Facilitating Internalization: The Self-Determination Theory Perspective


  • This work was supported by Grant HD 19914 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and by Grant MH 18922 from the National Institute of Mental Health, both to the first author. This line of research was begun as part of the second author's doctoral dissertation. We would like to thank Melissa Luke, Richard Morris, Mathiew Wiepert, Jennifer Vaughn, and Brian Seman for helping with the data collection.

regarding this article should be addressed to Edward L. Deci, Human Motivation Program, Department of Psychology, University of Rochester, Rochester, NV 14627.


Self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) posits that (a) people are inherently motivated to internalize the regulation of uninteresting though important activities; (b) there are two different processes through which such internalization can occur, resulting in qualitatively different styles of self-regulation; and (c) the social context influences which internalization process and regulatory style occur. The two types of internalization are introjection, which entails taking in a value or regulatory process but not accepting it as one's own, and integration, through which the regulation is assimilated with one's core sense of self. Introjection results in internally controlling regulation, whereas integration results in self-determination. An experiment supported our hypothesis that three facilitating contextual factors—namely, providing a meaningful rationale, acknowledging the behaver's feelings, and conveying choice—promote internalization, as evidenced by the subsequent self-regulation of behavior. This experiment also supported our expectation that when the social context supports self-determination, integration tends to occur, whereas when the context does not support self-determination, introjection tends to occur.