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What is Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation?
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Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations are the two basic, general types of motivation. Though these categories can be broken down into a number of different types of motivation, any type of motivation is going to be either intrinsic or extrinsic. The main factor that differentiates the two is the source of the motivation – is the motivation stemming from an internal drive or from an external pressure?

Intrinsic motivation is the drive to complete a goal or activity that comes from within the individual. A person who is intrinsically motivated will have the drive to complete an activity simply because he or she enjoys the activity and considers it valuable. This type of motivation is associated with completing an action simply because the doer wants to do it. He or she recognizes the action as value, and engages in it repeatedly as a result. One who possesses intrinsic motivation will complete a task or activity even without the prospect of rewards or praise. An intrinsically motivated person will attribute his or her successes and failures to factors that are in their control, and maintain a sense of agency when they are striving to achieve a goal.

Some examples of intrinsically motivated activities include, reading a book outside of the classroom simply because one enjoys reading and wants to expand his fund of knowledge on a given subject or playing tennis after school with a friend because the game is fun, not because he or she has responsibilities as part of a team.

Extrinsic motivation results from an outside force or pressure, which compels an individual to engage in a behavior or complete a goal. With extrinsic motivation the external rewards are the ultimate motivation for completing an action. These rewards may include money, praise, and prestige, amongst other things. There are many activities that we as human beings chose to engage in because we know there will be a reward or payoff upon successful completion. Competition is often considered a form of extrinsic motivation because the reward in a competitive situation is beating out your competitor.

Some examples of extrinsically motivated activities include working hard to get an A in Algebra class even though one dislikes math in order to ensure that he or she gets a scholarship to a prestigious university. Another example might be selecting a career path because of the earning potential, rather than considering how much one will enjoy the chosen career path.

Many who are educated in these different types of motivation feel that it is most valuable to foster intrinsic motivation. While any type of strong motivation is sure to produce positive results, someone who is intrinsically motivated to engage in an activity will not only be adept at performing the task at hand, he or she will enjoy completing the task. Many teachers and employers are interested in figuring out how to foster the growth of their students’ and employees’ intrinsic motivation. These individuals are more likely to be engaged in learning and working because of their personal investment in the material or job. Students who learn just to get the grade might only complete the minimum amount of work necessary, while students who enjoy learning are more likely to take on challenging assignments and engage in deep, critical thinking. Employers want to see employees be self-motivated, requiring little supervision or incentive to work.

Some social psychologists feel that too much extrinsic motivation can actually cause a reduction in intrinsic motivation. When attempting to foster intrinsic motivation, it is important to remember not to over-reward for desired behaviors. Although this risk is present, the Self-determination theory asserts that extrinsic motivations can become intrinsic motivations if the behavior fits within the individual’s value system and is internalized.


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