Self Determination Theory


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self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation social development and well-being richard m ryan and edward l deci university of rochester human beings can be proactive and engaged or alternatively passive and alienated largely as a function of the social conditions in which they develop and function accordingly research guided by self-determination theo has focused on the social-contextual conditions that facilitate versus forestall the natural processes of self-motivation and healthy psychological development specifically factors have been examined that enhance versus undermine intrinsic motivation self-regulation and well-being the findings have led to the postulate of three innate psychological needs competence autonomy and relatedness-which when satisfied yield enhanced self-motivation and mental health and when thwarted lead to diminished motivation and well-being also considered is the significance of these psychological needs and processes within domains such as health care education work sport religion and psychotherapy that is worthy of our most intense scientific investigation specifically social contexts catalyze both within and between-person differences in motivation and personal growth resulting in people being more self-motivated energized and integrated in some situations domains and cultures than in others research on the conditions that foster versus undermine positive human potentials has both theoretical import and practical significance because it can contribute not only to formal knowledge of the causes of human behavior but also to the design of social environments that optimize people s development performance and well-being research guided by self-determination theory sdt has had an ongoing concern with precisely these issues deci ryan 1985 1991 ryan 1995 self-determination theory sdt is an approach to human motivation and personality that uses traditional empirical methods while employing an organismic metatheory that highlights the importance of humans evolved inner resources for personality development and behavioral self-regulation ryan kuhl deci 1997 thus its arena is the investigation of people s inherent growth tendencies and innate psychological needs that are the basis for their self-motivation and personality integration as well as for the conditions that foster those positive processes inductively using the empirical process we have identified three such needs the needs for competence harter 1978 white 1963 relatedness baumeister leary 1995 reis 1994 and autonomy decharms 1968 deci 1975 that appear to be essential for facilitating optimal functioning of the natural propensities for growth and integration as well as for constructive social development and personal well-being this work was supported in part by research grant mh-53385 from the national institute of mental health we thank all of the members of the human motivation research group at the university of rochester who have contributed to these ideas and research and to jennifer laguardia charles couchman and phyllis joe for their specific help with this article correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to either richard m ryan or edward l deci department of clinical and social sciences in psychology university of rochester rochester ny 14627 electronic mail may be sent to either or he fullest representations of humanity show people to be curious vital and self-motivated at their best they are agentic and inspired striving to learn extend themselves master new skills and apply their talents responsibly that most people show considerable effort agency and commitment in their lives appears in fact to be more normative than exceptional suggesting some very positive and persistent features of human nature yet it is also clear that the human spirit can be diminished or crushed and that individuals sometimes reject growth and responsibility regardless of social strata or cultural origin examples of both children and adults who are apathetic alienated and irresponsible are abundant such non-optimal human functioning can be observed not only in our psychological clinics but also among the millions who for hours a day sit passively before their televisions stare blankly from the back of their classrooms or wait listlessly for the weekend as they go about their jobs the persistent proactive and positive tendencies of human nature are clearly not invariantly apparent the fact that human nature phenotypically expressed can be either active or passive constructive or indolent suggests more than mere dispositional differences and is a function of more than just biological endowments it also bespeaks a wide range of reactions to social environments 68 t january 2000 · american psychologist copyright2000 by the americanpsychologicalassociation,inc 0003-066x/00 5.00 vol 55 no 1 68-78 doi 10.1037110003-066x.55.1.68


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correlates and the conditions that ale likely to promote these different motivations third we focus on studies that have directly examined the impact of psychological need fulfillment on health and well-being the nature of motivation motivation concerns energy direction persistence and equifinality all aspects of activation and intention motivation has been a central and perennial issue in the field of psychology for it is at the core of biological cognitive and social regulation perhaps more important in the real world motivation is highly valued because of its consequences motivation produces it is therefore of preeminent concern to those in roles such as manager teacher religious leader coach health care provider and parent that involve mobilizing others to act although motivation is often treated as a singular construct even superficial reflection suggests that people are moved to act by very different types of factors with highly varied experiences and consequences people can be motivated because they value an activity or because there is strong external coercion they can be urged into action by an abiding interest or by a bribe they can behave from