Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 42, Issue 5, pp 615–637 | Cite as

The development and validation of an implicit measure of competence need satisfaction

  • Jolene van der Kaap-Deeder
  • Jan De Houwer
  • Sean Hughes
  • Adriaan Spruyt
  • Maarten Vansteenkiste
Original Paper


Research on self-determination theory has typically relied on explicit measures when examining the concept of competence need satisfaction. As a result, we know relatively little about competence need satisfaction that arises under conditions of automaticity. Across four studies, we developed and validated implicit measures of competence need satisfaction by drawing on two tasks: a relational variant of the implicit association test (IAT; Study 1, 3, and 4) and the implicit relational assessment procedure (IRAP; Study 2–3). Results across these studies revealed that both implicit measures were either unrelated or moderately related to their explicit counterpart. They were also unrelated to one another. Unlike the IRAP, the IAT was found to be reliable, to display discriminant validity, and to yield meaningful but modest relations with constructs in a nomological network. Together, these results provide modest support for the usefulness of the competence need satisfaction IAT but not of the competence need satisfaction IRAP as an implicit measure of the need for competence. Future research examining the unique predictive value of this IAT is needed, together with research on possible explanations for the low reliability of the IRAP.


Competence Implicit association test Implicit relational assessment procedure Self-determination theory Implicit 



Preparation of this paper was supported by Grant 12X5818N of the Research Foundation—Flanders and Methusalem Grant BOF16/MET_V/002 of Ghent University.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Research involving human and animal rights

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Developmental, Social, and Personality Psychology, Faculty of PsychologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Experimental Clinical and Health PsychologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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