Scientific journal

New Psychological Research

Nikolaev D.E. Self-Determination Theory and the Externalization Continuum

Dmitry E. Nikolaev, ANO “Research Centre “Analytic”, Yekaterinburg, Russia; bld. 38a, Lenin Ave., Yekaterinburg, Russia, 620219;

Externalization as attributing some aspect of one's internal world to the outside traditionally attracts the attention of scholars in psychology. In modern cognitive psychology and cognitive science, externalization, in the form of anticipation, is considered the main mechanism of cognition. Researchers have demonstrated that the Theory of Predictive Coding not only relates to perception but can also underpin descriptions of how the human brain functions. This paper proposes the introduction of externalization into Self-Determination Theory. The universal character of externalization implies that a person's activities are often regulated not by actual external rewards, punishments, norms, values, and behaviors, but by their assumptions and hypotheses about them. The degree of reasonableness of such hypotheses can vary in a wide range. It logically leads to the introduction of an externalization continuum, similar to the internalization continuum in Self-Determination Theory. It can be observed that human behavior regulated through externalization is more autonomous than behavior regulated externally. Simultaneously, externalized regulation, unlike internalized regulation, does not involve the internalization of norms, values, and behaviors. A person whose behavior is regulated through externalization, attributes the ability to satisfy certain needs to specific objects. The behavior turns out to be purely utilitarian in nature. Values and behaviors often undergo repeated cycles of externalization and internalization, which makes it challenging to differentiate between various types of regulation in many instances.


Key words: Self-Determination Theory, externalization, motivation, activity, Theory of Predictive Coding


For citation: Nikolaev, D.E. (2023). Self-Determination Theory and the Externalization Continuum. New Psychological Research, No. 4, 67–79. DOI: 10.51217/npsyresearch_2023_03_04_04


Keywords: Self-Determination Theory externalization motivation activity Theory of Predictive Coding

Received: 26th december 2023

Published: 26th december 2023

Download PDF