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Category Archive: self-determination theory

Effects of autonomy and control on progress and well-being

The why and how of goal pursuits: Effects of global autonomous motivation and perceived control on emotional well-being

By E. Gaëlle Hortop, Carsten Wrosch, Marylène Gagné

Abstract: This study examined the effects of global autonomous motivation and global perceived control on young adults’ adaptive goal striving and emotional well-being. We reasoned that autonomously motivated participants who also perceive high levels of control would make accelerated progress with the pursuit of their most important goal and experience associated increases in emotional well-being. By contrast, we predicted that these benefits of autonomous motivation would be reduced among participants who perceive low levels of control. A 6-month longitudinal study of 125 college students was conducted, and self-reported global autonomous motivation, global perceived control, progress towards the most important goal, and emotional well-being were assessed. Regression analyses showed that the combination of high baseline levels of global autonomous motivation and global perceived control was associated with accelerated goal progress after 6 months, which mediated 6-month increases in emotional well-being. These benefits were not apparent among autonomously motivated participants who perceived low levels of control. The study’s findings suggest that global autonomous motivation and perceived control may need to work together to foster adaptive goal striving and emotional well-being.

Misconception 6: improving learning and performance is purely a matter of changing mindsets

classroomWhenever approaches gain popularity there is always a certain danger that some people start viewing them as magic bullets, approaches capable of solving just about any problem. But no approach can be expected to solve each and every problem. The same goes for helping people develop a growth mindset. Creating a growth mindset culture will often provide a good contribution to improving the effectiveness of individuals, schools, sports teams, and organizations. But it is never the only thing you will need to improve effectiveness. For example, creating a growth mindset culture in class rooms is likely to help to create a more pleasant atmosphere and better learning in classes but there are many other things to consider in order to create effective education. Also, there are other theoretical perspectives which can be quite useful for improving education. It is probably unwise to look at reality through only one theoretical lens. There are other theoretical lenses which might also be valid and useful.  Click here to read more »

Extrinsic vs. intrinsic aspirations and job burnout

MH900423044Leaders life aspirations and job burnout: a self-determination theory approach
Maree Roche & Jarrod M. Haar


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the implications of leaders’ life goals on their work related wellbeing. Self-determination theory (SDT) asserts aspirations (life goals) pursued in terms of personal growth, health, affiliation and community support psychological wellbeing, while aspirations of wealth, image and fame thwart wellbeing. However, little is understood about the influence of life goals towards leaders’ wellbeing at work, specifically job burnout. Click here to read more »

Index of Autonomous Functioning (IAF)

IAF relationshipsThe index of autonomous functioning: Development of a scale of human autonomy

N. Weinstein et al. (2012)


A growing interest in the functional importance of dispositional autonomy led to the development and validation of the Index of Autonomous Functioning (IAF) across seven studies. The IAF provides a measure of trait autonomy based on three theoretically derived subscales assessing authorship/self-congruence, interest-taking, and low susceptibility to control (see example items below). Results showed consistency within and across subscales, and appropriate placement within a nomological network of constructs. Diary studies demonstrated IAF relations with higher well-being, greater daily satisfaction of basic psychological needs, and more autonomous engagement in daily activities. Using an experimental approach, the IAF was shown to predict more positive interactions among dyads. The studies provided a systematic development and validation of a measure of autonomy that is brief and reliable.  Click here to read more »


In a new paper, Netta Weinstein, Andrew Przybylski, and Richard Ryan address the topic of  the integrative process. With this they mean the process of coordinating and increasing the congruence between their behaviors and cognitions, and of how to integrate new experiences within their existing web of self-knowledge. The authors say that this integrative process consists of three interconnected subprocesses—namely, awareness, ownership/autonomy, and nondefensiveness and they summarize evidence linking these facets of integration to energy, wellness, and relational benefits.


