Giving Back: What Motivates Us?

Giving Back:

What Motivates Us?

For many years, psychologists believed that outside factors such as pressure, obligation, or rewards played a central role in personal motivation. Self-determination theory (SDT) says otherwise.

Richard Ryan and Edward Deci, professors of psychology at the University, developed SDT nearly four decades ago, and it is now one of the most widely accepted theories of human motivation in contemporary behavioral science.

Their theory suggests that humans have three basic needs related to motivation. We need to feel competent, believing that we can succeed at a task. We also need to feel autonomous, to have options as we work toward that competence. Lastly, we need to feel that our efforts are recognized by others and that we are part of something beyond ourselves—what Ryan and Deci have termed interpersonal relatedness.

A key takeaway for us in our day-to-day lives? When we choose to engage with others in activities that we find meaningful and valuable, we can be rewarded with a deep sense of fulfillment and gratification.

Motivation that matters
To learn more about how you can get involved with the University or to support outstanding faculty like Edward Deci, Richard Ryan, and others, contact Paul Lanzone ’03, Assistant Vice President of Alumni Relations & Constituent Engagement, at (585) 273-5888 or Stephen A. Dare, Senior Associate Vice President for University Advancement, at (585) 275-7530.

—The above information was adapted from an article first published in the University of Rochester Newscenter.

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