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Self determination theory

Author: Dr Simon Moss


According to self determination theory, proposed by Deci and Ryan (2000, 2008 & Ryan & Deci, 2000), individuals experience one of two forms of motivation: autonomous or controlled. When they experience autonomous motivation, they feel a profound sense of choice. In contrast, when individuals experience controlled motivation, they feel obliged and driven by forces that transcend the self, such as managers or society in general. usually, when individuals tend to feel they are granted choice and autonomy, their persistence and wellbeing improves.

Self determination theory can explain some fascinating findings. For example, unsurprisingly, employees are less likely to become absorbed and engrossed in their work when someone else, such as their supervisor, imposes a deadline. Interestingly, this problem dissipates if employees set themselves a more stringent deadline (Burgess, Enzle, & Schmaltz, 2004). This behavior implies a sense of choice, which fosters an autonomous motivation.

Five core theories of self-determination theory

Overall, self-determination theory comprises five key mini-theories or principles (Vansteenkiste, Niemiec, & Soenens, 2010). The first mini-theory, called cognitive evaluation theory, assumes that people are sometimes intrinsically motivated to complete tasks. That is, they feel that some tasks are inherently enjoyable, challenging, or significant. They do not merely feel obliged to complete these activities. When individuals feel intrinsic motivation, they tend to be more persistent. Burnout and exhaustion diminish (for more information, see cognitive evaluation theory). Unfortunately, when managers, teachers, and other authorities attempt to control the behavior of other people--with incentives, commands, or other forces--this sense of intrinsic motivation diminishes and persistence declines (see the overjustification effect).

The second mini-theory, called organismic integration theory, highlights that extrinsic motivation--that is, the tendency to complete a task to achieve some tangible incentive, such as money or recognition--does not always compromise persistence or wellbeing. In particular, over time, individuals may begin to internalize the demands or instructions that are imposed by authorities. For example, they may initially speak politely merely to avoid punishment. Over time, however, this courtesy may become more internalized or integrated with their core values and tendencies. Indeed, if the authorities are especially supportive and encouraging, people become more likely to internalize these demands or instructions, increasing persistence (for more information, see organismic integration theory).

The third mini-theory, called causality orientations theory, emphasizes individual differences in motivations. Some people, for example, demonstrate an autonomy orientation in which they strive to engage in tasks that are inherently enjoyable, challenging, and significant--tasks that resonate with their core values. Other people, in contrast, demonstrate a control orientation in which they primarily complete tasks to seek rewards or recognition, such as money or approval. Finally, some people experience neither of these motivations to a significant degree, compromising both persistence and effort.

The fourth mini-theory, called basic psychological needs theory, delineates the three fundamental needs that individuals strive to fulfill: autonomy, relatedness, and competence. Fulfillment of these needs enhances wellbeing and optimizes functioning (see need fulfillment). Tasks that enable people to satisfy these needs tend to be intrinsically motivating.

The final mini-theory, called goal contents theory, differentiates between goals that tend to foster extrinsic motivation from goals that tend to foster intrinsic motivation. Specifically, goals such as financial success, appearance, and popularity tend to coincide with an extrinsic motivation and consequently may both diminish persistence as well as impede the fulfillment of fundamental needs. Consequently, wellbeing may decline. Goals that revolve around community, personal growth, and close relationships satisfy fundamental needs, increase intrinsic motivation, and promote wellbeing (for more information, see goal contents theory).

Consequences of intrinsic or autonomous motivations and goals

Overall, compared to controlled motivation or no motivation, intrinsic or autonomous motivation is associated with an extensive gamut of desirable outcomes. First, intrinsic or autonomous motivation is related to positive mood states, such as wellbeing (e.g., Ryan, Rigby, & King, 1993), coupled with less burnout (e.g., Fernet, Guay, & Senecal, 2004) and a healthier life style, together with adherence to medical recommendations (e.g., Pelletier, Dion, Slovenic-D'Angelo, & Reid, 2004;; Williams, Rodin, Ryan, Grolnick, & Deci, 1998;; Williams, Freedman, & Deci, 1998).

