Seeking solitude skills: Do memories of intrinsic goals enhance enjoyment of alone time?

Emma L. Bradshaw, Kelly A. Ferber, Richard M. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Further investigate the application of self-determination theory (SDT) to experiences of solitude by examining the effects of recalling intrinsic versus non-intrinsic memories. Background: SDT research indicates that recalling memories associated with intrinsic goals (e.g., personal growth, relationships, altruism) enhances present moment wellness by satisfying basic psychological needs. Method: Two studies were conducted with American adults. Study 1 included 465 participants (age = 49.49 [SD = 19.01], 49.46% female) and Study 2 comprised 490 participants (age = 54.16 [SD = 18.89], 51.84% female). Both studies assessed the impact of recalling intrinsic versus non-intrinsic memories prior to a five-minute solitude session. Results: Study 1 found intrinsic memories were linked to more basic psychological need satisfaction than non-intrinsic memories, but both memory types resulted in similar wellness improvements. Contrary to expectations, Study 2 revealed extrinsic memories (e.g., wealth, fame, image) led to the highest basic psychological need satisfaction and least need frustration compared to intrinsic and neutral memories, with all memory conditions showing similar wellness gains. Conclusions: Solitude appears beneficial regardless of memory content. While different memories vary in need satisfying quality, this does not seem to impact the benefits of solitude. These findings suggest further exploration is needed before developing a “solitude skill set” for use during inevitable periods of solitude.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Personality
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors. Journal of Personality published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • autonomy
  • extrinsic
  • loneliness
  • mindfulness
  • motivation


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