Tag Archives: SDT

Dualistic model of Passion, Perseverance, Purpose and Persona

Some of you may be already familiar with the Dualistic Model of Passion as advocated by Robert Vallerand et al. To recap, passion is of two types: harmonious and obsessive. Both of them have different antecedents (autonomous vs controlled integration) and different consequents ( well-being vs Mal-adaptive).

I wont go deep into what an obsessive or harmonious passion is; suffice it to say that in harmonious passion you can be passionate about more than one activity, the activity is not all consuming; while in obsessive passion the activity has control over you than vice versa and you feel pressured to spend time in the activity at the cost to other important activities/ relationships.

Important to note is that both types of passions are indeed passions about activities as we value those activities, love to do them , they form a core of our identity and we spend an exorbitant amount of time and energy indulging in those activities: This is true for harmonious as well as obsessive passions.

Passions are nothing but motivations as they propel us to keep doing something.

Before we move ahead we will take a quick detour of Self Determination Theory (SDT). As per SDT there are 3 basic psychological needs all humans have: need for Autonomy, Mastery (competence) and Connectedness (relatedness) . To that, many, including myself, add a fourth need, the need to find Meaning.

SDT actually is many mini-theories: one of them concerns how people are intrinsically motivated to do some activities which they find pleasurable or fun to do. At other times people are motivated by extrinsic motivation like rewards, status etc and parents say motivate their child to do homework by using such extrinsic mechanisms when the activity by itself is not enjoyable or fun to do. Over time, the child may internalize such motivations and they become more and more autonomous in the sense they are driven by the child’s sense of identity (I am a student who likes to study) than say the child’s internalized guilt or pride (I have to study so that I can live upto my parents expectations) . The process of turning external motivation to more autonomous motivation is called internalization.

The process of internalization can be helped or hindered by satisfaction of basic psychological needs. Of these autonomy support by significant others is the most studied. When an autonomy supportive person is present , then the recipient (say the child) is more likely to internalize well and have more autonomous forms of motivation to indulge in the activity.

Now lets connect this back to dualistic model of passion (DMP). As per Vallernad, people may develop passion for an activity because they value it and start investing time and energy in it; however the type of passion they develop will depend on whether they choose it themselves and have autonomy supportive parents etc (in which case they develop harmonious passion) or whether they feel controlled and coerced in their choice due to overt or overt pressure by parents etc. (in which case they develop obsessive passion).

To sum up, we all need to get motivated to do things that are not fun and thus need to internalize and own up to various external motivations. Internalization of external motivation so that it approaches intrinsic motivation is thus an important part of growing up. Autonomy support aids this and leads to better and more harmonious outcomes, while controlling behaviors (by significant others) lead to maladaptive and discordant (obsessive) outcomes.

We can now extend the analogy to other domains. Consider the whole behavioral paradigm of reinforcement learning. When we encounter the world there are reward contingencies (which we should approach) and punishment contingencies (which we should avoid). While the rewards are goals that are desirable end states and hence finite; the punishments are anti-goals or undesirable end states and hence infinite. Learning is needed to make such anti-goals goals. Learning can be facilitated by either mastery experiences where tools like small wins, vicarious learning etc can be used to build self efficacy of the person; or it can be facilitated by failure experiences where you put a mouse in water to make it learn how to swim and thus by approaches like fail fast learning you make them learn. Now obviously both kinds of learning, whether building confidence using mastery experiences or building doggedness using repeated trial and error fail fast learning can result in Perseverance; the former would be harmonious perseverance while the latter obsessive perseverance. In the former you would pursue goals from a position of strength, while in latter you might be narrowly focused on one particular goal and not ready to give it up (think John Henryism). The fact that we all need to move towards and learn better form reward contingencies means we have a need for mastery/ competence.

