Assigning Motives

Sometimes I watch these procedural dramas on TV like Criminal Minds and CSI because I like to see the methodology.  But the creators seem to think that they must show obscenely deviant behavior to make their point and that is wearing.  We have so many of these shows and books that it starts to seem much more common than it really is to have psychopaths running loose.


We do like to know why something happened, why someone did something.  It helps us to know what to do with the experience.  Most of us will never, thankfully, encounter someone who is psychotic but we do have plenty of incidents in our daily interactions and we assign motives to the other participants in these incidents so that we can categorize the why, make some sense, decide how to react or move on.


For instance, we should all be conscious in our interactions with businesses that their motive is profit – sometimes in a manner that is beneficial to us as well as the company and sometimes at our caution.  (I’ll refer you back to my post about my dumb phone, I don’t see the services offered with these smart phones as more beneficial to me than the profit the company gains – or even as equally beneficial.)  Businesses have marketing folks to smooth over their profit motive and make their product or service as attractive as possible to the largest pool of potential customers.  And buyer who forgets the underlying business motive beware.

public domain image

public domain image


Where assigning motives really gets interesting, though, is in our one on one or group interactions.   Have you heard friends or coworkers say things like, ‘he’s out to get me’, ‘she always gets her way’, ‘of course the company scheduled X when I had other plans’?  When we are assigning motives, they are usually negative.

public domain image

public domain image


We all do it, but do we ever question what our own motive is in making these assignments?  What criteria are we applying to come to this conclusion?  Back to these shows, sometimes they come up with these outlandishly fully realized motives from the thinnest of clues.  (Purportedly the characters are just that brilliant.)  We need to examine the criteria that we are applying for false reasoning, question our own motives in assigning motives once in a while.


Complex and devious motives probably exist more often on these TV dramas than in our own interactions.  What do you think?


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2 thoughts on “Assigning Motives

  1. chicagoguy12 November 8, 2013 at 8:28 am Reply

    That’s a great question. And I think you’re right. What I see at first glance as being a devious or evil motive, usually ends up being that the other person either didn’t know what they are doing or doesn’t care.

    • Beth Anne Reed November 9, 2013 at 1:34 pm Reply

      I searched for a Fred Rogers quote that I have kept because I wanted to include it in this post. But I seem to have misplaced it. He was iconic in the realm of nice and wanted to remind us that we don’t know what brings another person to the place where we see them/encounter them. I try to keep the essence of that quote forefront in my mind when interacting with people.

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