Second, intrinsic or autonomous motivation is related to persistence (e.g., Pelletier, Fortier, Vallerand, & Brire, 2001), ultimately improving weight loss for example (Williams, Grow, Freedman, Ryan, & Deci, 1996). Third, intrinsic or autonomous motivation is related to cognitive performance, especially on tasks that demand deviations from a standard set of procedures, and thus is associated with creativity (e.g., Koestner, Ryan, Bernieri, & Holt, 1984) and conceptual understanding (e.g., Grolnick & Ryan, 1987). Finally, intrinsic or autonomous motivation is related to social behavior, such as better control over prejudice (Legault, Green-Demers, Grant, & Chung, 2007).

The concept of autonomous versus controlled motivation can also explain the overjustification effect. Specifically, sometimes, individuals feel less motivated to engage in a task after, rather than before, incentives are offered. That is, the provision of incentives, such as rewards or punishments, can actually diminish the autonomous motivation of individuals. Individuals are less inclined to enjoy or cherish the activity (for a review, see Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 1999).

The ownership effect

Self determination theory, or at least the significance of autonomy and choice, could partly explain the ownership or endowment effect. Specifically, individuals are more inclined to value and like anything they own. Nevertheless, many studies confound ownership and choice. That is, individuals tend to choose the objects they possess. Accordingly, their preference towards these objects could be ascribed to ownership, choice, or both.

Huang, Wang, and Shi (2009) disentangled the effects of ownership and choice. In the first study, an implicit association test was utilized to determine the attitudes of participants towards six objects: a mug, a small figurine, chocolate, candy, a pen, and a ruler (see Implicit association test). Before they undertook this test, they were informed that someone else had assigned three of these objects to the participant and three of these objects to themselves. In this study, participants preferred the objects they owned. Thus, ownership can affect attitudes even if these objects were not chosen.

In Study 2, participants choose to allocate half of the objects to someone else. A friend allocated the remaining objects to this person. Participants also showed a preference towards objects they chose. Accordingly, choice can shape attitudes even if they do not own these objects.

Study 3, however, showed the effects of ownership vanished if all the objects had been chosen. The choice effect seems to prevail in these instances. Presumably, objects that are chosen are associate with the concept of self or I, which usually coincides with a positive valence.

Competitive environments and the ownership effect

The ownership effect may be especially pronounced and consequential in particular conditions. Specifically, in competitive rather than cooperative settings, individuals tend to perceive other people as threats. They will, therefore, strive to inflate their capabilities and resources. Consequently, they may overestimate the value of anything that relates to themselves, culminating in the ownership effect. They will, for example, orient their attention towards their own solutions and dismiss the suggestions of other people.

These possibilities were proposed and validated by Toma, Bry, and Buter (2013). In their study, participants collaborated with two other people, both of whom were actually fictitious, over computer. Their task was to decide which of four suspects was responsible for a car accident. Nine clues were presented, although participants were informed that all collaborators received only a subset of this information. Participants then specified who they initially felt was culpable. Then, to foster cooperation, some participants were informed the entire team will receive a bonus if they identify the correct perpetrator. Alternatively, to foster competition, some participants were informed the individual who seems the most astute will receive a promotion as well. Finally, participants followed some instructions that enabled all collaborators to share their information and arrive at a final solution.

Before they reached their decision, participants were also asked to identify which pieces of information they felt were most pertinent to their final solution. In general, participants evaluated their own information as more important than other information. Interestingly, if the setting was competitive, participants dismissed the information of other people, regardless of whether or not this information was consistent with the initial decision about who was culplable. In contrast, if the setting was cooperative, participants dismissed the information of other people, but only if this information was consistent with their initial decision and therefore not especially consequential. Furthermore, in cooperative settings, the final decision was more accurate.

Threatening environments and the ownership effect

When people feel threatened, they are more likely to demonstrate the endowment effect--a bias that partly derives from the ownership effect (Chatterjee, Irmak, & Rose, 2013). Specifically, in general, people feel that an object they want to sell is worth more than an equivalent object they want to buy. This effect is called the endowment effect.

To illustrate, in one study, conducted by Chatterjee, Irmak, and Rose (2013), a coffee mug was placed on a desk. Some participants, designated as sellers, were informed the mug was not theirs and they would be granted the opportunity to sell this mug later. Other participants, designated as choosers, were not informed the mug was theirs but told they would later be granted the opportunity to decide between the mug and some amount of money. Later, participants were encouraged to estimate the value of this mug. In general, the estimated value of this mug was higher in sellers relative to choosers. That is, when people felt they owned the mug, they inflated the perceived value of this object.

