What are the three basic psychological needs autonomy, competence and relatedness?
In the area of motivation, researchers have described the three fundamental psychological needs that drive human behavior – Autonomy, competence and relatedness. These three needs are core dimensions of self-determination theory. This theory was developed by Deci and Ryan (2008) and posits that individuals have a fundamental need to have control of the work that they do and this leads to a sense of satisfaction.
Basic psychological needs are a buidling block of self-determination theory (SDT)
The concept of self-determination understands that people are naturally curious and seek to have choice in the activities that they pursue. This is the essence of intrinsic motivation whereby people are motivated to perform based on the inherent enjoyment of the task rather than through extrinsic motivators such as pay or other rewards. There is variation in this degree of intrinsic motivation with individuals varying in terms of the autonomy, competency, and relatedness, they experience due to individual differences and situations that either encourage or diminish the opportunity to show self-determination.
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Autonomy: A sense of choice and endorsement in a task
Autonomy is based on the understanding that people are empowered when they feel a sense of choice and endorsement in a task – their actions are volitional (Deci & Ryan, 2008). Deci and Ryan distinguish between autonomy and independence whereby individuals act volitionally with a sense of choice, whereas those who are independent prefer to work alone. Autonomous individuals can choose to work alone or can rely on others yet still gain a sense of intrinsic motivation from engaging in tasks.
Competence: Theexperience of mastery over a task or particular domain
The concept of competence originates from the idea that individuals seek to control outcomes and this control allows them to experience mastery over a task or particular domain. In one of Deci’s studies, he examined the importance of competence and feedback (Deci, 1971). When individuals were given positive feedback that was unexpected, this increased their intrinsic motivation to complete the task.
Relatedness: Social connections and a high concern for others
Individuals are social animals and have a need to interact with other human beings. This sense of relatedness is demonstrated through social connections and a high concern for others through caring. Self-determination theory posits that relatedness is important for individuals and is linked to intrinsic motivation. In a study by Grolnick and Ryan, they found that children who found their teachers to be cold and uncaring were less intrinsically motivated because the teachers did not fulfill their needs of relatedness (Grolnick & Ryan, 1989).
Self-determination theory states that the three needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness must be met and if one of these needs is not met then individuals will experience poor psychological health (Deci & Ryan, 2008).
How to measure the three basic psychological needs
There has been considerable research on the topic of basic psychological needs, yet there is less attention on how to measure needs satisfaction. Most of the research has been conducted in various settings. The Self-determination website provides a variety of measures for use including measures to assess Basic Psychological needs. Fortunately, one of these settings is the workplace with an initial first step to generalize Self-determination Theory within organizations in other cultures (Deci et al., 2001). However, the authors point out that this scale still needs validation, but the preliminary results are positive.
To develop the scale, Deci et al. (2001) collected data from companies in Bulgaria and found evidence for a three factor-model to support self-determination theory. The 21-item questionnaire included items such as
- “I feel like I can make a lot of inputs to deciding how my job gets done” (autonomy),
- “I enjoy the challenge my work provides” (competence), and
- “I really like the people I work with (relatedness).
They also used a small sample of American corporations for comparative purposes and found the model fit the data for both countries (Deci et al., 2001).
Basic psychological needs and positive work outcomes
There is evidence that the three basic psychological needs are positively related to work outcomes. A recent meta-analytic review of self-determination theory tested the unique contribution of each of the needs to psychological growth, internalization, and psychological well-being (Van den Broeck et al., 2016). In addition, they also tested the appropriateness of an overall need satisfaction measure and its relationship to the workplace outcomes. The meta-analysis included 99 studies with 199 distinct samples.
Basic psychological needs are negatively related to role stressors, work-family conflict, job insecurity
They found that the three needs were negatively related to role stressors, work-family conflict and job insecurity (Van den Broeck et al., 2016). However, some of the findings were mixed. Autonomy and competence were negatively related to workload and emotional demands; however, autonomy was unrelated to cognitive demands while competence was positively related to this outcome.Relatedness was positively related to cognitive demands and unrelated to workload and emotional demands.
Basic psychological needs are related to intrinsic motivation
When testing the main effects of the three needs on growth, internalization, and well-being, the findings were positive with support for the hypothesis. Each need explained unique variance in intrinsic motivation, explain 42% of the total variance; moreover, each need accounted for unique variation in the three outcomes.
