Extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation: what’s the difference?

NTD Newsroom
By NTD Newsroom
February 8, 2017Health
Extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation: what’s the difference?

Motivation – a supposedly easy concept. Everyone knows what motivation is. It gives us reasons for our actions, desires and needs. But what complexity lies behind this! We still don’t quite understand why people are motivated to do something.

Many theories have been created in order to explicate the mysterious nature of human motivation. One well known theory is the famous Maslow hierarchy of needs — it’s argued that humans have needs that are hierarchically ranked. First there are physiological needs, then safety, social needs, esteem and finally self-actualization. But there are many more theories about human motivation.

In our increasingly money oriented world, motivation has become an important phenomenon that companies want to understand and use to their benefit. Companies and corporations want their employees to work a lot and to do it effectively and are financing many studies on this subject. But I think that the answer to their problem has already been found. It’s called the “Cognitive Evaluation Theory” and it states that there are actually two motivational systems – intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation is the motivation to act for the sake of the activity alone. For example, people have an intrinsic motivation to play the guitar simply because they enjoy it. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is the motivation to act for external rewards. For example, people with extrinsic motivation to play music do so in the hopes of getting published, making money or becoming famous.

So when you are a manager in a company and you want to motivate your slacking employee what do you do? More often than not, you give out a monetary reward or you say he could be the employee of the month. But these all are what the experts call extrinsic motivators. And for somebody to have long term motivation, he needs to be motivated from the inside.

The inefficiency of extrinsic motivation was humorously portrayed on this video:

The guy working doesn’t look motivated at all by his manager and obviously has no intrinsic motivation to do his job. Instead of working maybe he went off to play the guitar just for the pleasure of doing it 🙂

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.