Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation 1


Although there are many theories about what motivates us, the truth is that people are motivated by both internal and external factors. The personality, the self-concept and the type of task usually determine whether the dominant motivation is the dominant or extrinsic motivation.

Why do we do what we do? What drives our behavior ? Do you want to feel more motivated to succeed in your day to day? Each behavior has an underlying cause . Thus, understanding the motivators that drive behavior are key to changing or improving their results.

This is undoubtedly a topic that affects all of us directly. Experiences such as passing an exam, losing weight, getting our children to learn something determined, achieving a job goal or even improve as human beings requires that we integrate that magical component: motivation. However, the way in which we achieve this achievement is mediated by a wide series of processes.

Let’s delve into them below.

What is extrinsic motivation?

Extrinsic motivation is defined as all those actions that we perform in order to obtain some kind of external reward. It can be something physical, monetary or a psychological reinforcement. That is, the motivating factor is not a natural consequence of the task .
The psychological forms of extrinsic motivation can also be praise . Children, for example, base a good part of their early behaviors on this type of motivation: they crave that positive reinforcement from adults to regulate their behavior, build their identity and in turn form the basis of intrinsic motivation.
In fact, we can not leave aside a key aspect: much of the extrinsic motivation becomes intrinsic motivation, sooner or later the human being learns to perform a series of behaviors and actions without expecting anything in return. In fact, we are not wrong if we say that this process, this change is one of the most analyzed in the world of education , as revealed by a study carried out at the University of Otawa and the University of Quebec, in Canada . In extrinsic motivation the behavior is motivated by the desire to obtain something desired or to avoid an adverse result.

What is intrinsic motivation

One of the best known theories about intrinsic motivation is that of self-determination. Launched in 1975 by psychologists by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, both professors at the University of Rochester, it states that people have three innate psychological needs:

The need to feel competent.
The need to relate.
The need to have autonomy.

Thus, the intrinsic motivation arises in the human being from the combination of these three dimensions. Reference is made above all to those actions where the person carries out a series of behaviors of their own volition, inspiration and desire. Never to get a mere external reward.

Some examples of this type of motivation are to study to improve and feel fulfilled , do what you are asked because you know it is your duty and so you know better person, do the work because you assume it as your obligation and so you feel satisfied with yourself or participate sport to improve yourself.

On the other hand, all those spontaneous tendencies that we carry out out of mere curiosity, to look for challenges or in order to develop our skills and knowledge, generate a whole series of benefits in our brain. This is undoubtedly a very relevant fact that invites us to reflect.

As revealed in a study carried out at Strathfield University, Australia and published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience , intrinsic motivation favors the appearance of serotonin in our body, improve cognitive processes and relieve stress. In intrinsic motivation, behavior is motivated by the desire to improve and the satisfaction of doing things well.

Which is better, intrinsic or extrinsic motivation

The main difference between the two types of motivation is that the extrinsic arises from outside the person and the intrinsic arises from the task itself . This does not mean that extrinsic motivation is worse than intrinsic motivation. However, some important factors must be taken into account, especially when it comes to motivating others.

Researchers have found that the two types of motivation can differ in effectiveness of people. Some studies have shown that the excess of external rewards for already internally rewarding behavior can lead to a reduction in the intrinsic. This phenomenon is called the overjustification effect.

However , extrinsic motivation can be beneficial in some situations. For example, external rewards may trigger an interest in participating in something in which the individual had no initial interest.
In addition, extrinsic rewards can be used to motivate others to acquire new skills or knowledge. Once these early skills have been learned, people can evolve towards an intrinsic motivation to continue with the development of the activity.

External rewards can also be an important source of information , allowing people to know when they have reached the required level of performance, have exceeded the average or have reached the level expected of them.

Although most specialists suggest that the intrinsic is better, it is not always possible. In some cases, people simply do not have any internal desire to participate in an activity. On the other hand, although the excess of reward can be problematic, when properly used they can be a useful tool.

The role of rewards

Researchers Lepper, Henderlong and Gingras from Rochester University in the United Kingdom have reached three conclusions regarding extrinsic rewards and their influence on intrinsic motivation. It should be noted that unexpected external rewards usually do not diminish intrinsic motivation . For example, if a student gets a good grade because he enjoys learning and receives a reward, his motivation to learn will not be affected.

A second conclusion is that compliments can increase internal motivation . Researchers have found that social recognition and positive feedback , when someone’s performance exceeds the average, can increase intrinsic motivation. Another type of extrinsic motivators, such as materials, can reduce intrinsic motivation when it is already high.

Finally, extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation can also play an important role in the configuration of learning . Some experts argue that the emphasis on external rewards reduces any intrinsic motivation. Others suggest that these extrinsic motivators help students feel more competent in the classroom, thereby improving the intrinsic.


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