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Showing posts from 2017

The motivation continuum: self-determination theory in one picture

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Elements from self-determination theory are somewhat known to many people. Particularly, the terms intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation are familiar to many people. Also reasonably well-known are the basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Recently someone said to me: "I have heard of several elements of the theory but I find it hard to get a good overview of the it." If you feel the same, the picture below may be useful for you. It is my most recent version of the so-called motivation-continuum. There are many version of this model in circulation and they are all variations on and extension of the original version by Ryan & Deci (2000). In the picture below I show which types of motivation emerge in which contexts, and what their effects are on our behaviors, emotions, and performance (click to enlarge).

Carol Dweck's new theory on the foundations of personality

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Carol Dweck, founder of mindset theory, has written an ambitious new paper in Psychological Review. In this paper, she presents a new theory about how personality is formed and how both nature and nurture play a role in this. The interesting thing about this theory is that it both establishes connections between old and new theories within psychology and that is brings together separate psychological disciplines. Social psychologists have often been criticized for paying too little attention to theory building and for merely developing fragmentary knowledge. Dweck now comes up with a strong answer to these criticisms in the form of a broad theory which may turn out to explain a broad range of psychological phenomena. This type of theorizing is not only important for social scientists but also for practitioners for whom psychological knowledge is relevant (and who is really excluded from this group?). Good theory can help practitioners deal with problems in more informed, systematic a…

Is there a good case for 'positive education'?

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In this post I expressed my skepticism about something which is called Positive education, an approach advocated by Martin Seligman (photo). What that is, is explained in this video which I also mentioned. My two reasons for being skeptical were 1) that I found the definitions of positive education as mentioned in the video confusing rather than clarifying, and 2) that it is not clear to me to what extent well-being should be an outcome measure in education (read the post for more details on that point).

The Emerging Neuroscience of Intrinsic Motivation

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A new paper by Di Domenico & Ryan (2017) describes how a neuroscience of intrinsic motivation is emerging. Intrinsic motivation is the total of our spontaneous tendencies to be curious and interested, to seek challenges, and practice to develop our skills and knowledge even in the absence of separate rewards. Research within the framework of self-determination theory has shown that intrinsic motivation is a motivation which is present throughout the life span and which is associated with various positive effects such as learning, performing, creativity, and well-being. But intrinsic motivation is dependent on the perception of one's own competence and autonomy. If these two basic needs are thwarted, we tend to be less intrinsically motivated.

Checklist: 7 questions to support your professional development

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What role does experience play in our professional development? We often think that how long people have been doing something determines how good they are at it. Of course, that thought can't be completely wrong. We can't say that there is no relationship at all between how long you have been doing something and how good you are at it. Someone who has been playing the piano for just a few weeks can't be very good at it yet. Learning the basic skills requires a certain time. But the relation between how long we have been doing something and how good we are at it is different than we often assume. Take as an example driving a car. When both my sons were doing their driving lessons, these last few years, they could precisely point out to me the many little mistakes I made while driving. I have been doing it for 35 years and thought I was reasonably good at it. But because of the many small reprimands by my sons, I have come to realize that many little mistakes have crept int…

How teachers can combine autonomy-support with structure

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Autonomy support is effective in parenting, in teaching, and in leadership at work. Some incorrectly think that a remark like this should be read as a plea for 'anything goes'. Autonomy support does not mean that no structure is offered. Autonomy support and structure go hand in hand. Offering structure strengthens the perception of autonomy and is even often a prerequisite for it. I elaborate this thought using the context of education as an example.

Democratic rights are like muscles: use them or lose them

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Today the general elections are being held in the Netherlands. Here is why I will vote.

What is democracy? What are the essential features of a democracy and why are they important? What are the essential differences between democracies and non-democracies and why do these differences matter? How important are democratic rights and how important is it to use them? I answer these questions below.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and goals

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The terms intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are frequently used and are sometimes a source of confusion. Below, I try to share my understanding of these term as they are used in self-determination theory (SDT). First, I'll explain what the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is and  then what the terms intrinsic and extrinsic goals mean.

Self-determination theory in organizations

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In a new article Deci et al. (2017) give an overview of research within self-determination theory which is relevant for work and organizations. Among other things, they describe the important distinction between autonomous and controlled motivation (see more about this distinction) and the three basic psychological need (for competence, autonomy, and relatedness). The article reviews much research with as central theme that autonomous motivation (vs controlled motivation) is associated with both performance and wellness. Also, the show that the key to fostering autonomous motivation is to create workplaces which contribute to the satisfaction of the above mentioned basic needs. The picture below summarizes these points:

Why is controlled regulation so prevalent?