a sense of personal commitment to excel or from fear of being surveilled these contrasts between cases of having internal motivation versus being externally pressured are surely familiar to everyone the issue of whether people stand behind a behavior out of their interests and values or do it for reasons external to the self is a matter of significance in every culture e.g johnson 1993 and represents a basic dimension by which people make sense of their own and others behavior decharms 1968 heider 1958 ryan connell 1989 comparisons between people whose motivation is authentic literally self-authored or endorsed and those who are merely externally controlled for an action typically reveal that the former relative to the latter have more interest excitement and confidence which in turn is manifest both as enhanced performance persistence and creativity deci ryan 1991 sheldon ryan rawsthorne ilardi 1997 and as heightened vitality nix ryan manly deci 1999 self-esteem deci ryan 1995 and general well-being ryan deci grolnick 1995 this is so even when the people have the same level of perceived competence or self-efficacy for the activity because of the functional and experiential differences between self-motivation and external regulation a major focus of sdt has been to supply a more differentiated approach to motivation by asking what kind of motivation is being exhibited at any given time by considering the perceived forces that move a person to act sdt has been able to identify several distinct types of motivation each of which has specifiable consequences for learning performance personal experience and well-being also by articulating a set of principles concerning how each type of motivation is developed and sustained or forestalled and undermined sdt at once recognizes a positive thrust to human nature and provides an account of passivity alienation and psychopathology 69 richard m ryan photoby joegawlowicz universityof rochester much of the research guided by sdt has also examined environmental factors that hinder or undermine selfmotivation social functioning and personal well-being although many specific deleterious effects have been explored the research suggests that these detriments can be most parsimoniously described in terms of thwarting the three basic psychological needs thus sdt is concerned not only with the specific nature of positive developmental tendencies but it also examines social environments that are antagonistic toward these tendencies the empirical methods used in much of the sdt research have been in the baconian tradition in that social contextual variables have been directly manipulated to examine their effects on both internal processes and behavioral manifestations the use of experimental paradigms has allowed us to specify the conditions under which people s natural activity and constructiveness will flourish as well as those that promote a lack of self-motivation and social integration in this way we have used experimental methods without accepting the mechanistic or efficient causal meta-theories that have typically been associated with those methods in this article we review work guided by sdt addressing its implications for three important outcomes we begin with an examination of intrinsic motivation the prototypic manifestation of the human tendency toward learning and creativity and we consider research specifying conditions that facilitate versus forestall this special type of motivation second we present an analysis of self-regulation which concerns how people take in social values and extrinsic contingencies and progressively transform them into personal values and self-motivations in that discussion we outline different forms of internalized motivation addressing their behavioral and experiential january 2000 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e dwardl deci photobyjoegawlowicz universityof rochester intrinsic motivation perhaps no single phenomenon reflects the positive potential of human nature as much as intrinsic motivation the inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges to extend and exercise one s capacities to explore and to learn developmentalists acknowledge that from the time of birth children in their healthiest states are active inquisitive curious and playful even in the absence of specific rewards e.g harter 1978 the construct of intrinsic motivation describes this natural inclination toward assimilation mastery spontaneous interest and exploration that is so essential to cognitive and social development and that represents a principal source of enjoyment and vitality throughout life csikszentmihalyi rathunde 1993 ryan 1995 yet despite the fact that humans are liberally endowed with intrinsic motivational tendencies the evidence is now clear that the maintenance and enhancement of this inherent propensity requires supportive conditions as it can be fairly readily disrupted by various nonsupportive conditions thus our theory of intrinsic motivation does not concern what causes intrinsic motivation which we view as an evolved propensity ryan et al 1997 rather it examines the conditions that elicit and sustain versus subdue and diminish this innate propensity cognitive evaluation theory cet was presented by deci and ryan 1985 as a subtheory within sdt that had the aim of specifying factors that explain variability in intrinsic motivation cet is framed in terms of social and environmental factors that facilitate versus undermine intrinsic motivation using language that reflects the assumption that intrinsic motivation being inherent will be catalyzed when individuals are in conditions that conduce toward its expression in other words it will flourish if 70 circumstances permit put in this way the study of conditions that facilitate versus undermine intrinsic motivation is an important first step in understanding sources of both alienation and liberation of the positive aspects of human nature cet which focuses on the fundamental needs for competence and autonomy was formulated to integrate results from initial laboratory experiments on the effects of rewards feedback and other external events on intrinsic motivation and