Evidence supportsthe importance of the three needs in predicting workplace outcomes
The three basic psychological needs also accounted for unique variance in workplace outcomes, such as effort, deviance behavior, absenteeism and task performance (creative and proactive performance). Overall, this meta-analysis provides support for the importance of the three needs in predicting workplace outcomes.
How to harness the basic psychological needs
The research on basic psychological needs supports the idea that it is advantageous for organizations to support the three needs – autonomy, competence, and relatedness – because each of the needs is unique and important in determining well-being in the workplace.
Autonomy:Do not micro-manage or enforce bureaucratic rules
In terms of autonomy, organizations can ensure that employees have control over their work and make decisions regarding their roles. It is important that employers do not micro-manage or enforce bureaucratic rules that dampen autonomy. Managerial support is also an importance predictor of all three of the psychological needs so managers can encourage their subordinates to be autonomous (Williams et al., 2014).
Competence: Provide positive feedback to employees
When individuals have a need for competence, positive feedback is one way in which managers and organizations can change and meet this need. Deci found that giving positive feedback on the task only increased intrinsic motivation and decreased external motivation. People finished the task because they enjoyed it and it led to a sense of competence. In a study by Vallerand and Reid (1984) negative feedback decreased intrinsic motivation and stymied individual need for competence.
Relatedness:Form teams and create a sense of belonging
Relatedness needs can be met through forming teams that allow team members to grow through working on innovative projects.
In conclusion, it is important for organizations to enhance basic psychological needs through providing interventions that allow employees to grow in autonomy, competence, and relatedness. The research provides support for the three-factor model and demonstrates that self-determination theory is a valid model for motivation.
Critical appraisal of basic psychological needs: Solidity Level 4
Based on the empirical evidence for the importance of basic psychological needs, this CQ Dossier is assigned a Level 4 rating, (Based on a 1- 5 measurement scale). A level 4 is the second highest rating score for a dossier based on the evidence provided on the efficacy of basic psychological needs. To date, the research on the basic psychological needs has demonstrated the importance of this construct in the workplace. Future research needs to further verify the measurement of the three basic psychological needs in the workplace because the measure is still in its infancy.
References and further readings
Deci, E. L. (1971). "Effects of externally mediated rewards on intrinsic motivation".Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.18: 105–115.
Deci, E. L., Ryan, R. M., Gagné, M., Leone, D. R., Usunov, J., & Kornazheva, B. P. (2001). Need satisfaction, motivation, and well-being in the work organizations of a former eastern bloc country: A cross-cultural study of self-determination. Personality and Psychology Bulletin, 27, 930–942.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Facilitating Optimal Motivation and Psychological Well-Being Across Life's Domains.Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne49, 14-23.
Grolnick, W. S. & Ryan, R. M. (1989). Parent styles associated with children's self-regulation and competence in schools.Journal of Educational Psychology, 81, 2, 143–154.
Vallerand, R. J. & Reid, G. (1984). "On the causal effects of perceived competence on intrinsic motivation: A test of cognitive evaluation theory".Journal of Sport Psychology.6: 94–102.
Van den Broeck, A., Ferris, D. L., Chang, C.-H., & Rosen, C. C. (2016). A Review of Self-Determination Theory’s Basic Psychological Needs at Work.Journal of Management,42(5), 1195–1229.
Williams, G. C., Halvari, H., Niemiec, C. P., Sørebø, Ø., Olafsen, A. H., & Westbye, C. (2014). Managerial support for basic psychological needs, somatic symptom burden and work-related correlates: A self-determination theory perspective.Work & Stress, 28, 4, 404-419.