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A training participant asked me recently: "Why is controlled regulation so popular when it is clear that an autonomy supportive way of working is so much more effective?" I'll try to answer this question below. Before I do, let me give you a brief summary of what controlled regulation and autonomy support mean. Much research into self-determination theory has shown that autonomous motivation has many advantages over controlled motivation. An autonomy-supportive way of parenting, teaching, coaching, or managing works much better than a controlled approach. The figure below (a translation from a picture from my Dutch book Kiezen voor progressie (2016) summarizes the differences between autonomous and controlled motivation and their different effects:

The instability and malleability of personality

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When I was educated as a psychologist, in the 1980's, the dominant way of thinking in psychology tended to what we would now call a fixed mindset. Roughly, as students, we were taught that both intelligence and personality are hardly malleable from a certain age on (say, 18). Personality was roughly defined as the whole of stable behavioral tendencies of individuals. It was thought that individual differences in personality were relatively stable and also meaningful, for example for how we should make career choices.

The Status Quo Bias: Barrier to Progress

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If we define progress as development in the direction of a better situation then from this definition it follows that progress is something good. Much research has suggested that the feeling of making progress is good for us in various ways. Roughly it can be said that the perception of progress is associated with more positive emotions, more motivation, and better performance. You would say that choosing progress is always easy. But it isn't. 

Carol Dweck on the Foundation of Mindset

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Growth mindset is on a firm foundation, but we’re still building the house

~ Carol Dweck, January 18, 2017

In science, we build a firm foundation and then we keep renovating the house. We find interesting results, we are fascinated by them, we don’t always trust them, so we go back and replicate them. We also challenge them by asking, where will this not work? When does the effect go away? How can we use better methods to test our theories? As part of this process, scientists ask each other questions. Recently, other scientists asked us some questions about three of our papers. We took this very seriously, carefully considered each inquiry, delved into the studies again (in some cases reanalyzing the data), and prepared three documents, each detailing our process and our findings (here, here, and here). In each case, we showed that the conclusions reached in the paper were sound. But, as with anything that helps make science better, we were grateful for the questions because they poi…

10 Questions to help you fulfill your basic needs

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Self-determination theory distinguishes three universal basic psychological needs, the need for autonomy, for competence, and for relatedness. The fulfillment of these needs is necessary for us to feel well and function well. The need for autonomy refers to the experience of being able to make your own choices and to stand behind what you are doing. The need for competence refers to the experience of being effective and capable of achieving desired outcomes. The need for relatedness refers to the experience of a mutual connection with and care for important people your life. Recent research by González-Cutre et al. (2016) indicates there may be a fourth basic need: the need for novelty, the need to keep on experiencing new things which deviate from your daily routine.

Motivated reasoning

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Have you ever noticed that people sometimes argue in ways which seem do not seem to correspond to reality but which, instead, only seem to serve their own interests? You probably have. Psychologist refer to this phenomenon as motivated reasoning. Motivated reasoning is reasoning in such ways that your own beliefs, interests, behaviors, and goals are served. It is not something which only some people do. We all do it, sometimes consciously, often unconsciously.

Naive realism: undetected cause of many conflicts

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All of us experience reality in a distorted way and we are mostly unaware of that this happens and how this happens. Here is a list of well-known human biases. On this list is a bias called naive realism. This bias plays a special role. It can be seen as the mother of all biases. Naive realism, a term coined by Lee Ross, is the wrong belief that reality is just like we experience it. In other words, it is the cognitive mechanism which blinds us to the many biases we fall prey to.

The fundamental attribution error: the underestimation of the power of the situation

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Richard Nisbett, who I have mentioned here before, has written a brief but interesting article about the fundamental attribution error.Together with Lee Ross, he once wrote a classical book about this, The Person and the Situation. The fundamental attribution error means that we systematically underestimate the influence of situations, structures, and systems on our behavior en systematically overestimate the influence of personal traits and dispositions on our behavior. As Nisbett says it: we are, wrongly, inclined to think about human behavior in purely dispositional terms.

8 Growth mindset interventions

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Many of the participants in our training programs are especially interested in Carol Dweck's research into mindsets. They see the relevance of mindset and realize that a fixed mindset has many disadvantages while a growth mindset has many advantages. They are interested in learning how they can influence their own mindset and that of other people. Many of them are aware that person praise can evoke a fixed mindset and process praise can evoke a growth mindset. But they look for other way to influence mindsets. Here are several other ways.