According to Chatterjee, Irmak, and Rose (2013), this endowment effect can be ascribed to two tendencies. First, individuals tend to associate objects they own with themselves. Hence, when people sell an object they own, they feel they will relinquish some feature or part of themselves. This change evokes a feeling of uncertainty about their identity, manifesting as a sense of threat. In response to this threat, individuals attempt to inflate their qualities, called self-enhancement. That is, they want to feel resilient. So, they will overestimate the value of any object they associate with themselves.

Second, individuals are more sensitive to losses than gains. A $5 loss is more upsetting than a $5 gain is exciting. Selling an object reflects a loss and, therefore, is threatening. Again, in response tro this threat, people inflate their qualities and overestimate the value of any object they associate with themselves.

Chatterjee, Irmak, and Rose (2013) conducted a set of studies that vindicate these arguments. In one study, some participants completed a self-affirmation task, in which they reflected upon their most important values. This task--a task that has been demonstrated to override feelings of threat--diminished the endowment effect. In another study, a sense of threat, evoked by asking participants to summarize some difficult statistical material, amplified the endowment effect. A final study showed that conditions that magnify the endowment effect also increase the size of signatures--a measure of self-enhancement.

Measures associated with self determination

The general causality orientation scale is sometimes used to assess autonomy and control. Participants receive 17 vignettes about interpersonal situations, each coinciding with three items. Some of the items reflect an autonomous orientation: a tendency to initiate responses and experience interest. Other items reflect a controlled orientation, in which individuals feel compelled by incentives and contingencies as well as imposition from other individuals. Levels of internal consistency tend to exceed .80 (Deci & Ryan, 1985;; Weinstein & Hodgins, 2009).

Furthermore, a variety of scales have been developed to assess the extent to which individuals experience autonomy in the work environment (e.g., Galinsky & Bond , 1996, cited in Lloyd, 2008;; Hackman & Oldham, 1975, 1976;; Sims, Szilagyi, & Keller, 1976). Lloyd (2008) blended these measures to construct a scale that comprises six items. Typical items are "In my job, I have control over my hours of work?" and "My job allows me to make a lot of decisions on my own". Specifically, this scale refers to the extent to which individuals can reach decisions independently, can control the hours they work, and can exhibit personal initiative or judgment. Alpha consistency was .78 (Lloyd, 2008).

Applications of self determination theory

Temporary employment

Tan and Tan (2002) enumerated six distinct motives to engage in temporary employment. Four of these motives imply the temporary employment is voluntary. For example, some individuals prefer temporary work to ensure they can dedicate more time to their family. Second, some individuals choose temporary employment to facilitate the acquisition of skills--perhaps because they can engage in a variety of roles. Third, some individuals prefer temporary work for economic motives, such as to supplement the family income. Fourth, some individuals choose temporary work to circumvent some undesirable responsibilities, such as office politics.

Other motives imply that temporary employment is often involuntary. Some individuals assume temporary roles to demonstrate their qualities, ultimately to secure a permanent job. Finally, some individuals could not secure a permanent job, often because of a scarcity of relevant skills or experience.

De Cuyper and De Witte (2009), however, argued these six motives can be classified into three clusters: autonomous, controlled, and instrumental--as defined by self determination theory. Autonomous motives relate to intrinsic needs like competence and relationships, such as family. Controlled motives relate to extrinsic needs, like money or power, such as economic motives. Finally, instrumental motives, which relate to achieving specific goals, and include attempts to demonstrate qualities as a means to secure permanent employment later, might entail both autonomous and controlled orientations.

Nevertheless, although not entirely consistent with self determination theory, De Cuyper and De Witte (2009) showed that only the motivation to demonstrate qualities as a means to secure permanent employment later was correlated with job satisfaction and commitment. Autonomous and controlled motives were, in general, unrelated to these work attitudes.

One explanation, which invokes the concept of spreading of alternatives, could accommodate these unexpected findings. Individuals who experience the motive to demonstrate qualities as a means to secure permanent employment have, in essence, committed themselves to this organization. When individuals commit to some course of action, such as an organization, they become more cognizant of the relative benefits of this alternative.