What is the theory that three basic psychological needs including autonomy competence and relatedness motivate our adaptation efforts at any age? ›
Self-determination theory suggests that all humans have three basic psychological needs—autonomy, competence, and relatedness—that underlie growth and development. Autonomy refers to feeling one has choice and is willingly endorsing one's behavior.Why is autonomy a psychological need? ›
Autonomy is a critical psychological need. It denotes the experience of volition and self-direction in thought, feeling, and action. It refers to the perception of being self-governed rather than controlled by external forces.Why are psychological needs important in the workplace? ›
According to this theory, as well as a large body of empirical evidence, all employees have three basic psychological needs—competence, autonomy, and relatedness—and satisfying these needs promotes high-quality performance and broader well-being.What is the relation between needs for autonomy and relatedness? ›
The theory posits that goal directed behaviours are driven by three innate psychological needs: autonomy (the need to feel ownership of one's behavior), competence (the need to produce desired outcomes and to experience mastery), and relatedness (the need to feel connected to others) in every human being.Which motivational theory emphasizes the importance of autonomy competency and purpose? ›
SDT (Ryan and Deci, 2000) emphasizes the satisfaction of basic human needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness as a key driver of motivated behavior.Which theory assumes that our behavior and well-being are influenced by three innate needs competence autonomy and relatedness? ›
Self-determination theory is based on research that shows we all want to fulfill three innate needs that create intrinsic motivation.Why is competence important in psychology? ›
Psychologists must remain competent in their field to be able to practice ethically. By staying up-to-date on current research, literature, and practices, psychologists can guarantee they are providing the best possible services to their clients.Why are psychological needs important? ›
The SDT acknowledges that there are three basic psychological needs: the need for autonomy, the need for competition, and the need for relatedness. All of them are crucial for motivation and are considered essential nutrients for psychological growth, integration, and general well-being.What does psychological autonomy mean? ›
Psychological autonomy enacts a self-reflective way of being centring on the exploration and reflective awareness of personal desires, wishes and intentions. This conception represents what is usually defined as autonomy or agency in most of the present literature.Why is psychological contract important to managers? ›
The significance of psychological contract
The quality of the psychological contract heavily influences how employees behave from day to day. When workers perceive that the contributions they make to the organisation and what they receive back from the employer are balanced, there can be positive outcomes.
Relatedness refers to having a sense of belonging among employees and building relationships that are meaningful and fulfilling. The levels of relatedness employees feel at work can affect their motivation and desire to do their job well and impact retention rates.Why is physiological needs the most important? ›
Physiological needs are the lowest level of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. They are the most essential things a person needs to survive. They include the need for shelter, water, food, warmth, rest, and health. A person's motivation at this level derives from their instinct to survive.How do autonomy competence and relatedness enable self determination? ›
- Autonomy: People need to feel in control of their own behaviors and goals. ...
- Competence: People need to gain mastery of tasks and learn different skills. ...
- Connection or relatedness: People need to experience a sense of belonging and attachment to other people.
Relatedness denotes the experience of warmth, bonding, and care, and is satisfied by connecting to and feeling significant to others. Relatedness frustration can come with a sense of social alienation, exclusion, and loneliness. Competence concerns the experience of effectiveness and mastery.What is the most important psychological need? ›
Attachment: The human reliance on others, our attachment to people, is one of the most basic and powerful neurobiological/psychological needs. Drawing on the extensive work of John Bowlby (1988, 2008) and the primary attachment figure, Grawe places attachment as a centerpiece of our neurobiological needs.Which type of motivation occurs when people are fulfilling their needs for competence and autonomy by engaging in the activity itself? ›
Self-determination theory is a theory of human motivation and personality which suggests that people are able to become self-determined when their needs for competence, relatedness, and autonomy are fulfilled.Why is relatedness important? ›
Individuals are social animals and have a need to interact with other human beings. This sense of relatedness is demonstrated through social connections and a high concern for others through caring. Self-determination theory posits that relatedness is important for individuals and is linked to intrinsic motivation.What are the three basic psychological needs? ›
According to SDT there are three psychological needs (autonomy, competence, relatedness) that are universally important for psychological wellbeing and autonomous motivation.Which theory holds that needs are based on personality and are developed and learned as people interact with the environment? ›
The psychosocial development theory holds that individuals are shaped by and react to their environment. For this reason, the theory may prove to be a useful tool in many fields, including social work.Which theory assumes that our behavior and well-being are influenced by three innate needs competence autonomy and relatedness quizlet? ›
Deci and Ryan's self-determination theory assumes that people are driven to try to grow and attain fulfillment, with their behavior and well-being influenced by three innate needs: competence, autonomy, and relatedness.
