The tripartite model of intrinsic motivation in education: a 30-year retrospective and meta-analysis

Joshua L. Howard, Jane X.Y. Chong, Julien S. Bureau

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21 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Intrinsic motivation is a well-established concept in psychology, yet, different types of intrinsic motivation have not been thoroughly investigated. We examined covariates associated with three types of intrinsic motivation from self-determination theory (SDT) within the education context: IM to know, IM to accomplish, and IM to experience stimulation. Methods: A meta-analysis was conducted on samples examining the tripartite model of intrinsic motivation between 1989 and 2019. In total, 78 samples met the inclusion criteria, representing 41,633 participants across multiple nationalities. The average age of participants across samples was 19 years, and 58.2% of participants were female. Path analysis and relative weight analysis were applied to meta-analytically derived correlations. Discussion: Results indicated that IM to know and IM to accomplish were moderately strong predictors of adaptive student outcomes. However, results also indicated a large degree of redundancy including indistinguishable antecedent pathways. IM to experience stimulation was positively, yet, less strongly associated with adaptive outcomes. However, it did appear to be empirically distinct from the remaining intrinsic motivation types in respect to its outcomes and antecedents. Conclusion: Intrinsic motivation appears to be a relatively homogeneous construct within educational psychology. Specification of different types of intrinsic motivation is likely to provide only marginal benefit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1268-1285
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • intrinsic motivation
  • meta-analysis
  • self-determination theory
  • tripartite model

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