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Intrinsic Motivation Definition I 3 Questions about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation answered!

Jeroen de Flander

Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation are two psychology concepts that come from  motivational science. But people driven by intrinsic or extrinsic motivation can be found everywhere – from the classroom to the workplace.

This ‘motivation’ article takes a closer look at intrinsic motivation and offers an answer to questions like: “What is intrinsic motivation?” and, “How are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation different?“.

Let’s start:

Intrinsic motivation: 3 questions anwered

Here’s a short Q&A:

1. What is motivation?

Definition: motivation is what drives you to take action. It’s your trigger – the reason – for doing something. Without motivation, you will do very little.

2. What’s the difference between intrinsic motivation vs extrinsic motivation?

There are two types of motivation and they are quite different:

Intrinsic motivation (or internal motivation) refers to behavior and actions driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation to do something is triggered within the individual because it is naturally satisfying to that individual. We simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn, and actualize our potentials.

Extrinsic motivation (or external motivation) refers to behavior and actions driven by external rewards. In other words, the motivation to do something is triggered outside the individual to earn external rewards or avoid punishment. We will engage in an activity because we want more money, fame, …

Let’s look at an example:

You are reading this article. Please stop for a moment. Why are you reading? What’s your motivation? If you are reading because you enjoy learning new things about psychology, you are driven by intrinsic motivation. It’s internal motivation. You enjoy the activity. Period. That’s your trigger to search for content and read this article. So in this case, reading this is an example of intrinsic motivation.

But you might also be reading this article because you have a paper to finish and you don’t want a bad grade. In this case, you might not enjoying reading this article so much (sorry). Your trigger is external motivation. You want a good grade (or avoid a bad one).  So reading this is an example of extrinsic motivation.

3. How can we increase intrinsic motivation?

Here are 4 tactics you can use to increase intrinsic motivation:

Rethink reward. Research proves that rewards motivate people to do simple tasks. In other words, performance goes up. But rewards leads to poor performance when tasks require thinking outside the box.

Create autonomy.If you feel you have decision autonomy, your intrinsic motivation goes up.

Tap into the power of purpose.People who feel they are working towards the greater good increase their internal motivation.

Rethink goal setting: make goals challenging, but within reach. Tap into the science of goal setting theory and set smart goals.