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date: 16 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Human beings have fundamental psychological propensities toward growth, integrity, and wellness. Yet, historically, many approaches to motivation have ignored these inner propensities, focusing instead on how external contingencies shape expectancies and behaviors. This chapter reviews recent work in self-determination theory, an organismic approach in which people’s intrinsic, growth-oriented propensities are a central focus. Self-determination theory argues that people have basic psychological needs to experience competence, autonomy, and relatedness to others. Satisfaction of these basic needs facilitates autonomous motivation and wellness, whereas the frustration of these needs contributes to ill-being and is associated with lower quality, and often highly controlled, forms of motivation. Autonomous and controlled forms of motivation differ in their antecedents, neurological underpinnings, and outcomes. Although most of the experimentation and evidence base of self-determination theory has focused on proximal relationships (e.g., families, dyads, classrooms, teams, or workgroups), recent research is extending self-determination theory to address pervasive contexts (e.g., cultural or economic systems) and how they both directly and indirectly affect need satisfaction and motivation, thereby impacting people’s development and wellness. Pervasive contexts also influence people’s aspirational horizons and the life goals they pursue, further influencing both individual and community wellness. More need-supportive contexts conduce to more authentic living and intrinsic aspirations, which in turn promote more prosocial attitudes and actions and greater personal and societal wellness.

Keywords: self-determination theory, autonomy, motivation, control, intrinsic motivation, life goals, aspirations, political contexts, economic contexts

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