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PSYCHOIAQT

PEEIONNIL
1971, 24, 141-153.

CHARACTERISTICS O F SUCCESSFUL
ENTREPRENEURS'

JOHN A. HORNADAY AND JOHN ABOUD


Babson College2

Introduction
INan earlier article in Personnel Psychology, Hornaday and Bun-
ker (1970) discuss the importance of achieving a better understand-
ing of the psychological nature of the successful entrepreneur through
a research program designed to identify and measure the personal
characteristics of those persons who have successfully started a new
business. Such knowledge would be of much interest to lending orga-
nizations such as banks, to enfranchising organizations such as oil
companies and restaurant chains, and to federal government pro-
grams, both domestic (in loans to small businesses and in such efforts
as the poverty programs) and international (as in using foreign aid
more effectively to help strengthen the economy of underdeveloped
countries). Further, colleges of business administration can make
significant contributions in entrepreneurial education if it is possible
to understand the nature of entrepreneurship and if workable pro-
grams can be developed from the results of the research.
The earlier research led to the development of a structured in-
terview guide sheet as well as the selection of three standardized,
objective tests that appeared promising in differentiating successful
entrepreneurs from men in general. Although McClelland (Mc-
Clelland, Atkinson, Clark and Lowell, 1953) has reported success
in using both the Thematic Apperception Test (Murray, 1943) and
in using his own test for this purpose, these tests are projective in
nature and can be administered and interpreted only by a highly-
1 This study waa supported by grant from the Babson College Board of
Research.
*The authors wish to expresa their appreciation to Margaret Courtnay
Stone who aided in the data collection.
141
142 PERSONNEL PSYCHOLOGY
trained psychologist. The goal of this study was to develop objective
tests which will be valid and will have the advantage of a simple
format and ease of administration and interpretation.
Further, McClelland approaches the problem of predicting entre-
preneurial success by measuring, specifically, individuals’ need for
achievement (n Ach) and he emphasizes that this characteristic is
to be considered even to the exclusion of other factors. I n a recent
interview for Forbes (McClelland, 1969), he stated, “We’ve spent
twenty years studying just this [why one businessman succeeds and
another fails], twenty years in the laboratory doing very careful
research, and we’ve isolated the specific thing. W e know the exact
type of motivation that makes a better entrepreneur. [Italics ours.]
Not necessarily a better head of General Motors; I’m talking about
the man who starts a business.” He went on to say that the specific
characteristic is the individual’s need for achievement.
Need for Objective Approach
The earlier research by Hornaday and Bunker and the present
study of entrepreneurs are predicated on two assumptions: (1) that
there would be great value in a system of selection that is objective
and structured so that non-psychologists could administer it, and
(2) that in addition to the admittedly important n Ach there may
be other factors which should be measured. The latter point is that
our prediction of success would have higher validity if measure-
ment were made of several factors, each of which makes some in-
dependent contribution to the ultimate success of the entrepreneur.
The need for objectivity in measuring need for achievement is
emphasized by Hermans (1970). H e says, “During the past twenty
years, there have been a great many studies in the area of achieve-
ment motivation. These vary from psychometric investigations to
theoretical discussions. One of the most difficult problems in this
area is that of measurement. Projective techniques have been the
principal devices used to quantify the strength of the achievement
motive. . . . With regard to the projective needs for achievement
measures, several critical problems arise. Klinger (1966) pointed to
their lack of internal consistency, lack of test-retest reliability,
their deficient validity against performance criteria, and the low
intercorrelation among several projective n Ach measures. . . . The
need for a new measure for n Ach still exists.”
The pilot study indicated that three objective tests held promise
of differentiating entrepreneurs from men-in-general. For the pres-
ent study, therefore, these tests, along with the structured inter-
