Extrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is motivated by the prospect of earning a reward or avoiding a punishment. Intrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is motivated by the desire to do something for its own sake. There is no obvious external reward for behaving a certain way.
|Aspect||Extrinsic Motivation||Intrinsic Motivation|
|Source of Motivation||External factors or rewards, such as money, praise, or recognition.||Internal factors, such as personal satisfaction, passion, or enjoyment.|
|Origin of Drive||Motivation comes from outside influences or to attain external rewards.||Motivation is driven by personal interests, values, and the inherent satisfaction of the task itself.|
|Longevity of Motivation||Tends to be temporary; motivation may decrease once rewards are removed.||More sustainable; individuals are driven by their inherent interest in the activity.|
|Sustainability||Often requires continuous external incentives to maintain motivation.||Self-sustaining; individuals are more likely to persist and engage in activities without external reinforcement.|
|Examples||Working for a bonus, studying for grades, or doing a task for praise.||Engaging in a hobby, pursuing a personal passion, or doing something for the joy of it.|
|Effect on Creativity||May hinder creativity as focus is on meeting external criteria or expectations.||Fosters creativity as individuals are more likely to explore and take risks when intrinsically motivated.|
|Control||External motivators are controlled by others or external circumstances.||Individuals have more autonomy and control over their actions and decisions.|
|Pressure and Stress||Can lead to stress and anxiety, especially if external rewards are at risk.||Typically associated with lower stress levels and a sense of personal fulfillment.|
|Job Satisfaction||May result in lower job satisfaction if the primary motivator is external.||Higher job satisfaction when individuals find personal fulfillment in their work.|
|Learning and Development||May focus on tasks for the sake of rewards rather than personal growth.||Emphasizes personal growth, skill development, and a love for learning.|
|Behavior Consistency||Motivation may fluctuate depending on the availability of external rewards.||More consistent and reliable motivation for tasks.|
|Goal Pursuit||Goals are often tied to external rewards or recognition.||Goals are driven by personal values, interests, and a desire for personal growth.|
|Adaptability||Less adaptable to changes in external rewards or circumstances.||More adaptable and resilient in the face of changing circumstances.|
Understanding extrinsic and intrinsic motivation
Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation are core components of self-determination theory, which links human motivation, personality, and optimal functioning.
The theory suggests both forms of motivation have the power to shape who people become and how they behave.
Self-determination theory is based on motivation research performed by psychology professors Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci. In their 1985 book entitled Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human
Behavior, the pair defined extrinsic motivation as a drive to behave based on external sources and resulting in external rewards. These sources may include employee evaluations, accolades, rewards, or simply a desire to earn the respect of others.
Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is based on internal drivers of motivation such as personal values, interests, or a sense of morality.
Examples of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation
Here are a few examples of the two types of motivation.
- Going to work because you want to earn money.
- Studying because you want to earn good grades.
- Shopping at the same supermarket chain to benefit from a loyalty program.
- Attaining a specific degree to make your parents proud.
- Cleaning the house before a partner arrives home to avoid a confrontation.
- Learning about personal development with a goal to improving yourself.
- Reading about a topic because you are curious or passionate about it.
- Traveling to experience different cultures.
- Cleaning the house because you find the process cathartic.
- Participating in a team sport for camaraderie and not to win an individual award.
Which form of motivation is preferable?
It may appear at first glance that intrinsic motivation is the more preferable form of motivation. Depending on the situation, however, one or both forms of motivation are most effective.
In a workplace setting, management frequently uses extrinsic motivation to motivate their employees with rewards, bonuses, and other incentives.
This is particularly useful when the employee is required to learn a new skill or encouraged to discover more about a subject they are not acquainted with.
While this approach is undoubtedly effective, leaders should ensure the employee can work on something they are passionate about to increase the likelihood of long-term success.
Extrinsic motivation can also be useful in situations where an individual needs to complete a task they consider unpleasant.
That is, in any situation where intrinsic motivation is impossible to summon.
Having said that, extrinsic motivation should be avoided in any situation where the individual is intrinsically motivated.
Studies have shown that offering excessive external rewards for an already internally rewarding behavior can reduce intrinsic motivation.
This phenomenon, known as the overjustification effect, results in the activity feeling more like “work” and less like “play.”
External motivation and fixed mindset
When trying to improve oneself, it’s critical to understand the difference between a growth and a fixed mindset.
Oftentimes, when the behavior is primarily driven by external motivators, this might lead to a fixed mindset.
