction.
It makes sense, if you think about it. If you haven’t gotten a reinforcer for a while, well,
it could just be that you are at a particularly “bad” ratio or interval! Just one more bar
press, maybe this’ll be the one!
This, according to Skinner, is the mechanism of gambling. You may not win very often,
but you never know whether and when you’ll win again. It could be the very next time,
and if you don’t roll them dice, or play that hand, or bet on that number this once, you’ll
miss on the score of the century!
A question Skinner had to deal with was how we get to more complex sorts of behaviors.
He responded with the idea of shaping, or “the method of successive approximations.”
Basically, it involves first reinforcing a behavior only vaguely similar to the one desired.
Once that is established, you look out for variations that come a little closer to what you
want, and so on, until you have the animal performing a behavior that would never show
up in ordinary life. Skinner and his students have been quite successful in teaching
simple animals to do some quite extraordinary things. My favorite is teaching pigeons to
I used shaping on one of my daughters once. She was about three or four years old, and
was afraid to go down a particular slide. So I picked her up, put her at the end of the
slide, asked if she was okay and if she could jump down. She did, of course, and I
showered her with praise. I then picked her up and put her a foot or so up the slide, asked
her if she was okay, and asked her to slide down and jump off. So far so good. I
repeated this again and again, each time moving her a little up the slide, and backing off
if she got nervous. Eventually, I could put her at the top of the slide and she could slide
all the way down and jump off. Unfortunately, she still couldn’t climb up the ladder, so I
was a very busy father for a while.
This is the same method that is used in the therapy called systematic desensitization,
invented by another behaviorist named Joseph Wolpe. A person with a phobia -- say of
spiders -- would be asked to come up with ten scenarios involving spiders and panic of
one degree or another. The first scenario would be a very mild one -- say seeing a small
spider at a great distance outdoors. The second would be a little more scary, and so on,
until the tenth scenario would involve something totally terrifying -- say a tarantula
climbing on your face while you’re driving your car at a hundred miles an hour! The
therapist will then teach you how to relax your muscles -- which is incompatible with
anxiety. After you practice that for a few days, you come back and you and the therapist
go through your scenarios, one step at a time, making sure you stay relaxed, backing off
if necessary, until you can finally imagine the tarantula while remaining perfectly
This is a technique quite near and dear to me because I did in fact have a spider phobia,
and did in fact get rid of it with systematic desensitization. It worked so well that, after
one session (beyond the original scenario-writing and muscle-training session) I could go
out an pick up a daddy-long-legs. Cool.
Beyond these fairly simple examples, shaping also accounts for the most complex of
behaviors. You don’t, for example, become a brain surgeon by stumbling into an
operating theater, cutting open someone's head, successfully removing a tumor, and being
rewarded with prestige and a hefty paycheck, along the lines of the rat in the Skinner
box. Instead, you are gently shaped by your environment to enjoy certain things, do well
in school, take a certain bio class, see a doctor movie perhaps, have a good hospital visit,
enter med school, be encouraged to drift towards brain surgery as a speciality, and so on.
This could be something your parents were carefully doing to you, as if you were a rat in
a cage. But much more likely, this is something that was more or less unintentional.
An aversive stimulus is the opposite of a reinforcing stimulus, something we might find
unpleasant or painful.
A behavior followed by an aversive stimulus results in a decreased probability of the
behavior occurring in the future.
This both defines an aversive stimulus and describes the form of conditioning known as
punishment. If you shock a rat for doing x, it’ll do a lot less of x. If you spank Johnny
for throwing his toys he will throw his toys less and less (maybe).
On the other hand, if you remove an already active aversive stimulus after a rat or Johnny
performs a certain behavior, you are doing negative reinforcement. If you turn off the
electricity when the rat stands on his hind legs, he’ll do a lot more standing. If you stop
your perpetually nagging when I finally take out the garbage, I’ll be more likely to take
out the garbage (perhaps). You could say it “feels so good” when the aversive stimulus
stops, that this serves as a reinforcer!
Behavior followed by the removal of an aversive stimulus results in an increased
probability of that behavior occurring in the future.
Notice how difficult it can be to distinguish some forms of negative reinforcement from
positive reinforcement: If I starve you, is the food I give you when you do what I want a
positive -- i.e. a reinforcer? Or is it the removal of a negative -- i.e. the aversive stimulus
Skinner (contrary to some stereotypes that have arisen about behaviorists) doesn’t
“approve” of the use of aversive stimuli -- not because of ethics, but because they don’t
work well! Notice that I said earlier that Johnny will maybe stop throwing his toys, and
that I perhaps will take out the garbage? That’s because whatever was reinforcing the
bad behaviors hasn’t been removed, as it would’ve been in the case of extinction. This
hidden reinforcer has just been “covered up” with a conflicting aversive stimulus. So,
sure, sometimes the child (or me) will behave -- but it still feels good to throw those
toys. All Johnny needs to do is wait till you’re out of the room, or find a way to blame it
on his brother, or in some way escape the consequences, and he’s back to his old ways.
In fact, because Johnny now only gets to enjoy his reinforcer occasionally, he’s gone into
a variable schedule of reinforcement, and he’ll be even more resistant to extinction than
Behavior modification -- often referred to as b-mod -- is the therapy technique based on
Skinner’s work. It is very straight-forward: Extinguish an undesirable behavior (by
removing the reinforcer) and replace it with a desirable behavior by reinforcement. It has
been used on all sorts of psychological problems -- addictions, neuroses, shyness, autism,
even schizophrenia -- and works particularly well with children. There are examples of
back-ward psychotics who haven’t communicated with others for years who have been
conditioned to behave themselves in fairly normal ways, such as eating with a knife and
fork, taking care of their own hygiene needs, dressing themselves, and so on.
There is an offshoot of b-mod called the token economy. This is used primarily in
institutions such as psychiatric hospitals, juvenile halls, and prisons. Certain rules are
made explicit in the institution, and behaving yourself appropriately is rewarded with
tokens -- poker chips, tickets, funny money, recorded notes, etc. Certain poor behavior is
also often followed by a withdrawal of these tokens. The tokens can be traded in for
desirable things such as candy, cigarettes, games, movies, time out of the institution, and
so on. This has been found to be very effective in maintaining order in these often
There is a drawback to token economy: When an “inmate” of one of these institutions
leaves, they return to an environment that reinforces the kinds of behaviors that got them
into the institution in the first place. The psychotic’s family may be thoroughly
dysfunctional. The juvenile offender may go right back to “the ‘hood.” No one is giving
them tokens for eating politely. The only reinforcements may be attention for “acting
out,” or some gang glory for robbing a Seven-Eleven. In other words, the environment
doesn’t travel well!
Skinner started his career as an English major, writing poems and short stories. He has,
of course, written a large number of papers and books on behaviorism. But he will
probably be most remembered by the general run of readers for his book Walden II,
wherein he describes a utopia-like commune run on his operant principles.
People, especially the religious right, came down hard on his book. They said that his
ideas take away our freedom and dignity as human beings. He responded to the sea of
criticism with another book (one of his best) called Beyond Freedom and Dignity. He
asked: What do we mean when we say we want to be free? Usually we mean we don’t
want to be in a society that punishes us for doing what we want to do. Okay -- aversive
stimuli don’t work well anyway, so out with them! Instead, we’ll only use reinforcers to
“control” society. And if we pick the right reinforcers, we will feel free, because we will
be doing what we feel we want!