Which type of belief prompt people to think that they have the capabilities needed to carry out the behaviors needed for a task? ›
Self-efficacy can be broadly defined as individuals' belief in their capability to implement a behavior needed to reach a goal or perform a task successfully.Why basic competencies are important? ›
Competencies have long been used as a framework to help focus employees' behavior on things that matter most to an organization and help drive success. They can provide a common way to harmonize, select and develop talent. The benefits are clear for employees and managers, and ultimately, the organization.What is psychological competence? ›
n. 1. the ability to exert control over one's life, to cope with specific problems effectively, and to make changes to one's behavior and one's environment, as opposed to the mere ability to adjust or adapt to circumstances as they are.How do psychologists maintain competence? ›
Psychologists maintain regular engagement with colleagues, consultation groups, and professional organizations and routinely solicit feedback from these sources regarding their competence for work in specific roles and with specific populations.What are the physiological needs or basic needs? ›
Physiological needs - These are biological requirements for human survival. Examples include air, food, water, shelter, clothing, warmth, sex and sleep.What is autonomy and why is it important? ›
In its simplest sense, autonomy is about a person's ability to act on his or her own values and interests. Taken from ancient Greek, the word means 'self-legislation' or 'self-governance. ' Modern political thought and bioethics often stress that individual autonomy should be promoted and respected.What is autonomy support in psychology? ›
Autonomy is defined as a form of voluntary action, stemming from a person's interest and with no external pressure. Social environments that support autonomy provide meaningful rationale, acknowledge negative feelings, use noncontrolling language, offer meaningful choices, and nurture internal motivational resources.How do you build autonomy in psychology? ›
- Accept that you are your own and that your wants and opinions matter. ...
- Seek autonomy in all areas. ...
- Be willing to make a change. ...
- Seek out opportunities. ...
- Advance and develop your skill set.
It can lead to negatively affecting job satisfaction, commitment, performance, and increase turnover intentions. Breaches of the psychological contract by an employer are not always avoidable. External factors like negative economic outlook can impact the 'deal' between the business and its people.Why is the psychological contract important to the organization? ›
The psychological contract recognises the responsibilities from both parties in terms of behaviour and communication. And taking a moment to remind ourselves of its importance, and the potential impact when it's broken, will support commitment and productivity levels long term.
How important is the psychological contract between the employees and organizations in any change process? ›
The psychological contract largely depends upon the extent to which the organization's adopt and implement effect people management practices to promote the welfare of the employees and fulfill their expectations through employee-friendly practices.What psychological theory suggests that people are motivated by the need for autonomy competence and relatedness? ›
Self-determination theory suggests that all humans have three basic psychological needs—autonomy, competence, and relatedness—that underlie growth and development. Autonomy refers to feeling one has choice and is willingly endorsing one's behavior.How do you satisfy the need for autonomy? ›
Our psychological need for autonomy can be realized by allowing employees to make their own decisions on how, when and where they work – effectively, helping them become masters of their work.What is physiological needs in management? ›
Physiological needs- These are the basic needs of air, water, food, clothing and shelter. In other words, physiological needs are the needs for basic amenities of life. Safety needs- Safety needs include physical, environmental and emotional safety and protection.Which do you believe are the most important physiological needs or psychological needs? ›
Maslow considered physiological needs the most important as all the other needs become secondary until these needs are met. 2. Safety needs - once an individual's physiological needs are satisfied, the needs for security and safety become salient.What are the importance of competence and autonomy in well-being? ›
As for daily needs, autonomy correlated significantly with positive mood and vitality, competence correlated significantly with all four well-being measures, and relat- edness correlated significantly with positive mood and vitality.Why is relational autonomy important? ›
Relational autonomy aims to maintain the essential aspect of autonomy, namely control over one's life, while at the same time, incorporate insights of a socially embedded notion . Even among most of relational theorists, the balance of rights between the individual and the social was inclined towards the former.What are the benefits if the employees are so inspired and have autonomy in their work? ›
An employee that is allowed autonomy is self-motivated, inspired to achieve, and more likely to engage with work. The inevitable result is a boost in productivity. Self-aware, free-thinking employees are setting out to achieve professional goals their own way.
