COVID-19

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Why are psychological needs and motivation important in COVID climate?

Sometimes it takes a crisis to bring the importance of basic psychological needs and autonomous motivation to our attention, especially when it concerns people’s motivation to follow health measures, or employee experiences, or our psychological well-being as a fallout of isolation and challenging times. 

This is why many SDT scholars around the world turned their research and work energies during the pandemic toward examining the motivational and behavioral issues of compliance, health, and wellness in the context of COVID-19.

Early on, we witnessed people coming together, helping their neighbors, inspiring us online with their creativity, and choosing more meaningful avenues in their lives, which are all examples of SDT in practice. These acts demonstrate our basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness – the needs we must satisfy in order to be engaged, creative, and collaborative, as well as maintaining our health and resilience. 

While at the same time, these needs have been frustrated at a critical time. We’ve seen increased levels of anxiety and depression during lockdowns (Waterschoot et al. 2021); front-line workers and health professionals burned out (van der Goot et al., 2021); and the highest work resignation rates which has started a phenomena called the Great Resignation.  

There is no time more important than now to pay attention to these basic psychological needs (Vermote, Waterschoot, Morbée, Van der Kaap-Deeder, 2021; Centarero et al. 2020).

What the COVID 19 motivational research shows

SDT’s principles have proven meaningful across the many motivational facets that have emerged during this coronavirus pandemic. Here are just some of the areas of study:

  • Citizens’ motives and adherence to governmental measures
    • Morbée, Vermote, Waterschoot, et al. 2021;
  • Vaccine willingness (Porat et al., 2021; Schmitz et al. 2021)
  • Mental health and coping during Covid-19 (Centarero et al. 2020; Vermote et al, 2021)
  • Ethics and health surveillance (Calvo, Deterding, & Ryan 2020);
  • Motivational messaging (Legate, Weinstein, et al. 2021; Bradshaw et al. 2021)
  • Front-line workers and health professionals experiences (van der Goot, Duvivier, et al 2021);
  • Remote work (Orsini & Rodrigues 2020);
  • Educational challenges (Thompson et al. 2021; Chiu 2021)

 

Explore more research and resources below including, the SDT-Covid Questionnaire (developed to assess people’s psychological needs, security, and adherence).

Suggested Readings & Research


(2021) Journal of Happiness Studies

Do psychological needs play a role in times of uncertainty? Associations with well-being during the COVID-19 crisis

Jolene Van der Kaap-Deeder Richard Ryan Bart Soenens Maarten Vansteenkiste

(2021) Motivation Science

Adherence to COVID-19 measures: The critical role of autonomous motivation on a short- and long-term basis

Richard Ryan Bart Soenens Maarten Vansteenkiste

(2021) Health Communication

Can we communicate autonomy support and a mandate? How motivating messages relate to motivation for staying at home across time during the COVID-19 pandemic

Nicole Legate Netta Weinstein

(2021) European Review of Social Psychology

Motivating voluntary compliance to behavioural restrictions: Self-determination theory-based checklist of principles for COVID-19 and other emergency communications

Frank Martela Richard Ryan Maarten Vansteenkiste

(2021) Vaccine

Predicting vaccine uptake during COVID-19 crisis: A motivational approach

Maarten Vansteenkiste

(2020) BMJ

Health surveillance during covid-19 pandemic: How to safeguard autonomy and why it matters

Rafael Calvo Richard Ryan

(2021) European Review of Social Psychology

Motivating voluntary compliance to behavioural restrictions: Self-determination theory-based checklist of principles for COVID-19 and other emergency communications

Frank Martela Richard Ryan Maarten Vansteenkiste

(2020) Frontiers in Public Health

Public health and risk communication during COVID-19 – enhancing psychological needs to promote sustainable behaviour change

Rafael Calvo


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