People Have Both Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivations for Doing What They Do

People have Both Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivations for Doing What They Do

Motivation is derived from incentives or disincentives that encourage a person to engage in an activity or behave a specific way. These actions are governed by two types of motivation, which is founded either externally or internally, through extrinsic or intrinsic motivation.

A healthy blend of both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation is conducive to success.

Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is the desire to perform a behavior in an effort to receive external rewards or avoid any threatened punishment.

In extrinsic motivation, a person’s primary driving force stems from rewards—a salary raise, bonuses, fame, and recognition—or from constraints, such as punishment or job loss. Thus, averting penalty or retribution, as well as earning such external rewards as recognition, money, or praise contribute to extrinsic motivation.

Examples of Extrinsic Motivation

  • A child tidies up her room to avoid being chastised by her parents.
  • After arriving late to work, a bank employee is told he must exercise punctuality and be prepared to serve customers at the proper time or risk losing his job.
  • A benefactor donates a sum of money large enough for his alma mater to rename its business school in his honor, for which he receives greater recognition and fame.

Intrinsic Motivation

In sharp contrast to extrinsic motivation, its intrinsic complement involves the desire to perform a task for its own sake.

In intrinsic motivation, the foremost reasoning behind a person’s actions includes his or her involvement in or commitment to work, or even the expected satisfaction with the work’s results. Intrinsic motivation reflects the desire to do something because it is pleasant or fulfilling, regardless of any additional benefits.

More specifically, behavior that is intrinsically motivated comes from within an individual. (Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” is an intuitive and potentially convenient theory of human motivation.) That is, the person possesses determination or is naturally interested in a particular activity. An intrinsically motivated person does not require any external rewards or punishments in order to act. Often, the behavior or effort is a reward in itself.

Examples of Intrinsic Motivation

  • A career counselor refuses to help a well-heeled client embellish her resume and practice interview answers that exaggerate her previous accomplishments because the career counselor feels that deceiving his client’s potential employer is ethically wrong.
  • A teenager continues training himself to run long distance so he can compete “against himself” in marathons. He aims to improve his time, not win awards or become a professional athlete.
  • A volunteer offers her services just because “virtue is its own reward,” with no hope of recognition nor desire to avoid punishment.
  • An anonymous donor bestows a large sum of money to a charity because he believes in its cause.
  • A housewife starts a neighborhood bakery because she loves baking and cooking. Though she intends to build a profitable business, she seeks just enough money to compensate for her time and basic costs. Her main motivation lies in a passion for baking, in creating a business she can be proud of, and in serving her community.
  • A lawyer, coming from a low-income family herself, works pro bono to help the less fortunate since she understands their struggles.
  • Though it may prove inapplicable to his own industry, a software engineer learns a new programming language because of the fulfillment he gets from working with numbers and applying logic.

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