HORNADAY AND ABOUD 143
view, were administered to successful entrepreneurs. As in the pilot
study, the “successful entrepreneur” was defined as a man or woman
who started a business where there was none before, who had a t
least eight employees and who had been established for a t least five
years. These criteria were selected because it was desired to eliminate
the “Mom and Pop” stores and because the first five years are the
most difficult. The criteria are similar to those established by Collins
et al. (1964) in their entrepreneurial studies. The three tests applied
to the entrepreneurs were : Kuder Occupational Interest Survey,
Form DD (Kuder, 1970), Gordon’s Survey of Interpersonal Values
(Gordon, 1960), and a questionnaire composed of three scales drawn
from the Edwards Personal Preference Scale (Edwards, 1959).
Throughout this paper the abbreviations for these testn will be, re-
spectively, OIS, SIV, and EPPS.
Forty “successful entrepreneurs,” as defined above, were inter-
viewed and tested in the summer of 1970. The sample was selected
without regard for geographic location (all were located in either
North Carolina, Rhode Island, or Massachusetts) ,but care was taken
to obtain twenty black and twenty white entrepreneurs. T h a t racial
selection made possible a tentative investigation of the null hypothe-
sis relative to racial differences.
I n addition to these forty entrepreneurs, use was made of the
twenty entrepreneurs who were interviewed and tested in the pilot
study (Hornaday and Bunker, 1970) since they were given essen-
tially the same interview and the same tests. The number of cases
used for the several analyses varied because some entrepreneurs
completed only a part of the forms. For all sixty, however, inter-
view responses are available; most of the questions in the interview
were the same in the two studies.
Hypotheses
Specifically, the hypotheses investigated in this study were:
1. A number of personal characteristics differentiate successful
entrepreneurs from men in general and these characteristics can be
measured by objective, standardized tests. Entrepreneurs are signifi-
cantly higher on scales on the EPPS that measure need for achieve-
ment, need for autonomy, and need for aggression. On the SIV, the
examinees are expected to score higher on scales measuring the im-
portance attached to recognition, independence, and leadership.
2. Because of the nature of scoring the OIS, the scores of entre-
preneurs could not be compared t o men-in-general. The Form DD
scores of O H are lambdas (Clemans, 1968;Kuder, 1963), and the na-
144 PERSONNEL PSYCHOLOGY
ture of those scores does not permit comparison of a n individual t o a
group, The hypothesis for the OIS, therefore, must relate to the
scales on which entrepreneurs are higher relative to their other
scales. Entrepreneurs should score high on scales relating t o busi-
ness occupations and business college majors. The greatest value
from the Kuder Occupational Interest Survey, however, would be
gained from an entrepreneurial key for the OIS, and development of
that key must await the gathering of considerably more data.
3. I n answering the questions covered by the interviewers, entre-
preneurs are expected to indicate that they work long hours, that the
work interferes with their family relationships, that they rebel against
regimentation, and it was felt that their family background might re-
flect, generally, a rebellion against an attitude in the father that they
perceived with distaste, A number of additional areas were investi-
gated in the interviews as a further exploration into characteristics
which might be significant. On these, no specific hypothesis could be
formed nor is there any control group of the general population t o
serve as a basis of comparison. Thus, the interview was largely ex-
ploratory.
4. On a self-rating form in which entrepreneurs subjectively com-
pared themselves to the general population, it was hypothesized that
the subjects would be above the general population in all of the sig-
nificant items (a few items were “fillers”). Those are such items as:
need for power over people, self-reliance, innovative tendencies, and
other characteristics as listed in Table 3.
5. Relative to race, the null hypothesis is to be tested for all scales
of the tests and items of the interview. Our hypotheses are that no
racial differences will be found between black and white entrepre-
neurs. Data, therefore, are presented for the races separately and,
where no difference is found, combined.

