Self-determination theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 2000) proposes that intrinsic, relative to extrinsic, goal content is a critical predictor of the quality of an individual’s behavior and psychological well-being. Through three studies, we developed and psychometrically tested a measure of intrinsic and extrinsic goal content in the exercise context: the Goal Content for Exercise Questionnaire (GCEQ). In adults, exploratory (N = 354; Study 1) and confrmatory factor analyses (N = 312; Study 2) supported a 20-item solution consisting of 5 lower order factors (i.e., social affliation, health management, skill development, image and social recognition) that could be subsumed within a 2-factor higher order structure (i.e., intrinsic and extrinsic). Evidence for external validity, temporal stability, gender invariance, and internal consistency of the GCEQ was found. An independent sample (N = 475; Study 3) provided further support for the lower order structure of the GCEQ and some support for the higher order structure. The GCEQ was supported as a measure of exercise-based goal content, which may help understand how intrinsic and extrinsic goals can motivate exercise behavior.
Simon J. Sebire, Martyn Standage, and Maarten Vansteenkiste
Maarten Vansteenkiste, Athanasios Mouratidis, and Willy Lens
In two cross-sectional studies we investigated whether soccer players’ well-being (Study 1) and moral functioning (Studies 1 and 2) is related to performance-approach goals and to the autonomous and controlling reasons underlying their pursuit. In support of our hypotheses, we found in Study 1 that autonomous reasons were positively associated with vitality and positive affect, whereas controlling reasons were positively related to negative affect and mostly unrelated to indicators of morality. To investigate the lack of systematic association with moral outcomes, we explored in Study 2 whether performance-approach goals or their underlying reasons would yield an indirect relation to moral outcomes through their association with players’ objectifying attitude—their tendency to depersonalize their opponents. Structural equation modeling showed that controlling reasons for performance-approach goals were positively associated with an objectifying attitude, which in turn was positively associated to unfair functioning. Results are discussed within the achievement goal perspective (Elliot, 2005) and self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000).
Simon J. Sebire, Martyn Standage, and Maarten Vansteenkiste
Grounded in self-determination theory (SDT), this study had two purposes: (a) examine the associations between intrinsic (relative to extrinsic) exercise goal content and cognitive, affective, and behavioral outcomes; and (b) test the mediating role of psychological need satisfaction in the Exercise Goal Content → Outcomes relationship. Using a sample of 410 adults, hierarchical regression analysis showed relative intrinsic goal content to positively predict physical self-worth, self-reported exercise behavior, psychological well-being, and psychological need satisfaction and negatively predict exercise anxiety. Except for exercise behavior, the predictive utility of relative intrinsic goal content on the dependent variables of interest remained significant after controlling for participants’ relative self-determined exercise motivation. Structural equation modeling analyses showed psychological need satisfaction to partially mediate the effect of relative intrinsic goal content on the outcome variables. Our findings support further investigation of exercise goals commensurate with the goal content perspective advanced in SDT.
Simon J. Sebire, Martyn Standage, and Maarten Vansteenkiste
Grounded in self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000), the purpose of this work was to examine effects of the content and motivation of adults’ exercise goals on objectively assessed moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA). After reporting the content and motivation of their exercise goals, 101 adult participants (M age = 38.79 years; SD = 11.5) wore an ActiGraph (GT1M) accelerometer for seven days. Accelerometer data were analyzed to provide estimates of engagement in MVPA and bouts of physical activity. Goal content did not directly predict behavioral engagement; however, mediation analysis revealed that goal content predicted behavior via autonomous exercise motivation. Specifically, intrinsic versus extrinsic goals for exercise had a positive indirect effect on average daily MVPA, average daily MVPA accumulated in 10-min bouts and the number of days on which participants performed 30 or more minutes of MVPA through autonomous motivation. These results support a motivational sequence in which intrinsic versus extrinsic exercise goals influence physical activity behavior because such goals are associated with more autonomous forms of exercise motivation.
Athanasios Mouratidis, Willy Lens, and Maarten Vansteenkiste
We relied on self-determination theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 2000) to investigate to what extent autonomy-supporting corrective feedback (i.e., feedback that coaches communicate to their athletes after poor performance or mistakes) is associated with athletes’ optimal motivation and well-being. To test this hypothesis, we conducted a cross-sectional study with 337 (67.1% males) Greek adolescent athletes (age M = 15.59, SD = 2.37) from various sports. Aligned with SDT, we found through path analysis that an autonomy-supporting versus controlling communication style was positively related to future intentions to persist and well-being and negatively related to ill-being. These relations were partially mediated by the perceived legitimacy of the corrective feedback (i.e., the degree of acceptance of corrective feedback), and, in turn, by intrinsic motivation, identified regulation, and external regulation for doing sports. Results indicate that autonomy-supporting feedback can be still motivating even in cases in which such feedback conveys messages of still too low competence.
