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What Is Intrinsic Motivation In Psychology

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Intrinsic And Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation – Intro to Psychology

Early intrinsic motivation research examined the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. At issue is whether giving extrinsic rewards to people who are intrinsically motivated for an activity would enhance their intrinsic motivation for the activity. That of course would be desirable. Perhaps, however, the two are additive in which case the motivations would not affect each other but would add together to form total motivation. That too would be a good outcome. But the third option is that there is a negative interactive effect between extrinsic rewards and intrinsic motivation. That would mean that giving extrinsic rewards to someone doing an interesting activity would actually diminish the person’s intrinsic motivation for the activity.

Edward L. Deci, in, 2004

How Intrinsic Motivation Impacts Our Daily Lives

Whether you are conscious of it or not, intrinsic motivation is something you experience time and time again. Whether learning new skills, graduating from school, or growing your career, everyone has different motivations and perspectives on what is rewarding to them, and while some might be fueled internally when going after a goal, others can see the same activity as having more extrinsic benefits. Both types of motivation can get you to take action, but intrinsic motivation tends to drive the best outcomes and satisfaction.

Relying on extrinsic rewards too often can lead to loss of value in the rewards and can even diminish the feeling of intrinsic value over time. When your behaviors are motivated internally, it increases positive emotions, generates feelings of satisfaction and meaning, and can even help a person feel like progress is being made each time you accomplish something. This can help improve and build contentment and confidence in the long term.

Potential Pitfalls Affecting Intrinsic Motivation

Experts have noted that offering unnecessary rewards can have unexpected costs. While we like to think that offering a reward will improve a person’s motivation, interest, and performance, this isn’t always the case.

When children are rewarded for playing with toys that they already enjoy playing with, their enjoyment of those toys, and their motivation to continue playing with them, actually decreases.

It is important to note, however, that a number of factors can influence whether intrinsic motivation is increased or decreased by external rewards. Salience or the significance of the event itself often plays a critical role.

An athlete competing in a sporting event might view the winner’s prize as confirmation of competence and exceptionalism. On the other hand, some athletes might view the same prize as a sort of bribe or coercion.

The way in which the individual views the importance of different characteristics of the event impacts whether the reward will affect their intrinsic motivation for participating in that activity.

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The Psychology Of Intrinsic Motivation

As I mentioned briefly in my blog on the subject of Educational Psychology, motivation is something I have studied extensively. What makes humans do what they do, and why? Though my studies have revolved around motivation in education, these motivational theories can be applied to any human behavior.

There are two main types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is an outside force that creates incentive to do something. Easy real life example: getting paid to do your job! Intrinsic motivation is an internal dynamic that encourages action. For example: I enjoy helping students learn. I feel good when someone learns something new, opens their mind a little, or has an ah-ha moment . These reasons and more are why I have worked in mental health and academia. You probably experience both of these motivational aspects as well. Thats good people are more productive and successful when they have both types of motivation working with them.

Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations have multiple theories about them. Lets talk about em.

Humanistic Theory of Motivation

The second level is security. As humans, we are motivated to feel safe. Sometimes this motivation can be manipulated , but the theory goes, if we do not feel safe, we will not accomplish the next three levels.


Modeling influences self-efficacy as well. Role-models, outside of parents and immediate family, are crucial to our confidence and motivation.

Expectancy-Value Theory

What Is Intrinsic And Extrinsic Motivation

What Does Intrinsic Motivation Mean?

Answer itmotivatedIntrinsic motivationextrinsic motivation

In this way, how are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation different?

extrinsic motivationIntrinsic motivationmotivation

What is the definition of intrinsic motivation?

Intrinsic motivationmotivationachievementprofessional growthaccomplishmentmotivation

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Expectations Also Play A Role

Lepper and colleagues found that expectations of rewards can also play a role in how motivation is affected by external rewards. When students expected some type of extrinsic reward for participating in an activity, their motivation levels were more likely to decrease as a result.

When rewards were unexpected, there was no effect on intrinsic motivation levels.

Employees Perform Better When Theyre Intrinsically Rewarded

Intuitively it makes sense that if we enjoy something, and theres an internal drive to do it, were likely to make a better job of it. Research backs that up. This research presented at the 3rd International Conference on Management and Economics looked at intrinsic rewards in other words, the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction someone gets from successfully completing a piece of work. It showed that employee performance and motivation are directly influenced by such rewards, encouraging people to work harder to achieve and benefit from those feelings. As this research from the European Journal of Business and Management indicates, it appears that intrinsic motivation is a better predictor of long term job performance than extrinsic motivation too.

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Intrinsic Motivation: An Organismic Growth Process

Long before Decis experiments concerning intrinsic motivation in humans and its undermining by rewards, Harlow documented this effect in rhesus monkeys. He coined the term intrinsic motivation to describe his observation that these primates would persist in playing with mechanical puzzles even in the absence of external rewards. Indeed, he observed that the introduction of rewards for playing led these primates to decrease their spontaneous manipulative explorations, relative to those not exposed to external rewards. These and related observations of spontaneous exploratory and play behaviors defied some behaviorist views that intentional behaviors are invariably controlled by reinforcement contingencies within the environment .

