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Understanding unemployed people's job search behaviour, unemployment experience and well-being: A comparison of expectancy-value theory and self-determination theory


Correspondence should be addressed to Maarten Vansteenkiste, Department of Psychology, University of Leuven, Tiensestraat 102, 3000 Leuven, Belgium (e-mail:


Previous unemployment research has directly tested hypotheses derived from expectancy-value theory (EVT; Feather, 1982, 1990), but no comparative analysis has been executed with another motivational framework. In one large study with 446 unemployed people, separate analyses provided good evidence for predictions derived from both EVT and self-determination theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 1985, 2000). Comparative analyses indicated that the type of people's job search motivation, as conceptualized through the notions of autonomous versus controlled motivation within SDT, is an important predictor of people's unemployment experience and well-being, beyond people's strength of motivation assessed within EVT through expectancies of finding a job and employment value. The importance of simultaneously testing two theoretical frameworks is discussed.