Tactics to accelerate progress at work

Individuals can apply tactics they use to accelerate progress at work and ascend the corporate hierarchy, several of which are delineated by Lund, Tamnes, Moestue, Buss, and Vollrath (2007). Employees could, for example, exaggerate their status as well as misrepresent qualifications or experience. Alternatively, they may depart from the conventions or traditions of the their workgroup, pursing the goals they desire rather than conforming to the pressures that other individual impose. Finally, they might participate in more social activities, such as business functions.

All of these tactics can enhance salary and status. However, deceptive tactics--like exaggeration of status and misrepresentation of qualifications or experience--compromise satisfaction with life. In contrast, individuals who pursue the goals they desire rather than conform to the pressures that other individual impose are more likely to feel satisfied with life. These individuals are more inclined to undertake activities that resonate with their personal interests and preferences, representing autonomy, and thus satisfying fundamental needs (Lund, Tamnes, Moestue, Buss, & Vollrath, 2007). Similarly, participation in social activities also fulfills a fundamental need--relatedness--enhancing life satisfaction.

Complications of self determination theory

Increases in autonomy

Many studies have established the benefits of autonomy. For example, autonomy is negatively related to burnout (for a meta-analysis, see Humphrey, Nahrgang, & Morgeson, 2007). Despite the benefits of autonomy, some complications need to be accommodated.

Specifically, when autonomy is increased, participants might not be able to adjust effectively. Previously, they might have utilized routines to complete their work. Afterwards, when autonomy is granted, they might feel overwhelmed. They might be concerned they cannot adapt. They begin to ruminate over how to improve, distracting their attention and compromising their performance.

Niessen and Volmer (2010) verified this possibility. In this study, participants completed a task that was intended to help other university students. That is, university students need to complete a series of subjects to earn their degree. The participants attempted to formulate a schedule that students could follow to complete their degree as rapidly as possible. Specifically, they received information about the past record, performance, and interests of 14 students. They needed to formulate a schedule for each student as well as offer other recommendations.

Some of the participants were initially granted limited autonomy. That is, participants were told they must utilize particular routines. They also were told that several provisions, such as recommending the students complete tutorials or attend counseling, were now prohibited. They were also told they must complete the first case in 19 minutes and each subsequent case in 9 minutes. They were also instructed to rest for one minute. Hence, both method autonomy--that is, the procedures that were utilized--and scheduling autonomy--that is, the timing of tasks--were limited.

Other participants were initially granted considerable autonomy instead. In addition, after they completed the first 7 cases, all participants were granted considerable autonomy.

The range of recommendations that participants offered, such as counseling, was regarded as a measure of performance. The number of errors, such as schedules that were not permitted, was also assessed. In addition, participants were asked to verbalize their thoughts as they proceeded. Some of the verbalizations were categorized as reflections about the task and included statements about their goals or plans.

The participants who had initially been granted limited autonomy did not perform as well as participants who had initially been granted considerable autonomy once this autonomy was increased. If participants often reflected upon the task, this difference was especially pronounced. Presumably, these reflections distracted attention from the activity, undermining the capacity of individuals to adjust in response to increases in autonomy. One practical implication is that employees should be encouraged to experiment with a variety of routines and procedures, even when they are merely a novice.

Related topics and concepts

Felt accountability

Felt accountability is the expectations of individuals that many of their decisions or actions will be both evaluated, as well as either rewarded or punished, by some other person or authority (e.g., Hall, Frink, Ferris, Hochwarter, Kacmar, & Bowen, 2003). Felt accountability is not merely dependent upon formal laws, regulations, and evaluation systems, but also reflects the subjective responses to these arrangements (Hall, Royle, Brymer, Perrewe, Ferris, & Hochwarter, 2006).

Felt accountability might impede self determination. Indeed, when felt accountability is elevated, cooperation, flexibility, and honesty can decline (Adelberg & Batson, 1978). Nevertheless, accountable employees also tend to be attentive at work (Mero, Guidice, & Anna, 2006), dedicated to their role, and competent at work (Hall, Frink, Ferris, Hochwarter, Kacmar, & Bowen, 2003). In short, the consequences of felt accountability to behavior and performance are mixed and, presumably, are contingent upon many factors (see Carnevale, Pruitt, & Seilheimer, 1981;; Siegel-Jacobs & Yates, 1996;; Thoms, Dose, & Scott, 2002).