In terms of both evolution and development, intrinsic motivation confers many adaptive consequences for organisms . For example, intrinsic motivation exposes organisms to novel situations and therefore occasions the development of diverse skills and competencies to cope with uncertain future situations. Intrinsic motivations are particularly important for those species that have a protracted period of postnatal development and occupy complex habitats . In this vein, Deci and Ryan pointed out that:

Why Intrinsic Motivation Is So Important

Intrinsic & Extrinsic Motivations (Intro Psych Tutorial #167)

The closer you examine this issue of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation, the more youll likely realize that most of what we do is for external rewards.

And this externally-driven focus is the source of a great deal of our internal resistance, lack of focus, and daily frustrations.

As children, we mainly had to do what authority figures wanted because our survival was dependent on them.

And so we sought the approval of others for our survival .

But as adults, when we do things mainly for the approval of others or to meet our need for self-esteem, it actually makes us quite unhappy.

Why? Because as self-determinism theory highlights, as adults we seek:

  • Autonomy,
  • And all three of these drivers are intrinsic, not extrinsic motivations.

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    Intrinsic Motivation Can Improve Your Life And Increase Success

    If you aim to improve your performance at work or find more enjoyment in your personal life, it is important to find motivation from within. When you are engaged and excited, you can expect to experience sustained interest, excitement, confidence, persistence, self-esteem, and performance over time, which is why it is a feeling that many people seek to foster. To increase this type of motivation, assess what is important to you today and try to pursue goals that have a personal meaning or can positively impact the world around you.

    Over time, you can better motivate yourself internally and find lasting contentment.

    Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

    Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

    Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.

    When Extrinsic Motivation Is Best

    Extrinsic rewards don’t just involve bribery . In some cases, people may never be internally motivated to complete a task, and extrinsic motivation can be used to get the job done.

    In fact, extrinsic rewards can promote interest in a task or skill a person didn’t previously have any interest in. Rewards like praise, commissions, bonuses, or prizes and awards can also motivate people to learn new skills or provide tangible feedback beyond just verbal praise or admonishment.

    But tread carefully with extrinsic rewards: Studies have shown that offering too many rewards for behaviors and activities that people are already intrinsically motivated to do can actually that person’s intrinsic motivation — by way of the overjustification effect.

    In these cases, offering rewards for activities the person already finds rewarding can make a personally enjoyable activity seem like work — which could kill their motivation to keep doing it.

    If you’re an individual contributor, work for the rewards you want, but don’t over-exhaust yourself in the pursuit of extrinsic prizes. Make sure you’re taking time, in your job or in your personal life, to explore activities that you enjoy just for the sake of doing them, to keep yourself balanced.

    Originally published Oct 10, 2017 6:00:00 AM, updated June 10 2021


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    Hbr Guide To Motivating People Harvard Business Review

    Containing 28 chapters, this easy-to-read, insightful book tells us what to do and what not to do to create organizational cultures to foster motivation.

    The author of each chapter offer different yet complementary advice, giving practical examples of organizational changes that can have the most significant positive impact.

    Find the book on .

    The Future Of Intrinsic Motivation

    What Is Extrinsic Motivation and How Does It Work?

    A major concern of psychologists over the next 20 years will be to increase their understanding of the manner in which intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, emotion, cognition, and goal-seeking interact to shape the self-regulation of motivation and behavior. There will likely be continued movement away from the position that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are two ends of a continuum and greater recognition of the fluidity and gradations between these forms of motivation and their simultaneous existence. The integration of existing models of intrinsic motivation within the broader field of positive psychology opens up enormous opportunities for social scientists whose goals are to enhance quality of life and well-being.

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    Extrinsic Vs Intrinsic Motivation

    Intrinsic motivation comes from within, while extrinsic motivation arises from external factors. When you are intrinsically motivated, you engage in an activity because you enjoy it and get personal satisfaction from doing it. When you are extrinsically motivated, you do something in order to gain an external reward.

    Consider the way each type considers both motivation and goals:

    Intrinsic Motivation:

    • You are motivated to do the activity because it is internally rewarding. You choose to do it because its fun, enjoyable, and satisfying.
    • Your goal comes from within, and the outcomes of your goal satisfy your basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness.

    Extrinsic Motivation:

    • You are motivated to do the activity in order to gain an external reward in return.
    • Your goal is focused on an outcome, and does not satisfy your basic psychological needs. Rather, it involves external gains, such as money, fame, power, and avoiding consequences.

    You have likely experienced both types of motivation throughout your entire life, and often, the goal of your motivations can remain the same regardless of whether the outcome is something internal or external. These extrinsic and intrinsic motivation examples illustrate this idea:

    One Final Example Of Intrinsic Motivation

    Id like to give you one more example of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation that may be upsetting to some readers.