was subsequently tested and extended by field studies in various settings the theory argues first that social-contextual events e.g feedback communications rewards that conduce toward feelings of competence during action can enhance intrinsic motivation for that action accordingly optimal challenges effectance-prorooting feedback and freedom from demeaning evaluations were all found to facilitate intrinsic motivation for example early studies showed that positive performance feedback enhanced intrinsic motivation whereas negative performance feedback diminished it deci 1975 and res earch by vallerand and reid 1984 showed that these effects were mediated by perceived competence cet further specifies and studies have shown fisher 1978 ryan 1982 that feelings of competence will not enhance intrinsic motivation unless accompanied by a sense of autonomy or in attributional terms by an internal perceived locus of causality decharms 1968 thus according to cet people must not only experience competence or efficacy they must also experience their behavior as self-determined for intrinsic motivation to be in evidence this requires either immediate contextual supports for autonomy and competence or abiding inner res ources reeve 1996 that are typically the result of prior developmental supports for perceived autonomy and competence in fact most of the research on the effects of environmental events in intrinsic motivation has focused on the issue of autonomy versus control rather than that of competence research on this issue has been considerably more controversial it began with the repeated demonstration that extrinsic rewards can undermine intrinsic motivation deci 1975 interpreted these results in terms of rewards facilitating a more external perceived locus of causality i.e diminished autonomy although the issue of reward effects has been hotly debated a recent comprehensive meta-analysis deci koestner ryan 1999 confirmed in spite of claims to the contrary by eisenberger and cameron 1996 that all expected tangible rewards made contingent on task performance do reliably undermine intrinsic motivation also research revealed that not only tangible rewards but also threats deadlines directives pressured evaluations and imposed goals diminish intrinsic motivation because like tangible rewards they conduce toward an external perceived locus of causality in contrast choice acknowledgment of feelings and opportunities for selfdirection were found to enhance intrinsic motivation because they allow people a greater feeling of autonomy deci ryan 1985 field studies have further shown that january 2000 · american psychologist


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teachers who are autonomy supportive in contrast to controlling catalyze in their students greater intrinsic motivation curiosity and desire for challenge e.g deci nezlek sheinman 1981 flink boggiano barrett 1990 ryan grolnick 1986 students taught with a more controlling approach not only lose initiative but learn less effectively especially when learning requires conceptual creative processing amabile 1996 grolnick ryan 1987 utman 1997 similarly studies showed that autonomy-supportive parents relative to controlling parents have children who are more intrinsically motivated grolnick deci ryan 1997 such findings generalized to other domains such as sport and music in which supports for autonomy and competence by parents and mentors incite more intrinsic motivation e.g frederick ryan 1995 although autonomy and competence supports are highly salient for producing variability in intrinsic motivation a third factor relatedness also bears on its expression in infancy intrinsic motivation is readily observable as exploratory behavior and as suggested by attachment theorists e.g bowlby 1979 it is more evident when the infant is securely attached to a parent studies of mothers and infants have indeed shown that both security and maternal autonomy support predict more exploratory behavior in the infants e.g frodi bridges grolnick 1985 sdt hypothesizes that a similar dynamic occurs in interpersonal settings over the life span with intrinsic motivation more likely to flourish in contexts characterized by a sense of security and relatedness for example anderson manoogian and reznick 1976 found that when children worked on an interesting task in the presence of an adult stranger who ignored them and failed to respond to their initiations a very low level of intrinsic motivation resulted and ryan and grolnick 1986 observed lower intrinsic motivation in students who experienced their teachers as cold and uncaring of course many intrinsically motivated behaviors are happily performed in isolation suggesting that proximal relational supports may not be necessary for intrinsic motivation but a secure relational base does seem to be important for the expression of intrinsic motivation to be in evidence to summarize the cet framework suggests that social environments can facilitate or forestall intrinsic motivation by supporting versus thwarting people s innate psychological needs strong links between intrinsic motivation and satisfaction of the needs for autonomy and competence have been clearly demonstrated and some work suggests that satisfaction of the need for relatedness at least in a distal sense may also be important for intrinsic motivation it is critical to remember however that people will be intrinsically motivated only for activities that hold intrinsic interest for them activities that have the appeal of novelty challenge or aesthetic value for activities that do not hold such appeal the principles of cet do not apply because the activities will not be experienced as intrinsically motivated to begin with to understand the motivation for those activities we need to look more deeply into the nature and dynamics of extrinsic motivation january 2000 ° american psychologist self-regulation of extrinsic motivation although intrinsic motivation is an important type of motivation it is not the only type or even the only type of self-determined motivation deci ryan 1985 indeed much of what people do is not strictly speaking intrinsically motivated especially after