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Psychol Sci. 2017 Jun;28(6):822-828. doi: 10.1177/0956797617698138. Epub 2017 May 3.

The Role of Intrinsic Motivation and the Satisfaction of Basic Psychological Needs Under Conditions of Severe Resource Scarcity.

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1 Institute of Psychology, University of Hagen.
2 Research Division, One South, Wilmington, Delaware.
3 Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning, Theatre for a Change, Lilongwe, Malawi.


An emerging field of research is beginning to examine the ways in which socioeconomic disparities affect emotional, cognitive, and social processes. In this study, we took a two-step approach to examining the role that resource scarcity plays in the predictive power of intrinsic motivation on school attendance, as well as its influence on the precursors of intrinsic motivation: the psychological needs of relatedness, autonomy, and competence. Results revealed that intrinsic motivation predicts school attendance even under conditions of extreme adversity. The satisfaction of the basic needs is more important for participants who are exposed to severe rather than mild levels of deprivation. Our findings illustrate ecological effects on the mechanism underlying goal-directed behavior. They provide evidence in favor of self-determination theory's depiction of humans as active, growth-oriented organisms and for the potential of psychological interventions to reduce poverty.


basic-psychological-needs theory; motivation; open materials; resource scarcity; self-determination theory

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