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Competency, Autonomy and Relatedness

Is the concept of basic needs from Self-Determination Theory consistent with Experience as asserted?

Glenn Storm, Blogger

January 14, 2010

24 Min Read

Previous Post: Variation, Chance and Randomness

In the previous post, the Lens of the System of Experience was used to examine perceived variation and ways that the system responds to it.  In this post, a well-established theory of intrinsic motivation from the field of Cognitive Psychology is comparatively analyzed with the dynamics of system of Experience.  Everyone should feel encouraged to join the discussion and comment on or debate the assertions presented. All relevant comments are welcome and appreciated.

Competency, Autonomy and Relatedness

In Cognitive Psychology, Self-Determination Theory concerns itself with the study of Motivation.  Within this theory, Motivation is thought to be driven to satisfy basic needs.  Some Need Satisfaction elements recognized within this theory are Competency, Autonomy and Relatedness.1  The game development industry has recently begun to pay closer attention to these Need Satisfaction elements and how they may inform design to offer sustained engagement of the game product and a higher overall value to the consumer.2  From the vantage point of Experience, one can dissect these Need Satisfaction elements to explain how they provide Satisfaction or not.

Competency is the relative Understanding one has of the current situation, where Perception, Memory and Prediction are consistent and Efficiency to operate within this situation is high; so as to be able to achieve further Understanding with relative ease.  Autonomy is the available choice of action one has to operate within the current situation, which is essentially a form of Variation regarding the choice of courses of Attention effort toward greater Efficiency and Understanding; and with more available paths of action comes a greater likelihood of Efficiency gain, a greater chance of success in pursuit of Understanding in the future.  Relatedness is the quality of personal interconnectivity and Communication one has to other individuals.  As social beings, this may simply seem to be an evolutionary human condition that serves to ensure our survival, but it is interesting to explore how this can affect an individual’s system of Experience.  Relatedness to other individuals gives the system of Experience more opportunity for effective Communication, more opportunity for cohesive Cognitive Model transfer between individuals.  When Communication is successful, a Cognitive Model subset along with its related connections to other Cognitive Model subsets is delivered, ready to use within the receiver’s system of Experience.  When done effectively, Communication is a powerfully efficient way to acquire new Understanding, where very little Attention is required as compared to the complexity of the Cognitive Model construct delivered.  Relatedness is a form of Variation on the potential input of knowledge and Understanding, with a significantly efficient upside.

Each of these factors is linked directly to Efficiency in a way that Motivation will pursue as long as the Perception of their availabilty is clear and the Prediction of their affordance can be made.  Additionally, as long as these factors continue to exist within the system of Experience, a continued succession of Efficiency gains, like the succession described with flow, will provide a series of Satisfaction conditions; translating to what Self-Determination Theory describes as a state of sustained engagement.


1 Ryan, R. M., and Deci, E. L. (2000). “Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being” University of Rochester. [http://www.psych.rochester.edu/SDT/documents/2000_RyanDeci_SDT.pdf]

2 Rigby, S. Immersyve, Inc. (2009). San Francisco Game Developers Conference Session: “From First Date to Committed Relationship: Designing for Engagement and Sustained Satisfaction”

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