Next let us consider relatedness/ connectedness need. Consider the fact that we can live in an other oriented environment or in a self-focused environment. We all have a desire to leave our imprint on the world or to put a ding in the universe, we can do that either by leaving a personal legacy or by having a generative impact. Self expansion where we include others in the self is a process whereby we move away from a focus on personal legacy towards generative impact. As you might have guessed other oriented / relatedness need driven environment leads to better self expansion leading to harmonious purpose; while self focused environment leads to obsessive purpose that is less fulfilling and inflexible. Our need for connectedness derives from our need to self expand.

Finally, consider need for meaning. We can either live our life such that it has a meaningful frame of reference or we can keep encountering the absurd. We all have a desire to make sense of our lives, and we can either use the narrative self to weave a story around our adventures or we can live in a stream of consciousness in-the-moment mindfulness sort of adventure. Living in the stream of consciousness mode is not feasible as it lacks coherence and we need to move that into the narrative self. Story editing, defense mechanisms of denial, dissociation etc may be operational here to move and remove materiel from the narrative self. And of course, having a meaningful frame of reference, be it religion or spirituality will aid in such story editing; while trying not to get deluded and living in the present, experiencing self will probably hinder that story editing mechanism. And the former will be associated with an integrated and harmonious persona/ personality/self; while the latter with a discordant/ obsessive one.

I know the extension of dualistic model of passion to perseverance, purpose and persona is all a conjecture as of now; but that is how science progresses. There are many a good testable hypothesis there. Hope someone actually goes ahead and tests these.

Self at the Intersection of Drives and Norms

Self is the apparently unified entity that has conscious awareness of one’s actions and experiences- it is both an agent who is acting in the world willfully and an entity that is absorbing experiences passively.

By some accounts self is socially constructed- it is to be found in the web of relationships and consensual meaning and attributions. By other accounts self is innate and unfolds over developmental time frame.

To me there are at least two aspects of the self- we are born with a hodgepodge of inner drives and instincts, and over the developmental period learn to control or regulate those instincts in the service of our future self. We intuitively construct a continuous self that will exist in future too and for whose sake we need to regulate our drives and instincts so as to maximize benefits to our overall continuous self.

For this to really succeed, we need to bring the inner drives and instincts to conscious awareness, and once we are aware of what is driving us, we can then take a conscious call of whether to continue giving expression to that urge and rive or to retrain and regulate it. The efforts are thus to make unconscious material conscious and accessible. One can think of this as controlling the id.

The other aspect of self is that due to socialization we are exposed to various norms and expectations of the society and being a social creature are supposed to honor those norms/ implicit contracts. Initially this takes the form of conscious adherence to group norms as deviation from these could be deadly for survival. A social self develops that is sensitive to these nuances and regulates its behavior accordingly. Slowly however a better alternative is to internalize these social norms and make them unconscious or part of ones habitual repertoire. The movement here is from explicit conscious awareness to implicit unconscious internalization. A movement from social roles to personal responsibility. On can think of this as being controlled by the superego.

While at one frontier the self is being squeezed from promiscuous inner drives expression (where we give expression to all our inner urges ) to more responsible inner drive suppression (when the inner drives do not serve the future self ) , constantly moving the unconscious inner cauldron into conscious awareness; on the other side the self is being squeezed from conforming and complying to all social norms to a more value guided selective internalization, constantly moving the conscious to unconscious.

Thus while the self itself is mostly conscious it is constantly balancing between allowing expression to drives versus self-regulating them and also between complying with social conditioning versus self-surrendering to values that it holds dear. Both the processes of self regulation / self determination and internalization/ self-surrendering are important in having a solid and functional sense of self. The former can also be conceived of as a drive towards autonomy while the latter a drive towards homonomy.

If all our behavior was instinct or inner drive driven, we wouldn’t really need to invent something like a self – however as we do regulate our impulses and behavior we need to posit a self that is in charge. Similarity, if all we did was as per a social script, role playing what society expects us to , we wont have a need for self; precisely because we internalize selectively as per our value system, we need to posit a self who wants to act in concordance with itself.

