Motivation and Self-determination in psychology

Motivation and self determination are interrelated to understand the human psychology. Main concept to understand is that how people get motivated to take their actions by understanding the effects of their action on their consequences. It seeks how being self determined impacts the motivation.

Psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan worked over this theory of self determination and they first introduced their ideas in their 1985 book Self-Determination and Intrinsic Motivation in Human Behavior. It is considered by the psychologists that when self determination components like competence or relatedness and autonomy of a human are fulfilled, he enter in the phase of self determination. Self determination is the complete grip over a human behavior to take actions by him self, not being in control of others. When a human acts freely and take decisions without being feared of the consequences, human becomes self determined.

Self Determination theory SDT

Self Determination theory SDT is a motivational theory of personality, development, and social processes that examines how social back grounds and individual differences facilitate different types of motivation, especially autonomous motivation and controlled motivation. This predicts learning, performance, experience, and psychological health of any human psychology.

Three Basic human psychological needs are following according to SDT.


Intrinsic motivation by a human psychology is autonomy. When a human has intrinsic motivation in its behavior like a motivation to do something or the input by himself without any extrinsic motivation, then human psychology is considered as self determined. Autonomous motivation means to be self directed. It mean to take action by a human by its own without any external command.


Human psychology understands the environmental needs in which a human lives. A human acts according to the social back ground and thinks relating its social back ground. In this way, when the need of competence is fulfilled, a human becomes self determined.

There are two main types of motivation that affects self determination in psychology.

Intrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic and extrinsic Motivation Differences:

Source of actionDescriptionExample
“Pure” extrinsic motivationPerson lacks the intention to take any action, regardless of pressures Student completes no work even when pressured
Very external to personActions regulated only by outside pressures and controlStudent completes assignment only if reminded negative consequences of failing
Somewhat externalAction regulated without connection to personal needsStudent completes assignment independently, but only because of fear of shaming self
Somewhat internalActions recognized by individual as important as realized to the goalsStudent generally completes school work independently, but only because of its value in gaining admission to college
Very internalActions adopted by individual as integral to self-concept Student generally completes school work independently, because being well educated is part of the student’s concept of himself
“Pure” intrinsic regulationActions practiced only because they are valued for their own sakeStudent enjoys topic and concepts and he is fully interested to complete work.

Example to understand relation between motivation and self determination in psychology

Consider a student who worked hard by suggesting herself to be directed over a positive way that will lead her to success. But she is failed in her result. If she does not blame her teachers and parents for not giving her extra time to study or any other reason for her failure. She considers that she worked hard for passing the exam and tells her parents about her work for examination, she is self motivated.

But in other case, if she blames her parents and teachers for her failure then she in low in self determination.

If a man starts some job or a hobby for the sake of his pleasure with his own recommendation that he will surely enjoy it, it is self determination. But if a person do something in favor of a reward or due to some punishment then it is considered extrinsic determination.

In short, people who align their success and failures with their own behaviors the are self determined. It is also called as intrinsic determination. People who blame others for their consequences have a low stigma. They do not have any sheer determination. It all is reflected by the social background of any human. Psychology of a person is highly affected by the society he lives in.


Motivation and self determination in psychology is the understanding of concept to feel free while working in highly constraint environment. Human psychology is dependent upon his needs like the need of food or the need for companionship, it reflects our choices.

According to Maslow, motivation is the long term personal development. individuals must satisfy physical survival needs before they seek to satisfy needs of belonging, they satisfy belonging needs before esteem needs, and so on. In theory, too, people have both deficit needs and growth needs, and the deficit needs must be satisfied before growth needs can influence behavior (Maslow, 1970).

Basically, when a person feels that his all basic needs are reasonably well met, they tend to perceive their actions and choices to be intrinsically motivated or becomes “self-determined.

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