early childhood when the fi eedom to be intrinsically motivated is increasingly curtailed by social pressures to do activities that are not interesting and to assume a variety of new responsibilities ryan la guardia in press the real question concerning nonintrinsically motivated practices is how individuals acquire the motivation to carry them out and how this motivation affects ongoing persistence behavioral quality and well-being whenever a person be it a parent teacher boss coach or therapist attempts to foster certain behaviors in others the others motivation for the behavior can range from amotivation or unwillingness to passive compliance to active personal commitment according to sdt these different motivations reflect differing degrees to which the value and regulation of the requested behavior have been internalized and integrated internalization refers to people s taking in a value or regulation and integration refers to the further transformation of that regulation into their own so that subsequently it will emanate from their sense of self internalization and integration are clearly central issues in childhood socialization but they are also continually re]evant for the regulation of behavior across the life span in nearly every setting people enter certain behaviors and va]ues are prescribed behaviors that are not interesting and values that are not spontaneously adopted accordingly sdt has addressed the issues of a the processes through which such nonintrinsically motivated behaviors can become truly self-determined and b the ways in which the social environment influences those processes the lerm extrinsic motivation refers to the performance of an activity in order to attain some separable outcome and thus contrasts with intrinsic motivation which refers to doing an activity for the inherent satisfaction of the activity itself unlike some perspectives that view extrinsically motivated behavior as invariantly nonautonomous sdt proposes that extrinsic motivation can vary greatly in its relative autonomy ryan connell 1989 vallerand 1997 for example students who do their homework because they personally grasp its value for their chosen career are extrinsically motivated as are those who do the work only because they are adhering to their parents control both examples involve instrumentalities rather than enjoyment of the work itself yet the former case of extrinsic motivation entails personal endorsement and a feeling of choice whereas the latter involves compliance with an external regulation both represent intentional behavior heider 1958 but they vary in their relative autonomy the former of course is the type of extrinsic motivation that is sought by astute socializing agents regardless o1 the applied domain 71


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figure 1 the self-determination continuum showing types of motivation with their regulatory styles loci of causality and corresponding processes behavior nonself-determined self-determined motivation e~ic m o t stylesregulat°ry regul perceived locus of causality impersonal external somewhat external somewhat internal intemal internal relevant regulatory processes nonintentional nonvaluing incompetence lack of control compliance external rewards and punishments self-control personal ego-involvement importance internal rewards conscious and punishments valuing congruence awareness synthesis with self interest enjoyment inherent satisfaction within sdt deci and ryan 1985 introduced a second subtheory called organismic integration theory oit to detail the different forms of extrinsic motivation and the contextual factors that either promote or hinder internalization and integration of the regulation for these behaviors figure 1 illustrates the oit taxonomy of motivational types arranged from left to fight in terms of the degree to which the motivations emanate from the self i.e are self-determined at the far left of the self-determination continuum is amotivation the state of lacking the intention to act when amotivated people either do not act at all or act without intent they just go through the motions amotivation results from not valuing an activity ryan 1995 not feeling competent to do it bandura 1986 or not expecting it to yield a desired outcome seligman 1975 to the right of amotivation in figure 1 are five classifications of motivated behavior although many theorists have treated motivation as a unitary concept each of the categories identified within oit describes theoretically experientially and functionally distinct types of motivation at the far right of the continuum is the classic state of intrinsic motivation the doing of an activity for its inherent satisfactions it is highly autonomous and represents the prototypic instance of self-determination extrinsically motivated behaviors by contrast cover the continuum between amotivation and intrinsic motivation varying in the extent to which their regulation is autonomous the extrinsically motivated behaviors that are least autonomous are referred to as externally regulated such behaviors are performed to satisfy an external demand or 72 reward contingency individuals typically experience externally regulated behavior as controlled or alienated and their actions have an external perceived locus of causality decharms 1968 external regulation is the type of motivation focused on by operant theorists e.g skinner 1953 and it is external regulation that was typically contrasted with intrinsic motivation in early laboratory and field studies a second type of extrinsic motivation is labeled introjected regulation introjection involves taking in a regulation but not fully accepting it as one s own it is a relatively controlled form of regulation in which behaviors are performed to avoid guilt or anxiety or to attain ego enhancements such as pride put differently introjection represents regulation by contingent self-esteem deci ryan 1995 a classic form of introjection is ego involvement decharms 1968 nicholls 1984 ryan 1982 in which people are motivated to demonstrate ability or avoid failure in order to maintain feelings of worth although internally driven introjected behaviors still have an external perceived locus of causality and are not really experienced as part of the self thus in some studies external regulation being interpersonally controlled and introjected regulation being intrapersonally controlled have been combined to form a controlled motivation composite e.g williams grow freedman ryan deci 1996 a more autonomous or self-determined form of extrinsic motivation is regulation through identification identification reflects a conscious valuing of a behavioral goal or regulation such that the action is accepted or owned as personally important finally the most autonojanuary 2000 · american psychologist


