Self Determination Theory Explains Behavior

Self-determination theory is a psychological theory that tries to explain how humans behave and make decisions. It was developed by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan in the 1980s and has since become a major theory in the field of psychology. The theory rests on three basic psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. These needs are believed to be universal and are required for psychological well-being and growth. This article explores self-determination theory in detail and how it explains human behavior.

The Three Basic Psychological Needs

The first basic psychological need in self-determination theory is autonomy. Autonomy refers to the need to control our own lives and make decisions that are consistent with our values and beliefs. This need is crucial in daily life and is often associated with feeling independent, having choice, and making a difference. People who feel autonomous are more likely to engage in activities that they are interested in and to feel a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.

The second basic psychological need is competence. Competence refers to the need to feel effective in fulfilling tasks and responsibilities. This need involves feeling a sense of mastery over our environment, achieving goals, and developing skills. People who feel competent are more likely to engage in activities they enjoy, perform well in these activities, and gain a sense of accomplishment.

The third basic psychological need is relatedness. Relatedness refers to the need for social connection, love, and belonging. This need is critical to human survival, and most people derive a sense of happiness and fulfillment from maintaining relationships with others. People who feel related are more likely to engage in behaviors that lead to social contact, and are more likely to develop strong, positive relationships with others.

The Role of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Self-determination theory suggests that motivation for behavior can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is when individuals engage in an activity because the activity itself is rewarding. For example, someone might play the guitar because he enjoys it and finds it satisfying. Extrinsic motivation is when individuals engage in an activity because of some external reward, such as praise or money. In this case, the individual is not motivated by the activity itself but by the reward that comes with it.

Self-determination theory suggests that people are naturally motivated to seek out experiences that fulfill the three basic psychological needs, which in turn help them develop a sense of intrinsic motivation. However, external factors such as rewards and punishment can affect how we perceive our choices and motivations for doing things. For example, if someone is heavily rewarded for playing the guitar, he may become more motivated by the reward than the intrinsic pleasure of playing the guitar. In this case, the external reward may become more important than the internal reward, ultimately undermining the individual’s potential for intrinsic motivation and satisfaction.

Impacts on Human Behavior

Self-determination theory has several implications on human behavior. These include:

Leadership and Management

Self-determination theory has important implications for leadership and management. Leaders and managers can use the theory to increase their employees’ sense of autonomy and relatedness, which can enhance their motivation and engagement. By providing opportunities for employees to develop skills and achieve goals, managers can also help fulfill the need for competence.

Education

Self-determination theory has important implications for education. The theory can be used to enhance learning by providing students with opportunities to exercise autonomy and develop competence. Teachers can also use the theory to increase student motivation by creating a learning environment that fosters relatedness.

Health and Wellness

Self-determination theory also has important implications for health and wellness. The need for autonomy can be fulfilled through health education programs that provide people with the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about their health. The need for competence can be fulfilled through programs that help individuals develop healthy habits and routines. And the need for relatedness can be fulfilled through social support groups and community health programs.

Conclusion

Self-determination theory explains human behavior by identifying three basic psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. The theory suggests that people are naturally motivated to seek out experiences that fulfill these needs, which in turn help them develop a sense of intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is an important factor in maintaining healthier and more sustainable long-term behaviors. The application of self-determination theory in different fields provides insight into how best to understand and promote behavior change towards long-term health and well-being.

FAQs

What is Self Determination Theory?

Self Determination Theory (SDT) is a theory of motivation that explains why people behave in certain ways. According to SDT, people have three basic psychological needs – autonomy, competence, and relatedness – which drive their behavior. Autonomy involves having control over one’s own life, competence involves feeling capable of achieving goals, and relatedness involves feeling connected to others. SDT suggests that when people have these needs met, they are more likely to be motivated and engaged in their behavior.

How does Self Determination Theory explain behavior?

Self Determination Theory explains behavior by looking at the underlying psychological needs that drive it. When people’s basic psychological needs are met, they are more likely to be intrinsically motivated, meaning they engage in behavior for its own sake rather than external rewards. This can lead to better performance, greater persistence, and higher levels of well-being. In contrast, when people’s needs are not met, they may feel extrinsically motivated, meaning they engage in behavior for external rewards like money or praise.

What are the practical implications of Self Determination Theory?

Self Determination Theory has several practical implications for behavior, motivation, and well-being. For example, it suggests that workplaces and classrooms should foster autonomy, competence, and relatedness to promote intrinsic motivation and better performance. It also suggests that people who are struggling with motivation or well-being may benefit from interventions that target their basic psychological needs. Overall, Self Determination Theory provides a framework for understanding human behavior and promoting optimal functioning in a variety of settings.


References

1. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American psychologist, 55(1), 68-78. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.68

2. Vansteenkiste, M., Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2020). Self-determination theory and the explanatory role of psychological needs in human well-being. Handbook of well-being, 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1_3-1

3. Hodgins, H. S., & Knee, C. R. (2002). The integrating self and conscious experience. Handbook of self-determination research, 87-100. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511489876.007