Cognitive Evaluation Theory

“CET is framed in terms of social and environmental factors that facilitate versus undermine intrinsic motivation…”
(Ryan and Deci, 2000: 70). The variables considered in this theory are competence and autonomy.

DOMAINS: Psychology, Sports, Physical Activity, Exercise, Management (Worker Motivation), Education (Cognition)

Contributors: Sarah Chauncey

Edward L. Deci and Richard Ryan


“CET was presented by Deci and Ryan (1985) as a subtheory within SDT that had the aim of specifying factors that explain variability in intrinsic motivation. CET is framed in terms of social and environmental factors that facilitate versus undermine intrinsic motivation ....” (Ryan and Deci, 2000: 70). 

CET focuses on two fundamental needs - perceived competence and autonomy which are enhanced or diminished based on environmental and social factors. Perceived competence accompanied by feelings of autonomy have been shown to have a positive impact on intrinsic motivation.

CET propositions:

  • Environment and social-context  lead to feelings of competence which, in turn, have a positive affect on intrinsic motivation.
  • Intrinsic motivation is positively impacted when people feel competent and autonomous or self-determined.
  • When people engage in activities for internal rather than external reasons (locus of causality), there will be a positive affect on intrinsic motivation. 
For activities that do not hold intrinsic interest, "...the principles of CET do not apply, because the activities will not be experienced as intrinsically motivated to begin with. To understand the motivation for those activities, we need to look more deeply into the nature and dynamics of extrinsic motivation" (2000: 71). Here Ryan and Deci propose the organismic integration theory (OIT) to identify different forms of motivation. (2000: 72)

CET research is called into question by Carton who argues that "...three variables that may have caused the different effects of tangible rewards and praise on intrinsic motivation have not been controlled in previous research: (a) temporal contiguity, (b) the number of reward administrations, and (c) discriminate stimuli associated with reward availability." (Carton, 1996: 242)
REFERENCESCoding Spreadsheet - Web View
  • View Chapter Boggiano, Ann K.; Pittman, Thane S. (1993). Achievement and motivation: a social-developmental perspective (Chapter 2 Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan. The Initiation and regulation of intrinsically motivated learning and achievement pp. 9-36)

  • View Article Butler, Ruth. (1987). Task-involving and ego-involving properties of evaluation: Effects of different feedback conditions on motivational perceptions, interest, and performance. Journal of Educational Psychology. Vol 79(4), 474-482.

  • View Article Carton, J. S. (1996). The differential effects of tangible rewards and praise on intrinsic motivation: A comparison of cognitive evaluation theory and operant theory. Behavior Analyst, 19(2), 237.

  • Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.

  • View Article Grolnick, Wendy S., and Richard M. (1987) Ryan. Autonomy in children's learning: an experimental and individual difference investigation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52(1987), 890-8.

  • View ArticleLowman, J. (1990). Promoting motivation and learning. College Teaching, 38(4), 136.

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

  • View Article Vallerand, Robert; Reid, Greg. (1984). On the Causal Effects of Perceived Competence on Intrinsic Motivation: A Test of Cognitive Evaluation Theory. Journal of Sport Psychology, 6(1), 94-102

  • View Article Young, M. R. (2005). The Motivational Effects of the Classroom Environment in Facilitating Self-Regulated Learning. Journal of Marketing Education. 27(1), 25-40.