In short, you do things because you think those make you look good in the eyes of others.
Indeed, we all might be driven by internal motivation in an ideal world. Yet, the real world is more blurred than that.
In fact, also negative, external feelings (such as envy, anger, the feeling of betrayal, revenge, or wanting to look good) might actually work well to give you the motivation to do things that otherwise you would not have done.
Yet, over time, if those external negative feelings do not transform into something else (like intrinsic motivation to build something that you’re proud of), that might prevent real personal growth, as it keeps you in a fixed mindset!
Internal motivation and growth mindset
For the sake of channeling short-term external stimuli into long-term internal well-being, therefore, is critical to enable a growth mindset to kick in.
That often takes time, yet when that happens, you learn to move from external motivators to internal ones.
That in turn leads to a scenario where you can finally channel short-term feelings into long-term success!
Education and Learning
- A student studies hard to get an A in a subject so that their parents will reward them with a gift or money.
- A student participates in extracurricular activities to enhance their resume or college application.
- A student reads a novel in their free time because they enjoy literature and the act of reading.
- A student takes up a new language class because they have a genuine interest in learning about other cultures.
Work and Professional Life
- An employee works overtime because they want to earn the bonus at the end of the month.
- A salesperson pushes to meet their quota to avoid being reprimanded or potentially fired.
- An employee voluntarily attends workshops to enhance their skills, even if it doesn’t lead to an immediate promotion or raise.
- A team leader motivates their team, not for personal recognition, but because they genuinely care about team cohesion and everyone’s well-being.
Health and Fitness
- Someone starts working out because they want to look good for a specific event like a wedding.
- An individual starts a diet because of a doctor’s warning about potential health risks.
- Someone exercises regularly because they enjoy the feeling of being fit and the energy it gives them.
- An individual chooses a healthier diet because they feel better mentally and physically when they eat well.
Hobbies and Personal Interests
- A person starts a blog with the primary intention of earning money or getting free products for reviews.
- Someone learns a musical instrument to impress friends or a potential partner.
- A person paints because it allows them to express themselves and they enjoy the process.
- Someone learns a musical instrument purely for the joy of creating music.
Relationships and Social Interactions
- A person attends a party because they believe it’s a networking opportunity and might help them in their professional life.
- An individual gifts someone, not out of affection, but to ensure they receive a gift in return or to maintain a certain image.
- A person spends time with friends because of the genuine joy and connection they feel.
- An individual helps a friend move houses, not expecting anything in return but simply because they care.
Charity and Volunteering
- Someone volunteers at an event because they want it on their college application or resume.
- An individual donates to charity, primarily to showcase it on social media.
- A person volunteers regularly at a local shelter because they genuinely care about the cause.
- An individual donates anonymously to a charity because of their deep-rooted belief in the cause.
- Extrinsic motivation refers to behavior motivated by the prospect of earning a reward or avoiding a punishment. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, refers to behavior motivated by the desire to do something for its own sake.
- Examples of extrinsic motivation include studying to achieve good grades or shopping at the same supermarket chain to earn loyalty points. Examples of intrinsic motivation include traveling to experience different cultures and cleaning the house because the task is cathartic.
- Motivation derived exclusively through intrinsic means may appear to be the most desirable outcome. In reality, however, some situations are unpleasant for whatever reason and require extrinsic motivators to assist in their completion. Each form of motivation is context-dependent, with some situations requiring a mixture of both approaches.
Similarities between Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation:
- Behavioral Drivers: Both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation are psychological drivers that influence human behavior and decision-making.
- Goal-Oriented: Both forms of motivation can lead to goal-directed behavior, where individuals work towards achieving specific objectives.
- Personal Factors: Both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation can be influenced by individual preferences, values, and beliefs.
- Impact on Performance: Both types of motivation can impact an individual’s performance and engagement in tasks or activities.
Differences between Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation:
- Source of Motivation:
- Extrinsic Motivation: Originates from external factors such as rewards, punishments, recognition, or approval from others.
- Intrinsic Motivation: Originates from internal factors such as personal interest, enjoyment, sense of accomplishment, or alignment with one’s values.
- Drive for Behavior:
- Extrinsic Motivation: Behavior is driven by the desire to attain a specific outcome or reward, or to avoid negative consequences.
- Intrinsic Motivation: Behavior is driven by the inherent satisfaction and enjoyment derived from the activity itself.
