Lawrence & Nohria - Four Drive Theory of Human Nature

The Structure of Concern Project compares many theoretical models from many disciplines to the Adizes PAEI model, arguing that they must all be reflecting the same underlying phenomenon. One concern structure model is described below.

Lawrence and Nohria are professors of organizational behavior at the Harvard Business School who felt dissatisfied with the rather featureless construct of homo economicus as a rational maximizer. Humans are clearly motivated by more than personal self-interest, even in their economic behavior. The authors point to the colossal failure of neoclassical economic reforms in Russia as one devastating example of how human behavior is clearly driven by factors that neoclassical theory does not see. The authors turned to evolutionary biology and neuroscience to construct a more complete model of basic human nature (Lawrence & Nohria, 2002).

As the outcome of their research, the authors postulate a fundamental basis for human behavior composed of four distinct drives, listed below in PAEI order:

P – (D1) The drive to acquire
A – (D4) The drive to defend
E – (D3) The drive to learn
I – (D2) The drive to bond

These may not be the only human drives, but they are the only ones necessary and sufficient for constructing a “unified understanding of modern human life”. The four drives motivate and direct human action, perception, cognition/reasoning and memory/representation. They are all independent drives with limbic origins but they exert their effects through the tightly integrated work of the prefrontal cortex.

The emergence of this prefrontal coordination coincides with the cognitive Great Leap Forward in human cultural sophistication during the Upper Paleolithic era. Lawrence and Nohria discuss the implications of their findings for organizational management.

1. Lawrence, P. R., & Nohria, N. (2002). Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices. San Fransisco: Jossey Bass.
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