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Category Archive: self-determination theory

The negative effects of needs thwarting

Selfdetermination theory shows that people have basic psycological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. These basic needs are universal (people of every culture have them) and present throughout life. In a new article Maarten Vansteenkiste and Richard Ryan say that the satisfaction of these basic needs is related to well-being and resilience. The frustration of these needs evokes feelings of ill-being and creates behavioral and psychological problems. The figure below (which I have very slightly adapted based on the text) summarizes the negative effects of the basic needs not being satisfied:  Click here to read more »

Basic psychological needs, intrinsic motivation, and academic achievement

School Culture, Basic Psychological Needs, Intrinsic Motivation and Academic Achievement: Testing a Casual Model

Badri et al. (2014)

Abstract: Culture is s common system of believes, values and artifacts that the members of a society use it in their relations, and it transfers from one generation to another. The school culture is a system of norms, meanings and values between school members. One of STD (self-determination theory) components is basic psychological needs that emphasizes on Relatedness, Competence and Autonomy to accomplish the motivation. Motivation involves the processes that energize, direct, and sustain behavior. It seems that school culture, basic psychological needs and motivation has immense effect on academic achievement. The purpose of the present research was to examine the relation between students’ perceived school culture, basic psychological needs, intrinsic motivation and academic achievement in a causal model. 296 high school students (159 females and 137 males) in Tabriz, north – west of Iran, participated in this research and completed the students’ perceived school culture questionnaire based on Hofstede’s cultural dimensions (femininity, uncertainty avoidance, collectivism and power distance), basic psychological needs and intrinsic motivation. The results of the path analysis showed that fulfillment of basic psychological needs and intrinsic motivation has positive effect on academic achievement. Uncertainty avoidance and power distance have also negative effect on fulfillment of psychological needs, but the influence of femininity on this variable was positive. Also, collectivism has no significant effect on it. In general, the findings showed that if school culture supports students’ autonomy, they will experience fulfillment of their basic psychological needs, and attain higher intrinsic motivation and academic achievement.

Teacher’s autonomy support predicts students’ autonomy and vitality

autonomy supportThe relationship between teacher’s autonomy support and students’ autonomy and vitality

Núñez et al. (2014) 

Abstract: What makes a student feel vital and energetic? Using the self-determination framework, we analyzed how the behavior and feelings of students depend on social factors such as the teachers’ attitudes. The goal of the study was to test an integrated sequence over a semester in which teacher’s autonomy support acts as a predictor of autonomy, which, in turn, predicts changes in vitality. Data were collected at three time points from 216 university students who completed the instruments during a semester. Using structural equation modeling, we obtained evidence for the hypothesized model. Implications and future perspectives are discussed. This study suggests that if teachers promote choice, minimize pressure to perform tasks in a certain way, and encourage initiative, in contrast to a controlling environment, characterized by deadlines, external rewards, or potential punishments, they will provide students with interesting experiences that are full of excitement and positive energy.

Study: Merit pay and bonuses related to autonomous motivation

Merit pay bonuses autonomous motivationExamining the relationship between workplace rewards and the quality of motivational experience; a Self-Determination Theory perspective

Rebecca Hewett (2014)

Abstract: The relationship between reward and motivation is one of the most fundamental questions in organisational research. Self-determination theory (SDT) acknowledges that performance-contingent rewards are motivational but suggests that these highly contingent rewards undermine better quality (autonomous) motivation because they thwart the satisfaction of individuals’ basic psychological needs. Through three field- based empirical studies, these theoretical assumptions were tested. The first, a qualitative interview study, supported the distinction between different motivation types and found that more autonomous motivation related to a more positive emotional experience. The second and third studies addressed the primary aim of the thesis; to test SDT’s theory about the reward–motivation relationship. Click here to read more »

Self-Determined Goals

Self-Determined Goals and Treatment of Domestic Violence Offenders: What If We Leave It Up to Them?

Lee, Uken, & Sebold (2014)

Abstract: Despite empirical evidence of self-determined goals and positive treatment outcomes, most conventional treatment programs of domestic violence offenders do not use self-determined goals as an integral part of their treatment efforts. The foundation for this article is a qualitative study that used data from 127 domestic violence offenders to explore the content and characteristics of goals that were self-determined by the offenders in a solution-focused, goal-directed treatment program. The emergent themes showed that the self-determined goals developed by offenders focused on self-focused and relational-focused attitudinal change and skills development. Three observed characteristics of these goals revolved around (a) emotional regulation versus cognitive understanding, (b) positively stated versus negatively stated goals, and (c) capacity building versus problem elimination. The implications of findings are discussed with the intention of generating useful dialogues among helping professionals to revisit treatment practices, orientations, and assumptions regarding treatment of domestic violence offenders.