A similar extension can be made about our understating of the world. The world exists (in our minds) at the intersection of experimenting and theorizing. We manipulate in the foreground to either learn about the world, or to operate upon it for our purposes. The idea is to control the environment. Each such interaction is a mini experiment either confirming or nonconforming our model of the world. Here we show a task focus and are more focused on a specific aspect / part of the world.

We also understand the data gathered by either assimilating and making sense of that data using existing schemas; or when we are not able to make sense, we overhaul our schemas by accommodating new information. In the former case we are on lookout for patterns that match our models and in the second case we are on lookout for detecting new patterns (and models) altogether. Familiarity detection and novelty detection being the mechanisms of note here. Here we are concerned with the overall context or the background or the gestalt.

Lastly one can note that while self -regulation aspect of self is closely related to autonomy need of SDT, self-surrendering aspect of self is related to relatedness need of SDT. Similarly, experimenting mode of world interactions, is related to mastery/ competence need of SDT while theorizing mode is related to meaning/contribution need of SDT, as extended by me.

What else do you think makes up the self? Or is it just a balance between self -regulation and internalization? Do share your thoughts and atart a conversation!

Parenting Styles: an SDT Informed Perspective

In my previous posts I have elaborated on SDT and how it provides insights as to the relation between motivation and personality and to the supportive contexts that satisfy basic needs and thus lead to well-being.

To recap, SDT, as extended by me, posits that there are four basic psychological needs that need to be satisfied for all human beings for them to be happy and flourishing. These needs are needs for autonomy or to be able to own and make one’s own choices; needs for competence or to be able to successfully excel at tasks; needs for relatedness or to be securely and intimately tied to others; and need for meaningfulness or to be able to create and bask in meaning and purpose.

SDT also posits that socio cultural contexts and situations are differentially related to well-being as they are differentiated in terms of how supportive or thwarting of basic needs they are. Today I wish to apply this lens to parenting and showcase how early (and ongoing) parent child interactions have different implications for current and future well-being of the child.

At the outset, I want to clarify that while my approach is inspired and steeped in SDT, it deviates considerably from the standard SDT model.

Standard SDT literature on parenting posits that if the parents are autonomy supportive, provide structure and are involved, then they are doing the right thing as this will lead to satisfactions of the basic psychological needs of the child and thus lead to healthy outcomes. the figure below shows what one means by these conditions of autonomy support, structure and involvement.

Parenting supports (from Coursera)

Let us start with involvement. And let us look at both good and bad parenting. I consider this to be about the Relatedness need. The input variable from parents is warmth or affection and the output variable is attachment with the parent. A good parent showers love, affection, care and warmth unconditionally; or in other words provides Unconditional Positive Regard (UCR) – this I posit leads to secure attachment in the child. However, some parents make their love and warmth contingent on outcomes; that is called Parenting Conditional Regard (PCR) and this I believe leads to insecure attachment. This is further of two types: a negative PCR where affection is primarily withdrawn in case the outcome is not desired, leading to avoidant attachment or deficient model of other. The other is positive PCR where affection is excessively endowed in case the outcome is desired, leading to dependent/anxious attachment or deficient model of self. While the good parent considers his/ her child unique, the bad parent either considers the child as having contingent worth or at the other extreme to be special and above everyone else. This parenting dimension is all about being available to the child when he needs and may be labeled emotional help by the parent.

