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What is Extrinsic Motivation?

What is Extrinsic Motivation?

Extrinsic motivation is reward-driven behavior. It’s a type of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is a form of behavior modification that uses rewards or punishments to increase or decrease the likelihood that specific behaviors will recur. In extrinsic motivation, rewards or other incentives, like praise, fame, or money, are used as motivation for specific activities. Unlike intrinsic motivation, external factors drive this form of motivation. Being paid to do a job is an example of extrinsic motivation. You may enjoy spending your day doing something other than work, but you’re motivated to go to work because you need a paycheck to pay your bills. In this example, you’re extrinsically motivated by the ability to afford your daily expenses. In return, you work a set number of hours a week to receive pay. Extrinsic motivation doesn’t always have a tangible reward. It can also be done through abstract rewards, like praise and fame.

Extrinsic Motivation Can Involve Tangible or Psychological Rewards

Extrinsic motivation is defined as our tendency to engage in activities in order to gain some type of external reward. It is important to note that these rewards can be either tangible or psychological in nature. Money and trophies are two common types of tangible rewards. People engage in activities that they might normally not find terribly enjoyable or rewarding in order to earn a wage. Athletes often engage in strenuous and difficult training sessions in order to be able to compete in sporting events in order to win trophies and awards. Psychological forms of extrinsic motivation can include praise. A child might clean his or her room in order to receive positive praise from her parents. An actor might perform in a role in order to obtain attention and acclaim from his audience. In both of these examples, while the reward is not physical or tangible, it is a type of motivating reward that is external to the actual process of participating in the event.

Examples of extrinsic motivation

Examples of external extrinsic rewards include:

  • competing in sports for trophies
  • completing work for money
  • customer loyalty discounts
  • buy one, get one free sales
  • frequent flyer rewards

How Effective Is Extrinsic Motivation?

So just how well do extrinsic rewards work for increasing motivation? This type of motivation can be highly effective. Just look at all of the examples in your own life of things that you do in order to gain some type of external reward. You might shop with a store loyalty card in order to gain points, discounts, and prizes. You might be performing tasks at work that you dislike in order to keep getting a paycheck. All of these are examples of performing specific behaviors in order to obtain an external reward.

What are some of the cons to using extrinsic motivation?

A major drawback to using extrinsic motivation is not knowing what to do when the reward is gone or its value is exhausted. There’s also the possibility of dependency on the reward. The usefulness of extrinsic motivators should be evaluated on a case-by-case and person-by-person basis.

Understanding the Results

Why would rewarding an already intrinsically rewarding behavior lead to this sudden disinterest? One reason is that people tend to analyze their own motivations for engaging in an activity. Once they have been externally rewarded for performing an action, they assign too much importance to the role of the reinforcement in their behavior. Another possible reason is that activities that initially feel like play or fun can be transformed into work or obligations when tied to an external reward. Extrinsic rewards can be an important tool in motivating behavior, but experts caution that they should be used with caution, especially with children.

Extrinsic motivation can be useful for persuading someone to complete a task. Before assigning a reward-based task, it’s important to know if the person doing the task is motivated by the reward being offered. Extrinsic motivators may be a useful tool to help children learn new skills. For some people, psychological extrinsic motivators are more appealing. For others, external rewards are more attractive. It’s important to remember, however, that extrinsic motivation isn’t always effective.