The current study examined the relationship between Self Determination Theory (SDT) and its three concentrations, autonomy, competence, and relatedness with motivations for engagement in social activism on college campuses. The affects that empathy, morality, and guilt have on engagement with social activism on college campuses were also explored. This was done using 119 participants attending The College of Wooster whom were surveyed using a scale including items relating to SDT, social activism, empathy, morality, and guilt. It was hypothesized that there would be a positive correlation between SDT and activism, particularly between autonomy and activism (H1). It was also hypothesized that there would be positive correlations between the three psychological factors the study also examined and activism (H2). After running a correlational analysis, there was no support found for (H1) however, in running a second correlational analysis, a positive correlation was found between morality and activism, as well as guilt and activism, giving partial support to (H2). A linear regression model was ran with these three psychological factors to see their power at predicting activism, and while they had a combined beta weight that had statistical significance, none of the separate value had individual significance, despite morality having an approaching significance b = 0.204, t(119) = 1.938, p = 0.055. Future research could be fruitful in this field to better understand the relationship between motivation to join social causes and self actualization, as well as how involvement in activism fulfills basic psychological needs.


Claudia R. Thompson




Self Determination Theory, Social Activism

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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