Let us now look at autonomy support. This is clearly about the Autonomy need. The input variable from parents is socialization by either persuading or coercing and the output variable is internalization of rules and regulations. A good parent takes perspective of his/ her child, provides choices and offers rationale – all with an aim to influence and persuade without any overt or covert coercion; this leads to internalization of values and motives leading to autonomous motivation. In simple words, as the child ‘buys in’ rather than is forced to do something, he is more likely to feel an ‘origin’ and not a ‘pawn’. However, some parents try to control and coerce their child to behave in a particular way; this leads to controlled forms of motivation/ self regulation in the child. When rewards or showering of incentives is used to control the child it may lead to external regulation, while when punishments or withdrawal of incentives is used to control the child, then it may lead to introjected self regulation. While a good parent likes to negotiate with the child, a bad parent either threatens or bribes the child. This parenting dimension is all about shaping the child’s behavior by providing some motivational structure.

Consider next structure. This is about Competence. The input variable from parents is Just Enough Help/ scaffolding in the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and the output variable I believe is the child’s mindset and sense of self efficacy. A good parent provides Just Enough Help or scaffolding in the ZPD so that the child is adequately challenged and his ability is able to meet the expectations; this leads to a grounded sense of self efficacy and possibly growth mindset, as the child is able to see how he is making progress with adequate support. However, some parents are not cognizant of/ insensitive to the ZPD and either push their children above the ZPD or are content with performance that is sub ZPD. This leads to problems with self efficacy and a fixed mindset. Those who try to stretch their child’s ability and set high expectations– and push their children to achieve those high expectations that are beyond their (current) abilities, may lead the child to develop a superiority complex and a fixed mindset characterized by impression management. On the other hand, those who do not challenge and support their child enough may give rise to children that suffer from inferiority complex or fixed mindset characterized by self-handicapping. While a good parent is available when needed, a bad parent is either helicoptering or putting too much pressure. To me this parenting dimension is all about providing instrumental help to the child in the right amount.

Lastly, let us also take a look at the need for Meaningfulness. The input variable this time is parents feedback about the child’s self and the output variable is the child’s internal self-guides. A good parent provides realistic feedback to child about his/ her abilities, etc in a non evaluative and informational format. This leads to the development of an actual self guide that is accurate and based on facts. Some parents however provide either sugar coated or needlessly bitter evaluative feedback to the child and this may lead to the development of discrepant self guides that are fictional and not in touch with reality. The parent who praises excessively and is say strengths based and focuses on what is present/ possible about the child will lead to the development of an ‘ideal’ self guide in the child. The parent who is excessively critical and deficit based and focuses on what is lacking/ needed in the child, will lead to the development of an ‘ought’ self guide in the child. While a good parent leads to realistic and in touch with self concepts, a bad parent leads to out of touch self concepts that don’t feel authentic.

That brings us to the end of my thesis that a good parent is warmly affectionate, non evaluative and informational when providing feedback, uses reason to influence and persuade rather than coerce and sets reasonable expectations for the child and supports him/ her is his/ her journey.

A note before we leave: all of us are good parents and bad parents at times; while I have used the terms ‘good’ and ‘bad’ parents above my intention is to draw attention to our impact when we are acting as a good / bad parent and hopefully influence more and more parents to use better parenting techniques than they may be using or relying on currently.

Supportive Contexts for Growth and Development: an SDT Perspective

Self Determination Theory(SDT) posits that all humans require some nutriments to grow and develop; just like plants need nutriments like sunlight, water, nutrients etc to flourish, so do humans have some basic human needs for autonomy, competence, relatedness and meaningfulness (my addition) to develop and grow and thrive. If these needs are fulfilled (just like if the plants get sunlight , water and nutrients) then this leads to good outcomes like enhanced well being and optimal functioning and good relationships and purpose in life. However, if the needs are thwarted then ill-being and soured relationships, stagnation and nihilism may prevail.

SDT also posits that the sociocultural environment and situations and contexts can be more or less supportive of the basic psychological needs. If the sociocultural environment and situation/ context is more supportive of autonomy, competence, relatedness and meaning, then that leads to more growth and flourishing and better development over time.

Let’s just expand on this a little. We will consider basic psychological needs in infancy and childhood and see what activities or systems are involved in their satisfactions and what consequences it may have on the developmental trajectory.

