Sheldon, K. M & Ryan, RM. (2011). Positive Psychology and Self-Determination Theory : A Natural Interface. V. I. Chirkov, R. M. Ryan, K. M. Sheldon. Human Autonomy in Cross-Cultural Context 33-44. Germany: Springer. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-9667-8_2
This book, which applies self-determination theory (SDT) to understand how positive social and environmental change may be promoted around the world, is part of a whole series of books on positive psychology (PP). A natural question is, “how does SDT relate to PP?” Is SDT an example of PP? Does SDT supply something essential to PP, something that other “positive” theories do not?
In this chapter we will address these questions, showing that SDT is a prototypical example of a theory within the broader field of PP because SDT is designed to explain optimal motivation thereby explaining a host of positive outcomes including well-being, performance, resilience, and personal growth. However, we will also show that SDT goes beyond most PP theories because it also provides a dialectical account of the “negative” factors and processes which can get in the way of peoples’ optimal functioning. This account is important, because several commentators have decried the seemingly one-sided focus of PP, PP’s failure to address how negative psychological, interpersonal, and cultural processes operate, and PP’s failure to address how negative events such as oppression, confusion, or rejection can serve as challenges that lead to more positive individual functioning in the long run (Lazarus, 2003; Ryff, 2003; Young-Eisendrath, 2003). SDT also provides a universalist or trans-cultural account of optimal human functioning, based on evolutionary-psychological or adaptationist reasoning. Thus, SDT shows at least one way in which PP can supply constructs that cut across cultures and affect wellness in all humans. Below we consider PP and SDT in more detail.
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