    The scenario is getting married, starting a family, and having a child.

    Just like the above examples, getting married can be either intrinsically or extrinsically motivated.

    In the majority of cases, basic life events like marriage and having a child are driven by extrinsic motivation.

    That is, these events are culturally conditioned and driven by social pressure.

    For example, you get married because your parents want you to, or because your friends are getting married and you dont want to fall behind.

    This example helps illustrate the high cost of being unconscious to our true motivations.

    What happens when we make a major life decision based on extrinsic motivations ?

    Struggle. Internal tension. Heartache. Suffering.

    Why? Because were not doing what we intrinsically want to do .

    In the language of depth psychology, this means that we have archetypes within us that are in conflict with one another.

    And this internal conflict will influence our feelings, moods, attitudes, and actions.

    The result is often divorce. Or, it may simply lead to an unhappy marriage .

    When you meet a couple that genuinely got married based on their own internal compass, you can often visibly notice the difference.

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    External Rewards Complicate Intrinsic Motivation

    Researchers have found that offering extrinsic rewards for behaviors that people already find internally motivating can actually reduce intrinsic motivation. This tendency is known as the overjustification effect.

    In one classic experiment, researchers found that when kids were given extrinsic rewards for playing with a toy that they already found intrinsically motivating, their motivation to engage in the activity actually decreased.

    Such findings have important implications for school settings, where children are often encouraged to pursue tasks in order to gain rewards. The fear for educators is that, in some cases, rewarding kids might actually hurt their internal drive to learn.

    Find Your One Sentence

    âCultivating Intrinsic Motivation and Creativity in the Classroomâ? | Beth Hennessey | TEDxSausalito

    Most of us live a life of many goals with our time spread thinly across each one.

    In his book, Drive, Daniel Pink challenges readers to regain focus and clarify their purpose.

    He asks us to define a sentence that sums up our life.

    To help, he offers two examples from U.S. Presidents:

    • Abraham Lincolnâs sentence might be He preserved the Union and freed the slaves.
    • Franklin Rooseveltâs might be He lifted us out of the Great Depression and helped us win the war.

    Whatâs yours?

    Each day, ask yourself, Am I closer to my goals than I was the day before?What do I need to do tomorrow to move forward in the right direction?

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    Look For The Intrinsic Reward

    An intrinsic motivator only exists when an activity holds intrinsic value for the person who engages in it, so the activity has to hold such appeal or there will be no intrinsic motivation.

    Look for aspects of the activity that interest you, or internalize the innate reason why you want to participate.

    Surpassing Your Own Record

    Competing with yourself helps you improve your skills on a continuous basis. Each time you achieve a certain level, you may want to raise your quota or goal a little higher for the next time. For example, if you are in sales, you may want to set a higher target for yourself than what you achieved in the last period.

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    Our Therapists Advice On How To Increase Intrinsic Motivation

    To increase your intrinsic motivation, consider incorporating the followingstrategies:

    • Evaluate your motivationsStart by evaluating your current motivations. First, think about why the goal is important to you and write that down. Start with external rewards , and youll see a smoother transition to intrinsic rewards, according to Elizabeth Hinkle, LMFT.
    • Chase your passionSeek challenges and goals that have a personal meaning to help sustain interest over time. Find things that youre passionate about and find ways to do them more, according to Rachel ONeill, Ph.D. LPCC-S.
    • Make an impactLook for ways to have a broader impact on other people or the environment around you. Individuals who feel they are working toward a greater good, or something larger than themselves, do have an easier time staying motivated. Look for what you think might be your higher good and move forward, according to Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S, CFTP.
    • Forget the rewardsWhile recognition can reinforce and increase internal motivation, it is best to limit outside motivations as much as possible. The best way to increase intrinsic motivation is to decrease the extrinsic reward, according to Christin Tolman, LCPC.

    Goal Of Intrinsic Motivation

    Differences Between Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation

    The goal of intrinsic motivation is to understand what drives people to be successful. It is believed that the person who develops intrinsic motivation has one or more motivators that they use to keep themselves motivated. These motivators may be specific behaviors, attitudes, experiences, or thoughts. The person who is capable of developing intrinsic motivation is said to have a motivated architect. These architects have the ability to design and develop new behaviors and attitudes in order to achieve desired goals.

    An architect is capable of building without design or plan. They simply put his ideas together. Intrinsic motivation is similar in this way. A persons behavior is the product of their intrinsic motivation. If you consistently do something that contributes to your intrinsic motivation, then you will develop the desired behavior.

    For instance, if a person wants to buy a new car, he must have certain information in mind. He must decide what type of car he wants and how much money he can spend. Then he must apply his prior information to his environment and his behavior. The car is the product of his intrinsic motivation for purchasing the car and the amount of money he can spend on it. Once he purchases the car, his behavior becomes the desired result, and so does his goal.

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