Likewise for dignity. When we say “she died with dignity,” what do we mean? We
mean she kept up her “good” behaviors without any apparent ulterior motives. In fact,
she kept her dignity because her reinforcement history has led her to see behaving in that
"dignified" manner as more reinforcing than making a scene.
The bad do bad because the bad is rewarded. The good do good because the good is
rewarded. There is no true freedom or dignity. Right now, our reinforcers for good and
bad behavior are chaotic and out of our control -- it’s a matter of having good or bad luck
with your “choice” of parents, teachers, peers, and other influences. Let’s instead take
control, as a society, and design our culture in such a way that good gets rewarded and
bad gets extinguished! With the right behavioral technology, we can design culture.
Both freedom and dignity are examples of what Skinner calls mentalistic constructs -unobservable and so useless for a scientific psychology. Other examples include defense
mechanisms, the unconscious, archetypes, fictional finalisms, coping strategies, selfactualization, consciousness, even things like hunger and thirst. The most important
example is what he refers to as the homunculus -- Latin for “the little man” -- that
supposedly resides inside us and is used to explain our behavior, ideas like soul, mind,
ego, will, self, and, of course, personality.
Instead, Skinner recommends that psychologists concentrate on observables, that is, the
environment and our behavior in it.
kolb learning styles
experiential learning theory (ELT)
Having developed the model over many years prior, David Kolb published his
learning styles model in 1984. The model gave rise to related terms such as
Kolb's experiential learning theory (ELT), and Kolb's learning styles inventory
(LSI). In his publications - notably his 1984 book 'Experiential Learning:
Experience As The Source Of Learning And Development' Kolb acknowledges
the early work on experiential learning by others in the 1900's, including Rogers,
Jung, and Piaget. In turn, Kolb's learning styles model and experiential learning
theory are today acknowledged by academics, teachers, managers and trainers
as truly seminal works; fundamental concepts towards our understanding and
explaining human learning behaviour, and towards helping others to learn. See
also Gardner's Multiple Intelligences and VAK learnings styles models, which
assist in understanding and using Kolb's learning styles concepts.
In addition to personal business interests (Kolb is founder and chairman of
Experience Based Learning Systems), David Kolb is still (at the time I write this,
2005) Professor of Organizational Development at Case Western Reserve
University, Cleveland, Ohio, where he teaches and researches in the fields of
learning and development, adult development, experiential learning, learning
style, and notably 'learning focused institutional development in higher
kolb's experiential learning theory (learning
Kolb's learning theory sets out four distinct learning styles (or preferences),
which are based on a four-stage learning cycle . (which might also be
interpreted as a 'training cycle'). In this respect Kolb's model is particularly
elegant, since it offers both a way to understand individual people's different
learning styles, and also an explanation of a cycle of experiential
learning that applies to us all .
Kolb includes this 'cycle of learning' as a central principle his experiential learning
theory, typically expressed as four-stage cycle of learning , in which
'immediate or concrete experiences' provide a basis for 'observations
and reflections'. These 'observations and reflections' are assimilated and
distilled into 'abstract concepts' producing new implications for action which
can be 'actively tested' in turn creating new experiences.
Kolb says that ideally (and by inference not always) this process represents a
learning cycle or spiral where the learner 'touches all the bases', ie., a cycle of
experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting. Immediate or concrete experiences
lead to observations and reflections. These reflections are then assimilated
(absorbed and translated) into abstract concepts with implications for action,
which the person can actively test and experiment with, which in turn enable the
creation of new experiences.
Kolb's model therefore works on two levels - a four-stage cycle :
1. Concrete Experience - (CE)
2. Reflective Observation - (RO)
3. Abstract Conceptualization - (AC)
4. Active Experimentation - (AE)
and a four-type definition of learning styles , (each representing the
combination of two preferred styles, rather like a two-by-two matrix of the fourstage cycle styles, as illustrated below), for which Kolb used the terms:
1. Diverging (CE/RO)
2. Assimilating (AC/RO)
3. Converging (AC/AE)
4. Accommodating (CE/AE)
diagrams of kolb's learning styles
Here is a new improved (May 2006) free diagram illustrating Kolb's learning cycle
and learning types (MSWord). (Also as a pdf.)
Kolb diagrams also in colour (like the image below): Kolb learning styles colour
diagram MSWord, and Kolb colour diagram PDF.
(Kolb diagrams updated May 2006)
See also the personality styles and models section for help with understanding
how Kolb's theory correlates with other personality models and psychometrics
(This interpretation was amended and revised March 2006)
Kolb explains that different people naturally prefer a certain single different
learning style. Various factors influence a person's preferred style: notably in his
experiential learning theory model (ELT) Kolb defined three stages of a person's
development, and suggests that our propensity to reconcile and successfully
integrate the four different learning styles improves as we mature through our
development stages. The development stages that Kolb identified are:
1. Acquisition - birth to adolescence - development of basic abilities and
2. Specialization - schooling, early work and personal experiences of
adulthood - the development of a particular 'specialized learning style'
shaped by 'social, educational, and organizational socialization'
3. Integration - mid-career through to later life - expression of non-dominant
learning style in work and personal life.
Whatever influences the choice of style, the learning style preference itself is
actually the product of two pairs of variables, or two separate 'choices' that we
make, which Kolb presented as lines of axis, each with 'conflicting' modes at
Conceptualization - AC (thinking)
Active Experimentation - AE (doing)-----V----- Reflective Observation
- RO (watching)
A typical presentation of Kolb's two continuums is that the east-west axis is called
the Processing Continuum (how we approach a task), and the north-south axis is
called the Perception Continuum (our emotional response, or how we think or
feel about it).
These learning styles are the combination of two lines of axis (continuums) each
formed between what Kolb calls 'dialectically related modes' of 'grasping
experience' (doing or watching), and 'transforming experience' (feeling or
The word 'dialectically' is not widely understood, and yet carries an essential
meaning, namely 'conflicting' (its ancient Greek root means 'debate' - and I thank
P Stern for helping clarify this precise meaning). Kolb meant by this that we
cannot do both at the same time, and to an extent our urge to want to do both
creates conflict, which we resolve through choice when confronted with a new
learning situation. We internally decide whether we wish to do or watch, and at
the same time we decide whether to think or feel.
The result of these two decisions produces (and helps to form throughout our
lives) the preferred learning style, hence the two-by-two matrix below. We
choose a way of 'grasping the experience', which defines our approach to it, and
we choose a way to 'transform the experience' into something meaningful and
usable, which defines our emotional response to the experience. Our learning
style is a product of these two choice decisions:
1. how to approach a task - ie., 'grasping experience' - preferring to (a)
watch or (b) do , and
2. our emotional response to the experience - ie.,
experience' - preferring to (a) think or (b) feel.
