Criticism Of Self-Determination Theory

criticism of self determination theory

Individualism has always been rejected by radicals as they believe in a strong role for the state in society. The advocates of self-determination theory believe that individualism, or the ability to determine one’s own identity, is a natural right.

The underlying assumptions of the self-determination theory are that individuals are rational and desire to be free. The nature of human beings and their cognitive process indicate a desire for personal freedom and therefore a rejection of the existence of roles or categories. In a competitive environment, people want to excel in whatever activity they are engaged in so they do not fear losing opportunities. If you work in a factory, your life will be dominated by the need to rise to the top of the hierarchy. Therefore, the need for personal self-determination will emerge because you want to rise to the top and not stay at the same level forever.

Two General Types

A man standing in front of a sunset

Criticism of the self-theory can be grouped into two general types. The first type is motivated by fear of losing one’s position or agency. In such cases the critic will focus on the effects of failure on personal and professional lives. As in the real world, if you look at the bigger picture, there are enough rewards to go around. It would be irrational to focus on what others think of you rather than take full responsibility for your actions

The second, and most common form, of criticism of self-theory is one which faults the theory as unrealistic. This occurs when the intrinsic motivation is denied. Critics of the self theory believe that the theories view intrinsic motivation as entirely psychological and nothing else. Because the theory relies on the premise that motivation is an important force, criticism of the self-theory can be expected to arise from the natural tendency for human beings to seek out support and cooperation.

Critics Of The Intrinsic Motivation And Self-Determination Theory


Critics of the intrinsic motivation and self-determination theory believe that it fails to account for certain key elements of human behavior. For instance, they believe that the theory is based on the false assumption that competence and desire are independent of one another. According to the cognitive evaluation theory, the emotional and cognitive aspects of human competence and self-determination are dependent on one another. According to the CEA, a person is capable of getting what he wants or needs if he feels competent and self-determined.

Critics also argue that the theory is not powerful enough to explain various phenomena that are associated with the process of acquiring and improving one’s competence, autonomy, and relatedness. In addition, they argue that the cognitive evaluation theory does not provide a sufficient explanation for the occurrence of cultural and interpersonal differences. 

The CEA’s Critics

They claim that the theory’s approach to self-determination and personal identity is too narrow. They add that it attributes the concept of self-determination or individuality to a set of psychological states rather than individuals. The critics believe that the various concepts of personal identity, locality, and culture do not have a unified definition.

The CEA’s critics argue that although their argument may appear to be based on a simple intuition, the underlying arguments are based on well-established empirical research methods. Furthermore, they argue that the theory’s approach to self-determination and personal identity is too limited because it only makes sense when a person combines with an extrinsic motivation. These criticisms of intrinsic motivation and self-determination theory focus on two areas: extrinsic motivation and the effect of culture on self-determination. Extrinsic motivation refers to external incentives such as money, fame, status, and other non-cognitive motivations that motivate an individual to action.


The critics also point out that the CEA oversimplifies the concept of self-determining and individuality by focusing on the aspect of motivation. According to them, the concept of self-determination is better explained using a multidimensional approach that incorporates both internal and external factors. In this view, two basic types of regulation compete for the same space within an organism. The internal dimension refers to the regulation of genes and physiological mechanisms while the external dimension refers to the impact of culture. A combination of internal and external regulation maintains and promotes the self-determination concept.

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