Intrinsic Motivation or Extrinsic Motivation
Posted by Stephane Gaskin PhD on Feb 1, 2014
It is common knowledge that, in life, happiness comes from being able to do things that you truly love doing. That is, that you would do without getting any kind of external reward for it, such as money, praise and grades. You are said to have intrinsic motivation for the things that you can keep doing strictly for the love of them (intrinsic = the motivation comes from within the activity itself). Sometimes we say that we are passionate about such an activity. Psychologist Myhali Csikszentmihalyi proposed the idea of “flow” to describe such an activity. For Csikszentmihalyi activities that induce flow have the following properties.
- The activity induces intense focus in the present moment
- Everything you do is a direct extension of your mind (your thoughts flow directly to your actions).
- You stop thinking about yourself, worries and concerns.
- You have a sense of perfect control over what you are doing.
- You lose the sense of time (“I can’t believe I did this all day”).
- The activity is intrinsically motivated (explained above).
This is similar to what is referred to as being in “the zone”, in the field of sports psychology. Think about how this would optimize your performance if you would feel that way while playing baseball, hockey, tennis, etc.
In their Self-Determination Theory, Psychologist Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan, refer to what they call controlled motivation and autonomous motivation to explain how the kinds of rewards we get from particular activities keep us interested in doing them. Intrinsic motivation (explained above) is completely autonomous, meaning that it does not require external reward whatsoever. The opposite of intrinsic motivation is extrinsic motivation, where we need some form of external rewards to keep motivated to do something. These range from being entirely controlled by external factors to being autonomous.
- External Regulation: You are just doing something to get a reward or to avoid punishment, nothing else (highly controlled by external factors).
- Introjected Regulation: You do something because it makes you feel good about yourself. You perform well in it; it strokes your ego (moderately controlled by external factors).
- Identified Regulation: You do something because you recognize its importance. (moderately controlled by external factors.)
- Integrated Regulation: You do something because it is in line with your goals and values as a person (autonomous motivation).
Don’t forget that one step beyond this is intrinsic motivation, which is entirely autonomous, as explained in the first section of the article, no reward is required at all besides what comes from the activity itself.
So there you have it! Think of your daily activities, which are controlled? Which are autonomous? What keeps you doing them: intrinsic motivation or extrinsic motivation?
Gagné, M. & Deci, E. L. (2005). Self-determination theory and work motivation. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26, 331-362.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper & Row.
Stephane Gaskin PhD
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