In other words we choose our approach to the task or experience
('grasping the experience' ) by opting for 1(a) or 1(b):
1(a) - though watching others involved in the experience and reflecting on
what happens ('reflective observation' - 'watching' ) or
1(b) - through 'jumping straight in' and just doing it ('active
experimentation' - 'doing' )
And at the same time we choose how to emotionally transform the
experience into something meaningful and useful by opting for 2(a) or 2(b):
2(a) - through gaining new information by thinking, analyzing, or planning
('abstract conceptualization' - 'thinking' ) or
2(b) - through experiencing the 'concrete, tangible, felt qualities of the
world' ('concrete experience' - 'feeling' )
The combination of these two choices produces a preferred learning style. See
the matrix below.
kolb's learning styles - matrix view
It's often easier to see the construction of Kolb's learning styles in terms of a twoby-two matrix. The diagram also highlights Kolb's terminology for the four
learning styles; diverging, assimilating, and converging, accommodating:
doing (Active Experimentation
Observation - RO)
Experience - CE)
Thus, for example, a person with a dominant learning style of 'doing' rather than
'watching' the task, and 'feeling' rather than 'thinking' about the experience,
will have a learning style which combines and represents those processes,
namely an 'Accommodating' learning style, in Kolb's terminology.
Knowing a person's (and your own) learning style enables learning to be
orientated according to the preferred method. That said, everyone responds to
and needs the stimulus of all types of learning styles to one extent or another it's a matter of using emphasis that fits best with the given situation and a
person's learning style preferences.
Here are brief descriptions of the four Kolb learning styles:
Diverging (feeling and watching - CE/RO) - These people are able
to look at things from different perspectives. They are sensitive. They
prefer to watch rather than do, tending to gather information and use
imagination to solve problems. They are best at viewing concrete
situations several different viewpoints. Kolb called this style 'Diverging'
because these people perform better in situations that require ideasgeneration, for example, brainstorming. People with a Diverging learning
style have broad cultural interests and like to gather information. They are
interested in people, tend to be imaginative and emotional, and tend to be
strong in the arts. People with the Diverging style prefer to work in groups,
to listen with an open mind and to receive personal feedback.
Assimilating (watching and thinking - AC/RO) - The Assimilating
learning preference is for a concise, logical approach. Ideas and concepts
are more important than people. These people require good clear
explanation rather than practical opportunity. They excel at understanding
wide-ranging information and organising it a clear logical format. People
with an Assimilating learning style are less focused on people and more
interested in ideas and abstract concepts. People with this style are more
attracted to logically sound theories than approaches based on practical
value. These learning style people is important for effectiveness in
information and science careers. In formal learning situations, people with
this style prefer readings, lectures, exploring analytical models, and having
time to think things through.
Converging (doing and thinking - AC/AE) - People with a
Converging learning style can solve problems and will use their learning to
find solutions to practical issues. They prefer technical tasks, and are less
concerned with people and interpersonal aspects. People with a
Converging learning style are best at finding practical uses for ideas and
theories. They can solve problems and make decisions by finding
solutions to questions and problems. People with a Converging learning
style are more attracted to technical tasks and problems than social or
interpersonal issues. A Converging learning style enables specialist and
technology abilities. People with a Converging style like to experiment with
new ideas, to simulate, and to work with practical applications.
Accommodating learning style is 'hands-on', and relies on intuition rather
than logic. These people use other people's analysis, and prefer to take a
practical, experiential approach. They are attracted to new challenges and
experiences, and to carrying out plans. They commonly act on 'gut' instinct
rather than logical analysis. People with an Accommodating learning style
will tend to rely on others for information than carry out their own analysis.
This learning style is prevalent and useful in roles requiring action and
initiative. People with an Accommodating learning style prefer to work in
teams to complete tasks. They set targets and actively work in the field
trying different ways to achieve an objective.
As with any behavioural model, this is a guide not a strict set of rules.
Nevertheless most people clearly exhibit clear strong preferences for a given
learning style. The ability to use or 'switch between' different styles is not one that
we should assume comes easily or naturally to many people.
Simply, people who have a clear learning style preference, for whatever reason,
will tend to learn more effectively if learning is orientated according to their
For instance - people who prefer the 'Assimilating' learning style will not be
comfortable being thrown in at the deep end without notes and instructions.
People who like prefer to use an 'Accommodating' learning style are likely to
become frustrated if they are forced to read lots of instructions and rules, and are
unable to get hands on experience as soon as possible.
As with many behavioural and personality models, interesting correlations exist
between Kolb's theory and other concepts.
For example, Kolb says that his experiential learning theory, and therefore the
learning styles model within it, builds on Carl Jung's assertion that learning styles
result from people's preferred ways of adapting in the world.
Among many other correlations between definitions, Kolb points out that Jung's
'Extraversion/Introversion' dialectical dimension - (which features and is
measured in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator [MBTI]) correlates with the
'Active/Reflective' (doing/watching) dialectic (east-west continuum) of Kolb's
Also, the MBTI 'Feeling/Thinking' dimension correlates with the Kolb model
honey and mumford's variation on the kolb
Various resources (including this one in the past) refer to the terms 'activist',
'reflector', 'theorist', and 'pragmatist' (respectively representing the four key
stages or learning steps) in seeking to explain Kolb's model. In fact, 'activist',
'reflector', 'theorist', and 'pragmatist' are from a learning styles model developed
by Honey and Mumford, which although based on Kolb's work, is different.
Arguably therefore the terms 'activist', 'reflector', 'theorist', and 'pragmatist'
effectively 'belong' to the Honey and Mumford theory.
Peter Honey and Alan Mumford developed their learning styles system as a
variation on the Kolb model while working on a project for the Chloride
corporation in the 1970's. Honey and Mumford say of their system:
"Our description of the stages in the learning cycle originated from the work of
David Kolb. Kolb uses different words to describe the stages of the learning cycle
and four learning styles..."
And, "...The similarities between his model and ours are greater than the
differences.." (Honey & Mumford)
In summary here are brief descriptions of the four H&M key stages/styles, which
incidentally are directly mutually corresponding and overlaid, as distinct from the
Kolb model in which the learning styles are a product of combinations of the
learning cycle stages. The typical presentation of these H&M styles and stages
would be respectively at north, east, south and west on a circle or four-stage
cyclical flow diagram.
1. 'Having an Experience' (stage 1), and Activists (style 1): 'here and
now', gregarious, seek challenge and immediate experience, openminded, bored with implementation.
2. 'Reviewing the Experience' (stage 2) and Reflectors (style 2): 'stand
back', gather data, ponder and analyse, delay reaching conclusions, listen
before speaking, thoughtful.
3. 'Concluding from the Experience' (stage 3) and Theorists (style 3):
think things through in logical steps, assimilate disparate facts into
coherent theories, rationally objective, reject subjectivity and flippancy.
4. 'Planning the next steps' (stage 4) and Pragmatists (style 4): seek
and try out new ideas, practical, down-to-earth, enjoy problem solving and
decision-making quickly, bored with long discussions.
There is arguably a strong similarity between the Honey and Mumford
styles/stages and the corresponding Kolb learning styles:
Activist = Accommodating
Reflector = Diverging
Theorist = Assimilating
Pragmatist = Converging
A Johari window is a cognitive psychological tool created by Joseph Luft and Harry
Ingham in 1955 in the United States, used to help people better understand their
interpersonal communication and relationships. It is used primarily in self-help groups
and corporate settings as a heuristic exercise.
When performing the exercise, the subject is given a list of 55 adjectives and picks five
or six that they feel describe their own personality. Peers of the subject are then given the
same list, and each pick five or six adjectives that describe the subject. These adjectives
are then mapped onto a grid.
Charles Handy calls this concept the Johari House with four rooms. Room 1 is the part of
ourselves that we see and others see. Room 2 is the aspect that others see but we are not
aware of. Room 3 is the most mysterious room in that the unconscious or subconscious
bit of us is seen by neither ourselves nor others. Room 4 is our private space, which we
know but keep from others.
