Faculty photo

Richard M. Ryan

  • Professor Emeritus of Psychology

PhD, University of Rochester, 1981



Research Overview

Richard M. Ryan is an influential University of Rochester Professor Emeritus of Psychology. He is a clinical psychologist and co-developer of Self-Determination Theory, an internationally recognized leading theory of human motivation. He lectures frequently in the United States and aboard on the factors that promote motivation and healthy psychological and behavioral functioning (applied to such areas as work and organizations, education, health, sport and exercise, video games and virtual environments). Ryan is among the most cited researchers in psychology and social sciences today and the author of over 400 papers and books in the areas of human motivation and well-being, including his best-selling book, Self-determination theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development and wellness (Ryan & Deci, 2017). Reflective of Ryan's influence internationally and across disciplines, he has been recognized as one of the eminent psychologists of the modern era[1],[2] and listed among the Top 20 most influential industrial-organizational psychologists[3]. He has also been honored with three lifetime achievement awards for his work on motivation, personal meaning, and self and identity.

Research Interests

Professor Ryan’s current research interests go in many directions all of which to relate to Self-Determination Theory. He also has considerable interest in the neurological mechanisms that underlie processes or phenomena that they have previously examined in terms of psychological experiences, such as the enhancement of intrinsic motivation resulting from being given choice. In addition to examining neurological mechanisms, he is also interested in higher levels of analysis by examining political and economic influences on motivational processes.

Selected Publications

See publications on Self-Determination Theory or Google Scholar.

[1] Sternberg, Fiske, & Foss, 2016, Scientists Making a Difference: One Hundred Eminent Behavioral and Brain Scientists Talk about their Most Important Contributions. Cambridge University Press.

[2] Diner, Oishi, & Parker, 2014, An Incomplete List of Eminent Psychologists of the Modern Era, Archives of Scientific Psychology

[3] Human Resources MBA, The 30 Most Influential Industrial and Organizational Psychologists Alive Today