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mous form of extrinsic motivation is integrated regulation integration occurs when identified regulations are fully assimilated to the self which means they have been evaluated and brought into congruence with one s other values and needs actions characterized by integrated motivation share many qualities with intrinsic motivation although they are still considered extrinsic because they are done to attain separable outcomes rather than for their inherent enjoyment in some studies identified integrated and intrinsic forms of regulation have been combined to form an autonomous motivation composite as people internalize regulations and assimilate them to the self they experience greater autonomy in action this process may occur in stages over time but we are not suggesting that it is a developmental continuum in the sense that people must progress through each stage of internalization with respect to a particular regulation rather they can relatively readily internalize a new behavioral regulation at any point along this continuum depending on both prior experiences and current situational factors ryan 1995 nonetheless the range of behaviors that can be assimilated to the self increases over time with increased cognitive capacities and ego development loevinger blasi 1991 and there is evidence that children s general regulatory style does tend to become more internalized or self-regulated over time e.g chandler connell 1987 ryan and connell 1989 tested the formulation that these different types of motivation with their distinct properties lie along a continuum of relative autonomy they investigated achievement behaviors among school children and found that external introjected identified and intrinsic regulatory styles were intercorrelated according to a quasisimplex pattern thus providing evidence for an underlying continuum furthermore differences in the type of extrinsic motivation were associated with different experiences and outcomes for example the more students were externally regulated the less they showed interest value and effort toward achievement and the more they tended to disown responsibility for negative outcomes blaming others such as the teacher introjected regulation was positively related to expending more effort but it was also related to feeling more anxiety and coping more poorly with failures in contrast identified regulation was associated with more interest and enjoyment of school and with more positive coping styles as well as with expending more effort other studies in education extended these findings showing that more autonomous extrinsic motivation was associated with more engagement connell wellborn 1991 better performance miserandino 1996 lower dropout vallerand bissonnette 1992 higher quality learning grolnick ryan 1987 and better teacher ratings hayamizu 1997 among other outcomes in the realm of health care greater internalization has been associated with greater adherence to medications among people with chronic illnesses williams rodin ryan grolnick deci 1998 better long-term maintenance of weight loss among morbidly obese patients williams et al 1996 improved glucose control among diajanuary 2000 · american psychologist betics williams freedman deci 1998 and greater attendance and involvement in an addiction-treatment program ryan plant o malley 1995 demonstrations of positive outcomes being associated with more internalized motivation have also emerged in other diverse domains including religion ryan rigby king 1993 physical exercise chatzisarantis biddle meek 1997 political activity koestner losier vallerand carducci 1996 environmental activism greendemers pelletier menard 1997 and intimate relationships blais sabourin boucher vallerand 1990 among others the advantages of greater internalization appear then to be manifold ryan et al 1997 including more behavioral effectiveness greater volitional persistence enhanced subjective well-being and better assimilation of the individual within his or her social group facilitating integration of extrinsic motivation given the significance of internalization for personal experience and behavioral outcomes the critical issue becomes how to promote autonomous regulation for extrinsically motiwtted behaviors that is what are the social conditions that nurture versus inhibit internalization and integration because extrinsically motivated behaviors are not typically interesting the primary reason people initially perform such actions is because the behaviors are prompted modeled or valued by significant others to whom they feel or want to feel attached or related this suggests that relatedness the need to feel belongingess and connectedness with others is centrally important for internalization thus oit proposes that internalization is more likely to be in evidence when there are ambient supports for feelings of relatedness for example ryan stiller and lynch 1994 showed that the children who had more fully internalized the regulation for positive school-related behaviors were those who felt securely connected to and cared for by their parents and teachers the relative internalization of extrinsically motivated activities is also a function of perceived competence people are more likely to adopt activities that relevant social groups value when they feel efficacious with respect to those activities as is the case with all intentional action oit suggests that supports for competence should facilitate intermdization vallerand 1997 thus for example children who are directed to perform behaviors before they are developmentally ready to master them or understand their rationale would be predicted at best only to partially intern~tlize the regulations remaining either externally regulated or introjected finally the experience of autonomy facilitates internalization and in particular is a critical element for a regulation to be integrated contexts can yield external regulation if there are salient rewards or threats and the person feels competent enough to comply contexts can yield introjected regulation if a relevant reference group endorses the activity and the person feels competent and related but contexts can yield autonomous regulation only 73


