The relationship between needs satisfaction and outcomes in graduate school: A self-determination theory perspective



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According to self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000), the satisfaction of three basic psychological needs (autonomy, competence, and relatedness) increases the likelihood that an individual will experience intrinsic motivation and internalized behavioral regulation. This theory suggests that internally people have a certain orientation towards needs satisfaction, and that an environment can, to various degrees, externally support needs satisfaction. Specifically, Black and Deci (2000) found that internal needs satisfaction moderated the relationship between external needs satisfaction and academic outcomes in an undergraduate organic chemistry class. This study explores such relationships. This study looked at attitudes and behaviors in research and practice domains for women who are students in APA accredited Counseling Psychology graduate school programs, as well as exploring general academic performance and wellbeing. This study hypothesized that domain-specific external needs satisfaction would predict interest/enjoyment, effort/importance and value/usefulness in the corresponding domain. This study also hypothesized that general needs satisfaction in graduate school would predict GPA, self assessment of academic performance, vitality, and subjective well-being. Additionally, it was hypothesized that internal needs satisfaction would moderate these relationships. Findings from this study indicate that, in general, satisfaction of one or more basic needs significantly predicted positive outcome in graduate school. In the research domain, external needs satisfaction was generally a strong predictor of domain specific attitudes and behaviors. In the practice domain, however, the relationship, when it existed, was less strong. General needs satisfaction was a good predictor of student vitality and subjective well-being, but not of GPA and academic performance. Internal needs satisfaction did not moderate the relationship between external needs satisfaction and attitudes and behaviors.