MOTIVATION – Intrinsic and extrinsic

Basically, the two forces of behaviour and motivation style maybe influenced by intrinsic factors whereby the stimulator comes from within the person, and the other force is extrinsic through which the inspiration is by outside forces. Depending on the situation both forces maybe effective, however, intrinsic motivation pushes people more forcefully towards achieving a goal and the achievement is much more satisfying. On the other hand, when a person is extrinsically motivated he/she focuses on a behaviour in order to acquire an external reward.

Let’s go into greater depth to gain a better understanding of the two behaviours and its impact on our actions and performance.  

INTRINSIC MOTIVATION : The act of doing any activity without any defined reward so that it is satisfying for you, or is interesting and enjoyable. Intrinsic behaviours are driven by the internal reward and satisfaction you obtain by the activity itself. You obtain satisfaction by doing that activity, be it reading, exercise or being involved in any other personal interest. For some people an inner need to develop and thrive may also drive their actions like competence, perfection, autonomy and a sense of achievement.

Some of the factors that promote intrinsic motivation include recognition, challenges, competition and control. These factors can be beneficial as they satisfy an innate need to be tested, recognized, appreciated, win and may contribute to our growth and development as well as sense of satisfaction..

It is possible to practice better intrinsic motivation by

  • Finding ways to make a task fun and engaging for our self.
  • Challenging our self by setting small and measurable goals
  • Focusing on the value and added benefit of an activity.
  • Visualizing our success and achievement before we start an activity or task.

When a person is intrinsically motivated they take on an activity solely for the purpose of their enjoyment and because they expect to obtain personal satisfaction from it. Many people have a hobby on which they spend time and money. They do not expect to obtain anything in return, it’s just that they love to be involved in that activity and it becomes a part of their interests and identity.

EXTRINSIC MOTIVATION :  On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is increased by tangible factors like a reward or incentive driven like praise, or money. External factors are the driving force which may include this; a salary for doing a job, an increment or promotion. In some cases, abstract rewards also provide extrinsic motivation like praise, acknowledgement and fame.

In simple words we may say that people generally want to be motivated to change their behaviour or do certain actions. The change may include starting a new activity, bringing about improvements in an existing behaviour or habits or even just for feeling happy and satisfied.

Extrinsic motivation can be used to encourage and stimulate a person to do different things. If you are aware of a reward at the end of an activity or task then you will be motivated to do that task.

Some examples of external rewards include :

  • Completing any work for money or incentives
  • Joining customer loyalty programs for discounts, points etc
  • Competing in events or sports for trophies or reward money.

Other aspects may include psychological rewards such as :

  • Doing any work for praise or acclaim of family, friends or charity
  • Draw attention to yourself by doing any activity
  • Completing an assignment timely to be satisfied.

However, the impact of extrinsic rewards on motivation is very brief and transitory. There is no doubt that they are great and provide a sense of satisfaction in the short term, but the positive impact of these rewards may be brief and may even disperse later. Further, some studies suggest these may have a negative impact on out intrinsic urges and even prevent us from doing those.

OVERJUSTIFICATION EFFECT – This is a phenomenon which occurs when being rewarded for doing a task or activity actually reduces the sense of satisfaction for performing that action. This is what brings the thinking that external incentives and rewards should be used sparingly as people may be less motivated to pursue those activities that they found intrinsically motivating.

The question arises, why does this happen ? One explanation is that people then tend to expect the external rewards rather than focus on their enjoyment and appreciation of the activity itself. Some people may also consider the external and extrinsic rewards as a threat or pressure to do something and it may have a negative impact on them. It could also be considered by some as a bribe or pay off for performing an activity.  

Some conclusions which may be drawn by the above comparison include :

  • If used too often, extrinsic rewards can weaken a person’s intrinsic motivation.
  • The value of the reward may diminish as the law of diminishing effect takes place over a period of time.
  • Extrinsic rewards maybe more effective for some people and situations. So they continue to perform high quality work
  • Other people may feel, internal value adding benefits are more motivating.

Finally “When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
– Paulo Coelho


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