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if they are autonomy supportive thus allowing the person to feel competent related and autonomous to integrate a regulation people must grasp its meaning and synthesize that meaning with respect to their other goals and values such deep holistic processing kuhl fuhrmann 1998 is facilitated by a sense of choice volition and freedom from excessive external pressure toward behaving or thinking a certain way in this sense support lor autonomy allows individuals to actively transform values into their own again research results have supported this reasoning for example deci eghrari patrick and leone 1994 demonstrated in a laboratory experiment that providing a meaningful rationale for an uninteresting behavior along with supports for autonomy and relatedness promoted its internalization and integration controlling contexts yielded less overall internalization and the internalization that did occur in those contexts tended to be only introjected using parent interviews grolnick and ryan 1989 found greater internalization of school-related values among children whose parents were more supportive of autonomy and relatedness strahan 1995 found that parents who were more autonomy-supportive promoted greater religious identification as opposed to introjection in their offspring williams and deci 1996 using a longitudinal design demonstrated greater internalization of biopsychosocial values and practices among medical students whose instructors were more autonomy-supportive these are but a few of the many findings suggesting that supports for relatedness and competence facilitate internalization and that supports for autonomy also facilitate integration of behavioral regulations when that occurs people feel not only competent and related but also autonomous as they carry out culturally valued activities one further point needs to be made regarding the controversial issue of human autonomy the concept of autonomy has often been portrayed as being antagonistic to relatedness or community in fact some theories equate autonomy with concepts such as individualism and independence e.g steinberg silverberg 1986 which do indeed imply low relatedness but within sdt autonomy refers not to being independent detached or selfish but rather to the feeling of volition that can accompany any act whether dependent or independent collectivist or individualist in fact recent research in korean and u.s samples has found a more positive relation between autonomy and collectivistic attitudes than between autonomy and individualistic attitudes kim butzel ryan 1998 furthermore research has shown positive rather than negative links between relatedness to parents and autonomy in teenagers ryan lynch 1989 ryan et al 1994 clearly then we do not equate autonomy with independence or individualism cannot ignore patholog2 or close its eyes to the alienation and inauthenticity that are prevalent in our society and in others accordingly we investigate nonoptimal as well as optimal developmental trajectories much as is done in the field of developmental psychopathology e.g cicchetti 1991 we now turn to a brief consideration of that issue by definition intrinsically motivated behaviors the prototype of self-determined actions stem from the self they are unalienated and authentic in the fullest sense of those terms but as already noted sdt recognizes that extrinsically motivated actions can also become self-determined as individuals identify with and fully assimilate their regulation thus it is through internalization and integration that individuals can be extrinsically motivated and still be committed and authentic accumulated research now suggests that the commitment and authenticity reflected in intrinsic motivation and integrated extrinsic motivation are most likely to be evident when individuals experience supports for competence autonomy and relatedness it is the flip side of this coin however that speaks directly to the issues of alienation and inauthenticity and is relevant to such questions as why employees show no initiative why teenagers reject their schools values and why patients adhere so poorly to treatment sdt understands such occurrences in terms of the undermining of intrinsic motivation and perhaps even more typically the failure of internalization to explain the causes of such diminished functioning sdt suggests turning first to individuals immediate social contexts and then to their developmental environments to examine the degree to which their needs for competence autonomy and relatedness are being or have been thwarted we maintain that by failing to provide supports for competence autonomy and relatedness not only of children but also of students employees patients and athletes socializing agents and organizations contribute to alienation and ill-being the fact that psychological-need deprivation appears to be a principal source of human distress suggests that assessments and interventions would do well to target these primary foundations of mental health psychologic.a needs and mental health as we have seen both the cognitive evaluation and organismic integration components of sdt have led us to posit a parsimonious list of three basic psychological needs as a means of organizing and interpreting a wide array of empirical results results that seemed not to be readily and satisfactorily interpretable without the concept of needs much of our more recent work has used the concept of three basic psychological needs to address new phenomena and more particularly to evaluate the postulate that these three needs are innate essential and universal by our definition a basic need whether it be a physiological need hull 1943 or a psychological need is an energizing state that if satisfied conduces toward health and well-being but if not satisfied contributes to pathology and ill-being we have thus proposed that the basic needs for competence autonomy and relatedness must be satisjanuary 2000 · american psychologist alienation and its prevention sdt aims to specify factors that nurture the innate human potentials entailed in growth integration and well-being and to explore the processes and conditions that foster the healthy development and effective functioning of individuals groups and communities but a positive approach 74


