Basic needs in other cultures: Using qualitative methods to study key issues in self-determination theory research
Self-Determination Theory (SDT) has grown substantially over the past 30 years. Much of that growth stems from the theory's rigorous empirical foundations and the elegance of the theory itself. Yet most of SDT's empirical support has been quantitative, with little attention to the possible contributions of a qualitative approach. This paper details two recent, qualitative studies of motivation in the realm of education that address critical issues in SDT. Study 1 (N= 195) explored the question, "Might there be different basic needs in other cultures?". Study 2 (N = 115) asked, "What is the experience of autonomy like for members of another culture?". In Study 1, an analysis of responses given by 195 teachers, psychologists and school principals of the Republic of Tatarstan (Russia) revealed their consensus that the child's psychological well-being is based on satisfying the child's need for relationships. In Study 2, 115 graduate students (Kazan, Russia) described their experience of autonomy and non-autonomy at the university in the form of an essay. Analysis revealed two additional categories that distinguish these situations from each other: The time factor and the meaning of the situation for a person. In both studies, participants provided responses in their own words. These studies provide simple examples of how a qualitative design can push the boundaries of current understanding with respect to two central questions under cross-cultural debate. Suggestions for further research are offered.