Cognitive evaluation theory (CET; Deci, 1975), SDT's first mini-theory, was built from research on the dynamic interplay between external events (e.g., rewards, choice) and people's task interest or enjoyment – that is, intrinsic motivation (IM). At the time, this research was quite controversial, as operant theory (Skinner, 1971) had dominated the psychological landscape. The central assumption of operant theory was that reinforcement contingencies in the environment control behavior, which precluded the existence of inherently satisfying activities performed for non-separable outcomes. During this time, Deci proposed that people – by nature – possess intrinsic motivation (IM), which can manifest as engagement in curiosity-based behaviors, discovery of new perspectives, and seeking out optimal challenges (see also Harlow, 1953; White, 1959). IM thus represents a manifestation of the organismic growth tendency and is readily observed in infants' and toddlers' exploratory behavior and play. Operationally, an intrinsically motivated activity is performed for its own sake – that is, the behavior is experienced as inherently satisfying. From an attributional perspective (deCharms, 1968), such behaviors have an internal perceived locus of causality, as people perceive their behavior as emanating from their sense of self, rather than from experiences of control or coercion.
Vansteenkiste, M., Niemiec, C. and Soenens, B. (2010), "The development of the five mini-theories of self-determination theory: an historical overview, emerging trends, and future directions", Urdan, T. and Karabenick, S. (Ed.) The Decade Ahead: Theoretical Perspectives on Motivation and Achievement (Advances in Motivation and Achievement, Vol. 16 Part A), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 105-165. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0749-7423(2010)000016A007Download as .RIS
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