Mindful awareness is the degree to which people have open access to their own emotions, motives, and values. Personal ownership, or autonomy,is the degree to which one takes responsibility for one’s emotions, decisions, and thoughts. Non-defensiveness is the degree to which one turns toward and tries to solve challenging situations. The authors suggest that both autonomy supportive contexts and mindful awareness (which is a learnable skill) are beneficial for the process of integration. Click here to read more »

Providing a rationale as a motivational strategy

rationaleProviding a Rationale in an Autonomy-Supportive Way as a Strategy to Motivate Others During an Uninteresting Activity
2002, Johnmarshall Reeve, Hyungshim Jang, Pat Hardre, and Mafumi Omura


Abstract: When motivating others during uninteresting activities, people typically use extrinsic contingencies that promote controlling forms of extrinsic motivation. In contrast, we investigated a motivational strategy that could support another person’s capacity to personally endorse and value the effort he or she put forth during the uninteresting activity. That strategy is the provision of an externally provided rationale when communicated in an autonomy-supportive way. In two studies, we tested and found support for a motivational mediation model, based on selfdetermination theory, in which the presence of such a rationale (vs. its absence) adds to participants’ identification with the task’s personal value which, in turn, explains participants’ subsequent effort. These studies suggest that extrinsically motivated behaviors can become self-determined through the process of identification and that the promotion of this identification experience depends on the presence of a rationale that is communicated in an autonomy-supportive way. Read full article.

Raising kids to become autonomous individuals

MH900399918The importance of autonomous functioning

As research into self-determination theory has shown there is a strong connection between people’s autonomous functioning and their wellness, their open, engaged and healthy functioning. When people feel autonomous they feel they can make their own choices and follow their own preferences. This does not mean they will be selfish, over individualistic, or self-sufficient. In fact, under good enough conditions, people will actively attempt to internalize and integrate the norms, rules and values of their environment, in other words make them their own. This process of internalizing and integrating external norms, rules and values will happen best 1) when they are transmitted in an autonomy supportive rather than a controlling way, and 2) when these norms, rules and values are congruent with the basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness (Ryan & Deci, 2011).


How parents can support autonomy Click here to read more »

The term progress-focused

In recent years, we have started to use, along with the term solution-focused, the term progress-focused to describe how we work. We have become quite accustomed to this label and think that it does justice to the dynamic character of the solution-focused approach. The solution-focused approach has always been about making stepwise progress in the direction of the desired situation. The term progress-focused also does justice to a few of our own innovations and to several very inspiring influences by people which we have integrated into our approach. Some examples of such people are Carol Dweck, Anders Ericsson, Teresa Amabile, Icek Ajzen, Barbra Fredrickson, Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, and others.


Since we started to use the term progress-focused we have noticed that many people find the term clear and attractive. To people who are not yet familiar with the core of our approach we sometimes explain it by mentioning the following four steps:


  1. In what would you like to make progress?
  2. What does that progress look like?
  3. What progress have you already made?
  4. What small step forward could you now take?

The test-and-learn approach appears to be associated with flourishing

Here are the results of a survey that I recently administered about how people think about change and approach change. The survey which was filled in by 96 people consisted of the following parts: 1) How do you think people can accomplish successful change?, 2) How do you approach change?, and 3) How do you view yourself and your circumstances? The goal of this study was to explore to which extent people’s mindset about change and their actual change behavior are somehow associated with several aspects of human flourishing. The overall expectation was that the test-and-learn approach would be associated with respondent’s flourishing.


1. Independent variables (1): thinking about successful change
How respondents thought about successful change was measured by two dimensions: 1) the plan-and-implement mindset, and 2) the test-and-learn mindset.  Click here to read more »

Growth mindset associated with various positive outcomes (competence, relatedness, learning, vitality, adjustment)

As reader of this blog you probably know about the work of Carol Dweck and her colleagues into growth mindsets and fixed mindsets. If not you may be interested to read an introduction (see for instance this brief post: Self-theories and progress). Whether one has a growth mindset or a fixed mindset has many implications. In general, a growth mindset stimulates, taking on challenges, welcoming feedback, putting in effort, persisting, seeking cooperation, and focusing on improvement. A fixed mindset generally associated with things such as being defensive, avoid difficult challenges, being competitive, giving up when it gets hard, less investment in own development and development of other people. Furthermore, there are two lesser known disadvantages of fixed mindset: it is related to depression and it makes one judge too quickly.


I suspected that there were even more benefits of growth mindsets and disadvantages of fixed mindset. I was especially curious how mindset related to basic needs and thriving. In order to explore that and hopefully learn something I administered a small scale survey exploring the relations between one’s mindset and several other variables. 70 People filled in that survey. For a description of the survey and the results see this post: A growth mindset is associated with effort and thriving. Here is an  overview of the correlations I found: Click here to read more »

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