Self determination theory

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Alternate names


Main dependent construct(s)/factor(s)

Self-regulation, behavioral outcomes, impact of psychological need fulfilment on health and well-being

Main independent construct(s)/factor(s)

Psychological need satisfaction, intrinsic motivation

Concise description of theory

Self-Determination theory (SDT) is a theory of human motivation and personality that employs an organismic metatheory which sees humans as evolving continuously for personality development and behavioral self-regulation. People, being centrally concerned with motivation, are often influenced by external factors like rewards, evaluations etc. as frequently as they are motivated from within, in the form of curiosity, determination etc. Though intrinsic motivations may not receive external rewards, they help sustain efforts and passions. The interaction between the external influences and the internal motives is what constitutes the realm of SDT. SDT has been able to identify different types of motivation with each type having specific consequences for learning, personal experience, engagement and performance. By developing a set of principles regarding how each type of motivation is developed and sustained, or forestalled and undermined, SDT identifies not only a positive force to human nature but also accounts for passivity and alienation. The theory examines people’s growth tendencies and innate psychological needs that are the basis for their self-motivation and personality integration. It also investigates the conditions that lead to such processes. Empirical methods have identified three innate needs that are essential for optimal functioning and personal growth. They are autonomy, competence and relatedness. Some of these may be more salient than others at certain times with their expressions differing across time, culture and/or experience. Formally, SDT comprises of six sub-theories with each explaining a facet of motivation or personality growth.

Diagram/schematic of theory


Originating author(s)

Edward Deci and Richard Ryan

Seminal articles

Deci, E. L. (1971). Effects of externally mediated rewards on intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 18(1), 105–115. [1]

Deci, E.L., Eghrari, H., Patrick, B.C. and Leone, D.R. (1994), Facilitating Internalization

The Self‐Determination Theory Perspective. Journal of Personality, 62: 119-142. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.1994.tb00797.x

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

Deci, E.L., & Ryan, R. (1980). Self-determination Theory: When Mind Mediates Behavior. The Journal of Mind and Behavior, 1(1), 33-43. [2]

Gagné, M. and Deci, E.L. (2005), Self‐determination theory and work motivation. J. Organiz. Behav., 26: 331-362. doi:10.1002/job.322

Originating area

Humanistic psychology

Level of analysis


IS articles that use the theory

Azadeh Rezvani, Pouria Khosravi, Linying Dong, Motivating users toward continued usage of information systems: Self-determination theory perspective, Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 76,2017, Pages 263-275, ISSN 0747-5632, [3]

Cheolho Yoon & Erik Rolland (2012) Knowledge-sharing in virtual communities: familiarity, anonymity and self-determination theory, Behaviour & Information Technology, 31:11, 1133-1143, DOI: 10.1080/0144929X.2012.702355

Philip Menard, Gregory J. Bott & Robert E. Crossler (2017) User Motivations in Protecting Information Security: Protection Motivation Theory Versus Self-Determination Theory, Journal of Management Information Systems, 34:4, 1203-1230, DOI: 10.1080/07421222.2017.1394083

Rahi, S. and Abd.Ghani, M. (2019), "Integration of DeLone and McLean and self-determination theory in internet banking continuance intention context", International Journal of Accounting & Information Management, Vol. 27 No. 3, pp. 512-528. [4]

Wei Gao, Yamei Liu, Zhaopeng Liu & Jingyuan Li (2018) How does presence influence purchase intention in online shopping markets? An explanation based on self-determination theory, Behaviour & Information Technology, 37:8, 786-799, DOI: 10.1080/0144929X.2018.1484514

Links from this theory to other theories

In the context of security behaviours, studies have integrated SDT with Protection Motivation Theory . Studies have integrated SDT with Expectation confirmation theory (For e.g.: to determine customers’ continuance intention in using internet banking).

External links

Center for Self-determination theory provides an overview at : [5]

How self-determination theory explains motivation is explained at : [6]

‘Self-determination theory and intrinsic motivation’ is explained at : [7]

Original Contributor(s)

Geethika Raj