University of Rochester

University of Rochester Psychologist Awarded Honorary Membership

August 11, 2008

The German Psychological Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychologie or DGPs), Germany's preeminent academic psychological association, has awarded an honorary membership to Richard M. Ryan, professor of psychology, psychiatry, and education at the University of Rochester. The award, given to only one international scholar every other year, recognizes Ryan's three decades of groundbreaking work on human motivation and its impact on psychological research across cultures.

"With this award, the Society honors a colleague whose prominent scientific achievements, particularly in the field of psychological motivation and self-determination research, have been influential in German-language psychology," said DGPs President Marcus Hasselhorn while presenting the award during the 29th International Congress of Psychology in Berlin, Germany, on July 21.

Ryan and fellow Rochester psychology professor Edward Deci developed in the 1980s Self-Determination Theory, a basic theory of human motivation. At the heart of the theory is the principle that well-being depends in large part on meeting one's psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness. This approach has been studied by psychologists at universities around the world and has been applied to an array of areas including health care, parenting, mental health, work organizations, and athletic settings.

In Germany, said Hasselhorn, Ryan is credited in particular with advancing educational psychology. His research has, for example, explored teacher practices that enhance or diminish student interest. In addition to co-authoring numerous German-language research publications, Ryan from 1996 to 1997 was a visiting scientist at the Max-Plank Institute for Human Development in Berlin. Hasselhorn also praised Ryan for providing opportunities for beginning scientists from Germany to pursue research at Rochester's "center for motivation research".

Ryan earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Connecticut, and a doctorate in clinical psychology from Rochester, where he has been a member of the psychology department since 1981 and a professor of psychiatry and education since 2004. Ryan was given the Edward Peck Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 1993 and awarded the Phi Delta Kappa Award for Educational Research and Leadership in 1995 and 2005.

The editor-in-chief of Motivation and Emotion and the associate editor of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Ryan is the author or coauthor of more than 200 research papers. He wrote the book Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior with Deci (Plenum, 1985) and edited The Handbook of Self-Determination Research with Deci (University of Rochester Press, 2002).

His research has attracted funding from the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Health, the United States–Israel Binational Science Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others. He is currently a coinvestigator on a study of school reform funded by the Institute for Educational Sciences and a collaborator on a project aimed at creating a "virtual clinician research tool" supported by the National Institute of Health.

Founded in 1904, the German Psychological Society is dedicated to the advancement of scientific psychology. The Society has 2600 academic members and is located in Göttingen, Germany.