We Know This Much Is (Meta-Analytically) True: A Meta-Review of Meta-Analytic Findings Evaluating Self-Determination Theory

Richard M. Ryan, Jasper J. Duineveld, Stefano I. Di Domenico, William S. Ryan, Ben A. Steward, Emma L. Bradshaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Self-determination theory (SDT) is a theoretical framework for addressing human motivation and wellness that has been actively and increasingly researched over 4 decades. As a cumulative knowledge base, many of SDT’s fundamental tenets have been repeatedly examined.We identified 60 meta-analyses that tested many of the propositions of SDT’s six mini-theories, other theory-based hypotheses, and SDT’s utility in applied domains. In this review, we examine what these meta-analyses establish, highlighting the support they lend to the validity of SDT’s motivational taxonomy and its hypotheses regarding the respective effects of basic psychological need satisfaction and frustration on well-being and ill-being. Meta-analytic evidence also strongly supports the relevance of SDT for organizations, health care, parenting, and education among other domains, with identifiable gaps in the meta-analytic literature. We conclude by discussing the importance of broad theory and the use of meta-analytic knowledge as scaffolding for further theory and research, albeit with its own methodological limitations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-842
Number of pages30
JournalPsychological Bulletin
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Psychological Association


  • autonomy
  • basic psychological needs
  • intrinsic motivation
  • meta-analysis
  • self-determination theory


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