Implicit Theories and Self Determination Theory

Implicit Theories of Intelligence and Self-Determination Theory
Kenton R. Kloster


Implicit Theories of Intelligence was developed by Dweck and Legget (1988) to explain how individuals tend to view intelligence in a dichotomous manner. They either see their own intelligence as fixed or as malleable. These are referred to as entity and incremental theorist respectively. Incremental theorists develop goals that are mastery-oriented, meaning they are interested primarily in understanding the material and learning. Entity theorists are focused on performance-oriented goals such as grades.
Self-Determination Theory was created by Ryan and Deci (2000). They describe a continuum of motivation from amotivation (not-motivated) to intrinsic motivation, with extrinsic motivation in between. Relatedness, competency and autonomy are the fundamental environmental elements of intrinsic motivation that are necessary for adopting values of an organization.

Example of Applications and Comparison

Motivation is fundamental in understanding organizational behavior and culture. In safety training, results aren’t always effective in eliminating injuries because the value of safety is not adopted and internalized by employees. Intrinsic motivation is important reducing these injuries and self-determination theory provides a guide by providing autonomy support, feelings of competency and relatedness among employees/supervisors. With on the job training it's also important to consider implicit theories particularly when it comes to feedback. Individuals who are incremental theorists will deal with failure much more harshly.
Furthermore, applying these theories has significant implications because implicit theories and motivation can be influenced by trainers and facilitators. For example, providing autonomy support has been shown to adopting expressed values of an organization (Williams & Deci, 1996) and incremental theories can be primed with research evidence (Burnette, 2010). Applying appropriate strategies can increase learning and drive adoption of values.


Burnette, J. L. (2010). Implicit theories of body weight: Entity beliefs can weigh you down. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(3), 410-422.

Dweck, C. S., & Leggett, E. L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological review, 95(2), 256.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68.

Williams, G. C., & Deci, E. L. (1996). Internalization of Biopsychosocial Values by Medical Students: A Test of Self-Determination Theory. Journal Of Personality & Social Psychology, 70(4), 767-779.