University of Rochester

EVENT: Rochester Psychologists Hold Conference in Toronto on their Research

May 22, 2007

More than 300 researchers from 25 countries will gather at the University of Toronto this weekend (May 24 to 27) to discuss their work within Self-Determination Theory, a groundbreaking psychological theory of human motivation developed by University Professors of Psychology Edward Deci and Richard Ryan.

The theory focuses on factors that enhance self-motivation, performance, and well-being in a wide variety of settings, and in people's daily lives. It also examines how a sense of choice enhances the quality of behavior. The research presented at the conference will explore motivation in human development, education, work, relationships, sports, health, medicine, virtual environments, psychotherapy, and cross-cultural applications.

In addition to presentations made by Ryan, who is a professor of psychology, psychiatry and education and Deci, the Gowen Professor in the Social Sciences, two other University of Rochester faculty members will share research. Dr. Geoffrey Williams, associate professor of medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, will unveil new findings that demonstrate patient involvement in a quit plan leads to smokers who are more motivated to quit because they genuinely want to, not because they are being nagged or bullied into kicking the habit. Williams said the method has also proved successful for patients managing diabetes in another of his studies. Other researchers achieved similar findings with weight loss and dental care when using the supportive and encouraging method.

Also at the conference, University of Rochester research assistant professor Heather Patrick will show how she has applied Self-Determination Theory to a common conundrum of romantic relationships: If you do something positive for your mate does it matter why? The answer is yes, according to Patrick's research. She found that both small sacrifices, like doing the dishes for your partner, and big ones, like moving across the country for a new job your partner really wants, mean more if you do them because you genuinely want to.

Both Patrick's and Williams' research illustrates the crux of Self-Determination Theory: A self-motivated person derives more satisfaction in completing a given task, and is more likely to do it well.

Registration for the conference is still open. For more details on the conference and registration, please visit:

Since the 1985 publication of Deci and Ryan's book, Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior, researchers have been investigating motivational issues underlying the self-regulation of behavior. Using either the work of Deci and Ryan or related theoretical perspectives, these researchers have performed laboratory experiments as well as field studies.

Deci and Ryan hosted the first SDT conference at the University of Rochester in 1999. That year, 20 presenters came to the conference, along with about 30 other interested listeners. At this year's conference, there will be more than 200 presenters, along with more than 100 additional participants. This increase illustrates the impact and scope of the work done by Deci and Ryan at Rochester.