Intentions: The Beginnings of an Empirically Derived Typology

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Ryan and Deci advanced motivation research by shifting the focus from Maslow’s hierarchy of basic need fulfillment to examining types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. While a helpful distinction, this two-dimension typology of motivation was never empirically derived. It also is primarily interested in where the motivation comes from—the source—not in what the motivation is, such as to protect, to support, to persevere, and so forth. The goal of this paper is to take initial steps to identify types of motivation at this more granular level. Types of specific motivation may be able to help us evaluate, which intentions lead to well-being, beyond goal attainment. To accomplish this, I review relevant literature, including Maslow’s Hierarchy of Motivation, Ryan & Deci’s Theories of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation, and other content-based theories and studies of motivation. I then conduct two exploratory empirically-based exercises. The first exercise will analyze the 1000 most used infinitives in American English based on the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA). The second exercise uses the 28 groupings that emerged from that COCA analysis to code the intentions in 27 personal stories. As a result, I identify a list of 28 intentions that represented the vast majority of motivations identified in these exploratory exercises. Recommended next step includes writing items to measure each of these intentions and subjecting them to an exploratory factor analysis so that a typology of motivation might be empirically derived.


intentions, motives, qualitative, Social Psychology, Positive Psychology


Well-being/Flourishing, Other Topics


Empirical Study



Date Posted: 25 September 2018