What Are Extrinsic And Intrinsic Motivations? Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation In A Nutshell

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. 

AspectExtrinsic MotivationIntrinsic Motivation
Source of MotivationExternal factors or rewards, such as money, praise, or recognition.Internal factors, such as personal satisfaction, passion, or enjoyment.
Origin of DriveMotivation 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 MotivationTends to be temporary; motivation may decrease once rewards are removed.More sustainable; individuals are driven by their inherent interest in the activity.
SustainabilityOften requires continuous external incentives to maintain motivation.Self-sustaining; individuals are more likely to persist and engage in activities without external reinforcement.
ExamplesWorking 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 CreativityMay 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.
ControlExternal motivators are controlled by others or external circumstances.Individuals have more autonomy and control over their actions and decisions.
Pressure and StressCan 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 SatisfactionMay result in lower job satisfaction if the primary motivator is external.Higher job satisfaction when individuals find personal fulfillment in their work.
Learning and DevelopmentMay focus on tasks for the sake of rewards rather than personal growth.Emphasizes personal growth, skill development, and a love for learning.
Behavior ConsistencyMotivation may fluctuate depending on the availability of external rewards.More consistent and reliable motivation for tasks.
Goal PursuitGoals are often tied to external rewards or recognition.Goals are driven by personal values, interests, and a desire for personal growth.
AdaptabilityLess 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.

Extrinsic 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.

Intrinsic motivation

  • 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.

fixed mindset believes their intelligence and talents are fixed traits that cannot be developed. The two mindsets were developed by American psychologist Carol Dweck while studying human motivation. Both mindsets are comprised of conscious and subconscious thought patterns established at a very young age. In adult life, they have profound implications for personal and professional success. Individuals with a growth mindset devote more time and effort to achieving difficult goals and by extension, are less concerned with the opinions or abilities of others. Individuals with a fixed mindset are sensitive to criticism and may be preoccupied with proving their talents to others.

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.

This kind of external motivation might be great as a short-term propeller, yet it needs to be channeled over time into internal motivation to build a growth mindset.

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!

Case Studies

Education and Learning

Extrinsic Motivation:

  • 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.

Intrinsic Motivation:

  • 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

Extrinsic Motivation:

  • 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.

Intrinsic Motivation:

  • 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

Extrinsic Motivation:

  • 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.

Intrinsic Motivation:

  • 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

Extrinsic Motivation:

  • 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.

Intrinsic Motivation:

  • 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

Extrinsic Motivation:

  • 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.

Intrinsic Motivation:

  • 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

Extrinsic Motivation:

  • 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.

Intrinsic Motivation:

  • 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.

Key takeaways

  • 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.
ContextExtrinsic MotivationIntrinsic Motivation
EducationStudents 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.
WorkplaceEmployees 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.
FitnessExercising 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.
HobbiesCollectors 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 WorkVolunteering 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 MarketingSalespeople striving to meet sales quotas to earn commissions and bonuses.Marketing professionals finding joy in crafting compelling messages and strategies to connect with consumers.
GamingPlayers 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.
CreativityWriters 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.
EntrepreneurshipEntrepreneurs 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 InteractionJoining 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.
TravelTraveling 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 ActionsParticipating 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 InnovationScientists 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.
HealthcarePatients 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.
PhilanthropyDonors 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

Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory

Herzberg’s two-factor theory argues that certain workplace factors cause job satisfaction while others cause job dissatisfaction. The theory was developed by American psychologist and business management analyst Frederick Herzberg. Until his death in 2000, Herzberg was widely regarded as a pioneering thinker in motivational theory.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was developed by American psychologist Abraham Maslow. His hierarchy, often depicted in the shape of a pyramid, helped explain his research on basic human needs and desires. In marketing, the hierarchy (and its basis in psychology) can be used to market to specific groups of people based on their similarly specific needs, desires, and resultant actions.

Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation

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. 

Theory X and Theory Y

Theory X and Theory Y were developed in the 1960s by American management professor and social psychologist Douglas McGregor. McGregor believed there were two fundamental approaches to managing people in the workplace to get things done and benefit the organization. Theory X and Theory Y are theories of motivation used by managers to increase the performance of subordinates.

ERG Theory

The ERG theory was developed by American psychologist Clayton Alderfer between 1961 and 1978.  The ERG theory is a motivational model based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The ERG theory is based on an acronym of three groups of core needs: existence, relatedness, growth.


Groupthink occurs when well-intentioned individuals make non-optimal or irrational decisions based on a belief that dissent is impossible or on a motivation to conform. Groupthink occurs when members of a group reach a consensus without critical reasoning or evaluation of the alternatives and their consequences.

Wheel of Life

The idea behind the wheel of life is credited to self-improvement pioneer Paul Meyer who founded the Success Motivation Institute in 1960. Despite numerous interpretations of the wheel of life in more recent years, each version shares the common purpose of personal transformation.

Job Characteristics Model

Hackman and Oldham’s job characteristics model is a framework that businesses use to design jobs that facilitate employee motivation. Hackman and Oldham’s model is based on the idea maintaining motivation in the workplace lies in the job itself. While mundane tasks were found to decrease productivity, more varied tasks had the opposite effect. Hackman and Oldham identified five job characteristics that enrich a role and cause employee motivation, satisfaction, and performance to increase: skill variety, task identity, task significance, task autonomy, and feedback. These factors are linked with three psychological states that improve an employee’s motivation in the workplace.

Premack Principle

The Premack principle posits that an individual will perform a less preferred activity (low probability behavior) to obtain access to a more preferred activity (high probability behavior). The Premack principle was developed after a study of capuchin monkeys conducted by David Premack in 1965. Premack later conducted a similar experiment with children and found that irrespective of their preference between pinball and candy, they would perform the less desirable activity to get what they wanted. The Premack principle can also be useful in some workplace scenarios as an employee motivation tactic.

Connected Business Frameworks and Concepts

Agile Leadership

Agile leadership is the embodiment of agile manifesto principles by a manager or management team. Agile leadership impacts two important levels of a business. The structural level defines the roles, responsibilities, and key performance indicators. The behavioral level describes the actions leaders exhibit to others based on agile principles. 

Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive leadership is a model used by leaders to help individuals adapt to complex or rapidly changing environments. Adaptive leadership is defined by three core components (precious or expendable, experimentation and smart risks, disciplined assessment). Growth occurs when an organization discards ineffective ways of operating. Then, active leaders implement new initiatives and monitor their impact.

Delegative Leadership

Developed by business consultants Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey in the 1960s, delegative leadership is a leadership style where authority figures empower subordinates to exercise autonomy. For this reason, it is also called laissez-faire leadership. In some cases, this type of leadership can lead to increases in work quality and decision-making. In a few other cases, this type of leadership needs to be balanced out to prevent a lack of direction and cohesiveness of the team.

Distributed Leadership

Distributed leadership is based on the premise that leadership responsibilities and accountability are shared by those with the relevant skills or expertise so that the shared responsibility and accountability of multiple individuals within a workplace, bulds up as a fluid and emergent property (not controlled or held by one individual). Distributed leadership is based on eight hallmarks, or principles: shared responsibility, shared power, synergy, leadership capacity, organizational learning, equitable and ethical climate, democratic and investigative culture, and macro-community engagement.


Micromanagement is about tightly controlling or observing employees’ work. Although in some cases, this management style might be understood, especially for small-scale projects, generally speaking, micromanagement has a negative connotation mainly because it shows a lack of trust and freedom in the workplace, which leads to adverse outcomes.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was developed by American psychologist Abraham Maslow. His hierarchy, often depicted in the shape of a pyramid, helped explain his research on basic human needs and desires. In marketing, the hierarchy (and its basis in psychology) can be used to market to specific groups of people based on their similarly specific needs, desires, and resultant actions.

Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix is a tool that helps businesses prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance, named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States from 1953 to 1961, the matrix helps businesses and individuals differentiate between the urgent and important to prevent urgent things (seemingly useful in the short-term) cannibalize important things (critical for long-term success).

