The role of basic need fulfillment in academic dishonesty: A self-determination theory perspective Academic Article uri icon


  • The sharp rise in academic dishonesty is prompting increased concern in educational institutions. Based on the Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000), we posited that frustration of the three basic psychological needs for autonomy (endorsing one's actions at the highest level of reflection), competence (feeling capable in one's pursuits), and relatedness (feelings of belonging and connection with others) underpins the likelihood of academic deception. We tested this hypothesis in two studies. Study 1 (n = 121) utilized an experimental design in which need fulfillment was manipulated by providing different instructions about accomplishing a task to a sample of undergraduate students. Results showed that participants in the need-frustration condition were more likely to cheat, whereas those in the need-satisfaction condition were least likely to cheat. Those in the neutral condition scored in between the other two groups. In Study 2, we investigated whether autonomous motivation mediated the effect of need fulfillment on academic dishonesty in a sample of junior high school students (n = 115). A mediation analysis showed that perceived need fulfillment in learning activities was positively associated with autonomous motivation, which, in turn, was inversely related to self-reported academic dishonesty. Implications for promoting needs-supportive educational strategies are discussed. 2015 Elsevier Inc.

publication date

  • January 1, 2015