Monthly Article Archives: May 2010

Obedience or Responsibility? Further Thoughts about Motivation and Self-DeterminationRobert Brooks, Ph.D.

My past three articles have addressed the theme of intrinsic motivation and “motivating environments.” I emphasized that a key underpinning of intrinsic motivation is what psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan refer to as autonomy or self-determination, the belief that we have some input or influence about our personal and professional activities. In my last article I noted that Daniel Pink captures the concept of autonomy in his new book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us when he writes: The fundamentally autonomous quality of human nature is central to self- determination theory (SDT). Deci and Ryan cite autonomy as one of three basic human needs. And of the three, it’s the most important- the sun around which SDT’s planets orbit. In the 1980s, as they progressed in their work, Deci and Ryan moved away from categorizing behavior as either extrinsically motivated or intrinsically motivated to categorizing it as either controlled or autonomous. “Autonomous motivation involves behaving with a full sense of volition and choice,” they write, “whereas controlled motivation involves behaving with the experience of pressure and demand toward specific outcomes that comes from forces perceived to be external to the self.” Nurturing Responsibility and Self-Discipline as Opposed

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