- Sustainability of Behavior:
- Extrinsic Motivation: External rewards can lead to short-term compliance but may not sustain long-term commitment if the rewards are removed.
- Intrinsic Motivation: Inherent enjoyment and satisfaction from the activity can lead to sustained interest and engagement over time.
- Focus on External vs. Internal Factors:
- Extrinsic Motivation: Focuses on external factors, such as tangible rewards or social recognition, to motivate behavior.
- Intrinsic Motivation: Focuses on internal factors, such as personal interest and the inherent value of the activity, to drive behavior.
- Effect on Creativity and Autonomy:
- Extrinsic Motivation: External rewards may sometimes reduce creativity and intrinsic interest in a task, leading to a focus on meeting external expectations.
- Intrinsic Motivation: Inherent interest and autonomy can foster creativity, as individuals are driven by their own curiosity and enjoyment.
- Impact on Well-Being:
- Extrinsic Motivation: Relying solely on external rewards for motivation may lead to a sense of dependency and reduced satisfaction in the long term.
- Intrinsic Motivation: Pursuing activities for their inherent value can contribute to a sense of autonomy, competence, and well-being.
- Overjustification Effect:
- Extrinsic Motivation: Offering excessive external rewards for intrinsically rewarding tasks can lead to a decrease in intrinsic motivation, known as the overjustification effect.
|Context||Extrinsic Motivation||Intrinsic Motivation|
|Education||Students studying to earn grades and awards, such as scholarships, honors, or certificates.||Students engaging in self-directed learning out of curiosity, a genuine interest in the subject, or a desire for personal growth.|
|Workplace||Employees working harder to receive bonuses, promotions, or recognition from their superiors.||Employees taking pride in their work, finding satisfaction in solving challenging problems, or enjoying the creative aspects of their job.|
|Fitness||Exercising to lose weight, meet specific fitness goals, or win a competition with tangible rewards.||Engaging in physical activities because they enjoy the process, find it personally fulfilling, or experience a sense of accomplishment.|
|Hobbies||Collectors acquiring rare items with the anticipation of their increasing monetary value.||Art enthusiasts creating artwork or collecting for the sheer pleasure and creative expression it brings them.|
|Volunteer Work||Volunteering for a charitable organization to fulfill community service requirements or enhance a resume.||Volunteering because individuals genuinely care about the cause and want to make a positive impact on their community.|
|Sales and Marketing||Salespeople striving to meet sales quotas to earn commissions and bonuses.||Marketing professionals finding joy in crafting compelling messages and strategies to connect with consumers.|
|Gaming||Players completing in-game challenges to earn virtual rewards, such as achievements, badges, or in-game currency.||Gamers playing a game simply because they enjoy the gameplay, storyline, or the sense of achievement derived from mastering the game.|
|Creativity||Writers producing content for monetary gains, like book sales or article commissions.||Authors, artists, and creators motivated by the satisfaction of expressing themselves, sharing their ideas, and leaving a creative legacy.|
|Entrepreneurship||Entrepreneurs starting businesses to generate income, achieve financial success, or exit with a profitable sale.||Entrepreneurs driven by a deep passion for solving a particular problem, pursuing a mission, or innovating in their chosen industry.|
|Social Interaction||Joining social gatherings or parties primarily to network, meet influential individuals, or gain social status.||Engaging in social activities because individuals genuinely enjoy connecting with others, building relationships, and sharing experiences.|
|Travel||Traveling to popular tourist destinations to capture impressive photos for social media or impress peers.||Traveling to explore new cultures, savor unique experiences, and satisfy personal curiosity about the world.|
|Environmental Actions||Participating in eco-friendly practices to receive recognition, such as green certifications or awards.||Advocating for environmental sustainability because individuals deeply care about protecting the planet and preserving natural resources.|
|Research and Innovation||Scientists conducting research projects to secure research grants, funding, or academic recognition.||Researchers driven by intellectual curiosity, a passion for discovery, and the desire to advance knowledge in their field.|
|Healthcare||Patients adhering to prescribed medications or treatments to avoid negative consequences or achieve physical health.||Individuals adopting healthy lifestyles and habits because they genuinely value their well-being and aim to lead fulfilling lives.|
|Philanthropy||Donors contributing to charitable causes for tax deductions or public recognition.||Philanthropists supporting charitable endeavors because they are deeply committed to making a positive impact and helping those in need.|
Other Motivation Theories
Connected Business Frameworks and Concepts
Main Free Guides: