Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are both psychological types of motivation which are linked some kind of incentive. Intrinsic motivation drives behaviors that are personally rewarding to the individual, while extrinsic motivation drives behaviors that are associated with external rewards. They can both be distinguished from biological motivations, which drive behaviors linked to survival (such as food, sex, and aggression).


An incentive is a reward for, or desirable outcome of, a behavior.
Motivation is the process that initiates, directs, and maintains a goal-directed behavior.

Intrinsic motivation leads people to engage in a behavior because they get personal satisfaction from it, rather than material reward. Examples might include writing poetry, recreational sport, doing crossword puzzles, and many otheractivities that people do to relax. Extrinsic motivation is involved in activities where either a material award is on offer, or where the behavior is necessary to avoid punishment. Examples include most forms of employment and competitive sports.

Most people's behavior is influenced by both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, depending on the nature of the behavior and its context. Intrinsic motivation tends to be more enduring, because circumstances can always remove an external reward or punishment. Educators and employers can use these psychological traits to produce desired behaviors. For instance, an extrinsic reward can persuade people to learn a subject or skill they may initially have no interest in. Intrinsic motivation may then develop once the individual becomes more confident in the new behavior.

While external incentives can be a useful psychological tool, they may have a negative impact in some circumstances. Thus, if an individual already finds an activity personally rewarding, offering an incentive may make it seem more like a duty and less pleasurable. If children are rewarded for playing a game they already like, they tend to lose interest in it.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are also important in educational settings. Some experts say that the traditional rewards, such as grades, gold stars, and report cards tend to undermine pre-existing intrinsic motivation. However, others have argued that external motivators act as essential feedback, boosting confidence, enhancing intrinsic motivation, and improving performance.

See also Conscious and Unconscious Motivations ; Educational Psychology ; Intrinsic Motivation and the 16 Basic Desires; Learning ; Motivational Theories; Motivation ; Rational Motivations; School Psychology .



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