Colin Wierts’ PhD Thesis Proposal

Title: “An Examination of Dweck’s Psychological Needs Model in Relation to Exercise-Related Well-Being and Behaviour”

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Mark Beauchamp
Committee Members: Dr. Guy Faulkner , Dr. Bruno Zumbo, Dr. Ryan Rhodes (University of Victoria)
Chair: Dr Bill Sheel

Abstract: Psychological needs, which are broadly conceptualized as innate, universal psychosocial requirements for well-being and long-term psychological health and development, have garnered a fair amount or research attention in exercise and health promotion settings, primarily from a Self-Determination Theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 2000) perspective.  There is considerable scope, however, to examine other candidate needs, beyond the three needs (competence, relatedness, and autonomy) subsumed within SDT, as explanatory mechanisms of exercise related well-being and behaviour. Recently, Dweck (2017) proposed a promising psychological needs model that builds on SDT and other theories incorporating psychological needs, and provides the foundation for a theory of motivation, personality, and development.  My PhD research (to date) has focused on investigating Dweck’s psychological needs model in relation to exercise-related well-being (Paper 1) and behaviour (Paper 2).  In Paper 1, empirical evidence is provided demonstrating that measures of Dweck’s need for optimal predictability (operationalized as prediction of affect and instrumental utility in exercise), are empirically distinct from measures of the three needs subsumed within SDT.  Measures of optimal predictably (primarily prediction of affect) explained unique variance in prospective exercise-related well-being, above and beyond the three needs subsumed within SDT.  Exercise-related meaning (operationalized as a psychological need as per Dweck) also mediated relationships between basic psychological needs and well-being.  In Study 2, empirical evidence is provided to support exercise identity (operationalized as a psychological need as per Dweck) as a robust predictor of prospective exercise behaviour, and also mediated the relationship between competence and exercise behaviour.  Drawing from the results of Paper 2, and in particular the finding linking exercise identity and physical activity behaviours, I propose to conduct a Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial that utilizes virtual social identity informed running groups, with the intention of improving university students’ well-being, exercise identity, and exercise behaviour. The findings from this final study can inform future efficacy trials and experiments targeting exercise identity, and can also inform future interventions that aim to support university students’ well-being and exercise behaviour, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.