The Critical Role of Psychological Need Satisfaction
When are people enthusiastic and committed to their daily activities and when do they become passive and alienated? What makes people thrive and develop most optimally? These are the kind of questions that are at the heart of Self-Determination Theory (Ryan & Deci, 2006; Vansteenkiste, Ryan, & Deci, 2008), an empirically build theory on optimal motivation and personality development that has been under development over the past 40 years. A central thesis of the theory concerns the postulation of three basic psychological needs, that is, the needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. The satisfaction of these needs is said to allow for a more volitional and self-determined rather than a controlled and pressured functioning and encourages the pursuit of intrinsic and health-promoting rather than extrinsic and materialistic life ambitions. The core aspects of the theory and a number of empirical studies will be discussed.