Perception of autonomy and its effect on intrinsic motivation, immersion, and performance

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Trevor Moree Dennie (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
William Poynter

Abstract: Self-determination theory (SDT) states that satisfaction of three basic psychological needs leads to intrinsic motivation. These needs are autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Satisfaction of the need for autonomy comes from having the choice or freedom to engage in what one wants to do. This study primarily focused on the need for autonomy. The purpose of the current study is to examine the association between autonomy, in the form of game character personalization, and immersion, intrinsic motivation and performance. This study employed an experimental design in order to manipulate the levels of autonomy each participant received. Two conditions were used in this study to determine how differing levels of autonomy affected the participants. One of the conditions, the autonomy condition, allowed each participant to create a customized in-game character which they would then use in either Kinect Sports or Kinect Adventures. In the second condition, the non-autonomy condition, the examiner removed all character customization ability from the participants’ control. The examiner fully dictated how to create this character (bodily characteristics, facial characteristics, clothing and character name). Regardless of the game they were asked to play, all participants played each game for two rounds. All participants played only one game and engaged in both conditions within the same game. After each round, they completed the PENS scales (In-Game Autonomy, In-Game Competence, Physical/Emotional/Narrative Presence, and Intuitive Controls) and game enjoyment was evaluated with an adapted form of the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory (IMI), the Interest/Enjoyment scale. Personality data, based on the five factor model of personality (FFM), and data regarding participants’ satisfaction of the basic psychological needs of autonomy and competence were also collected. No significant differences in immersion, autonomy or intrinsic motivation were found between the autonomy and non-autonomy conditions for either Kinect Adventures or Kinect Sports. Performance within Kinect Adventures did not significantly differ between the autonomy and non-autonomy conditions. However, there were significant positive correlations between the domains of personality and the PENS measures of autonomy, competence, intuitive controls and immersion and the Interest/Enjoyment (IMI) scale. Significant correlations were also found between personality domains and participants’ satisfaction of the basic psychological needs of autonomy and competence for both Kinect Adventures and Kinect Sports. These results suggest that video game research that utilizes SDT needs to further evaluate the relationship between the domains of personality and autonomy, competence, immersion and enjoyment.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2012
Autonomy, Basic need satisfaction, Five factor model, Intrinsic motivation, Self-determination theory, Video games
Autonomy (Psychology)
Intrinsic motivation
Video games -- Psychological aspects

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