Moonshot Thinking

Moonshot thinking is an approach to innovation, and it can be applied to business or any other discipline where you target at least 10X goals. That shifts the mindset, and it empowers a team of people to look for unconventional solutions, thus starting from first principles, by leveraging on fast-paced experimentation.

Lightning Decision Jam

The theory was developed by psychologist Edwin Locke who also has a background in motivation and leadership research. Locke’s goal-setting theory of motivation provides a framework for setting effective and motivating goals. Locke was able to demonstrate that goal setting was linked to performance.

Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory

Herzberg’s two-factor theory argues that certain workplace factors cause job satisfaction while others cause job dissatisfaction. The theory was developed by American psychologist and business management analyst Frederick Herzberg. Until his death in 2000, Herzberg was widely regarded as a pioneering thinker in motivational theory.

Lessons Learned

The term lessons learned refers to the various experiences project team members have while participating in a project. Lessons are shared in a review session which usually occurs once the project has been completed, with any improvements or best practices incorporated into subsequent projects. 

Growth Engineering

Growth engineering is a systematic, technical approach to the improvement of conversion and the user experience. Combined with business engineering it helps business people build valuable companies from scratch.

Retrospective Analysis

Retrospective analyses are held after a project to determine what worked well and what did not. They are also conducted at the end of an iteration in Agile project management. Agile practitioners call these meetings retrospectives or retros. They are an effective way to check the pulse of a project team, reflect on the work performed to date, and reach a consensus on how to tackle the next sprint cycle.


Andy Grove, helped Intel become among the most valuable companies by 1997. In his years at Intel, he conceived a management and goal-setting system, called OKR, standing for “objectives and key results.” Venture capitalist and early investor in Google, John Doerr, systematized in the book “Measure What Matters.”

Cog’s Ladder

Cog’s ladder is a model of group development. The ladder was created in 1972 by Procter & Gamble employee George Charrier to help management at the company understand how teams worked to make them more efficient. Cog’s ladder is a model of group formation and behavior that is used to help businesses understand how a team can work to achieve its goals.

GRPI Model

The GRPI model was created by American organizational theorist Richard Beckhard in 1972. Although the model is almost 50 years old, its simplicity and effectiveness mean it is still in use today. The GRPI model is a tool used by leaders to diagnose the cause of team dysfunction and increase productivity, quality, and efficiency through four key dimensions that cause conflict: goals, roles, processes, and interactions. 

High-Performance Coaching

High-performance coaches work with individuals in personal and professional contexts to enable them to reach their full potential. While these sorts of coaches are commonly associated with sports, it should be noted that the act of coaching is a specific type of behavior that is also useful in business and leadership

OSKAR Coaching

The OSKAR coaching model was developed in the early 2000s by organizational theorists and authors Paul Z. Jackson and Mark McKergow.  The OSKAR coaching model is a solution-driven method used for managerial coaching in the workplace. In their book titled The Solutions Focus: Making Coaching and Change Simple, the pair layout a framework to help coaches implement training sessions that are focused on solutions and not on problems.

Training of Trainers

The training of trainers model seeks to engage master instructors in coaching new, less experienced instructors with a particular topic or skill. The training of trainers (ToT) model is a framework used by master instructors to train new instructors, enabling them to subsequently train other people in their organization.

GROW Model

Though no single individual can claim to have created the GROW model, writers Graham Alexander and Alan Fine together with racing car champion John Whitmore played a significant part in developing the framework during the 80s and 90s. The GROW model is a simple way to set goals and solve problems during coaching sessions through four stages: goal, reality, options, and will (way forward).

Ulrich Model

The Ulrich model helps large or complex organizations with many business units organize their human resource function. The Ulrich model was named for management coach David Ulrich after the release of his 1996 book Human Resource Champions: The Next Agenda for Adding Value and Delivering Results.

Read Next: SWOT AnalysisPersonal SWOT AnalysisTOWS MatrixPESTEL AnalysisPorter’s Five ForcesTOWS MatrixSOAR Analysis.

Read Next: BiasesBounded RationalityMandela EffectDunning-Kruger EffectLindy EffectCrowding Out EffectBandwagon Effect.

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