Maarten Vansteenkiste, Athanasios Mouratidis, Thomas van Riet, and Willy Lens
In the current study we aimed to examine the antecedents and outcomes associated with the variability in competitive volleyball players’ (N = 67; M age = 19.45; SD = 5.13) situational achievement goal pursuit and its underlying autonomous and controlling reasons. Players were followed during six consecutive games and data were analyzed through multilevel modeling. Players’ dominant contextual goal pursuit reported at the onset of the study related to their situational (i.e., game-specific) goal pursuit. Further, variation in game-to-game mastery-approach goal pursuit, as compared with the pursuit of other achievement goals, related to variation in prosocial behavior. Finally, autonomous reasons underlying situational mastery-approach goal pursuit related positively to games-specific prosocial behavior, enjoyment, and performance satisfaction. The discussion emphasizes the necessity to study players’ game-to-game motivational dynamics and the reasons underlying players’ achievement goal pursuit.
Alison L. Smith, Nikos Ntoumanis, Joan L. Duda, and Maarten Vansteenkiste
Developing upon cross-sectional research (Smith, Ntoumanis, & Duda, 2007) supporting the self-concordance model (Sheldon & Elliot, 1999) as a framework for contextual goal striving, the current study investigated the assumptions of the model in relation to season-long goal striving in sport. The study additionally examined the role of coping strategies in the persistence of goal-directed effort. Structural equation modeling analysis with a sample of 97 British athletes indicated that start-of-season autonomous goal motives were linked to midseason effort, which subsequently predicted end-of-season goal attainment. Attainment was positively related to changes in psychological need satisfaction, which, in turn, predicted changes in emotional well-being. In a second model, autonomous and controlled motives positively predicted task- and disengagement-oriented coping strategies, respectively. In turn, these strategies were differentially associated with effort. The findings provide support for contextual adaptations of the self-concordance model and demonstrate the role of coping strategies in the goal striving process.
Maarten Vansteenkiste, Joke Simons, Bart Soenens, and Willy Lens
The goal of the present study was to examine partially conflicting hypotheses derived from two motivational theories, namely self-determination theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 1985, 2000) and future time perspective theory (FTPT; Lens, 2001; Nuttin & Lens, 1985). In line with SDT, it was found that framing an exercise activity in terms of future intrinsic goal attainment (focusing on health and physical fitness) has a positive effect on effort expenditure, autonomous exercise motivation, performance, long-term persistence, and even sport club membership. On the other hand, framing an exercise activity in terms of future extrinsic goal attainment (focusing on physical appearance and attractiveness) undermined those outcomes compared to a no-future-goal control group. Correlational analyses indicate that future extrinsic goal framing led to non-autonomous persistence while future intrinsic goal framing resulted in autonomously driven perseverance at the free-choice activity. In contrast to FTPT, the no-future-goal control group did not differ from a future content-free goal group, in which the general future importance of the present task was stressed. Finally, presenting those goals in an autonomy-supportive rather than a controlling way resulted in the same motivational and behavioral benefits as future intrinsic goal framing. It is discussed how future time perspective theory and self-determination theory can be reconciled and integrated.
Sofie Morbée, Maarten Vansteenkiste, Nathalie Aelterman, and Leen Haerens
In this study, involving 585 youth sport coaches (Mage = 35.76), the authors investigated whether coaches who perceive their environment to be highly evaluative would report acting in a more controlling or pressuring way. In a subsample (n = 211, Mage = 38.14), they examined the explanatory role of coaches’ experiences of psychological need frustration in this relation. They also considered whether years of coaching experience would serve as a buffer against the adverse effects of an evaluative context. In line with the tenets of self-determination theory, results of structural equation modeling indicated that an evaluative context was related to the use of a more controlling coaching style, with experiences of need frustration accounting for this relation. Coaching experience did not play any moderating role, suggesting that even more experienced coaches are vulnerable to the harmful correlates of an evaluative sport context.
Simon J. Sebire, Martyn Standage, Fiona B. Gillison, and Maarten Vansteenkiste
Goals are central to exercise motivation, although not all goals (e.g., health vs. appearance goals) are equally psychologically or behaviorally adaptive. Within goal content theory (Vansteenkiste, Niemiec, & Soenens, 2010), goals are adaptive to the extent to which they satisfy psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. However, little is known about what exercisers pursuing different goals are feeling, doing, thinking, and paying attention to that may help to explain the association between goal contents and need satisfaction. Using semistructured interviews and interpretative phenomenological analysis, we explored experiences of exercise among 11 adult exercisers who reported pursuing either predominantly intrinsic or extrinsic goals. Four themes emerged: (a) observation of others and resulting emotions, (b) goal expectations and time perspective, (c) markers of progress and (d) reactions to (lack of) goal achievement. Intrinsic and extrinsic goal pursuers reported divergent experiences within these four domains. The findings illuminate potential mechanisms by which different goals may influence psychological and behavioral outcomes in the exercise context.