Adjectives are selected by both the participant and his or her peers and are placed into the
Arena quadrant. This quadrant represents traits of the participant of which both they and
their peers are aware.
Adjectives selected only by the participant, but not by any of their peers, are placed into
the Façade quadrant, representing information about the participant of which their peers
are unaware. It is then up to the participant whether or not to disclose this information.
Adjectives that are not selected by the participant but only by their peers are placed into
the Blind Spot quadrant. These represent information of which the participant is not
aware, but others are, and they can decide whether and how to inform the individual
about these "blind spots".
Adjectives which were not selected by either the participant or their peers remain in the
Unknown quadrant, representing the participant's behaviors or motives which were not
recognized by anyone participating. This may be because they do not apply, or because
there is collective ignorance of the existence of said trait.
Johari adjectives: A Johari Window consists of the following 55 adjectives used as
possible descriptions of the participant. In alphabetical order they are:
A Nohari window is the inversion of the Johari window, and is a collection of negative
personality traits instead of positive.
Known to Self Not Known to Self
Known to Others
Not Known to Others
The Johari Window, named after the first names of its inventors, Joseph Luft and Harry
Ingham, is one of the most useful models describing the process of human interaction. A
four paned "window," as illustrated above, divides personal awareness into four different
types, as represented by its four quadrants: open, hidden, blind, and unknown. The lines
dividing the four panes are like window shades, which can move as an interaction
In this model, each person is represented by their own window. Let's describe mine:
1. The "open" quadrant represents things that both I know about myself, and that you
know about me. For example, I know my name, and so do you, and if you have explored
some of my website, you know some of my interests. The knowledge that the window
represents, can include not only factual information, but my feelings, motives, behaviors,
wants, needs and desires... indeed, any information describing who I am. When I first
meet a new person, the size of the opening of this first quadrant is not very large, since
there has been little time to exchange information. As the process of getting to know one
another continues, the window shades move down or to the right, placing more
2. The "blind" quadrant represents things that you know about me, but that I am unaware
of. So, for example, we could be eating at a restaurant, and I may have unknowingly
gotten some food on my face. This information is in my blind quadrant because you can
see it, but I cannot. If you now tell me that I have something on my face, then the window
shade moves to the right, enlarging the open quadrant's area. Now, I may also have
blindspots with respect to many other much more complex things. For example, perhaps
in our ongoing conversation, you may notice that eye contact seems to be lacking. You
may not say anything, since you may not want to embarrass me, or you may draw your
own inferences that perhaps I am being insincere. Then the problem is, how can I get this
information out in the open, since it may be affecting the level of trust that is developing
between us? How can I learn more about myself? Unfortunately, there is no readily
available answer. I may notice a slight hesitation on your part, and perhaps this may lead
to a question. But who knows if I will pick this up, or if your answer will be on the mark.
3. The "hidden" quadrant represents things that I know about myself, that you do not
know. So for example, I have not told you, nor mentioned anywhere on my website, what
one of my favorite ice cream flavors is. This information is in my "hidden" quadrant. As
soon as I tell you that I love "Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia" flavored ice cream, I am
effectively pulling the window shade down, moving the information in my hidden
quadrant and enlarging the open quadrant's area. Again, there are vast amounts of
information, virtually my whole life's story, that has yet to be revealed to you. As we get
to know and trust each other, I will then feel more comfortable disclosing more intimate
4. The "unknown" quadrant represents things that neither I know about myself, nor you
know about me. For example, I may disclose a dream that I had, and as we both attempt
to understand its significance, a new awareness may emerge, known to neither of us
before the conversation took place. Being placed in new situations often reveal new
information not previously known to self or others. For example, I learned of the Johari
window at a workshop conducted by a Japanese American psychiatrist in the early
1980's. During this workshop, he created a safe atmosphere of care and trust between the
various participants. Usually, I am terrified of speaking in public, but I was surprised to
learn that in such an atmosphere, the task need not be so daunting. Prior to this event, I
had viewed myself and others had also viewed me as being extremely shy. (The above
now reminds me of a funny joke, which I cannot refrain from telling you. It is said that
the number one fear that people have is speaking in public. Their number two fear is
dying. And the number three fear that people have, is dying while speaking in public.)
Thus, a novel situation can trigger new awareness and personal growth. The process of
moving previously unknown information into the open quadrant, thus enlarging its area,
has been likened to Maslow's concept of self-actualization. The process can also be
viewed as a game, where the open quadrant is synonymous with the win-win situation.
Much, much more has been written on the Johari window model of human interaction.
The process of enlarging the open quadrant is called self-disclosure, a give and take
process between me and the people I interact with. Typically, as I share something about
myself (moving information from my hidden quadrant into the open) and if the other
party is interested in getting to know me, they will reciprocate, by similarly disclosing
information in their hidden quadrant. Thus, an interaction between two parties can be
modeled dynamically as two active Johari windows. For example, you may respond to
my disclosure that I like "Cherry Garcia" by letting me know what your favorite ice
cream is, or where a new ice cream shop is being built, kinds of information in your
hidden quadrant. Incidentally, it is fattening, so be careful on how much you eat!
We believe disclosure to be healthy, at least that's the impression one gets after reading
Freud. However, Anita Kelly recently wrote that self-disclosure of personal secrets has its
dangers. We are often better off not telling secrets regarding our sexual behavior, mental
health problems or large-scale failures. "If you give people information about yourself,
you give them power over you," she says. Monica Lewinsky's disclosure to Linda Tripp
and the ensuing scandal that enveloped President Clinton is a case in point. Be
forewarned that most secrets get passed along to at least two more parties. People also
misjudge how others respond to secrets. Sometimes you get negative feedback. For
example, a women who reveals that she was raped may be seen in the future as a victim,
or by men as damaged goods. Now, if you must tell your secret to someone, chose that
person very carefully. Chose someone whose response will give you some insight into
your problem. Unfortunately, such a person is often hard to find. So if you cannot find
anyone appropriate, consider this: that keeping secrets is healthy and tasteful, because it
is a way of managing your identity, and indicates you are secure and have self-control.
But it takes energy, because you have to be on constant guard not to accidentally reveal
As ones level of confidence and self esteem develops, one may actively invite others to
comment on one's blind spots. A teacher may seek feedback from students on the quality
of a particular lecture, with the desire of improving the presentation. Active listening
skills are helpful in this endeavor. On the other hand, we all have defenses, protecting the
parts of ourselves that we feel vulnerable. Remember, the blind quadrant contains
behavior, feelings and motivations not accessible to the person, but which others can see.
Feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, impotence, unworthiness, rejection, guilt,
dependency, ambivalence for loved ones, needs to control and manipulate, are all
difficult to face, and yet can be seen by others. To forcibly reveal what another wishes
not to see, is "psychological rape," and can be traumatic. Fortunately, nature has provided
us with a variety of defense mechanisms to cope with such events, such as denial,
The Johari window, essentially being a model for communication, can also reveal
difficulties in this area. In Johari terms, two people attempt to communicate via the open
quadrants. On the simplest level, difficulties may arise due to a lack of clarity in the
interaction, such as poor grammar or choice of words, unorganized thoughts, faulty logic
etc. This induces the receiver to criticize you, the sender, by revealing something that was
in your blind quadrant. Then, if the feedback works, you correct it immediately, or
perhaps on a more long term approach take a course in reading and writing. On a deeper
level, you may be in a group meeting, and while you secretly sympathize with the
minority viewpoint, you voted with the majority. However, blind to you, you actually
may be communicating this information via body language, in conflict with your verbal
message. On an even deeper level, you in an interaction with others, may always put on a
smiling, happy face, hiding all negative feelings. By withholding negative feelings, you
may be signaling to your friends to withhold also, and keep their distance. Thus, your
And let's not forget the parable of the blind men and the elephant. Our society is
constructed so that many of us get very specialized, knowing only a small academic field
very well, while being virtually ignorant of all others. This specialization is blinding
many of us to what is happening in the world today. According to R. Buckminister Fuller,
this system of education was done on purpose, to channel the most intelligent people into
specialties, enabling them to be more easily controlled. Noam Chomsky has made similar
comments with regards to the manufacturing enterprise, and how Adam Smith's writings
have been purposely misrepresented. See my webpage On Education.
In the construction of this website, I am putting more of my knowledge into the open
quadrant. I am consciously using the Johari model to improve my awareness of the world.
If you see one of my blind spots, please feel free to contact me, and let me know!
Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation
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Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation (FIRO) is a theory of interpersonal
relations, introduced by William Schutz in 1958.
2 Further Development
3 Correlations with MBTI
According to the theory, three dimensions of interpersonal relations are necessary and
sufficient to explain most human interaction. The dimensions are called Inclusion,
Control and Affection. These categories measure how much interaction a person wants
in the areas of socializing, leadership and responsibilities, and more intimate personal
relations. FIRO-B was created, based on this theory, a measurement instrument with
scales that assess the behavioral aspects of the three dimensions. Scores are graded from
0-9 in scales of expressed and wanted behavior, which define how much a person
expresses to others, and how much he wants from others. Schutz believed that FIRO
scores in themselves were not terminal, and can and do change, and did not encourage
typology; however, the four temperaments were eventually mapped to the FIRO-B scales,
which led to the creation of a theory of Five Temperaments.
Schutz himself discussed the impact of extreme behavior in the areas of inclusion,
control, and affection as indicated by scores on the FIRO-B. For each area of
interpersonal need the following three types of behavior would be evident: (1) deficient,
(2) excessive, and (3) ideal. Deficient was defined as indicating that an individual was not
trying to directly satisfy the need. Excessive was defined as indicating that an individual
was constantly trying to satisfy the need. Ideal referred to satisfaction of the need. From
this, he identified the following types:
1. the undersocial (low EI, low WI)
2. the oversocial (high EI, high WI)
3. the social (moderate EI, moderate WI)
1. the abdicrat (low EC, high WC)
2. the autocrat (high EC, low WC)
3. the democrat (moderate EC, moderate WC)
1. the underpersonal (low EA, low WA)
2. the overpersonal (high EA, high WA)
3. the personal (moderate EA moderate WA)
In 1977, a clinical psychologist who worked with FIRO-B, Dr. Leo Ryan, produced maps
of the scores for each area, called "locator charts", and assigned names for all of the score
ranges in his Clinical Interpretation of FIRO-B:
Low e and
APS (all 3 areas)
e, Now You See Him, Mission
Now You Don't
e, The Conversationalist "Mission
"Now You See Him,
Now You Don't" Self-Confident
e, low w
Gatherer Dependenthigh e and
(formerly, "Where are Independent
a Cautious Lover Supine
e, high w
(w=6: Cautious Lover
moderate Cautious Expectation The Checker
e and w
However, to continue not to encourage typology, the names (which were for clinical
interpretation primarily) are generally not used, and FIRO-B test results usually total the
E, W, I, C and A scores individually. In the derivative "five temperament" system, the
different scores are grouped into their corresponding temperaments, and considered
inborn types. One key difference is in the "high wanted" scores in the area of Control. A
distinction is made between men and women, with men being "dependent", and women,
rather than really being dependent, only being "tolerant" of control by others. This is
attributed to "the stereotypical role of women in Western Culture", where they were often
dependent, and have simply learned to tolerate control from others. This again, reflects
FIRO's belief that these scores reflect learned behavior. In five temperament theory, no
such distinction between the sexes is recognized, and high wanted scores in Control are
seen as an inborn dependency need in both sexes.
 Further Development
During the 1970s, Schutz revised and expanded FIRO theory and developed additional
instruments (Schutz 1994, 1992) for measuring the new aspects of the theory, including
Element B: Behavior (an improved version of FIRO-B); Element F: Feelings; Element S:
Self; Element W: Work Relations; Element C: Close Relations; Element P: Parental
Relationships; and Element O: Organizational Climate. Since 1984, these instruments
have been known collectively as Elements of Awareness. Element B differs in expanding
the definitions of Inclusion, Control, and Affection (renamed "Openness"), into an
additional six scores to measure how much a person wants to include, control, and be
close to others, and how much other people include, control, and like to be close to the
testee. The original FIRO-B was sold to Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc. (CPP,
which also publishes the MBTI assessment), and FIRO Element B is owned by Business
Consultants Network, Inc.
 Correlations with MBTI
In a 1976 survey of seventy-five of the most widely used training instruments, the FIROB was found to be the most generally usable instrument in training. The popularity of the
FIRO-B began to wane as the MBTI became one of the instruments of choice in business.
Since FIRO-B uses completely different scales from MBTI, and was not designed to
measure inborn "types", it is often used together with the MBTI by workplaces, and now,
the two are offered together by CPP.
Statistical correlation has been done between FIRO-B and MBTI by John W. Olmstead,
and also Allen L. Hammer with Eugene R. Schnell; and between Element B and MBTI
by Dr. Henry Dick Thompson.
Expressed Inclusion -59*** 04
-28*** 11* 12*
Expressed Control -23*** 03
-09 16*** -05
Expressed Affection -52*** 06
Element B Scales
I include people
-.48* .18* .16* .08
I want to include people
-.33* .09 .21* .08
People include me
-.43* .14* -.02 .11
I want people to include me
-.28* .09 -.07 .01
I control people
-.30* .14 -.13* .02
I want to control people
-.13* .04 -.08 .05
People control me
-.11 .00 .17* .01
I want people to control me
-.06 -.06 .12
I am open with people
-.13* .19* .29* .07
I want to be open with people
-.20* .22* .28* .02
People are open with me
-.23* .44* .16* .12
I want people to be open with me -.21* .28* .22* .07
Positive correlations associated with I, N, F and P.
*Indicates statistical significance
Fundamental Interpersonal Relations OrientationBehavior (FIRO-B)
About the Instrument
The Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation-Behavior (FIRO-B) is a highly valid and
reliable tool that assesses how an individual’s personal needs affect that person’s behavior
towards other individuals. This highly valid and reliable self-report instrument offers insight into
an individual’s compatibility with other people, as well as providing insight into that person’s own
The FIRO-B measures a person’s needs for:
Expressed Behavior (E) – what a person prefers to do, and how much that person wants
to initiate action
Wanted Behavior (W) – how much a person wants others to initiate action, and how
much that person wants to be the recipient
The instrument also measures a person’s needs for:
Inclusion (I) – recognition, belonging, and participation
Control (C) – influence, leading, and responsibility
Affection (A) – closeness, warmth, and sensitivity
Benefits of the FIRO-B
The FIRO-B is an ideal tool to use for interpersonal behavior measurement and assessment,
management and supervisor development
leadership development (used with MBTI as part of the Leadership Report)
identifying leadership preferred operating styles
team building and explaining team roles
improving team effectiveness
advancing career development
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Diagram of concepts in transactional analysis, based on cover of Eric Berne's 1964 book
Games People Play.