Procedure
The subjects of this study consisted of a total of sixty entrepre-
neurs. The distribution of the sixty by race and sex is as follows:

34 white males
22 black males
2 white females
2 black females

During the early work of this study, which began in the summer
of 1969, a total of twenty entrepreneurs were interviewed, It was in
HORNADAY AND ABOUD 145
the process of these interviews that the Interview Schedule was de-
veloped. Development consisted primarily of devising items, reorder-
ing most of them, and, subsequently, deleting or adding a very few
items. Also during this early phase of the work, the three tests used
to assess the personality traits of the entrepreneurs were selected. Be-
cause some experimentation with the formats and content of these
measurement devices was necessary, not all of the entrepreneurs
were subjected to identical items. As will be seen later, this, plus the
failure of some entrepreneurs to complete all of the forms, resulted
in the sample’s containing somewhat less than sixty for the various
forms employed. Early experimenting with procedures of testing and
interview also yielded unequal numbers of completed forms for the
various questionnaires employed.
The forms which held the most promise in the pilot study and
were used in this study are:
The Standardized Interview Schedule
The Kuder Occupational Interest Survey (Form DD)
The Gordon Survey of Interpersonal Values
A modified form of the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule
A five-point scale of personal self-estimates called The Self-Evalu-
ation Scale

Results
Analyses were made separately and in combination for the white
males (34) and black males (22). Because of the small number of
cases for women (two white and two black) ,no meaningful compar-
ative analyses could be made by sex. Inspection of the data indicated
differences between the female and the male entrepreneurs, and it
could not be established that the sexes could be reasonably combined;
therefore, only the male entrepreneurs were used in subsequent anal-
yses.
The structured interview was used with the full group of sixty en-
trepreneurs. Many of the items were administered to the total of
sixty, but a few items were introduced or revised a t some time dur-
ing the first twenty contacts. For the last forty the interview schedule
was kept constant. The sample size for interview items, thus, may
vary between 40 and 56 (since the four female entrepreneurs were
not included).
Table 1 presents data for black males and white males on all of the
interview items that lend themselves to quantification. The items on
which significant differences occurred were :
146 PERSONNEL PSYCHOLOGY
TABLE 1
Analyses of Quantifible Items of the Structural Interview8

White Black
Male Male
Statistic ( N 5 34) ( N 5 22)
Time required for interview Mdn. 90 75
Number of employees Mdn. 24 15
Years in this business Mdn. 13 8
Hrs. work/week at start Mdn. 68 70
Hrs. work/week now Mdn. 60 60
Age of entrepreneur Mdn. 46 42
Age started business Mdn. 33 34
Previous ent. effort? % Yes 20 27
Special person import. in getting
started % Yes 25 9
Special idea import. getting started % Yes 58 18
Never married % Yes 0 0
Divorced or separated? % Yes 6 32
Graduated high school? % Yes 94 82
Graduate college? % Yes 82 32
Level of school achievement Mdn. eval. Above Av. Average
Serious in school % serious 79 25
Consider dropping out % Yes 36 38
Active in extra-curricular activities
in school % Yes 75 62
Financed coll. primarily through % Yes 45 84
own effort (of coll. group)
Accepts regimentation? % Yes 77 68

(1) Length of time in business. White males averaged 13 years


and black males averaged eight years. This perhaps is a
reflection of the more recent encouragement given blacks to
go into business for themselves.
(2) Frequency of separation and divorce from wives. I n this
study 6% whites and 32% blacks were divorced or separated.
This may reflect a general cultural difference rather than a
characteristic of entrepreneurship. (Divorce and separation
is considerably higher among the blacks in the U. S. according
to the Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1970.) I n fact,
the per cent of divorce and separation among all entrepreneurs
is below that of the general population (16% among all
entrepreneurs combined; approximately 33% in the general
population).
(3) The frequency of a special idea as the basis of the develop-
ment of the enterprise was much greater for white e n t r e
preneurs than for blacks. This may have been a reflection of
the types of entrepreneurs in the two groups. A much higher
HORNADAY AND ABOUD 147

