A classification of motivation and behavior change techniques used in self-determination theory-based interventions in health contexts

Pedro J Teixeira, Marta M Marques, Marlene N Silva, Jennifer Brunet, Joan Duda, Leen Haerens, Jennifer La Guardia, Magnus Lindwall, Chris Lonsdale, David Markland, Susan Mitchie, Arlen C Moller, Nikos Ntoumanis, Heather Patrick, Johnmarshall Reeve, Richard M Ryan, Simon J Sebire, Martyn Standage, Maarten Vansteenkiste, Netta WeinsteinKarin Weman-Josefsson, Geoffrey C Williams, Martin Hagger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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While evidence suggests that interventions based on self-determination theory have efficacy in motivating adoption and maintenance of health-related behaviors, and in promoting adaptive psychological outcomes, the motivational techniques that comprise the content of these interventions have not been comprehensively identified or described. The aim of the present study was to develop a classification system of the techniques that comprise self-determination theory interventions, with satisfaction of psychological needs as an organizing principle. Candidate techniques were identified through a comprehensive review of self-determination theory interventions and nomination by experts. The study team developed a preliminary list of candidate techniques accompanied by labels, definitions, and function descriptions of each. Each technique was aligned with the most closely-related psychological need satisfaction construct (autonomy, competence, or relatedness). Using an iterative expert consensus procedure, participating experts (N=18) judged each technique on the preliminary list for redundancy, essentiality, uniqueness, and the proposed link between the technique and basic psychological need. The procedure produced a final classification of 21 motivation and behavior change techniques (MBCTs). Redundancies between final MBCTs against techniques from existing behavior change technique taxonomies were also checked. The classification system is the first formal attempt to systematize self-determination theory intervention techniques. The classification is expected to enhance consistency in descriptions of self-determination theory-based interventions in health contexts, and assist in facilitating synthesis of evidence on interventions based on the theory. The classification is also expected to guide future efforts to identify, describe, and classify the techniques that comprise self-determination theory-based interventions in multiple domains.
Keywords: Self-determination theory interventions; Autonomous motivation; Autonomy support; Need satisfaction; Motivational technique
Original languageEnglish
JournalMotivation Science
Early online date5 Mar 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Mar 2020

Structured keywords

  • SPS Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences


  • Self-determination theory interventions
  • Autonomous motivation
  • Autonomy support
  • Need satisfaction
  • Motivational technique

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