Psychology of Motivation and Oxytocin Essay

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How can Deci and Ryan's (2008) self-determination theory assist individuals in their personal or professional goals?

Deci & Ryan’s (2008) self-determination theory is a theory of motivation that can help individuals set and achieve personal and professional goals. The theory can be applied to almost every area of life, including health choices or interpersonal relationships. One of the most unique features of self-determination theory is that it can be adapted to different applications. As Deci & Ryan (2008) show, self-determination theory distinguishes between different types of motivation including autonomous motivation and controlled motivation. Self-determination theory also takes into account the importance of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The basic motivational goals people have include competency, relatedness, and autonomy (Deci & Ryan, 2008). Deci & Ryan (2008) also claim there are two main categories of individual difference regarding motivation: causality orientation and goals. By showing people what motivates them and why, therapists can help individuals create the cognitive and behavioral contingencies that lead to self-fulfillment. Self-determination theory is also solution-focused and positive, encouraging the person to remain mindful and to cultivate self-awareness.

One area that self-determination theory can be used is with regards to losing weight or exercising. The therapist can use self-determination theory to help the client discover which types of healthy foods make that person feel satisfied and happy. The goal is to make healthy eating or eating small portions inherently pleasurable. Similarly, the individual needs to find exercise that is inherently rewarding; otherwise the desired lifestyle changes will not stick for long. Career coaching is another area that self-determination theory can be used. The therapist can help the person learn about what motivates them in a workplace environment or specific set of tasks, based on the three main principles of competency, relatedness, and autonomy.


Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Self-determination theory: A macrotheory of human motivation, development, and health. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne, 49(3), 182-185.

How might attribution theory provide an understanding of a person's behavior? How can a teacher, parent, coach, or other person in a leadership position use this theory to motivate an unmotivated individual?

Attribution theory shows how individuals attribute their own behaviors to internal or external causes.
For example, some people blame other people when they fail, whereas others blame themselves. A person who claims, “I’m just not good at math” internally attributes their performance on a math test to something they think is immutable. That person might also attribute their performance on the test to their unwillingness to study. Another person might externally attribute their poor performance by claiming “the teacher doesn’t like me.” People make fundamental attribution errors, based on their assumptions about what causes people to act a certain way. Basically, internal attributions make assumptions about people’s dispositions or personalities. External attributions focus on environmental, situational, contextual, or circumstantial variables (McLeod, 2012). The problem with faulty internal attributions is that it can cause a person to be prejudiced towards others while also reducing one’s own motivation to change. If a person believes that they are simply not good at something, they will not be motivated to try harder.

Leaders like parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors can apply attribution theory to motivate people. A good leader can show people that success and failure can be attributed to internal and external situations. Ideally, the leader will help people to see that they have a strong degree of control over their own behaviors and reactions to circumstances, but cannot necessarily change others. A person who uses the fundamental attribution error of attributing their failure to externalities can be shown that no matter what perceived or real obstacles stand in the way, that person can still achieve their goals by reframing their perspective. Similarly, a person with low self-esteem can be shown that trying harder can transform their level of competency and they can then see that their success is attributed more to effort than to more nebulous factors like talent or luck.


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