percentage of the whites were in manufacturing, where a


specific original idea might have been particularly important.
Almost all of the blacks were in sales and services; of the
three blacks who were in manufacturing, all had moved into
the field because of their having an innovative idea.
(4) Differences in per cent graduating from college and “serious-
ness” in school, m well as differences in self-support in college.
Again these may reflect cultural differences and differences
in socio-economic background.
On all other characteristics investigated in the interview, insignifi-
cant differences between races were found. It appears that each of the
obtained differences resulted from socio-economic differences or
from special considerations in sample selection, as in (3) above, and
it does not appear that any racial differences for entrepreneurs as
such were evident. The null hypothesis, therefore, cannot be rejected
on the basis of interview results.
Table 2 presents the objective scales of the EPPS and the SIV for
the two racial groups, separately and combined. Inspection of the raw
data indicated no justification for combining the sexes in this study.
In comparing black and white males, however, we find that on all
scales except Benevolence there are no significant differences. The
only exception was a t of 2.48 produced by the very low score of
whites on the Benevolence scale. Because of the ipsative nature of
the SIV, and because of the very high scores by whites on Indepen-
dence and Leadership, the low Benevolence scores are interpreted as
re2atively low for the entrepreneurs, not necessarily low compared to
the general population. Since the SIV is not normative, only interpre-
tation of relative values is appropriate. The t-tests were applied for
this survey only to point to direction and relative magnitude of dif-
ferences. Because of the small differences between blacks and whites
found in Table 2, the results of the two races are combined in the
last column.
Compared to men in general, entrepreneurs are significantly higher
on scales reflecting need for achievement, independence, and eff ec-
tiveness of their leadership, and are low on scales reflecting emphasis
on need for support. Again the low need for support score may re-
sult from the high scores on other scales of this ipsative survey.
Note that only three of the EPPS scales were investigated in this
study. Only those three scales were investigated since it was assumed
that they were the most likely to relate to entrepreneurship. It is
recommended that, in later research, the full fifteen scales of the
TABLE 2 Ip
c
Q)
Compatism belween Black Entrepreneurs, White Entrepreneurs, and the General Population on Nine Personality Swles

All Entre-
General Black-Gen. WhiteGen. preneursGen.
Black
White Combined Populationb White-Black Population Population POP
- -- --- - - - - - --
Scale hf SD M SD M SD M SD Diff. t Diff. t Diff. 1 Diff. t
-- - -- - -
Achievement 15.4 2.97 18.4 5.78 17.3 3.89 14.4 4.80 1.81 1.0 .76 4.0 3.60** 2.9
= v
3-40** E
Autonomy 13.5 3.26 15.2 4.61 14.7 4.28 13.5 4.79 1.07 .2 .15 1.7 1.60 1.2 1.34 o
Z
Aggression 12.6 2.65 12.4 5.12 12.5 4.48 12.5 4.74 .14 .1 .08 ( .l) .09 .O .oo gF
support 12.1 3.69 11.2 5.64 11.6 5.05 15.0 5.70 .53 (2.9) 1.87 (3.8) 2.91** (3.4) 2.66** 2
conformity 13.4 7.12 11.1 6.04 12.0 6.53 14.8 6.50 1.03 (1.4) .77 (3.7) 2.50* (2.5) 1.86 2W
0
Recognition 8.9 4.34 11.5 5.03 10.7 4.86 11.2 5.20 1.58 (2.3) 1.62 .3 -25 ( .5) -39 p
0
Independence 20.1 7.17 21.9 6.13 21.5 6.76 16.9 7.40 .80 3.2 1.57 5.0 2.99** 4.6 2.76** 2
Benevolence 17.5 6.18 12.9 4.46 14.7 5.76 15.8 6.80 2.48* 1.7 1.06 (2.9) 2.22* (1.1) .80
Leadership 17.9 6.63 21.1 7.09 19.9 7.08 16.1 7.70 1.34 1.8 -85 5.0 2.86** 3.7 2.15*
- - -
a b r e a on Achievement, Autonomy, and Aggression were derived from the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule. The other scales are from the Survey of
Interpersonalvalues.
b Population is being used here to denote the norms provided in the test manuah of the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule and the Survey of Interpersonal
Values.
* Significant a t the five per cent level (p 5 .05).
Significant at the one per cent level ( p 5 .01).
HORNADAY AND ABOUD 149
EPPS be included in the investigation if cooperating entrepreneurs
would be agreeable to answering the full 225 items of that test.
Discussion
It is surprising that the EPPS Autonomy scale yielded no signifi-
cant t value ( t = 1.34) since interest in independence .is a character-
istic of successful entrepreneurs and since the SIV Independence
scale is highly significant ( t = 2.76) and is correlated with the Auton-
omy scale .49 (Gordon, 1963).
On the OIS, the numbers cannot be treated as raw scores since the
figures are not quantitatively comparable from one person to another.
It is the relative standing that is significant. The highest 10 occupa-
tional scales and highest 10 college major scales were examined for
blacks and whites separately, and striking differences were evident.
Both college and occupational scales related generally to the occupa-
tions and avocations of the entrepreneurs. Since there were more
manufacturers (particularly in electronics and related areas) among
the whites, engineering scales were frequently high; for blacks they
were infrequently in the top five scales. The interviews (Table 1) in-
dicated that education level waa significantly higher for the whites,
and the kinds of occupations ranking toward the top for them re-
flected higher educational requirements. For example, whites fre-
quently ranked high on computer programmer, engineer, psycholo-
gist, and travel agent. Blacks frequently ranked high on television
repairmen, plumbing contractor, automobile salesman, and florist.
Both rank high on manager, architect, and buyer.
It is of interest to note that lambdas greater than .60 were attained
on one or more scales by 40 per cent of the white entrepreneurs but
by none of the black entrepreneurs. Lambdas above .50 were at-
tained by 80 per cent of the whites and only 30 per cent of the blacks.
That difference is interpreted to mean that the interests of the black
entrepreneurs are not as highly developed and are more diverse ; in-
terests of white entrepreneurs tend to be more sharply developed.
This again is probably the result in a large measure of the difference
in educational background.
Over-all, the 01s was not significant in selecting entrepreneurs or
in differentiating blacks and whites of comparable educational level,
but it still may prove to be fruitful if a scale for entrepreneurs can
be developed. This aspiration is reinforced by the fact that for many
blacks Business was a first or second preference as a college major.
The 01s was also useful in the present study i n that the V scale, a
measure of accuracy of the test-taking by examinees, was checked
150 PERSONNEL PSYCHOLOGY
TABLE 3
Analysis of Self-Ratings on The Self-Evahation Scale for White and Black
Entrepreneurs, and Their Combined Scores, in P ~ cent
T
Selecting Each Position.

