Top Videos and Slideshows

What is Intrinsic Motivation?

What is Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behavior arises from within the individual because it is naturally satisfying to you. This contrasts with extrinsic motivation, which involves engaging in a behavior in order to earn external rewards or avoid punishment. Here is what you need to know.

What Is Intrinsic Motivation?

When you're intrinsically motivated, your behavior is motivated by your internal desire to do something for its own sake. For instance, it can be your personal enjoyment of an activity, or your desire to learn a skill because you're eager to learn.

Examples of intrinsic motivation could include:

  • Reading a book because you enjoy the storytelling
  • Exercising because you want to relieve stress
  • Cleaning your home because it helps you feel organized

Intrinsic Motivation and Its Importance

Intrinsic motivation is an important means of motivating employees and occurs when a person finds a task interesting and derives satisfaction from performing it. The motivation comes from within you, rather than being imposed upon you by external factors. Moreover, it is often more effective than extrinsic motivation, which is often based upon rewards and punishments.

Understanding Intrinsic Motivation

In psychology, intrinsic motivation distinguishes between internal and external rewards. This is one of the most popular definitions of intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation occurs when we act without any obvious external rewards. We simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn, and actualize our potentials.

Consider for a moment your motivation when reading a book. If you are reading it because you have an interest in the topic and simply want to know more about the topic of motivation, then you are acting based upon intrinsic motivation. If, however, you are reading a book because you have to learn the information for a class and avoid getting a bad grade, then you are acting based upon extrinsic motivation.

When was the last time you did something simply for the enjoyment of the activity itself? There are a number of activities that fall into this category. For example, you may plant a garden, paint a picture, play a game, or read a book. These may or may not produce something or be rewarded in any way. Instead, we do them because we like to, they make us happy.

When Intrinsic Motivation Is Best

Research has shown that praise can help increase intrinsic motivation. Positive feedback that is sincere, and conveys attainable standards was found to promote intrinsic motivation in children. But on the other hand, external rewards can decrease intrinsic motivation if they're given too willy-nilly. When children received too much praise for completing minimal work or single tasks, their intrinsic motivation decreased.

If you're a people manager, be intentional with your praise and positive feedback. Make sure that it's specific, empowering, and helps your direct reports understand your expectations and standards. But make sure you aren't giving too much praise for work that's less meaningful for your team, or they might lose intrinsic motivation.

This is just a small glance into the field of intrinsic motivation. Many researchers have contributed to the pool of ideas in order to understand what drives students into action. Many will continue to add insights in the name of enhancing the school experience.