Basic psychological needs, quality of motivation, and protective behavior intentions: a nationally representative survey study

Meri Pietilä, Kaisa Saurio, Frank Martela, Mia Silfver, Nelli Hankonen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Objective: Building on the Self-Determination Theory, this study examines how basic psychological need satisfaction related to COVID-19 behavioral measures is associated with motivation quality and whether motivation quality is associated with intention to wear a face mask and to avoid meeting others. Methods: Cross-sectional survey study involving a nationally representative sample of Finnish adult population aged 18–79 (N = 2272, M age = 48.63, SD = 16.89, 975 men and 1297 women) was conducted in Finland in May 2021 when protective behaviors were recommended to prevent acceleration of the epidemic. Measures included scales of Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction in Adhering to COVID Prevention Measures, Motivation to Adhere to COVID Prevention Measures, Perceived Personal Risk, Fear of COVID-19, and Protective Behavior Intention. Analysis of variance tests, linear regression analysis, and multinomial logistic regression were conducted. Perceived personal risk and fear of COVID-19 were controlled for in the regression analyses. Results: All three psychological needs were positively related to autonomous motivation (all p <.001). Autonomous motivation (range OR = 1.82–3.55, p =.001) was consistently related to intention to wear a mask and intention to avoid meeting people. Controlled motivation (range OR =.66–.93, p =.001–.457) was associated with decreased protective behavior intentions. The effects of amotivation (range OR =.65–1.02, p =.001–.911) varied across analyses. Conclusions: Fostering autonomous motivation could increase adherence to protective behaviors in situations without clear mandates.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2257295
JournalHealth Psychology and Behavioral Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • autonomous motivation
  • behavioral intention
  • COVID-19
  • protective behaviors
  • self-determination theory

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • General Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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