Consider the need for autonomy; an infant/ child is typically exploratory and unless constrained exercises his/ her choice by exploring the environment. The parent has to set some limits on exploration to prevent harm and thus this conflicts with the child’s need for autonomy. Early on they learn that exploring unknown territories can lead to adverse outcomes and if parents are too permissive they quickly learn the emotion of fear. On the other hand they also have an intrinsic motivation associated with the emotion of interest that makes them find novel things and places attractive and hence worth exploring. If their need for autonomy is reasonably honored, they quickly form a concept of SELF that is distinct from caregiver. They realize, and start regulating, their emotions and an autonomy supportive environment leads to their emotional development. In terms of Erikson’s stage theories, they successfully navigate the autonomy vs shame and doubt stage.

Consider next the need for competence; an infant/ child typically likes to explore the limits of what they can do/ hope to do via play – both physical and symbolic. The parents/ adults typically provide some feedback on what is acceptable in terms of play to ensure that the right types of play are being indulged in to develop adult capability. For eg, if an infant tries to walk before crawling they will support the age appropriate crawling related play first. Early on infants/ children realize that playing in a free wheeling manner may lead to disappointment and sadness. On the other hand they also have an intrinsic motivation associated with the emotion of enjoyment that makes them find novel activities and objects interesting and worth playing with. If their need for competence is reasonably honored, they quickly become TASK-oriented, rather than ego oriented while indulging in any activity. They realize and start regulating their behaviors and a competence supportive environment leads to their physical and behavioral development. In terms of Erikson’s stage theories they successfully navigate industry vs inferiority stage.

Consider now the relatedness need; an infant/child is typically attuned to others and comes ready to be imprinted upon and have attachment with one or more caregivers. The infant/ child comes vulnerable and needy (the infant needs milk while the child needs say love) and greedy and the parent/ caregiver may regulate the care and attention and time they can devote to the child. Early on, when the needs are not met consistently or are contingent, the infant/ child learns to be (passive) aggressive and angry towards the attachment figure and learns to avoid contact. On the other hand the infant/child is driven by an intrinsic motivation associated with the emotion of love that makes them approach familiar people (parents/ teachers) and contexts(home/school) and worth building attachments with. If their need for relatedness is reasonably honored, they quickly become PEOPLE focused, considering people as ends rather than instrumental means to any outcomes.They realize and start regulating their relationships and a relatedness supportive environment leads to their social and moral development. In terms of Erikson’s stage theories they successfully navigate trust vs mistrust stage.

Lastly, consider the need for meaningfulness; an infant /child is typically a scientist-in-the-crib and comes ready to make sense of and interpret events and happenings and exercise agency and learn. The infant comes eager and curious and active and the parent may restrict some actions (like touching the genitals) that may lead to feelings of guilt and disgust in the infant/ child. On the other hand, the infant/ child is driven by an intrinsic motivation that is driven by the emotion of wonder and he/ she systemically and scientifically experiments with the surroundings and tries to find causal relations and have an impact and learn. If the need for meaning is reasonably honored, they quickly become WORLD focused, being ecological aware and seeing how they fit in. They realize and start regulating their cognition and a meaning supportive environment leads to their intellectual development. In terms of Erikson’s stage theories they successfully navigate initiative vs guilt stage.

In an nutshell, what I am proposing is that there are four systems revolving around exploration (autonomy), play (competence), attachment (relatedness) and learning (meaning) in the infants/ child that also give rise to the emotion pairs of fear/interest, sadness/enjoyment, anger/love and guilt/wonder that may sustain in adulthood also in a slightly transformed way. Also these may conceivable be related to the four major goals of Emotional well-being/positivity, Success/productivity, Morality/intimacy and Meaning/generativity.

I will rest my case here. In the next post I will actually go into what makes for an autonomy supportive, competence supportive, relatedness supportive and meaning supportive sociocultural context