Impact of extrinsic motivation on intrinsic motivation

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Impact of extrinsic motivation on intrinsic motivation

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This article discusses intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation, and
how extrinsic motivation may affect intrinsic motivation. The danger of
overjustification is discussed and recommendations suggested.

motivation, intrinsic, extrinsic

Article Body:
Motivation can be simply defined as the things that induce us to take
certain actions or behave in a certain way. It is the why or the reason
that drives a person towards a desired goal.

The reasons can be categorized into something that is within us i.e.
intrinsic / internal motivation, or something that is external to us i.e.
extrinsic / external motivation.

Internal motivation in performing a task occurs when the task in itself
is experienced as rewarding and there is no need for any external reward
before it is performed. Examples are love of the task, self-satisfaction,
sense of achievement, relaxation purpose, etc.

External motivation in performing a task occurs when the task is
performed because of an external reward. Examples are praise,
recognition, money, stickers, grades, material rewards, etc.

Motivation can be seen as a continuum from being externally driven to
becoming more internally driven. All of us start off in life being
externally driven. Remember how many children are bribed with sweets or
stickers, and do things to get praise from adults. But as we mature and
our material needs become more satisfied, we become more internally
driven. Though intrinsic motivation is generally accepted as being better
as it is within the internal control of the person, external motivation
is useful in helping a person initially to get on a task when he does not
feel intrinsically motivated to do so.

However, the excessive use of external motivation might have detrimental
effects. This has been shown in research or experiments that examine the
effects of external reward on an internally motivated task.

The 1973 paper "Undermining children's intrinsic interest with extrinsic
rewards: A test of the overjustification hypothesis" by M Lepper, D Green
& R Nisbett, reported an interesting experimental observation. During
children's free-play time, a fun drawing activity was introduced. They
observed the children playing and selected those children who appeared to
find intrinsic satisfaction in drawing. These children were placed under
three different conditions.

Condition 1: "Good Player" certificate was shown to some of the children,
and asked if they would like to draw to win the certificate.

Condition 2: Some children were given the opportunity to simply engage in
drawing and the children were given the "Good Player" certificate

Condition 3: Some children simply drew without expecting or receiving any

Two weeks later, all these children were again allowed to engage in the
drawing activity. The result was interesting. It was found that the
children who chose to draw for the reward showed less interest in
drawing, and also when the reward was withdrawn, these children simply
stopped drawing. Children in the other two conditions showed no
significant change in their interest in drawing. The result seems to
suggest that the external reward of a "Good Player" certificate destroyed
the original intrinsic motivation for drawing.

In 1975, EL Deci reported his research findings in the paper "Intrinsic
motivation", that when people were given rewards for pursuing
intrinsically satisfying goals, decreased motivation was the result. The
result seems to suggest that if people already enjoy what they are doing,
giving rewards for their engaging in this activity can act as a deterrent
in continuing with that activity.

These two reports seem to suggest that external rewards can destroy
intrinsic motivation. There is therefore the danger of
"overjustification" in our enthusiasm to motivate good performance
through rewards.

What are the lessons that we can learn in motivating our children,
students or subordinates? Suggestions are:

1. Develop intrinsic motivation for tasks, e.g. by providing a safe
environment for them to pursue their own interests without undue

2. Encourage intrinsic motivation for tasks e.g. providing opportunities
for sharing of work and of the personal satisfaction gained.

3. Provide external rewards sparingly, and without giving expectations
for it.





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Mike Ward Mike Ward Senior Project Manager
About Senior Project Manager working with a UK telco