Transactional analysis, commonly known as TA to its adherents, is an integrative
approach to the theory of psychology and psychotherapy. Integrative because it has
elements of psychoanalytic, Humanist and Cognitive approaches. It was developed by
Canadian-born US psychiatrist Eric Berne during the late 1950s.
TA is not only post-Freudian but according to its founder's wishes consciously extraFreudian. That is to say that while it has its roots in psychoanalysis - since Berne was a
psychoanalytic-trained psychiatrist - it was designed as a dissenting branch of
psychoanalysis in that it put its emphasis on transactional, rather than "psycho-", analysis.
With its focus on transactions, TA shifted its attention from internal psychological
dynamics to the dynamics contained in people's interactions. Rather than believing that
increasing awareness of the contents of unconsciously held ideas was the therapeutic
path, TA concentrated on the content of people's interactions with each other. Changing
these interactions was TA's path to solving emotional problems.
In addition Berne believed in making a commitment to "curing" his patients rather than
just understanding them. To that end he introduced one of the most important aspects of
TA: the contract - an agreement entered into by both client and therapist to pursue
specific changes that the client desires.
Revising Freud's concept of the human psyche as composed of the id, ego, and super-ego,
Berne postulated in addition three "ego states" — the Parent, Adult, and Child states —
which were largely shaped through childhood experiences. These three are all part of
Freud's ego; none represented the id or the superego.
Unhealthy childhood experiences could damage the Adult or Parent ego states, which
would bring discomfort to an individual and/or others in a variety of forms, including
many types of mental illness...
Berne considered how individuals interact with one another, and how the ego states
affected each set of transactions. Unproductive or counterproductive transactions were
considered to be signs of ego state problems. Analysing these transactions, according to
the person's individual developmental history, would enable the person to "get better".
Berne thought that virtually everyone has something problematic about their ego states
and that negative behaviour would not be addressed by "treating" only the problematic
Berne identified a typology of common counterproductive social interactions, identifying
these as "games".
Berne presented his theories in two popular books on transactional analysis: Games
People Play (1964) and What Do You Say After You Say Hello? (1975). As a result of this
popularity, TA came to be disdained in many  mainstream mental health circles
as an example of "pop psychology". I'm OK, You're OK (1969), written by Berne's
longtime friend Thomas Anthony Harris, is probably the most popular TA book. Many
TA therapists regard I'm OK, You're OK as an oversimplification or worse.
TA was also dismissed by the conventional psychoanalytic community because
of its radical departures from Freudian theory. However, by the 1970s, because of its
non-technical and non-threatening jargon and model of the human psyche, many of its
terms and concepts were adopted by eclectic therapists as part of their individual
approaches to psychotherapy. It also served well as a therapy model for groups of
patients, or marital/family counselees, where interpersonal (rather than intrapersonal)
disturbances were the focus of treatment. Critics  have charged that TA — especially as
loosely interpreted by those outside the more formal TA community — is a
pseudoscience; when it is in fact better understood as a belief system.
TA's popularity in the U.S. waned in the 1970s, but it retains some popularity elsewhere
in the world. The more dedicated TA purists banded together in 1964 with Berne to
form a research and professional accrediting body, the International Transactional
Analysis Association, or ITAA. The organization is still active as of 2008.
TA is a theory of personality and a systematic psychotherapy for personal growth and
1. As a theory of personality, TA describes how people are structured
psychologically. It uses what is perhaps its best known model, the ego-state
(Parent-Adult-Child) model to do this. This same model helps understand how
people function and express themselves in their behaviors.
2. As a theory of communication it extends to a method of analysing systems and
3. It offers a theory for child development, where it ties in very neatly with the
Freudian developmental stages -oral, anal, phallic.
4. It introduces the idea of a "Life (or Childhood) Script", that is, a story one
perceives about ones own life, to answer questions such as "What matters", "How
do I get along in life" and "What kind of person am I". This story, TA says, is
often stuck to no matter the consequences, to "prove" one is right, even at the cost
of pain, compulsion, self-defeating behaviour and other dysfunction. Thus TA
offers a theory of a broad range of psychopathology.
5. In practical application, it can be used in the diagnosis and treatment of many
types of psychological disorders, and provides a method of therapy for
individuals, couples, families and groups.
6. Outside the therapeutic field, it has been used in education, to help teachers
remain in clear communication at an appropriate level, in counseling and
consultancy, in management and communications training, and by other bodies.
Key ideas of TA
TA emphasizes a pragmatic approach, that is, it seeks to find "what works" in treating
patients, and, where applicable, develop models to assist understanding of why certain
treatments work. Thus, TA continually evolves. However some core models and concepts
are part of TA as follows:
The Ego-State (or Parent-Adult-Child, PAC) model
At any given time, a person experiences and manifests their personality through a mixture
of behaviours, thoughts and feelings. Typically, according to TA, there are three egostates that people consistently use:
Parent ("exteropsyche"): a state in which people behave, feel, and think in
response to an unconscious mimicking of how their parents (or other parental
figures) acted, or how they interpreted their parent's actions. For example, a
person may shout at someone out of frustration because they learned from an
influential figure in childhood the lesson that this seemed to be a way of relating
Adult ("neopsyche"): a state of the ego which is most like a computer
processing information and making predictions absent of major emotions that
cloud its operation. Learning to strengthen the Adult is a goal of TA. While a
person is in the Adult ego state, he/she is directed towards an objective appraisal
Child ("archaeopsyche"): a state in which people behave, feel and think
similarly to how they did in childhood. For example, a person who receives a poor
evaluation at work may respond by looking at the floor, and crying or pouting, as
they used to when scolded as a child. Conversely, a person who receives a good
evaluation may respond with a broad smile and a joyful gesture of thanks. The
Child is the source of emotions, creation, recreation, spontaneity and intimcacy.
Berne differentiated his Parent, Adult, and Child ego states from actual adults, parents,
and children, by using capital letters when describing them. These ego-states may or may
not represent the relationships that they act out. For example, in the workplace, an adult
supervisor may take on the Parent role, and scold an adult employee as though they were
a Child. Or a child, using their Parent ego-state, could scold their actual parent as though
the parent were a Child.
Within each of these ego states are subdivisions. Thus Parental figures are often either
nurturing (permission-giving, security-giving) or criticizing (comparing to family
traditions and ideals in generally negative ways); Childhood behaviours are either natural
(free) or adapted to others. These subdivision categorize individuals' patterns of
behaviour, feelings, and ways of thinking, that can be functional (beneficial or positive)
or dysfunctional/counterproductive (negative).
Ego-states do not correspond directly to Sigmund Freud's Ego, Superego and Id, although
there are obvious parallels. Ego states are consistent for each person and are argued by
TA practitioners as more readily observable than the pats in Freud's hypothetical model.
In other words, the particular ego state that a given person is communicating from is
determinable by external observation and experience.
There is no "universal" ego-state; each state is individually and visibly manifested for
each person. For example, each Child ego state is unique to the childhood experiences,
mentality, intellect, and family of each individual; it is not a generalised childlike state.
