Edward L. Deci, Ph.D.

Edward L. Deci, Ph.D.
Along with Richard Ryan, Edward Deci is best known as being one of the founders of self-determination theory, a “macro-theory of human motivation concerned with the development and functioning of personality within social contexts” (University of Rochester, 2008) and for his theories of intrinsic motivation (i.e. Deci, 1978; Deci & Ryan, 1985). Cognitive evaluation theory, one of the four mini-theories that make up self-determination theory, addresses intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in social contexts, a strong research interest of Deci’s (University of Rochester, 2008).  

Deci’s contributions to the field include seminal books and articles on intrinsic motivation and self-determination theory that are considered must-reads for anyone interested in intrinsic/extrinsic motivation.  He has worked to both define and explain the nature and characteristics of these concepts in great detail and has created a wealth of literature on these subjects.  Over the last 40 years, Deci has published 10 books on human motivation, including Intrinsic Motivation (1975), Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behaviour (Deci & Ryan, 1985), and Handbook of Self-Determination Research (University of Rochester Press, 2004).  Deci was also among the first to experiment on intrinsic motivation using human subjects, resulting in the groundbreaking discovery that, in some circumstances “extrinsic rewards can undermine intrinsic motivation” (Deci & Ryan, 2004, p. 431).  

Currently, Deci is a Professor of Psychology and Gowen Professor in the Social Sciences, and is Director of the Human Motivation Program, at the University of Rochester.  He teaches courses in Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology, and also works with Master’s and Ph.D. students.  According to his biography, Deci is studying a number of issues in human motivation, and “focuses primarily on the nature and development of self-determination” (University of Rochester, 2009).


© Rose Atkins 2009