Distinguishing between basic psychological needs and basic wellness enhancers: the case of beneficence as a candidate psychological need

Frank Martela, Richard M. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

In order to be considered a basic psychological need, a candidate need should fulfill several criteria, including need satisfaction having a unique positive effect on well-being, and need frustration having a unique effect on ill-being, properties demonstrated by autonomy, competence and relatedness. Previous research has demonstrated that beneficence satisfaction—the sense of having a positive impact on other people—can have a unique positive effect on well-being. In the present study, we examined whether beneficence frustration—the sense of having a negative impact on other people—would be uniquely connected to ill-being. In the first study (N = 332; Mage = 38) we developed a scale to assess beneficence frustration. Then, in two subsequent cross-sectional studies (N = 444 and N = 426; Mage = 38/36) beneficence frustration is correlated with indicators of ill-being (negative affect, depression, anxiety, physical symptoms), but this connection disappears when controlling for the effects of autonomy, competence and relatedness need frustrations. The three needs fully mediate relations between beneficence frustration and all assessed well-being and ill-being indicators in both studies. This leads us to suggest a distinction between basic psychological needs and basic wellness enhancers, the satisfaction of which may improve well-being, but the neglect or frustration of which might not uniquely impact ill-being.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-133
Number of pages18
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Volume44
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2020

Keywords

  • Basic psychological needs
  • Beneficence
  • Ill-being
  • Need frustration
  • Self-determination theory

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