Michael L. Wehmeyer, Todd D. Little and Julie Sergeant

in The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology

Second edition

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780195187243
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

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Self-determination is a general psychological construct within the organizing structure of theories of human agency which refers to self- (vs. other-) caused action—to people acting volitionally, based on their own will. Human agency refers to the sense of personal empowerment involving both knowing and having what it takes to achieve goals. Human agentic theories share the meta-theoretical view that organismic aspirations drive human behaviors. An organismic perspective of self-determination that views people as active contributors to, or “authors” of their behavior, where behavior is self-regulated and goal-directed, provides a compelling foundation for examining and facilitating the degree to which people become self-determined and the impact of that on the pursuit of optimal human functioning and well-being. Further, an organismic approach to self-determination requires an explicit focus on the interface between the self and context. This chapter discusses the self-determination construct within an organismic perspective, surveys the construct's history and usage in philosophy and psychology, and summarizes four overarching theories of self-determination that are applicable to the field of positive psychology, as well as examining a number of complementary views of human agency as a process of self-determination. Finally, research implications based upon existing knowledge and research in self-determination and positive psychology are identified.

Keywords: causal agency; human agency; self-determination; self-determination theory; volitional action

Article.  5960 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology ; Clinical Psychology

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