Dear members:

Thanks for responding to my earlier note! I have received a total of 15
responses, of which two were auto-replies. I can get back to each of the 13
members, but there are things I want to share with the entire community,
with the goal to stir up more discussions on the topic.

All messages were positive except one reminding me that if I do not speak
Thai, I’ll never find the cause because Thais, just like Chinese, treat
foreigners who can speak Thai differently from those who cannot. I’d have
to say I am not completely sold on it. In fact, most Thais I met, including
those with low income, have treated me nicely and honestly despite I know
no more than 20 Thai words. This actually has much to do with my
willingness to give the lady 1,900THB (roughly USD60, not USD600, sorry for
the typo and thank Lily for pointing it out) in the first place – I thought
she was just one of the other Thais. However, this message raises an
important question: what is the cultural difference in treating tourists
who do not speak the language, who are ill-informed with little chance to
revenge for mistreatment? My own observation says prejudice and
discrimination are everywhere, although the Asian version tends to focus on
price discrimination more than that in the west. Anyway, I thank
Keatkhamjorn for raising this important point.

Another member suggest me to introduce myself first: who I am, affiliation
and rank… I thank Angelo for that. Reading back my own message I find it
kind of rude to invite partners without saying a word about myself. I’ll be
short on “facts” and a bit longer on “dreams” because I believe dreams
define a person better than demographics or even experiences. You don’t
have to take my words for it, just read The essential
message: “(T)he most innovative and happy workers feel like they have
autonomy and a strong sense of mission.”

Here it comes: I have a MS in plant genetics and a Ph.D. in sociology from
Madison, Wisconsin, and currently a research faculty at the Thammasat
Business School in Bangkok, Thailand. I have three academic “dreams” or
self-imposed missions: (a) to change the way we study culture by redefining
it as accumulated choices to cover accumulated preferences (e.g.,
motivations), institutions and wealth, (b) to change the way we do causal
modeling by leveraging early life choices (from pregnancy to teenage) that
are more exogenous than other things and (c) to push for truly
multidisciplinary research, similar to behavioral economics but include
entire camps of economists and culturists. The other dream is about
business teaching, although I won’t bother you with that here.

Now, back to motivations, one member asked me to provide further readings
on the topic. I may not have the latest because I live far away from the
campus and have lost my EBSCO HOST connection for more than a month.
However, I know for sure that I am by no means the first working on
motivations. Max Weber’s thesis of capitalist spirits essentially argues
that modernization started from shifting minds from a better “next life” to
honors associated with materialistic possessions in this worldliness.
Psychologists have long worked on the “need for achievements” N-Ach
1961) that has spawned, among others, the *achievement motivation
index* (Granato,
Inglehart, & Leblang, 1996) for economic growth. Of course, there are
differences. For example, N-Ach is individualist: it starts and ends in
individuals while I am more interested in the co-endogeneity between
individuals and collectivities, especially on how national wealth impacts
individual’s desire for achievement and how collective motivation in turn
impacts national developments. Furthermore, “achievement” is vague and
covers different goals – instinct or cause related – as long as it is
something difficult and significant. Therefore, N-Ach is more about *
strength* than about *types* of motivation. Having said that, strength is
important and my duo concepts of Instinct Preference (IP) and Cause
Preference (CP) do care about that. Further, different cultures care about
different motivations with different strengths. Chinese these days have an
exceptionally strong IP in the form of what I call "family exceptionalism"
that drives 250 million (not 120 million as I said last time, sorry!)
migrant workers in 2012 to leave homes for physically challenging jobs in
far away places.

One member mentioned Abraham Maslow’s hierachy of needs. Unlike N-Ach,
Maslow did focus on motivation types but like N-Ach, it is mainly about how
individual updates personal goals and little about how one deals with
others, how collective preferences shape up individual needs and how the
needs change with growth of wealth/income. The hierarchy makes an excellent
“teaching piece” but reality is messier than the five clear-cut layers. We
can argue for example that “self esteem” and “confidence” in the “esteem”
ladder lay the foundation for good interpersonal relationships in the “love
/belonging” layer, not the reversed order as Maslow put it. Cross culture
scholars are also more interested in how different cultures – as well as
different development stages – drive different needs, not to be limited to
a universally constant hierarchy. Chinese, for example, care about earning
face (or respect by others) more seriously than other nationalities.

In short, my IP/CP duo concepts have considered three dimensions –
beneficiaries (self vs others), time horizon (now or in the future) and
payoff types (tangible or internal), while maintaining more flexibility
than Maslow's hierarchical structure.

Having a good conceptualization is a good start, the next key is to subject
the theory to rigorous tests. Several members asked how exactly I wanted to
do the research. I will work out details with the partners (all partners
are equal) so I will be sketchy here. Basically, motivation is part of
culture or what Williamson (2000) calls “informal institutions” as Anisul
pointed out. My theory defines culture as accumulated choices so any
motivation models should include institutional factor, because going from
abstract (e.g., values) to abstract (e.g., motivations) won’t move us too
far ahead. To cite real life examples, I have left a Sony digital camera
and a HTC smartphone behind in two cabs but there is no way I can chase
them back because no cabs in Bangkok print cash receipts at the end of
trips. This says institutions (rules, regulations) matter like the new
institutional economics (NIE) has claimed, see Douglas North (1991).

It is however not enough to be limited to formal institutions. Many if not
most economists stop short of introducing informal institutions (i.e.,
norms, habits, customs and hidden rules) into their models. If you are
familiar with ANOVA terminology, then economics models are typically “one
way ANOVA” focusing on institutional main effects; I intend to do full or
fractional "factorial ANOVA." This is because in reality formal and
informal institutions *interact, *which means that same formal
institutional environments can lead to different outcomes, depending on *
informal* institutions. China’s *insecure* or ambiguous property rights for
example have not deterred the mainlanders from actively pursuing personal
gains. In fact, some Chinese have taken advantage of that to get rich first
instead of waiting in the wings until the dust settles.

My biggest point of separation is to establish causal links with early life
choices. The idea is simple: previous theories are descriptive, saying
little about *why* humans have those particular needs or motivations. I
want to dig into the gold mine of “quasi-exogeneity” in early life choices
(ELC). I say quasi-exogeneity because later life choices are impacted by
ELC but not the other way around; yet endogeneity is always there as
individual’s ELC is affected by collective choices, while each generation’s
ELC is impacted by earlier ones.
I'll stop here but as always, thanks for listening and welcome feedback
anyway you see fit but do please focus on the scholarly issues and not on
the little incident in Koh Chang.



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