The Science Behind our Methods

Self-determination Theory


The self-determination theory (SDT) is a psychology framework that defines motivation along a continuum of causes that prompt behavior. These causes are said to be extrinsic (prompted by degrees of external influence) and intrinsic (prompted by the joy of doing something, for the sake of doing it). The SDT asserts that our behavior is energized by the psychological need for: Competence, Relatedness, and Autonomy (Deci & Ryan, 2000; Ryan & Deci, 2000).

Autonomy - The need to feel that we have a choice in what we do, that our choices coincide with our values and beliefs, that we don't feel constrained when controlled by others.

Competence - The need to feel that we are effective, growing our abilities, and meeting new challenges without feeling overwhelmed.

Relatedness - The need to feel supported by others, that our lives matter, and we are a valued member of community.

The self-determination theory is a foundation for our designs. We strive to develop experiences that yield a sense of autonomy, where people can become masters, and feel that they belong.


Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior, New York: Plenum Press.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The what and why of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227-268.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L., (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 54-67.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L., (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78.

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At people participate because they want to, not because they have to.


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