The effects of felt accountability may be moderated by several factors, such as personal reputation. In a study conducted by Laird, Perryman, Hochwarter, Ferris, and Zinko (2009), participants completed a questionnaire that comprised several scales. First, a series of eight items, such as "I often have to explain why I do certain things at work", was included to gauge felt accountability. Second, a series of scales were administered to assess a variety of outcomes, such as depression at work, job tension, work effort, and job satisfaction. Third, the perceived reputation of individuals was assessed, with items such as "I am regarded highly by others".

If participants reported a modest reputation, felt accountability was positively related to depression at work, job tension, and job dissatisfaction. In contrast, if participants reported an elevated reputation, felt accountability was inversely related to these affective difficulties (Laird, Perryman, Hochwarter, Ferris, & Zinko, 2009).

According to Laird, Perryman, Hochwarter, Ferris, and Zinko (2009), when individuals feel their reputation is fragile, felt accountability can obviously elicit stress (e.g., Cooper, Clarke, & Rowbottom, 1999 & Green, Visser, & Tetlock, 2002). Accountabilities may conflict with one another (see Orpen, 2000 & Page, 2006), and hence demands might not be achievable, which provokes stress (see also Lerner & Tetlock, 1999).

When individuals feel their reputation is strong, a decline in felt accountability might instead elicit stress. These individuals might feel their qualities might not be recognized, and their reputation might diminish.


Self determination is related to the concept of psychological empowerment. According to Thomas and Velthouse (1990), psychological empowerment reflects the degree to which individuals feel they can choose which courses of action they would like to pursue, believe these pursuits are meaningful, and feel competent as well as responsible in these endeavors (for further evidence, see Spreitzer, 1995). In short, psychological empowerment seems to entail four dimensions: self determination, meaning, competence, and impact.

Spreitzer (1995) developed a measure that gauges these facets of empowerment. Self determination represents the extent to which individuals experience a sense of choice and autonomy at work, epitomized by items like "I have significant autonomy in determining how I do my job". Meaning relates to whether the role is valuable, corresponding to an important purpose or cause. A sample item is "The work I do is meaningful". Competence revolves around the degree to which individuals feel they can fulfill their roles effectively, represented by items like "I am confident about my ability to do my job". Finally, impact refers to whether individuals feel they can effect change. A typical item is "My impact on what happens in my department is large". Confirmatory factor analyses have both differentiated the four factors and verified these factors correspond to the same global construct (Spreitzer, 1995).

Empowerment has been shown to enhance work attitudes, such as job satisfaction and commitment (e.g., Chang, Shih, & Lin, 2010;; Koberg, Boss, Senjem, & Goodman, 1999). Empowerment also has been demonstrated to improve work performance (Huang, Iun, Liu, & Gong, 2010;; Liden, Wayne, & Sparrowe, 2000).

Several clusters of factors have been shown to cultivate a sense of psychological empowerment in the workplace. First, participative leadership evokes empowerment: When employees and managers are invited to participate in important strategic discussions and operational decisions, this sense of empowerment evolves (Spreitzer, 1996;; Huang, Iun, Liu, & Gong, 2010). Likewise, if leaders are perceived as approachable, employees and managers are more likely to feel empowered (Koberg, Boss, Senjem, & Goodman, 1999). For example, managers who share strategic information, as epitomized by items like "I have access to the strategic information I need to do my job well", foster empowerment in employees (e.g., Spreitzer, 1996).

Second, role ambiguity also influences psychological empowerment. If the goals, roles, and responsibilities of employees are unambiguous, a sense of empowerment is instilled (e.g., Spreitzer, 1996). Individuals who endorse items like "Most tasks performed at the lower levels of the total unit are not well defined" seldom feel empowered (Spreitzer, 1996) . If their roles are uncertain, individuals do not experience a sense of control over their environment& they are concerned they might not fulfill the expectations of other people. They are, thus, inclined to monitor the needs of managers rather than pursue their own values and preferences.

Third, support from peers, managers, and subordinates also increases empowerment. If participants endorse items like "I have the support I need from my peers to do my job well", they are more likely to feel empowered (Spreitzer, 1996). The corresponding trust curbs any concerns or anxieties, enabling individuals to orient attention to their own values and purposes.