5 4 3 2 1
1. Energy level White 57 27 17 0 0
Black 47 26 26 0 0
Combined 53 27 20 0 0
2. Physical health White 79 15 5 0 0
Black 58 25 19 0 0
Combined 64 21 15 0 0
3. Need Achievement White 70 18 12 0 0
Black 56 28 14 0 0
Combined 65 22 13 0 0
4. Willing to take risks White 60 27 9 3 0
Black 56 28 14 0 0
Combined 58 27 11 4 0
5. Watch T.V.. White 0 9 30 47 13
Black 0 11 17 22 50
Combined 0 10 24 36 29
6. Creative White 47 37 10 7 0
Black 43 43 14 0 0
Combined 45 39 12 4 0
7. Need for affiliation White 6 9 10 16 20
Black 19 14 29 24 14
Combined 11 13 20 24 32
8. Desire for money White 21 35 35 9 0
Black 55 10 25 10 0
Combined 33 26 32 9 0
9. Tolerate Uncertainty White 30 27 20 13 10
Black 43 29 10 14 5
Combined 35 28 16 14 8
10. Desire for candy" White 9 0 0 9 8 1
Black 0 0 0 6 9 4
Combined 4 0 0 7 89
11. Authoritarian in Business White 38 38 19 6 0
Black 35 30 12 12 12
Combined 24 35 27 6 9
12. Liking for sport9. White 0 27 27 18 27
Black 6 19 6 25 44
Combined 4 22 15 22 37
13. Get along with employees White 54 35 8 0 4
Black 47 35 12 0 6
Combined 51 35 9 0 5
HORNADAY AND ABOUD 151
TABLE 3 (continued)

