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Concept: Self-determination theory


BACKGROUND: Students enter the medical study with internally generated motives like genuine interest (intrinsic motivation) and/or externally generated motives like parental pressure or desire for status or prestige (controlled motivation). According to Self-determination theory (SDT), students could differ in their study effort, academic performance and adjustment to the study depending on the endorsement of intrinsic motivation versus controlled motivation. The objectives of this study were to generate motivational profiles of medical students using combinations of high or low intrinsic and controlled motivation and test whether different motivational profiles are associated with different study outcomes. METHODS: Participating students (N = 844) from University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands, were classified to different subgroups through K-means cluster analysis using intrinsic and controlled motivation scores. Cluster membership was used as an independent variable to assess differences in study strategies, self-study hours, academic performance and exhaustion from study. RESULTS: Four clusters were obtained: High Intrinsic High Controlled (HIHC), Low Intrinsic High Controlled (LIHC), High Intrinsic Low Controlled (HILC), and Low Intrinsic Low Controlled (LILC). HIHC profile, including the students who are interest + status motivated, constituted 25.2% of the population (N = 213). HILC profile, including interest-motivated students, constituted 26.1% of the population (N = 220). LIHC profile, including status-motivated students, constituted 31.8% of the population (N = 268). LILC profile, including students who have a low-motivation and are neither interest nor status motivated, constituted 16.9% of the population (N = 143). Interest-motivated students (HILC) had significantly more deep study strategy (p < 0.001) and self-study hours (p < 0.05), higher GPAs (p < 0.001) and lower exhaustion (p < 0.001) than status-motivated (LIHC) and low-motivation (LILC) students. CONCLUSIONS: The interest-motivated profile of medical students (HILC) is associated with good study hours, deep study strategy, good academic performance and low exhaustion from study. The interest + status motivated profile (HIHC) was also found to be associated with a good learning profile, except that students with this profile showed higher surface strategy. Low-motivation (LILC) and status-motivated profiles (LIHC) were associated with the least desirable learning behaviours.

Concepts: Cluster analysis, Educational psychology, Behavior, Motivation, Human behavior, Self-determination theory, K-means clustering, Profiles


Communication about physical activity (PA) frames PA and influences what it means to people, including the role it plays in their lives. To the extent that PA messages can be designed to reflect outcomes that are relevant to what people most value experiencing and achieving in their daily lives, the more compelling and effective they will be. Aligned with self-determination theory, this study investigated proximal goals and values that are salient in everyday life and how they could be leveraged through new messaging to better support PA participation among women. The present study was designed to examine the nature of women’s daily goals and priorities and investigate women’s PA beliefs, feelings, and experiences, in order to identify how PA may compete with or facilitate women’s daily goals and priorities. Preliminary recommendations are proposed for designing new PA messages that align PA with women’s daily goals and desired experiences to better motivate participation.

Concepts: Focus group, Sociology, Value, Design, Communication, Personal life, Self-determination theory, Message


Self-determination theory (SDT) is used to predict individual differences in goal-directed behavior. A fundamental tenet of SDT is that autonomously regulated behavior is more likely to be engaged in and sustained than externally controlled behavior. Unidimensional treatment of regulation is suboptimal. The current study utilizes a multidimensional approach-polynomial regression-to evaluate the interdependent effects of autonomous and controlled regulation on physical activity. Results from three samples of healthy, younger adults demonstrate a mostly positive influence of autonomous regulation but a curvilinear effect of controlled regulation on behavior such that greater activity was associated with moderate levels of controlled regulation-an effect that cannot be identified with “unidimensional” methods. Results from Sample 3 showed that autonomous regulation was associated with greater exercise levels only when controlled regulation was moderate or high. Results suggest that controlled regulation is not wholly detrimental to behavioral promotion.

Concepts: Effect, Physical exercise, Weight loss, Autonomy, Regulation, Behavior, Motivation, Self-determination theory


Self-monitoring using pedometers is an effective behaviour change technique to support increased physical activity (PA). However, the ways in which pedometers operate as motivational tools in adoption and maintenance of PA is not well understood. This paper investigates men’s experiences of pedometers as motivational tools both during and after their participation in a 12-week group-based, weight management programme for overweight/obese men, Football Fans in Training (FFIT).

