Social-Personality Psychology

Human Motivation Program

The Human Motivation Research Group is a pre-doctoral and post-doctoral training program focused on the motivational analysis of human behavior. Faculty members, post-docs, and graduate students work together on motivational research projects and meet frequently as a group to discuss the various projects or hear presentations by visiting scholars.


Core faculty members in the program are Edward L. Deci, Andrew J. Elliot, and Richard M. Ryan. Deci and Elliot are faculty members in the social-personality program and Ryan is a faculty member in the clinical program.

Graduate Students

Because the human motivation program is a research group rather than an academic program, all graduate students in the human motivation research program enter the doctoral program in either social-personality psychology or clinical psychology, meeting all the requirements of that academic program, including the qualifying exam.

In addition, they do research on motivational issues, supervised by one or more of the motivational faculty members, and participate in motivation research group activities.


There are two main theoretical approaches central to the program: self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000) and the hierarchical model of approach-avoidance motivation (Elliot & Thrash, 2001). Both approaches concern the nature and development of motivational processes examined in terms of social influences and individual differences.

Research includes basic experimental and survey studies on intrinsic motivation, internalization, relationships, goals, and the integration of self. Much of the research concerns the investigation of basic psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and relate as they pertain to goals, behavior, and psychological well-being in the US and across cultures.

Additionally, field studies using questionnaires, observation, and interview procedures focus on motivational issues in education, health care, organizations, religion, and parenting.

For more information see the self-determination theory page. People interested in the work of this group can contact the participating faculty members directly.


Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68-78.

Elliot, A. J., & Thrash, T. M. (2001). Achievement goals and the hierarchical model of achievement motivation. Educational Psychology Review, 13, 139-156.