L. Wehmeyer Michael, Karrie A. Shogren, Todd D. Little, Nicole Adams

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Self-determination refers to self- (vs. other-) caused action-to people acting volitionally. “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 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 provides a foundation for examining and facilitating the degree to which people become self-determined and the impact of that on their pursuit of well-being. An organismic approach requires a 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, summarizes theories of motivation and causal action, and provides a framework for understanding its development. Research implications based upon existing knowledge and research in self-determination and positive psychology are identified.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9780199396511
StatePublished - Mar 7 2016


  • Causal agency
  • Human agency
  • Self-determination
  • Self-determination theory
  • Volitional action


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