Healthy Living

What Is Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation involves doing what you like to do because it makes you happy and satisfied.

What Is Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation is a type of behavior, which is driven or fueled by internal rewards. It involves engaging in a behavior, in which a person finds it as personally rewarding. Essentially, a person performs an activity not to receive external rewards, but for his or her own satisfaction. 

Examples of Intrinsic Motivation

  • Studying a particular subject you find interesting. 
  • Solving puzzles because you find it challenging and exciting.
  • Cleaning your room or decluttering because you like tidying up. 
  • Engaging in sports because you find it fun and enjoyable. 

In psychology, intrinsic motivation is defined as a behavior that occurs when a person acts without expecting an external reward. People simply enjoy doing activities so they could learn, explore, or discover their potentials. 

For example, if you are reading this article simply because you have developed an interest in psychology and topics regarding motivation, then your behavior is based on intrinsic motivation. However, if you are researching about motivation because you need to learn more about it to avoid getting a low grade in your class, then your behavior is based on an extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation involves doing what you like to do because it makes you happy and satisfied. 

Why is intrinsic motivation important?

  • You are able to focus on important tasks to develop a good habit - You do things that you enjoy. You do not waste your time on those things that are not related to your goal. You are able to focus on things that are important, which you can benefit from in the long run.
  • Fewer motivation swings - You tend to do things consistently with fewer setbacks.
  • Distraction becomes less - In intrinsic motivation, you enjoy whatever you do, so you tend to be less easily distracted. You would rather continue working on whatever you are doing instead of getting involved with the distraction. 
  • You are more focused on learning and improving as well as to acknowledge your own mistakes - Committing a mistake is inevitable. However, since you enjoy your task, you embrace a constructive mindset of how to improve or correct your mistake. You are more inclined to accept your mistakes and forgive yourself. 
  • You become more self-sufficient and self-confident - Being self-sufficient and confident will suppress the need for other people's approval. You will be self-sufficient as long as you meet your own standards or expectations and satisfied with your own work.
  • You feel a greater satisfaction in your accomplishments - You feel a high level of satisfaction when you accomplish something that matters to you but does not expect any external rewards in return. 

Internal Satisfaction

You may be intrinsically motivated when you are doing a particular activity for the sake of enjoyment. Rather than with a desire that you will get a reward from external sources, you do the activity since the behavior comes from within.

However, it does not mean that intrinsically motivated behaviors are not related to rewards. Just getting a positive emotion from the activity could also be by itself a reward. People get a sense of meaning when activities generate such kind of feeling. It can be participating in church events or volunteering for something.

When your work is accomplishing something positive or gives you a sense of progress, and when you learn something new or become better in a task, it can give you a sense of competence.

Examples of Intrinsic Motivation in the Workplace

  • Added responsibility is inspiring - A good way to personally and professionally grow is by taking on more responsibilities in your workplace. Although these responsibilities can give you a difficult time sometimes, you are happy that you are improving and getting better as time goes by. Sometimes, an added responsibility does not give you extra pay, but a sense of satisfaction that you are trusted and worthy enough to take on that additional task are enough to inspire you to continue doing your best. 
  • You are recognized as a valuable person in your company - One of the fundamental human needs is recognition. Being recognized for your outstanding work motivates you to increase your productivity, which leads to job satisfaction. A lot of people also like the fact that the company they work for truly values them. An important part of staying motivated is to know your worth. This is what makes you motivated to continue doing your job happily and properly. 
  • It gives you a feeling of accomplishment - You will likely notice your hard work when you feel like you have achieved or accomplished something. You can look back and then feel proud to see yourself standing at a better position. For example, you have been working on a complex project for several months until it is finally completed. After you are done with the project, you feel that all of your hard work was worth it and feel a sense of accomplishment with satisfaction.

Examples of Intrinsic Motivation in the Classroom

  • You are able to pursue knowledge - Knowledge makes a person confident and boosts one's self-esteem. People want to be more knowledgeable about a particular subject if they want to share the information with others. 
  • Curiosity about the topic - Another great example of an intrinsic motivation is to enroll in a class if you want to learn something specific. Feeding your curiosity will help you become more knowledgeable in certain areas, which often result in self-confidence and personal satisfaction. 
  • You enjoy effortful thinking - The thrill of tackling is a very challenging and motivating factor. Having thoughtful conversations and critical thinking are personally rewarding. When you exhibit such attributes, people remember you as someone who is smart and intellectually stimulating. When you are able to uncover new thoughts and ideas, effortful thinking becomes very rewarding.
  • You gain mastery over a topic - You can teach others when you gain mastery over a topic. Your confidence also increases as you give other people something that they do not possess. In this way, you are able to increase your self-worth. You are viewed as different from others as you master a particular topic, and this makes you succeed. This success further motivates you to become the best in your craft.
  • Achievement of learning goals - Students are able to achieve much more than the goals set by their teacher when they are able to set learning goals. You are able to achieve your full potential when you identify what is important to your own learning. Your learning goals can be many, but with the success of one, you are motivated to learn more to help achieve the next one.

Factors That Increase Intrinsic Motivation

  • Challenge - Most people are able to pursue their goals when they get motivated. They also get motivated when they achieve goals under uncertainty. When performance feedback is available, these goals may also relate to self-esteem.
  • Curiosity - When an individual’s attention is grabbed by something in the physical environment, internal motivation increases. Internal motivation is also increased when the person is stimulated by the activity that he or she does.
  • Control - People want to determine what they can pursue by having control over themselves and their environment.
  • Cooperation and Competition -
  • Recognition - Internal motivation also increases when the accomplishment of one person is recognized by others.

References

Oudeyer, P. and Kaplan, F. What is Intrinsic Motivation? A Typology of Computational Approaches. Front Neurorobotics. (2007) vol. 1 6. 2 Nov. 2007. doi:10.3389/neuro.12.006.2007.

Malone TW, Lepper MR. Making Learning Fun: A Taxonomy of Intrinsic Motivations for Learning. In: Snow RE, Farr MJ, ed. Aptitude, Learning, and Instruction: Iii. Conative and Affective Process Analysis. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Erlbaum; 1987.

Griggs RA. Psychology: A Concise Introduction. 3rd ed. New York: Worth Publishers; 2010.

Coon D, Mitterer JO. Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior With Concept Maps. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth; 2010.

Key Takeaways

  • Intrinsic motivation is a type of behavior, which is driven or fueled by internal rewards. 
  • It involves doing what you like to do because it makes you happy and satisfied. 
  • Essentially, a person with an intrinsic motivation performs an activity not to receive external rewards, but for his or her own satisfaction.