Ego states can become contaminated, for example, when a person mistakes Parental rules
and slogans, for here-and-now Adult reality, and when beliefs are taken as facts. Or when
a person "knows" that everyone is laughing at them because "they always laughed". This
would be an example of a childhood contamination, insofar as here-and-now reality is
being overlaid with memories of previous historic incidents in childhood.
Ego states also do not correspond directly to thinking, feeling, and judging, as these
behaviors are present in every ego state.
Berne suspected that Parent, Adult, and Child ego states might be tied to specific areas of
the human brain; an idea that has not been proved.
In more recent years the three ego state model has been questioned by a marginal TA
group in Australia, who have devised a "two ego-state model" as a means of solving
perceived theoretical problems:
"The two ego-state model sought to correct inaccuracies in the three ego-state model
Berne devised. The two ego-state model says that there is a Child ego-state and a Parent
ego-state, placing the Adult ego-state with the Parent ego-state. The information we learn
at school is all Parent ego-state introjects. How we learn to speak, add up and learn how
to think is all just copied from our teachers. Just as our morals and values are copied from
our parents. There is no absolute truth where facts exist out side a person’s own belief
system. Berne mistakenly concluded that there was and thus mistakenly put the Adult
ego-state as separate from the Parent ego-state." For anyone interested in sourcing this
deviation from mainstream TA, see 
Transactions and Strokes
Transactions are the flow of communication, and more specifically the unspoken
psychological flow of communication that runs in parallel.
Transactions occur simultaneously at both explicit and psychological levels.
Example: sweet caring voice with sarcastic intent. To read the real
communication requires both surface and non-verbal reading.
Strokes are the recognition, attention or responsiveness that one person gives
another. Strokes can be positive (nicknamed "warm fuzzies") or negative ("cold
pricklies"). A key idea is that people hunger for recognition, and that lacking
positive strokes, will seek whatever kind they can, even if it is recognition of a
negative kind. We test out as children what strategies and behaviours seem to get
us strokes, of whatever kind we can get.
People often create pressure in (or experience pressure from) others to communicate in a
way that matches their style, so that a boss who talks to his staff as a controlling parent
will often engender self-abasement or other childlike responses. Those employees who
resist may get removed or labeled as "trouble".
Transactions can be experienced as positive or negative depending on the nature of the
strokes within them. However, a negative transaction is preferred to no transaction at all,
because of a fundamental hunger for strokes.
The nature of transactions is important to understanding communication.
Kinds of transaction
Reciprocal or Complementary Transactions
A simple, reciprocal transaction occurs when both partners are addressing the ego state
the other is in. These are also called complementary transactions.
A: "Have you been able to write the report?"
B: "Yes - I'm about to email it to you." ----(This exchange was Adult to Adult)
A: "Would you like to skip this meeting and go watch a film with me instead?"
B: "I'd love to - I don't want to work anymore, what should we go and see?"
(Child to Child)
A: "You should have your room tidy by now!" (Parent to Child)
B: "Will you stop hassling me? I'll do it eventually!" (Child to Parent)
Communication like this can continue indefinitely. (Clearly it will stop at some stage but this psychologically balanced exchange of strokes can continue for some time).
Communication failures are typically caused by a 'crossed transaction' where partners
address ego states other than that their partner is in. Consider the above examples
jumbled up a bit.
A: "Have you been able to write that report?" (Adult to Adult)
B: "Will you stop hassling me? I'll do it eventually!" (Child to Parent)
is a crossed transaction likely to produce problems in the workplace. "A" may respond
with a Parent to Child transaction. For instance:
A: "If you don't change your attitude, you'll get fired."
A: "Is your room tidy yet?" (Parent to Child)
B: "I'm just going to do it, actually." (Adult to Adult)
is a more positive crossed transaction. However there is the risk that "A" will feel
aggrieved that "B" is acting responsibly and not playing their role, and the conversation
will develop into:
A: "I can never trust you to do things!" (Parent to Child)
B: "Why don't you believe anything I say?" (Adult to Adult)
which can continue indefinitely.
Duplex or Covert transactions
Another class of transaction is the 'duplex' or 'covert' transactions, where the explicit
social conversation occurs in parallel with an implicit psychological transaction. For
A: "I need you to stay late at the office with me." (Adult words)
body language indicates sexual intent (flirtatious Child)
B: "Of course." (Adult response to Adult statement).
winking or grinning (Child accepts the hidden motive).
 Phenomena behind the transactions
 Life (or Childhood) Script
Script is a life plan, directed to a reward.
Script is decisional and responsive; i.e., decided upon in childhood in response to
perceptions of the world and as a means of living with and making sense of the
world. It is not just thrust upon a person by external forces.
Script is reinforced by parents (or other influential figures and experiences).
Script is for the most part outside awareness.
Script is how we navigate and what we look for, the rest of reality is redefined
(distorted) to match our filters.
Each culture, country and people in the world has a Mythos, that is, a legend explaining
its origins, core beliefs and purpose. According to TA, so do individual people. A person
begins writing his/her own life story (script) at a young age, as he/she tries to make sense
of the world and his place within it. Although it is revised throughout life, the core story
is selected and decided upon typically by age 7. As adults it passes out of awareness. A
life script might be "to be hurt many times, and suffer and make others feel bad when I
die", and could result in a person indeed setting himself up for this, by adopting
behaviours in childhood that produce exactly this effect. Though Berne identified several
dozen common scripts, there are a practically infinite number of them. Though often
largely destructive, scripts could as easily be mostly positive or beneficial.
 Redefining and Discounting
Redefining means the distortion of reality when we deliberately (but
unconsciously) distort things to match our preferred way of seeing the world.
Thus a person whose script involves "struggling alone against a cold hard world"
may redefine others' kindness, concluding that others are trying to get something
Discounting means to take something as worth less than it is. Thus to give a
substitute reaction which does not originate as a here-and-now Adult attempt to
solve the actual problem, or to choose not to see evidence that would contradict
one's script. Types of discount can also include: passivity (doing nothing), overadaptation, agitation, incapacitation, anger and violence.
 Injunctions and Drivers
TA identifies twelve key injunctions which people commonly build into their scripts.
These are injunctions in the sense of being powerful "I can't/mustn't ..." messages that
embed into a child's belief and life-script:
Don't be (don't exist), Don't be who you are, Don't be a child, Don't grow up,
Don't make it in your life, Don't do anything!, Don't be important, Don't belong,
Don't be close, Don't be well (don't be sane!), Don't think, Don't feel.
In addition there is the so-called episcript, "You should (or deserve to) have this
happen in your life, so it doesn't have to happen to me." (Magical thinking on the
part of the parent(s).)
Against these, a child is often told other things he or she must do. There is debate as to
whether there are five or six of these 'drivers':
Please (me/others)! Be perfect! Be Strong! Try Hard! Hurry Up! (Be Careful! is
Thus in creating his script, a child will often attempt to juggle these, example: "It's okay
for me to go on living (ignore don't exist) so long as I try hard".
This explains why some change is inordinately difficult. To continue the above example:
When a person stops trying hard and relaxes to be with his family, the injunction You
don't have the right to exist which was being suppressed by their script now becomes
exposed and a vivid threat. Such an individual may feel a massive psychological pressure
which he himself doesn't understand, to return to trying hard, in order to feel safe and
justified (in a childlike way) in existing.
Driver behaviour is also detectable at a very small scale, for instance in instinctive
responses to certain situations where driver behaviour is played out over five to twenty
Broadly, scripts can fall into Tragic, Heroic or Banal (or Non-Winner) varieties,
depending on their rules.