Concepts: Understanding, Cognition, Autonomy, Knowledge, Explanation, Motivation, Human behavior, Self-determination theory


Participation in leisure activities is an important arena for the positive psychological development of adolescents. The present study set out to examine the relationship between adolescents' satisfaction of the psychological needs for competence, relatedness, and autonomy in their participation in leisure activities and their perceived life satisfaction. The aim was to identify the extent to which satisfaction of the three needs explained the relationship between participation in leisure activities and life satisfaction. These proposed mechanisms were based on previous empirical work and the theoretical frameworks of self-determination theory, and were tested in a nationally representative sample of Norwegian adolescents (N = 3,273) aged 15 and 16 years (51.8 % boys). The structural equation analysis showed that competence and relatedness satisfaction fully mediated the association between participation in activities and life satisfaction. Autonomy satisfaction had a direct positive effect on life satisfaction but did not show any mediation effect. The positive processes of psychological need satisfaction, and especially the need for competence and relatedness, experienced in the leisure activity domain thus seem to be beneficial for adolescents' well-being. These findings add to previous research investigating the positive impact of need satisfaction in other important domains in the lives of children and adolescents.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Autonomy, Developmental psychology, Theory, Self-determination theory, Leisure, Maslow's hierarchy of needs


Our main objective in the current study was to evaluate the long-term effectiveness (12 months from baseline) of I Move (a web-based computer tailored physical activity intervention, based on self-determination theory and motivational interviewing). To this end, we compared I Move to a web-based computer tailored physical activity intervention based on traditional health behavior theories (Active Plus), and to a no-intervention control group. As a secondary objective, the present study aimed to identify participant characteristics that moderate the long term effects of I Move and Active Plus.

Concepts: Time, Scientific method, Clinical trial, Randomized controlled trial, Effectiveness, Term, Motivation, Self-determination theory


The hierarchical model of achievement motivation presumes that achievement goals channel the achievement motives of need for achievement and fear of failure towards motivational outcomes. Yet, less is known whether autonomous and controlling reasons underlying the pursuit of achievement goals can serve as additional pathways between achievement motives and outcomes.

Concepts: Self-determination theory, Maslow's hierarchy of needs


Pursuing personal goals is an important way that people organize their behavior and mature as individuals. However, because people are typically unaware of their own implicit motivations and potentials, they may pick goals that do not serve them well. This article suggests that “self-concordant” goal selection is a difficult self-perceptual skill, with important ramifications for thriving. Various means of conceptualizing and measuring goal self-concordance are considered. Then, relevant literature is reviewed to show that goal self-concordance, as assessed by a self-determination theory methodology, is predicted by goal/motive fit; that goal self-concordance in turn predicts more persistent goal effort and, thus, better goal attainment over time; and that self-concordant goal selection is enhanced by personality variables and interpersonal contexts that promote accurate self-insight and personal autonomy. Implications for the nature of the self, the causes of personality thriving and growth, and the free will question are considered.

Concepts: Psychology, Person, Autonomy, Motivation, Individualism, Self-determination theory, Goal, Self-determination


In this paper the question of autonomy in delusional disorders is investigated using a phenomenological approach. I refer to the distinction between freedom of intentional action, and freedom of the will, and develop phenomenological descriptions of lived autonomy, taking into account the distinction between a pre-reflective and a reflective type. Drawing on a case report, I deliver finely-grained phenomenological descriptions of lived autonomy and experienced self-determination when acting on delusions. This analysis seeks to demonstrate that a person with delusions can be described as responsible for her behaviour on a ‘framed’ level (level of freedom of intentional action), even though she is not autonomous on a higher (‘framing’) level (level of freedom of the will), if, and only if, the goods of agency for herself and others are respected. In these cases the person with delusions is very nearly comparable to people in love, who are also not free to choose their convictions, and who could also be rightly held responsible for the behaviour flowing from their convictions.

Concepts: Autonomy, Case, Delusion, Delusional disorder, Self-determination theory, Phenomenology, Self-determination, Erotomania


Understanding children’s physical activity motivation, its antecedents and associations with behavior is important and can be advanced by using self-determination theory. However, research among youth is largely restricted to adolescents and studies of motivation within certain contexts (e.g., physical education). There are no measures of self-determination theory constructs (physical activity motivation or psychological need satisfaction) for use among children and no previous studies have tested a self-determination theory-based model of children’s physical activity motivation. The purpose of this study was to test the reliability and validity of scores derived from scales adapted to measure self-determination theory constructs among children and test a motivational model predicting accelerometer-derived physical activity.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Educational psychology, Psychometrics, Behavior, Motivation, Human behavior, Self-determination theory