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fled across the life span for an individual to experience an ongoing sense of integrity and well-being or eudaimonia ryan frederick 1997 waterman 1993 accordingly much of our research now focuses on the link between satisfaction of the basic psychological needs and the experience of well-being specifying psychological needs as essential nutriments implies that individuals cannot thrive without satisfying all of them any more than people can thrive with water but not food thus for example a social environment that affords competence but fails to nurture relatedness is expected to result in some impoverishment of wellbeing worse yet social contexts that engender conflicts between basic needs set up the conditions for alienation and psychopathology ryan et al 1995 as when a child is required by parents to give up autonomy in order to feel loved to suggest that the three needs are universal and developmentally persistent does not imply that their relative salience and their avenues for satisfaction are unchanging across the life span or that their modes of expression are the same in all cultures the very fact that need satisfaction is facilitated by the internalization and integration of culturally endorsed values and behaviors suggests that individuals are likely to express their competence autonomy and relatedness differently within cultures that hold different values indeed the mode and degree of people s psychological-need satisfaction is theorized to be influenced not only by their own competencies but even more important by the ambient demands obstacles and affordances in their sociocultural contexts thus to posit universal psychological needs does not diminish the importance of variability in goals and orientations at different developmental epochs or in different cultures but it does suggest similarities in underlying processes that lead to the development and expression of those differences our recent investigations of the importance of basic psychological needs have addressed three questions are the pursuit and attainment of all culturally congruent aspirations and life values associated with well-being do need-related processes operate similarly within different cultural circumstances is within-person variability in basic need satisfaction related to variability in well-being indicators we briefly consider some of this work first we discuss the relation of personal goals to well-being we have hypothesized that the pursuit and attainment of some life goals will provide relatively direct satisfaction of the basic needs thus enhancing well-being ryan sheldon kasser deci 1996 whereas the pursuit and attainment of other goals does not contribute to and may even detract from basic need satisfactions leading to ill-being in accord with this reasoning t kasser and ryan 1993 1996 examined individual differences in the emphasis people place on intrinsic aspirations goals such as affiliation personal growth and community that directly satisfy basic needs compared with extrinsic aspirations goals such as wealth fame and image that at best indirectly satisfy the needs they found first that placing strong relative importance on intrinsic aspirations was posjanuary 2000 · american psychologist itively associated with well-being indicators such as selfesteem self-actualization and the inverse of depression and anxiety whereas placing strong relative importance on extrinsic aspirations was negatively related to these well-being indicators ryan chirkov little sheldon timoshina and deci 1999 replicated these findings in a russian sample attesting to the potential generalizability of the findings across cultures these findings go beyond goal importance per se both ryan chirkov et al and t kasser and ryan in press have found that whereas self-reported attainment of intrinsic aspirations was positively associated with wellbeing attainment of extrinsic aspirations was not further sheldon and kasser 1998 found in a longitudinal study that well-being was enhanced by attainment of intrinsic goals whereas success at extrinsic goals provided little benefit together these results suggest that even highly efficacious people may experience less than optimal wellbeing if they pursue and successfully attain goals that do not fulfill basic psychological needs we hasten to add however that the meaning of specific goals is culturally influenced so that how specific goals relate to well-being can vary across cultures although the relation between underlying need satisfaction and well-being is theorized to be invariant clearly there are many factors that lead people to emphasize certain life goals that may not be need fulfilling for example exposure to the commercial media can prompt a locus on materialism richins 1987 which provides only fleeting satisfactions and could actually detract from basic need fulfillment and thus well-being prior deficits in need fulfillment e.g from poor caregiving might also lead individuals to yearn for more extrinsic goals as a substitute or compensatory mechanism in fact t kasser ryan zax and sameroff 1995 found that teens who had been exposed to cold controlling maternal care as assessed with ratings by the teens mothers and observers were more likely to develop materialistic orientations compared with