Psychological empowerment can also moderate the benefits or drawbacks of other approaches or characteristics. For example, research indicates that transformational leaders, who present an inspiring vision of the future, tend to enhance the innovation of organizations. Nevertheless, this benefit of transformational leaders is pronounced only when employees feel empowered (Pieterse, Van Knippenberg, Schippers, & Stam, 2010).

Motivational interviewing

The objective of motivational interviewing is to foster intrinsic motivation in clients, ultimately to facilitate change (Miller & Rollnick, 1991, cited in Miller & Rollnick, 2002). Specifically, the practitioners strive to identify, and then to redress, sources of ambivalence about change. Once this ambivalence is addressed, individuals become intrinsically motivated to improve their behavior.

To uncover and address ambivalence, therapists first engage the clients. They may discuss a typical day, immediate concerns, and future aspirations. Second, therapists focus the conversation on which changes the client would like to consider. Third, therapists evoke thoughts about the prospect of change, asking questions that highlight the potential benefits and complications. They may ask "How would life be better if you changed this practice?" as well seek the beliefs of clients about change. These questions might highlight the ambivalence that individuals are experiencing. But the therapists tend to remain fairly quiet and do not impose their beliefs. Finally, they help the client implement plans to change, by exploring possibilities collaboratively without imposing their beliefs confrontationally. This support or partnership tends to encourage openness to change.

During these exchange, the therapists apply four key skills. First, they ask open ended questions to garner a broader range of information. Second, they affirm the values and qualities of clients, and these affirmations can increase openness and limit defensive reactions. Third, after listening to clients carefully, practitioners reflect their understanding of these concerns to clarify their understanding and to show unconditional empathy. Finally, the therapist occasionally, but regularly, summarizes their understanding, ideas, and recommendations.

These skills enable the therapist to visualize an inspiring future and to understand the risks and benefits of the concomitant changes. This clarity overcomes some of the unconscious ambivalence that may preclude change.

Many studies, including randomized control trials, attest to the benefits of motivational interviewing (e.g., Brodie, Inoue, & Shaw, 2008). This approach has been used to encourage healthier behavior in people ranging from adolescence (Shannon, Smith, & Gregory, 2003) to elderly individuals (Cummings, Cooper, & Cassie, 2009). In addition, this technique has been applied effectively in groups (Wagner & Ingersoll, 2013).

Benefits of choice to treatment

When individuals are granted some choice over which of several treatment alternatives they should receive, the treatment tends to be more effective. In particular, this sense of choice instils a sense of control, and this sense of control evokes physiological processes that enhance health. Consistent with this premise, Geers, Rose, Fowler, Rasinski, Brown, and Helfer (2013) showed that such benefits of choice are especially pronounced in people who report a high need for control.

Specifically, in one study, participants completed a measure that assesses the extent to which they prefer control, with questions like "I enjoy making my own decisions". Next, either an analgesic cream or a hand cleanser was applied to the hands of participants. Some but not all participants were granted the choice over which of two creams to apply to their hands. Actually, the creams were inactive. Finally, all participants immersed their hands in very cold water. If participants were granted the choice to apply the analgesic cream, they reported less pain. However, this benefit of choice was pronounced only in people who reported a desire for control.

Similarly, in a second study, participants heard an irritating sound over headphones. Some but not all participants were told that a particular color, displayed over a computer screen, could dampen the discomfort this sound evokes. Furthermore, a subset of participants was granted an opportunity to choose which color appears on the screen. If participants were granted the opportunity to choose the color that, supposedly, dampens the discomfort, they reported lower levels of discomfort. Again, this effect was pronounced only in participants who reported an elevated level of control.

A third study generated the same pattern of observations, even when desire for control was manipulated. In particular, participants were instructed to imagine their partner had cheated. Some participants imagined the partner had then telephoned to end the relationship--an image that arguably evokes a desire to seek control, because this feeling of control had been withdrawn. Some participants imagined they telephoned their partner to end the relationship--an image that arguably inhibits a desire to seek control, because this sense of control had been fulfilled. Again, choice was more effective in people who experienced a need to seek control. A fourth study showed that thoughts relate to feelings of personal control mediated these relationships.

Arguably, when the need of individuals to seel control is fulfilled, anxieties about the treatment diminish. In particular, this fulfilment of control affects processing in the caudate nucleus and anterior cingulate cortex--areas associated with processing threats. As this sense of threat diminishes, physiological responses that resolve threats, but can damage health over extended periods, may be inhibited.


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