Motivation = Competence + Autonomy + Relatedness

For the first time in month-long history of my blog, I feel it necessary to formally appeal to scholarly substantiation for my points on motivation. Particularly fascinating is an article published in an American Psychological Association (APA) journal titled, “Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being.” Written by professors Richard Ryan and Edward Deci, this mouthful of a title boils down to three innate psychological needs behind motivation: competence, autonomy and relatedness. Their general findings posit that when these three needs are satisfied, a person’s self-motivation and mental health are enhanced. However, when these needs are not met, self-sustaining motivation and well-being are diminished. Conclusively, the article argues that human beings “have an inclination toward activity and integration, but also a vulnerability toward passivity (Ryan & Deci, 2000).” I find this interesting and cannot help but think of how these findings relate to other research. For example, the three needs (competence, autonomy, and relatedness) are easily applied to the fourth (from the top) level of his pyramid explaining the hierarchy of human needs. But how exactly do these basic needs relate to one another according to the article? Well, in their research, Professor Ryan and Professor Deci also found that increased levels of self-competency are found in social contexts that encourage autonomy, as opposed to environments of controlled behavior. The importance of social environment is unavoidable in substantiating self-determination theory. According to the article, it seems as if competence, autonomy and relatedness are all born from accommodating social circumstances. It is this connection (relatedness) with others and the interactions therein that builds our framework for motivation. However, in analyzing this perspective, it is important to note that none of these findings claim to be entirely deterministic. Motivation as a topic is broad in scope and encompasses mass amounts of information. But I do believe that Professor Ryan and Professor Deci’s have merit and benefit in analyzing why and when people do what they do.


Ryan, Richard M., and Edward L. Deci. “Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of      Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being.”      American Psychologist, Jan. 2000. Web. Nov. 2013.


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