better nurtured teens who more strongly valued the intrinsic goals of personal growth relationships and community in short cultural and developmental influences produce variations in the importance of goals the pursuit of which in turn yields different satisfaction of basic needs and different levels of well-being in other research we have examined the relations of people s reports of need satisfaction to indicators of wellbeing in various settings for example v kasser and ryan in press found that supports for autonomy and relatedness predicted greater well-being among nursing home residents baard deci and ryan 1998 showed that employees experiences of satisfaction of the needs for autonomy competence and relatedness in the workplace predicted their performance and well-being at work such research shows that within specific domains especially those central to the lives of individuals need satisfaction is correlated with improved well-being a more compelling way of demonstrating the essential relations between need fulfillments and mental health has been the examination of role-to-role and day-to-day fluc75


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tuations in basic need satisfaction and their direct effects on variability in well-being while controlling for individual differences and various confounding variables for example sheldon et al 1997 demonstrated that satisfaction in each of several life roles e.g student employee friend relative to the individual s own mean satisfaction was attributable to the degree to which that role supports authenticity and autonomous functioning similarly in a study that examined daily variations in well-being sheldon reis and ryan 1996 used hierarchical linear modeling to show that within-person daily fluctuations in the satisfaction of autonomy and competence needs predicted within-person fluctuations in outcomes such as mood vitality physical symptoms and self-esteem in a more recent study reis sheldon gable roscoe and ryan in press found that variations in the fulfillment of each of the three needs i.e competence autonomy and relatedness independently predicted variability in daily well-being these studies support the view that basic psychological needs are determinative with regard to optimal experience and well-being in daily life conclusions debates concerning the activity or passivity responsibility or indolence of human beings have been perennial kohn 1990 as psychology has become more advanced both in terms of our understanding of evolution and neurobiology and of social behavior and its causation ample support for both perspectives could be garnered sdt addresses this issue by attempting to account for both the activity and the passivity the responsibility and the indolence to do this we have assumed that humans have an inclination toward activity and integration but also have a vulnerability to passivity our focus accordingly has been to specify the conditions that tend to support people s natural activity versus elicit or exploit their vulnerability our early investigations focused on the social conditions that enhance versus diminish a very positive feature of human nature namely the natural activity and curiosity referred to as intrinsic motivation we found that conditions supportive of autonomy and competence reliably facilitated this vital expression of the human growth tendency whereas conditions that controlled behavior and hindered perceived effectance undermined its expression subsequently we investigated the acquisition and regulation of nonintrinsically motivated behaviors and here too we found evidence of the dramatic power of social contexts to enhance or hinder the organismic tendency to integrate ambient social values and responsibilities contexts supportive of autonomy competence and relatedness were found to foster greater internalization and integration than contexts that thwart satisfaction of these needs this latter finding we argue is of great significance for individuals who wish to motivate others in a way that engenders commitment effort and high-quality performance yet our primary concern throughout this program of research has been the well-being of individuals whether they are students in classrooms patients in clinics athletes on the playing field or employees in the workplace as 76 formulated by sdt if the social contexts in which such individuals are embedded are responsive to basic psychological needs they provide the appropriate developmental lattice upon which an active assimilative and integrated nature can ascend excessive control nonoptimal challenges and lack of connectedness on the other hand disrupt the inherent actualizing and organizational tendencies endowed by nature and thus such factors result not only in the lack of initiative and responsibility but also in distress and psychopathology knowledge concerning the nutriments essential for positive motivation and experience and in turn for enhanced performance and well-being has broad significance it is relevant to parents and educators concerned with cognitive and personality development because it speaks to the conditions that promote the assimilation of both information and behavioral regulations it is also relevant to managers who want to facilitate motivation and commitment on the job and it is relevant to psychotherapists and health professionals because motivation is perhaps the critical variable in producing maintained change thus by attending to the relative presence or deprivation of supports for basic psychological needs practitioners are better able to diagnose sources of alienation versus engagement and facilitate both enhanced human achievements and well-being references amabile t m 1996 creativity in context new york westview press anderson r manoogian s t reznick j s 1976 the undermining and enhancing of intrinsic motivation in preschool children journal oj personalitv and social psychology 34 915-922 baard p p deci e l ryan r m 1998 intrinsic need satisfaction a motivational basis of performance and well-being in work settings unpublished manuscript fordham university bandura a 1986 social 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