Distinguishing Intrapsychic From Interpersonal Motives in Psychological Theory and Research.

Journal Article (Review;Journal Article)

Many psychological phenomena have been explained primarily in terms of intrapsychic motives to maintain particular cognitive or affective states--such as motives for consistency, self-esteem, and authenticity--whereas other phenomena have been explained in terms of interpersonal motives to obtain tangible resources, reactions, or outcomes from other people. In this article, we describe and contrast intrapsychic and interpersonal motives, and we review evidence showing that these two distinct sets of motives are sometimes conflated and confused in ways that undermine the viability of motivational theories. Explanations that invoke motives to maintain certain intrapsychic states offer a dramatically different view of the psychological foundations of human behavior than those that posit motives to obtain desired interpersonal outcomes. Several phenomena are examined as exemplars of instances in which interpersonal and intrapsychic motives have been inadequately distinguished, if not directly confounded, including cognitive dissonance, the self-esteem motive, biases in judgment and decision making, posttransgression accounts, authenticity, and self-conscious emotions. Our analysis of the literature suggests that theorists and researchers should consider the relative importance of intrapsychic versus interpersonal motives in the phenomena they study and that they should make a concerted effort to deconfound intrapsychic and interpersonal influences in their research.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Leary, MR; Raimi, KT; Jongman-Sereno, KP; Diebels, KJ

Published Date

  • July 2015

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 10 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 497 - 517

PubMed ID

  • 26177950

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1745-6924

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1745-6916

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/1745691615583132


  • eng