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Self-concordant goal selection

Becoming Oneself. The Central Role of Self-Concordant Goal Selection
Kennon M. Sheldon (2014)

Abstract: Pursuing personal goals is an important way that people organize their behavior and mature as individuals. However, because people are typically unaware of their own implicit motivations and potentials, they may pick goals that do not serve them well. This article suggests that “self-concordant” goal selection is a difficult self-perceptual skill, with important ramifications for thriving. Various means of conceptualizing and measuring goal self-concordance are considered. Then, relevant literature is reviewed to show that goal self-concordance, as assessed by a self-determination theory methodology, is predicted by goal/motive fit; that goal self-concordance in turn predicts more persistent goal effort and, thus, better goal attainment over time; and that self-concordant goal selection is enhanced by personality variables and interpersonal contexts that promote accurate self-insight and personal autonomy. Implications for the nature of the self, the causes of personality thriving and growth, and the free will question are considered.

Internal and instrumental motivation

Multiple types of motives don’t multiply the motivation of West Point cadets
Wrzesniewski et al. (2014)


Abstract: Although people often assume that multiple motives for doing something will be more powerful and effective than a single motive, research suggests that different types of motives for the same action sometimes compete. More specifically, research suggests that instrumental motives, which are extrinsic to the activities at hand, can weaken internal motives, which are intrinsic to the activities at hand. We tested whether holding both instrumental and internal motives yields negative outcomes in a field context in which various motives occur naturally and long-term educational and career outcomes are at stake. We assessed the impact of the motives of over 10,000 West Point cadets over the period of a decade on whether they would become commissioned officers, extend their officer service beyond the minimum required period, and be selected for early career promotions. For each outcome, motivation internal to military service itself predicted positive outcomes; a relationship that was negatively affected when instrumental motives were also in evidence. These results suggest that holding multiple motives damages persistence and performance in educational and occupational contexts over long periods of time.


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Reciprocal gains of basic need satisfaction, intrinsic motivation and innovative work behaviour

basic needs Intrinsic motivation innovationKeep the fire burning: Reciprocal gains of basic need satisfaction, intrinsic motivation and innovative work behaviour

Devloo et al (2014).

Abstract: Drawing on insights from self-determination theory, we explored the dynamic relationship between intrinsic motivation and innovative work behaviour (IWB) over time. Specifically, we investigated how basic need satisfaction influences IWB through its effect on intrinsic motivation and how IWB in turn affects basic need satisfaction as measured the next day (i.e., a reciprocal relationship). The current study used a longitudinal design comprising a 6-day period and relied on multi-source data from 76 students in industrial product design and electronic engineering who participated in an innovation boot camp. In general, results provided support for the mediating role of intrinsic motivation in the relationship between basic need satisfaction and IWB, as well as the reciprocal relationship between basic need satisfaction and IWB.

Autonomy support at work

autonomy support and controlSelf-determination theory (SDT) is one of the most powerful frameworks to understand how human flourishing can develop. Here is a very brief recap of what it is*. SDT assumes two things about human beings: 1) that they are naturally active and growth-oriented, and 2) that they have a tendency toward psychological integration. This second process means that, as people encounter new experiences, they are challenged to integrate them with existing aspects of themselves. This process of integration leads individuals to develop increasingly complex self-structures in which values and regulatory processes from outside are internalized. Click here to read more »

Mastery goals work well when there is autonomy-support

When are mastery goals more adaptive? It depends on experiences of autonomy support and autonomy

By Benita, Moti; Roth, Guy; Deci, Edward L.
Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 106(1), Feb 2014, 258-267.

Abstract: Mastery goals are generally considered the most adaptive achievement goals. In 2 studies, we tested whether, in line with self-determination theory, participants’ experiences of autonomy support and autonomy would affect the relations between mastery goals and psychological outcomes. In Study 1 (an experiment), 117 college students, randomly assigned to 3 groups (autonomy-supportive, autonomy-suppressive, neutral), adopted an intrapersonal-competence standard to improve graphic quality of handwriting. Results showed that mastery goals led to more positive emotional experiences when given in an autonomy-supportive context relative to the other two. Study 2 extended the research to natural settings and learners’ motives among 7th and 8th graders (n = 839) responding to questionnaires about a specific class. Results revealed stronger relations of mastery goals with interest and enjoyment and with behavioral engagement when students perceived their level of choice (experience of autonomy) as high rather than low. We therefore propose that research on achievement goals should consider both the contexts and the motives accompanying the goals.

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