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Sustainability and the good society: Research on psychological needs Seminar on Global Sustainable Development Elsinore, Denmark, March 6-8, 2013 Ib Ravn,

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Presentation on theme: "Sustainability and the good society: Research on psychological needs Seminar on Global Sustainable Development Elsinore, Denmark, March 6-8, 2013 Ib Ravn,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Sustainability and the good society: Research on psychological needs Seminar on Global Sustainable Development Elsinore, Denmark, March 6-8, 2013 Ib Ravn, Ph.D., Associate Professor The Research Program on Organization and Learning Aarhus University, Campus Emdrup.,

2 2 1. Sustainability and the good society  Sustainability: balance in our consumption of physical resources.  But people’s personal, social & political lives: endless improve- ment (more justice, more democracy, etc.) (Bjerre, 1988).  ”Sustainability”: suitable concept – and a legitimate object of research today.  We need such a concept for research and development of humanity’s psychological, social and political prospects.  We’re talking about a still better life for all, in a still better society. How to conceptualize that?

3 3 2. ”Oprør fra midten” (1978): Villy Sørensen’s proposed psychology of needs  Distinction: our insatiable desires vs. our natural needs  ”… design society’s institutions such that human needs are met…” (p. 77, OfM) → a better life in a better society  What are these needs?  Fairly solid knowledge about physiological needs (nutrition, hygiene, contagious disease, exercise)  Until the 1970’s very little research on psycho-social needs

4 4 3. Self-Determination Theory (SDT)  Edward L. Deci, University of Rochester, 1970’s: Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic rewards tend to inhibit subjects’ interest and intrinsic motivation (contra Skinner)  With Richard M. Ryan from 1980’s: Motivational psychology → psychological needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness (Deci & Ryan, 2002)  >500 research publications from scores of researchers in 13 languages.  Overview and intro: Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, vol. 55, pp. 68-78.

5 5 4. SDT’s three needs 1.Autonomy: Author in your own life. The self as a source of action. Sense of volition 2.Competence: We can effect outcomes in the world 3.Relatedness: Need to receive and show care. Intimacy and com- munity. Be a part of a larger social whole.  The needs are hypothesized to reflect our human nature. They can be met in culturally diverse ways. Much research points to their universality. (Chirkov et al. (eds): Human Autonomy in Cross-Cultural Context, Springer, 2011)  Nothing sacred about three needs. Occam!

6 6 5. Need support – personal and societal  The needs may be supported – for better satisfaction. Cf. OfM: ” society’s institutions such that human needs are met…”  Autonomy supports: See the other’s perspective. Acknowledge feelings. Avoid controlling language. Give rationale. Provide choice.  Competence supports: Provide structure. Give informational feedback (vs. neg. criticism). Support self-initiated actions (Deci & Ryan, 2000).  Support can be provided by persons, groups, institutions, norms, laws.  SDT research investigates one type of support after the other: What results in better psycho-social function? (depression, anxiety, quality of life, sociality, vitality) (as measured by standard psychometric instru- ments: survey, experience sampling, interview) (Vansteenkiste, 2010).  Typical finding: Those who meet the three needs

7 7 6. What goals do we pursue: Intrinsic or extrinsic  Traditional ”goal theory”: If the goals you pursue in life fit your context, good psycho-social function is produced – regardless of the goals (e.g., Business school goals fit MBA students). ‘All goals are created equal’  SDT: No. Different types of goal yield different outcomes:  ”Extrinsic goals”: wealth, fame and image (eco-warning!). Pursuit of them correlates negatively with good psycho-social function (also in B-sch’l)  ”Intrinsic goals”: relationships, community, health, personal growth: they correlate positively (Vansteenkiste et al., 2006).  Autonomy mediates: Extrinsic goals provide poor satisfaction of the need for autonomy – that’s why they produce poor psycho-social function (Kasser & Ryan, 1996)

8 8 7. The SDT needs in society  The goals and norms suggested by society’s various institutions can be assessed through research: Do they support human needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness? Advertising: ”freedom to shop” or mind control? Private cars: mobility autonomy or financial dependency and rush-hour unfreedom? Manufacturing: What do products give – image or community? 50-hour work weeks: money, image (status)? Taxes: Do they really inhibit personal initiative? (comp., aut.) TV entertainment: relatedness or loneliness? Facebook: social network or depression?

9 9 8. Doing research on a still better society  Perhaps the good society can be estimated by the degree to which these three needs are met (and new undiscovered needs)(Deci & Ryan,2012)  Social research that attempts to find still better supports for needs may help move towards a better society (Bjerre, 1972; Ravn, 2006, 2008).  This may relieve us somewhat from ideological ignorance, just as… - basic nutrition, surgery and infant care are now on okay scientific footing - organic agriculture and climate research are still struggling - economics, sociology and political science have barely started  Sustainability: a useful paradigm for our balance with external nature.  A psychology of researchable human needs (like SDT): a useful research program for exploring how the human psyche may flourish and develop infinitely within the bounds of limited physical nature.

10 10 9. Litteratur  Bjerre, Poul (1988). Opbrud. Utopisk humanisme. Gyldendal.  Bjerre, Poul (1972). Videnskabens natur. Gyldendal.  Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R.M. (2000). The ‘what’ and ‘why’ of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4): 227-268.  Deci, E.L., & Ryan, R.M. (eds.)(2002). Handbook of self-determination research. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.  Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2012). Motivation, personality, and development within embedded social contexts: An overview of self-determination theory. In R. M. Ryan (ed.), Oxford handbook of human motivation (pp. 85-107). Oxford, UK: OUP.

11 11 10. Litteratur (fortsat)  Kasser, T., & Ryan, R.M. (1996). Further examining the american dream: Differential correlates of intrinsic and extrinsic goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22: 280-287.  Meyer, N.I., Petersen, K.H. & Sørensen, S. (1978). Oprør fra midten. Gyldendal.  Ravn, Ib (2006). Forskning i sammenhænge. Hvordan natur- og samfundsvidenskaberne kunne bidrage mere til udvikling af liv og samfund. Multivers.  Ravn, Ib (2010). Transformativ forskningsmetode – belyst gennem et projekt om mødefacilitering. Tidsskrift for Arbejdsliv, 12(1): 51-66.

12 12 11. Litteratur (fortsat)  Shah, H., & Marks, N. (2004): A manifesto for a flourishing society. London: New Economics Foundation.  Vansteenkiste, M., Lens, W., & Deci, E. L. (2006). Intrinsic versus extrinsic goal contents in self-determination theory: Another look at the quality of academic motivation. Educational Psychologist, 41: 19-31.  Vansteenkiste, M., Niemiec, C. P., & Soenens, B. (2010). The development of the five mini-theories of self-determination theory: An historical overview, emerging trends, and future directions. In T. C. Urdan & S. A. Karabenick (eds.), Advances in motivation and achievement, v. 16A—The decade ahead: Theoretical perspectives on motivation and achievement (pp. 105-165). London: Emerald.

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