Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation: What Is It?

Motivation serves as the driving force behind human behavior, guiding individuals towards specific actions and goals. Within the realm of motivation, there are distinct types, with two primary ones being extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Distinguishing between these different types of motivation is crucial for understanding the drivers behind human actions and aspirations.


Extrinsic Motivation: External Drivers


Extrinsic motivation arises from external factors, such as rewards, punishments, or recognition from others. In this type of motivation, individuals engage in activities to achieve a specific outcome or external reward. For example, a student might study diligently to earn good grades, or an employee might work harder to receive a bonus or promotion. External motivation significantly influences behavior in various contexts.


Intrinsic Motivation: Inner Fulfillment


Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, emanates from within oneself. It is driven by personal enjoyment, satisfaction, or a sense of fulfillment derived from the activity itself, rather than from external rewards. For instance, an artist may paint simply because they find joy and fulfillment in the act of creation, irrespective of any external recognition or monetary gain. Inner motivation propels individuals to pursue activities for the inherent satisfaction they provide.


Examples Illustrating the 2 Types of Motivation


Understanding extrinsic and intrinsic motivation is crucial for anyone who wants to improve their own drive and effectiveness, or influence the behavior of others.  Extrinsic motivation arises from external pressures and rewards, while intrinsic motivation stems from a deep-seated desire to engage in an activity for its inherent enjoyment and satisfaction. The following scenarios will illustrate this important distinction.


1. Extrinsic Motivation in Education


A student who is extrinsically motivated may study diligently to earn praise from teachers or parents, to avoid punishment such as detention, or to secure a scholarship. The lure of external rewards or consequences drives their academic efforts, demonstrating the impact of external motivation in educational settings.


2. Intrinsic Motivation in Hobbies


Conversely, an individual who engages in a hobby out of intrinsic motivation does so for the sheer enjoyment and personal satisfaction it brings. Whether it’s playing a musical instrument, gardening, or solving puzzles, the individual finds fulfillment in the activity itself, regardless of any external rewards. This underscores the role of internal motivation in nurturing personal interests and hobbies.


3. Workplace Dynamics


In a professional setting, employees may be motivated by a combination of internal and external factors. While extrinsically motivated employees seek rewards such as bonuses or promotions, those driven by intrinsic motivation are fueled by their passion for the work, the sense of accomplishment derived from overcoming challenges, and the opportunity for personal growth and development. This interplay between internal and external motivation shapes workplace dynamics and employee behavior.


The Interplay Between Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation


It’s important to recognize that individuals are not purely intrinsically or extrinsically motivated; rather, they often exhibit a combination of both types of motivation depending on the context and circumstances. This phenomenon underscores the complexity of human motivation and behavior.

For example, an athlete may participate in a sport because they enjoy the physical activity and the sense of achievement it brings (intrinsic motivation), while also striving to win competitions or earn sponsorships (extrinsic motivation).




In summary, motivation manifests in various forms, with extrinsic and intrinsic motivation being two primary ones. While external motivation influences behavior through rewards or punishments, internal motivation stems from personal enjoyment, satisfaction, and achievement. Understanding the interplay between these two types of motivation is essential for navigating various aspects of life, from education and hobbies to the workplace, and fostering personal growth and fulfillment.