Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation: What’s the Difference?

What motivates us, and why do we do what we do? There are several theories on motivation that psychologists have come up with, including the idea that motivation can come from both the individual and the environment.

Researchers have discovered that each type affects a person’s conduct and pursuit of goals differently.

Understanding how each sort of incentive works can help us better understand their impact on human behavior.

What Is Extrinsic Motivation?

Extrinsic motivation is being motivated to do something because we want a reward or avoid punishment.

Not because you like or find it enjoyable, but rather because you anticipate receiving something in return for your actions or prevent something unpleasant.

What Is Intrinsic Motivation?

Actions are intrinsically motivated if you find them pleasurable. You are engaging in an activity for its own sake rather than for the sake of receiving a reward. The behavior itself is its reward.

Examples of Extrinsic Motivation

Competition for prizes in a sport

Your parents will chastise you if you don’t clean up after yourself.

Taking part in a scholarship competition

Aspiring for a high grade via studying

Intrinsic Motivation

You are participating in a sport because you love it.

You are tidying up because the process is relaxing to you.

You enjoy the challenging process of solving word puzzles.

Does Extrinsic Motivation Work Better Than Intrinsic Motivation?

Motivated by external factors, extrinsic and inner motivations are distinct. Human behavior is affected differently by each type, as evidenced by research.

A condition is known as “overjustification” has been shown to weaken intrinsic motivation by delivering excessive external rewards for already rewarding behavior.

In a 2008 study, children who had exhibited an interest in the toy were given an external reward for playing with it grew less enthusiastic about it afterward.

Extrinsic motivation is not always bad; it can benefit certain situations. Extrinsic motivation can be effective for completing complex tasks.

The Power of External Motivation

Assist others in recognizing when they’ve hit a mark that merits praise.

Encourage engagement in a previously uninterested individual in a new activity.

Encourage people to discover new things (once these early skills have been learned, people might become more intrinsically motivated to pursue an activity)

Where there is a lack of intrinsic motivation:

A person already enjoys the action for their own sake.

Playing games can be made to feel more like “work” by offering a reward.

Best Use of  External Rewards

Arouse a person’s interest in learning something new

Motivate a person to participate in an activity they previously had no interest in doing.

Make sure individuals know they’re doing an excellent job by providing them both praise and constructive criticism.

When You Don’t Need to Make Your Employees Earn Extra Money

someone has an interest in the subject, work, or activity at hand

To make the task feel like “work,” you should give it a reward, not “play.”

Poor Use of External Rewards

Intrinsic motivation, however, isn’t always possible in every setting. Some people don’t drive to do something because they don’t feel like it. Providing excessive rewards might sometimes be a concern.

On the other hand, extrinsic motivators can be an effective tool when applied correctly. On the other hand, intrinsic motivation might persuade someone to do something they’re not interested in doing.

Researchers have studied extrinsic rewards and their influence on intrinsic motivation extensively.

When an external incentive is given to accomplish a particular task or do minimum work, intrinsic motivation will drop.

In the long run, a child’s intrinsic motivation to accomplish an essential activity will decrease if their parents praise them whenever they succeed.

Self-praise might help enhance motivation. According to studies, people’s intrinsic motivation can be increased by rewarding them when they outperform their colleagues.

Unexpected rewards from the outside world do not harm extrinsic motivation.

A night-out reward for losing weight does not change the drive to lose weight. This type of incentive process can shift the attention toward the expectation of compensation instead of the process.

Extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation can significantly impact how well students learn.

Both external and inner factors influence learning. In the past, experts have claimed that education’s conventional emphasis on external rewards (such as grade points, report cards, and gold stars) diminishes whatever inner drive that kids may have.

According to some researchers, extrinsic motivators may help kids feel more confident in the classroom, which boosts their intrinsic motivation.

Most improved player awards, for example, are often used as a form of recognition rather than bribery or control. After performing a good job, having a sense of accomplishment might make the process more enjoyable.


Humans are motivated by both external and inner factors. Some of the most critical differences between externally motivated people and those motivated by their genuine desire include how each sort of motivation impacts their behavior and which scenarios are most suited to which method of motivating.

Learning about how each motivation works can help you get things done even if a part of you resists.

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