Personality between Cognition and Motivation


Summary: The personality model used in George and Mary has cognitive as well as motivational dimensions; using this as the base model I compared it with well-known purely cognitive, purely motivational and mixed models. There is no right and wrong model here and all are partial representations of wider reality, but I noted cases of parallels and inconsistency among well-known models.

George and Mary (GaM) is a software product, which uses a four-drive personality model, for brevity I will refer to this as the 4D model. There are numerous models of personality, the 4D is a behavioral one and will be compared with similar models. Basically, the 4D model has four dynamic motivational dimensions or drives, each of which has another externalize-internalize cognitive dimension or divide. The divide is not necessarily bipolar except at extreme values, suggesting an “H” or chromosome-like structure. I see the duality between cognition and motivation as a parallel to other dualities in science, such as validity and reliability or accuracy and resolution. Motivation is subjective, it involves comparison with an internal subjective state such as hunger, it parallels validity and accuracy. On the other hand, cognition is objective, it involves comparisons between objects such as apples and oranges, it parallels reliability and resolution. As such, all sentences in a GaM repertoire should be interpreted in cognitive and motivational manners. By definition, motivation is time-dependent and includes short-term transitions as in priming and long term slow changes as in aging. Conversely, cognition is relatively static and includes inherited and long-term traits. 
I see structural parallels with other behavioral models, and I accept the experimental validity of factor analysis, which is a statistical technique of extracting dimensions, or factors, from (psychological) data. Factor analysis is a powerful technique but with limitations, notably the psychological data must be interpreted. The choice of interpretation depends on the interpreter; I suggest that the interpretations of most, but not all, behavioral models are based on cognition, while the 4D model is based on both cognition and motivation. 
I found the most prominent example of purely cognitive interpretation is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator* (MBTI*) which explains causes of human behavior in terms of perception and judgment. The identification of preferences among four dichotomies reveals the type of personality. To my mind, all the concepts and dichotomies are clearly cognitive, and the poles of the dichotomies can be identified with either externalized or internalized repertoires as used by GaM. No reference to motivational terms lead to a partial but consistent model.
On the other side I found the Buss and Plomin model purely motivational. Buss and Plomin studied the differences between identical and fraternal infant twins and identified four temperaments. Some scholars associate temperament with motivation rather than cognition. The four temperaments are: Emotionality, Activity, Sociability and Impulsivity (EASI). These dimensions are continuous (not bipolar), usually measured at early age when cognition is not fully developed and did not distinguish between obvious cognitive divides such as fear vs. aggression. While others saw these dimensions parallel to Myers-Briggs’s, I see the first three as orthogonal to cognitive dualities and dimensions, and the fourth as a combination of dynamic settings. In short, I find that the Buss and Plomin model complements rather than parallels Myers-Briggs’s. 
A notable type of combined cognitive/motivational personality models is that of template structures, where a classification is suggested to fit all cognitive/motivational dimensions of the personality. Two examples are Albert Mehrabian’s PAD (Pleasure-Arousability-Dominance) and Cattell’s classification of three types of source traits (Temperament-Motivation-Ability), Both are classifications of three classes which parallel 4D’s drives-externalize-dynamic settings. I see remarkable parallels with both templates and find that the 4D model fits well in explaining the existence and relationship between dynamic and static settings.
The “front runners” among the numerous personality models deserve special attention; The Five Factor (FFM) and Big Five (B5) models claim the position. Both are based on factor analysis, share the titles of 3 factors and are similar in describing the remaining two, but their theoretical basis are different. Four of the factors are parallel to 4D’s externalize-Internalize divides; the fifth (Neuroticism or Emotional Stability) is parallel to a combination of dynamic settings. But unlike earlier models I found these two inconsistent in their interpretation; Neuroticism refers to transitions between calm and excited motivational states when these states are not part of their models, because the other four factors are cognitive and do not reflect motivational changes. Another possible inconsistency, these models use continuous dimensions, I noted the interpretations of middle or zero values of the scales were mostly “fuzzified” or time-dependent re-statements of extreme types. To my mind this is inconsistent with the meaning of cognition, which is static and requires distinct cognitive descriptions. One solution to the inconsistencies is to add orthogonal dimensions for motivation, such as in 4D model, but this doesn’t mean that there are right and wrong models when all proponents agree to the value and validity of factor analysis, it suggests that different people interpret psychological data in different ways and that there is need to find stricter definitions of terms and rules of interpretation.

Conclusions: The 4D personality model can be used as a base to compare with other well-known models. Notably, the FFM/B5 models seem to have interpretation inconsistencies, which suggest the 4D model example as a possible explanation.

*Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and MBTI are trademarks or registered trademarks of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Trust.

About the author: Faisal L. Kadri is an independent researcher not affiliated with any educational institution. His research interest since 1986 is in applying the mathematical tools of nonlinear systems engineering to modeling motivational mechanisms in animals and humans. For more information please visit: 

Copyright © 2006 Faisal L. Kadri, all rights reserved. Reproduction of this article in Internet media is permitted on condition that all links are maintained. Use in college essays welcome.