Competence significantly enhances human experiences by giving people a sense of proficiency and mastery. When individuals feel they are adept at something—whether it’s a professional skill, a personal hobby, or social interaction—it boosts their confidence and satisfaction with their activities. This sense of competence increases engagement and enthusiasm and encourages people to take on new challenges, fostering personal growth and resilience. For example, consider Lela who learns to travel around Asia, booking trains, hotels, and hostels and navigating public transportation with ease. As Lela becomes more skilled at organizing their travels, they feel more competent and are likely to be motivated to plan even more complex journeys elsewhere. Lela’s neighbors and coworkers may even discover their travel planning skills and ask them to plan their trips—reinforcing Lela’s positive feelings about their abilities. This positive feedback loop, where feeling skilled leads to tangible results, enhances a sense of purpose and well-being.

Within this context, Self-Determination Theory (SDT) offers valuable insights into the psychological mechanisms behind these experiences. SDT identifies competence as one of the three intrinsic needs essential for psychological health and well-being, alongside autonomy and relatedness. Learning a person’s competence from an activity can help designers evaluate alignment and create products, services, and systems that facilitate intrinsic motivation. 

Examples of Competence

  • An older adult becoming comfortable navigating their iPhone to take pictures and send emails.
  • An athlete setting and achieving personal performance goals in their training regimen.
  • An employee mastering a new software program that increases their productivity at work.
  • A musician learning and perfecting a challenging piece of music for a performance.
  • A gardener successfully growing a variety of plants and improving crop yields through effective techniques.



Updated: June 18, 2024 2:53 pm
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