Yu, S., Levesque-Bristol, C.

2015, August

Poster presentation at American Psychological Association Annual Convention 2015, Toronto, ON, Canada


Self-determination theory proposes that the extent to which students’ motivation is self-determined is critical to learning outcomes. Based on occasional research evidence and our perceptions, we hypothesize that college students in certain majors have profiles that are higher in self-determined motivation than students in other majors. Specifically, our primary hypothesis is that students in the social sciences and humanities tend to be more self-determined, whereas students in business-related majors tend to be less self-determined. The results from two studies using large samples and advanced analytical methods support the primary hypotheses. Comparison results were also obtained for other majors (e.g., engineering and natural sciences), and supplemental analyses supported the critical role of self-determined motivation in learning outcomes among students in all majors. Study 2 also found support for two mechanisms for such differences, i.e., the majors’ learning climates and students’ individual differences in autonomous functioning. The current evidence suggests the importance of promoting more humanistic learning environments in certain academic disciplines.


Keywords: Academic motivation, Self-determination theory, College majors, Bifactor ESEM