The SDT acknowledges that there are three basic psychological needs: the need for autonomy, the need for competition, and the need for relatedness. All of them are crucial for motivation and are considered essential nutrients for psychological growth, integration, and general well-being.What is the meaning of psychological needs? ›
any need that is essential to mental health or that is otherwise not a biological necessity. It may be generated entirely internally, as in the need for pleasure, or it may be generated by interactions between the individual and the environment, as in the need for social approval, justice, or job satisfaction.
The Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction Scales is a set of original questionnaires that assess the degree to which people feel satisfaction of these three needs. There is a: general form, as well as domain specific forms for work and relationships. Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction Scale – In General.What are the 3 basic psychological needs? ›
According to SDT there are three psychological needs (autonomy, competence, relatedness) that are universally important for psychological wellbeing and autonomous motivation.What are the 3 motivation theories? ›
So what are the main theories of work motivation? We've selected three high-profile theories that offer an interesting take on what motivates different individuals: Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, McClelland's Three Needs Theory, and Herzberg's Motivation Theory.What are the 3 process based theories of motivation? ›
In this section we will discuss three process-based theories of motivation: equity theory, expectancy theory, and reinforcement theory.What are the 3 theoretical approaches in assessing an adaptation? ›
According to the representative, assessing adaptation entails the ex ante assessment of adaptation options, the continuous assessment of systems and needs, and the ex post assessment of outcomes and impacts of action.What is the importance of psychological needs? ›
The SDT acknowledges that there are three basic psychological needs: the need for autonomy, the need for competition, and the need for relatedness. All of them are crucial for motivation and are considered essential nutrients for psychological growth, integration, and general well-being.How can managers promote the basic psychological needs? ›
Relatedness needs can be met through forming teams that allow team members to grow through working on innovative projects. In conclusion, it is important for organizations to enhance basic psychological needs through providing interventions that allow employees to grow in autonomy, competence, and relatedness.How do autonomy competence and relatedness enable self-determination? ›
- Autonomy: People need to feel in control of their own behaviors and goals. ...
- Competence: People need to gain mastery of tasks and learn different skills. ...
- Connection or relatedness: People need to experience a sense of belonging and attachment to other people.
As an HR leader or a manager, it's important to understand motivation theories because they can unlock the key to employee behavior and higher employee performance. Personal experience tells us that motivated employees: Work harder. Deliver more consistent and better results.What are the 4 factors of motivation in psychology? ›
- Leadership style. Management style deeply impacts motivation. ...
- The reward system. As a manager, ensure you have a clear evaluation system in place that motivates employees. ...
- The organizational climate. Otherwise known as workplace culture. ...
- The structure of work. Is the work rewarding?
Maslow's theory of the hierarchy of needs, Alderfer's ERG theory, McClelland's achievement motivation theory, and Herzberg's two-factor theory focused on what motivates people and addressed specific factors like individual needs and goals.What is the difference between needs based and process based approaches in motivation? ›
In contrast to needs-based theories, process-based theories see motivation as a rational process: individuals perceive their environment, analyze it, develop reactions and feelings, and respond in certain ways. Two main process-based theories are equity theory and expectancy theory.What are the 4 types of motivation in management? ›
- Incentive motivation. Incentive motivation is all about external rewards. ...
- Fear motivation. Here you're motivated by the fear of an undesirable outcome. ...
- Power motivation. ...
- Social motivation.
- Autonomy: the control you have over your work. The more you can control what to do and when to do it, the more motivated you are.
- Mastery: the sense of progress you get. ...
- Purpose: the meaning you get from your work.
The Theory of Cognitive Adaptation (Taylor 1983) posits that humans cope with threats in their lives by creating a set of positive illusions, which serve to protect their psychological health (Taylor and Brown 1988, 1994).What are the 3 types of stimuli how are they together influence the adaptation level of a person? ›
Three classes of stimuli (i.e., contextual, focal, residual) make up the adaptation level, and are constantly shifting in response to interactions between humans and earth. Focal stimulus is internal or external, involves the immediate awareness of the individual and requires the use of energy and resources.What four factors influence successful adaptation? ›
Natural selection is the result of four factors: (1) the potential for a species to increase in number, (2) the genetic variation of individuals in a species due to mutation and sexual reproduction, (3) competition for an environment's limited supply of the resources that individuals need in order to survive and ...