5 4 3 2 1
14. Organized White 12 41 41 0 6
Black 24 52 10 14 0
Combined 31 30 19 13 7
15. Self-Reliant White 72 21 3 0 3
Black 55 40 5 0 0
Combined 66 28 4 0 2
16. Likes to Collect Things. White 9 9 9 072
Black 0 13 6 13 69
Combined 4 11 7 7 70
17. Singleness of Purpose White 12 31 18 31 6
Black 18 18 24 12 30
Combined 15 24 21 21 18
18. Need for Power White 15 9 27 21 27
Black 10 14 14 33 29
Combined 13 11 22 26 28
19. Patience White 35 18 6 24 18
Black 30 30 18 12 12
Combined 32 24 12 18 15
20. Competitiveness White 33 28 22 11 6
Black 53 24 12 12 0
Combined 66 20 6 6 3
21. Take Initiative White 69 27 0 0 4
Black 70 30 0 0 0
Combined 70 28 0 0 2
22. Confidence White 53 47 0 0 0
Black 77 24 0 0 0
Combined 65 35 0 0 0
23. Versatility White 39 50 11 0 0
Black 53 30 6 6 6
Combined 46 40 9 3 3
~~

24. Perseverance White 63 31 6 0 0


Black 77 24 0 0 0
Combined 70 27 3 0 0
25. Resilience White 59 29 12 0 0
Black 65 30 6 0 0
Combined 62 29 9 0 0
26. Innovation in Business White 45 39 12 3 0
Black 78 16 0 0 6
Combined 41 41 15 4 0
27. Leadership Effectiveness White 32 39 26 3 0
Black 38 33 19 10 0
Combined 35 37 23 6 0
Indicate "filler" items which were inserted 00 that entrepreneurswould have the opportunily to
uw the entire range of the scale.
isa PERSONNEL PSYCHOLOGY
to determine if the answers were valid. I n only one case was the V
scale out of the acceptable range and for that individual all of the
forms were returned to the entrepreneur with the request that he
take them a second time more carefully. Since they were not
returned, he was not used in the test analyses.
The Self-Evaluation Scale is so highly subjective that it is of little
value. To be interpreted meaningfully, it would have to be given t o
a standardization group for comparison. As a matter of information
only, the distribution of answers for the 34 whites and 22 black en-
trepreneurs is presented separately and combined. Inspection of
Table 3 reveals a very high similarity of self-ratings by the two races
so that combination is most meaningful. Both races rate themselves
significantly above average on need for achievement, self-reliance,
competitiveness, initiative, confidence, versatility, perseverance,
resilience, innovation, and physical health.
In addition, as part of the structured interview each entrepreneur
was asked what qualities were necessary for success in business. The
characteristics listed by both blacks and whites are similar, but there
was some difference in emphasis.
The blacks mentioned most often the need t o have “Knowledge of
the Business.” Also frequently mentioned was either skill in manage-
ment of finances or a source of financial advice. Frequently men-
tioned, but not as often as Knowledge of Business, was: honesty,
having a good character, possession of inner drive, willingness to
work hard, and pleasing personality. This latter list corresponds very
well with the characteristics most frequently mentioned by white
entrepreneurs : willingness to work hard, perseverance, single-mind-
dedness of purpose, and the ability to work with people.
Conclusions
Both the EPPS and the SIV yielded scales that significantly differ-
entiated entrepreneurs from men in the standardization groups for
those tests. These scales were achievement, support, independence
and leadership (Table 2). It is recommended, therefore, that these
two forms be used in further study of the entrepreneur. It is also
recommended that continued use of the 01s may be fruitful in order
to gather su5cient data for developing an entrepreneurial scale.
The interview items have not been analyzed for their effectiveness
in differentiating entrepreneurs from men in general, but the items
have been sharpened for clarity, and the authors’ experience with
these sixty entrepreneurs indicates that the items as given elicit mean-
ingful responses from entrepreneurs. Compared t o the laborious
HORNADAY AND ABOUD 153

procedures and technical training necessary for interpreting projec-


tive tests, the administration and scoring of the objective tests is
easy and accurate. Furthermore, not only does this procedure yield
n Ach scores but also other information, obtained by structured
devices and objectively evaluated, which further sharpens the dif-
ferentiation of the successful entrepreneur. It is yet to be deter-
mined whether these scales will differentiate between the successful
entrepreneur and the individual who has made an unsuccessful
attemp to be an entrepreneur but this study establishes (inso-
far M judgment can be made on a small number of cases) that the
structured interview and tests used here are objective indicators of
entrepreneurship.
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