 Ways of Time Structuring
There are six ways of structuring time by giving and receiving strokes:
This is sorted in accordance to stroke strength, Intimacy and Games allow for the most
intensive strokes, in general.
This means no strokes are being exchanged
A ritual is a series of transactions that are complementary (reciprocal), stereotyped and
based on social programming. Rituals usually comprise a series of strokes exchanged
between two parties.
For instance, two people may have a daily two stroke ritual, where, the first time they
meet each day, each one greets the other with a "Hi". Others may have a four stroke
ritual, such as:
B: Hi! How do you do?
A: Getting along. What about you?
B: Fine. See you around.
The next time they meet in the day, they may not exchange any strokes at all, or may just
acknowledge each other's presence with a curt nod.
Some phenomena associated with daily rituals:
If a person exchanges fewer strokes than expected, the other person may feel that
he is either preoccupied or acting high and mighty.
If a person exchanges more strokes than expected, the other person might wonder
whether he is trying to butter him up or get on good terms for some vested
If two people do not meet for a long time, a backlog of strokes gets built up, so
that the next time they meet, they may exchange a large number of strokes to
A pastime is a series of transactions that is complementary (reciprocal), semi-ritualistic,
and is mainly intended as a time-structuring activity. Pastimes have no covert purpose
and can usually be carried out only between people on the same wavelength. They are
usually shallow and harmless. Pastimes are a type of smalltalk.
Individuals often partake in similar pastimes throughout their entire life, as pastimes are
generally very much linked to one's life script and the games that one often plays. Some
pastimes can even be understood as a reward for playing a certain game. For example,
Eric Berne in Games People Play discusses how those who play the "Alcoholic" game
(which Berne differentiated from alcoholism and alcoholics) often enjoy the "Morning
After" pastime in which participants share their most amusing or harrowing hangover
 Activities (Work)
Activities in this context mean the individuals work together for a common goal. This
may be work, sports or something similar. In contrast to Pastimes, there is a meaningful
purpose guiding the interactions, while Pastimes are just about exchanging strokes.
Strokes can then be given in the context of the cooperation. Thus the strokes are generally
not personal, but related to the activity.
Games are discussed below.
Intimacy as a way of structuring time allows one to exchange the strongest strokes
without playing a Game. Intimacy differs from Games as there is no covert purpose, and
differs from Activities as there is no other process going on which defines a context of
cooperation. Strokes are personal, relating to the other person, and often unconditional.
 Games and their analysis
 Definition of game
A game is a series of transactions that is complementary (reciprocal), ulterior, and
proceeds towards a predictable outcome. Games are often characterized by a switch in
roles of players towards the end. Games are usually played by Parent, Adult and Child
ego states, and games usually have a fixed number of players; however, an individual's
role can shift, and people can play multiple roles.
Berne identified dozens of games, noting that, regardless of when, where or by whom
they were played, each game tended towards very similar structures in how many players
or roles were involved, the rules of the game, and the game's goals.
Each game has a payoff for those playing it, such as the aim of earning sympathy,
satisfaction, vindication, or some other emotion that usually reinforces the life script. The
antithesis of a game, that is, the way to break it, lies in discovering how to deprive the
actors of their payoff.
Students of transactional analysis have discovered that people who are accustomed to a
game are willing to play it even as a different "actor" from what they originally were.
 Analysis of a game
One important aspect of a game is its number of players. Games may be two handed (that
is, played by two players), three handed (that is, played by three players), or many
handed. Three other quantitative variables are often useful to consider for games:
Flexibility: The ability of the players to change the currency of the game (that is,
the tools they use to play it). In a flexible game, players may shift from words, to
money, to parts of the body.
Tenacity: The persistence with which people play and stick to their games and
their resistance to breaking it.
Intensity: Easy games are games played in a relaxed way. Hard games are games
played in a tense and aggressive way.
Based on the degree of acceptability and potential harm, games are classified as:
First Degree Games are socially acceptable in the players' social circle.
Second Degree Games are games that the players would like to conceal, though
they may not cause irreversible damage.
Third Degree Games are games that could lead to drastic harm to one or more of
the parties concerned.
Games are also studied based on their:
Social and Psychological Paradigms
Advantages to players (Payoffs)
 Contrast with rational (mathematical) games
Transactional game analysis is fundamentally different from rational or mathematical
game analysis in the following senses:
The players do not always behave rationally in transactional analysis, but behave
more like real people.
Their motives are often ulterior
 Some commonly found games
Here are some of the most commonly found themes of games described in Games People
Play by Eric Berne:
YDYB: Why Don't You, Yes But. Historically, the first game discovered.
IFWY: If It Weren't For You
WAHM: Why does this Always Happen to Me? (setting up a self-fulfilling
SWYMD: See What You Made Me Do
UGMIT: You Got Me Into This
LHIT: Look How Hard I've Tried
ITHY: I'm Only Trying to Help You
LYAHF: Let's You and Him Fight (staging a love triangle)
NIGYYSOB: Now I've got you, you son of a bitch
RAPO: A woman falsely cries 'rape' or threatens to
Berne argued that games are not played logically; rather, one person's Parent state might
interact with another's Child, rather than as Adult to Adult.
Games can also be analysed according to the Karpman drama triangle, that is, by the
roles of Persecutor, Victim and Rescuer. The 'switch' is then when one of these having
allowed stable roles to become established, suddenly switches role. The Victim becomes
a Persecutor, and throws the previous Persecutor into the Victim role, or the Rescuer
suddenly switches to become a Persecutor ("You never appreciate me helping you!").
 Why Don't You/Yes But
The first such game theorized was Why don't you/Yes, but in which one player (White)
would pose a problem as if seeking help, and the other player(s) (Black) would offer
solutions (the "Why don't you?" suggestion). This game was noticed as many patients
played it in therapy and psychiatry sessions, and inspired Berne to identify other
White would point out a flaw in every Black player's solution (the "Yes, but" response),
until they all gave up in frustration. For example, if someone's life script was "to be hurt
many times, and suffer and make others feel bad when I die" a game of "Why Don't You,
Yes But" might proceed as follows:
White: I wish I could lose some weight.
Black: Why don't you join a gym?
W: Yes but, I can't afford the payments for a gym.
B: Why don't you speed walk around your block after you get home from work?
W: Yes but, I don't dare walk alone in my neighborhood after dark.
B: Why don't you take the stairs at work instead of the elevator?
W: Yes but, after my knee surgery, it hurts too much to walk that many flights of
B: Why don't you change your diet?
W: Yes but, my stomach is sensitive and I can tolerate only certain foods.
"Why Don't You, Yes But" can proceed indefinitely, with any number of players in the
Black role, until Black's imagination is exhausted, and she can think of no other
solutions. At this point, White "wins" by having stumped Black. After a silent pause
following Black's final suggestion, the game is often brought to a formal end by a third
role, Green, who makes a comment such as, "It just goes to show how difficult it is to
The secondary gain for White was that he could claim to have justified his problem as
insoluble and thus avoid the hard work of internal change; and for Black, to either feel
the frustrated martyr ("I was only trying to help") or a superior being, disrespected ("the
patient was uncooperative").
Superficially, this game can resemble Adult to Adult interaction (people seeking
information or advice), but more often, according to Berne, the game is played by Black's
helpless Child, and White's lecturing Parent ego states.