Self-Determination Theory


What is Self-Determination Theory?

Self-Determination Theory is a theory in the field of psychological motivation. Its primary thesis is that extrinsic rewards diminish intrinsic motivation .

Edward Deci and Richard Ryan

Edward Deci and Richard Ryan are considered the founders of Self-Determination Theory or SDT. The two have authored and contributed to much of the research in support of SDT.

Definition of Motivation

Ryan and Deci have stated that motivation is central to the field of psychology because motivation is "at the core of biological, cognitive and social regulation"[1] .

Concepts: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic Motivation

In a 2005 article, Deci & Gagné specifically define intrinsic motivation as activities that individuals participate in "because they find it interesting and derive spontaneous satisfactions from the activity itself"[2] . Intrinsic motivation is characterized by a high level of dedication, effort, persistence and creativity. Intrinsic motivation is also considered to be the most pure form of motivation, because it is not affected by contingent rewards [3] .

Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is motivation, which as described in the same 2005 article by Dci and Gagné, requires an external, separate, contingent consequences. These contingent consequences include a range of incentives from tangible rewards such as monetary compensation to intangible rewards like feedback[4] . Extrinsic motivation is considered less pure when compared to intrinsic motivation . However, there are processes in which extrinsic motivation may mimic intrinsic motivation, if certain conditions exist (see OIT page for further discussion) [5] .

The Impact of Rewards on Intrinsic Motivation

During Deci and Ryan's research on the impact of rewards on intrinsic motivation, the authors have found "growing evidence" that using rewards to extrinsically motivate and regulate behavior may diminish the "natural organismic process that evolved" to keep humans connected to their inherent needs and alert to their surround environment [6] .

Concepts: Cognitive Evaluation Theory and The Three Psychological Needs

Cognitive Evaluation Theory

Cognitive Evaluation Theory, or CET, is a sub-theory within SDT. It provides a framework for measuring the impact of rewards on motivation. Research in the field of CET has identified three psychological needs that are essential for the fostering of intrinsic motivation: autonomy, competence and relatedness[7] .

Autonomy

Autonomy is considered to be the most important of the three psychological needs. Autonomy, in this context, does not imply working without constraints. Autonomy is defined by SDT as acting with a sense of consent and volition . Research indicates that intrinsic motivation is positively impacted when employees feel at least some level of autonomy in task selection, especially when feedback is considered non-controlling. Additionally, research indicates that contingent-based rewards have a substantially negative impact on intrinsic motivation [8] .

Competence

Competence is considered to be the second most important of the three psychological needs[9] . In SDT, competence is "viewed as a cognitive set or map representing one's confidence in one's skills and abilities" . Competence is regarded as an innate need, and one that humans have a natural appetite to develop .

Relatedness

Relatedness refers to the norms and values that create meaning and are reinforced through socialization. Within SDT, it is considered fairly less important than autonomy and competence . High levels of relatedness have been associated with overall well-being in psychological surveys [10] .

Concept: Organismic Integration Theory

One phenomenon that was observed during the development of SDT, was that in some contexts extrinsic regulations, including rewards and feedback, would become internalized. Organismic Integration Theory, or OIT, evolved in order to explain this process. At a point, highly internalized regulations would mimic intrinsic motivation. At this point, those external factors would produce results very similar to intrinsic motivation[11] . Click here for a more thorough discussion of OIT.

Self-Determination Theory and Other Theories of Motivation

The primary competing theory to SDT is Operant Theory. Operant Theory suggests that contingent based rewards are the best motivators. Cameron and Pierce have written critiques of SDT. Their criticisms of SDT is that Deci and Ryan may suffer from inherent bias. They further suggest "deliberate misrepresentation and inept analysis" [12] .

Bibliography

Further Reading

Click here for the full, annotated bibliography on Self-Determination Theory

Resources cited in this page

  1. ^ Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitaion of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well being. (68-78, Ed.) American Psychologist , 55 (1).
  2. ^


    Deci, E. L., & Gagné, M. (2005). Self-determination theory and work motivation. Journal of organizational behavior , 26 (4), pp. 331-362.
  3. ^


    Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitaion of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well being. (68-78, Ed.) American Psychologist , 55 (1).
  4. ^


    Deci, E. L., & Gagné, M. (2005). Self-determination theory and work motivation. Journal of organizational behavior , 26 (4), pp. 331-362.
  5. ^ Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The "what" and "why" of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry , 11 (4), pp. 227-268.
  6. ^


    Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). The undermining of intrinsic motivation and self-regulation. In C. Sansone, & J. Harackiewicz (Eds.), Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: The Search for Optimal Motivation and Performance. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
  7. ^


    Deci, E. L., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R. M. (2001). Extrinsic rewards and intrinsic motivation in education: Reconsidered once again. Review of Educational Research , 71 (1), pp. 1-27.
  8. ^


    Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitaion of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well being. (68-78, Ed.) American Psychologist , 55 (1).
  9. ^


    Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitaion of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well being. (68-78, Ed.) American Psychologist , 55 (1).
  10. ^


    Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). The undermining of intrinsic motivation and self-regulation. In C. Sansone, & J. Harackiewicz (Eds.), Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: The Search for Optimal Motivation and Performance. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
  11. ^


    Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The "what" and "why" of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry , 11 (4), pp. 227-268.
  12. ^


    Cameron, J., & Pierce, W. D. (1996). The debate about rewards and intrinsic motivation: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research (66), pp. 39-52.