Comparing the RMP and the CliftonStrengths
In our continuing series comparing the Reiss Motivation Profile® with
other tools, we present this analysis of the RMP and the
CliftonStrengths Assessment (formerly Clifton
What led to the development of each instrument?
The study of motivation is based on the fundamental concept that
psychological needs drive human behavior. Previous motivation
theorists attempted to identify these needs through subjective methods
such as observing primitive tribes and analyzing common themes in
stories told about ambiguous drawings. Recognizing that these prior
efforts suffered from the lack of a scientific measure, Professor Steven
Reiss developed a standardized test called the Reiss Motivation
Profile® for the purpose of providing a scientifically valid assessment
of what motivates people – in other words, to identify the universal
motives of human nature.
Donald Clifton believed that psychologists focus too much on weaknesses
rather than strengths. Asking himself, "What would
happen if we studied what was right with people
versus what's wrong with people," he decided to study the attributes
that distinguish successful from unsuccessful people. Thus,
the CliftonStrengths Assessment is based on Donald Clifton’s viewpoint
that focusing on personal talents rather than weaknesses is central to
maximizing one’s potential.
Test versus Assessment
The RMP is a normative test. A respondent’s scores are
compared to those of other test takers – that is, to a normative
group. The RMP has separate country norms as well as separate
gender norms. For example, the responses of a male test taker in
the United States are compared to those of other American males.
Similarly, the responses of a female test taker in Finland are
compared to those of other Finnish females. A normative test
like the RMP allows for comparisons among test
takers. Normative testing is the commonly accepted method
used to measure personality, intelligence, and achievement.
The CliftonStrengths is an ipsative assessment. A respondent’s
self-identified talents are compared to each other, not to a normative
group. Ipsative assessments like the CliftonStrengths do not
permit comparisons among test takers. The publisher’s 2.0
Technical Report states: “The CSF is not designed or
validated for use in employee selection…. Given that CSF feedback
is provided to foster intrapersonal development, comparisons across
profiles of individuals is discouraged.”
What results does each instrument produce?
The RMP measures motivation. Specifically, the test measures
an individual’s intensity of motivation from weak to strong for each of
the 16 scales. The test taker’s responses are compared to
norms based on 79,888 respondents in 23 countries across three
continents, which produces a standard score for each of the 16
motives. A standard score that falls in the upper 20 percent
of the population is considered to demonstrate a strong need for that
basic desire, while a standard score that falls in the lower 20 percent
of the population is considered to indicate a weak need for that
particular desire. Thus, the RMP describes an individual’s
motivational profile based on how the person compares to
others. If an individual scores as having a strong need for
Power, for example, we know his need for achievement and consequently
his desire to work hard are greater than 80 percent of the population.
The CliftonStrengths Assessment is designed to evaluate a person’s
talents. It does not measure motivation. Rather,
it provides a rank ordering of an individual’s top five talent
themes. The problem with this approach is that we don’t know
if the individual is truly exceptional in those
attributes. For example, if Achiever is one of a test taker’s
top five talent themes, all this tells us is that his desire to work
hard is a relative strength compared to his other talents. He may or may not be a hard worker compared to his peers.
What are the applications of each instrument?
The RMP is used in a number of settings including business,
schools, sports, and relationship counseling. For example, the
test has been applied to training leaders, developing staff, building
effective teams, assessing motivational reasons for academic
underachievement, advising students on college and career choices,
enabling athletes to achieve peak performance through understanding
their tendencies under the stress of competition, and identifying the
differences in values that underlie chronic conflicts in relationships.
According to the publisher, the CliftonStrengths is a tool for
self-awareness that is intended “to facilitate personal development and
growth.” Suggestions are made to enable the individual to
develop his talents into strengths by acquiring skills and
knowledge. Given that it is an ipsative assessment, it cannot
be used to compare individuals and thus has limited
applications. For example, the CliftonStrengths is not valid
for use in personnel selection, team building, and conflict resolution.
Can the instrument be used globally?
The RMP is available in 19 languages. The CliftonStrengths Assessment is available in 25 languages.
Who was the developer?
The RMP was developed by Professor Steven Reiss for the purpose of
advancing knowledge about human nature, not for commercial
reasons. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree at Dartmouth
College, he earned a Doctoral degree in psychology from Yale
University. His training also included a fellowship at
Harvard University. Early in his career, Professor Reiss
developed the Anxiety Sensitivity Index, a test that has been translated
into more than 20 languages and that is widely used in the assessment
of anxiety disorders. His work in the field of developmental
disabilities was recognized with five national awards, and he gave
invited talks in more than ten countries. Professor Reiss’s
obituary was published in the American Psychologist, an
honor that is accorded to very few psychologists – only those who are
considered to have made significant advances in the field.
Donald O. Clifton attended the University of Nebraska where he earned a
doctoral degree in educational psychology. After a teaching
career at the University of Nebraska, Clifton founded a company to help
organizations with employee selection, a company that later acquired
Gallup. As chairman of Gallup, he created the Clifton
StrengthsFinder (now called the CliftonStrengths
Assessment). The American Psychological Association honored
Clifton with a lifetime achievement award as “the father of
strengths-based psychology and the grandfather of positive psychology.”
In summary, the RMP is the clear choice for clients seeking a normed
test of motivation that allows for comparisons among respondents and
that has broad application to business, schools, sports, and
Maggi M. Reiss, President
IDS Publishing Corporation