The Self-Determination Scale (SDS)

Purpose: To assess individual differences in the extent to which people tend to function in a self-determined way.


Short description: The Self-Determination Scale (SDS) was designed to assess individual differences in the extent to which people tend to function in a self-determined way. It is thus considered a relatively enduring aspect of people’s personalities which reflects (1) being more aware of their feelings and their sense of self, and (2) feeling a sense of choice with respect to their behavior. The SDS is a short, 10-item scale, with two 5-item subscales. The first subscale is awareness of oneself, and the second is perceived choice in one’s actions. The subscales can either be used separately or they can be combined into an overall SDS score.

Sample questions: 

Instructions: Please read the pairs of statements, one pair at a time, and think about which statement within the pair seems more true to you at this point in your life. Indicate the degree to which statement A feels true, relative to the degree that Statement B feels true, on the 5-point scale shown after each pair of statements. If statement A feels completely true and statement B feels completely untrue, the appropriate response would be 1. If the two statements are equally true, the appropriate response would be a 3.

Sample questions:

  1. I feel pretty free to do whatever I choose to.
  2. I often do things that I don’t choose to do.


  1. I am free to do whatever I decide to do.
  2. What I do is often not what I’d choose to do.

Paid or free: Free

Reliability/validity measures: Not available

Setting: Open


  • Individuals
  • Students
  • Instructors
  • Coworkers

Type of measurement: Questionnaire

Possible uses: 

  • Workplace professional development
  • Individual
  • Educational setting

Ease of implementation: Easy. 10 items, est. 10 min.


  • Short. Minimal time commitment.
  • Easy to answer, administer, and score.

Drawbacks: May not provide in-depth information about an individual.

Studies this has been used in: 

  • Elliot, A. J., & McGregor, H. A. (2001). A 2 X 2 achievement goal framework. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 501-519.


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