Motivation drives us to get out of bed every day to accomplish something important to us. These goals might involve work, school, or training for a marathon. We all have different reasons for choosing specific goals. And we are each driven by both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Below, we’ll break down the various definitions for you.

  • Intrinsic motivation – This mindset involves doing something because you get a personal reward out of it. Think of it as enjoyment or eagerness to learn a new skill.
  • Extrinsic motivation – doing something because of an external reward. Consider scenarios such as a raise at work or losing weight from exercising. You may also be extrinsically motivated to avoid punishment, such as losing your job or gaining weight from not exercising.

You can sum these up by saying that intrinsic motivation arises from within, while extrinsic motivation comes from influences outside oneself. By looking at these definitions, you might think that intrinsic motivation matters most. However, both of them have their importance in shaping our society. For example, if you only did what brought you happiness and joy, you wouldn’t have the drive to accomplish tasks at work which involve other people.

For example, you wouldn’t care about pleasing your boss or coworkers. That’s because you’d only pay attention to your desires.

So, we’ll delve a little further into the psychology behind motivation and the significant differences between both types of it.

The Differences Between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Now that you know where each type of motivation comes from, let’s get into some more examples of both:


  • getting involves in sports or other hobbies that you enjoy
  • cleaning up your room because you like keeping it organized
  • studying a subject like astrophysics simply because you want to learn new things
  • exercising because it makes you feel better.


  • finishing your work because you don’t want to get fired,
  • taking on the extra workload at your job because you want a promotion
  • cleaning your room because you have guests coming over
  • studying a subject because you need to pass a test at school.

instinsic motivation

As you can see, we need both types of motivation in our society to keep it functioning correctly. If everyone only did things to please others or avoid punishment, we would lose what makes us human and act more like robots. However, if we only did whatever we wanted all the time, we couldn’t maintain the products and services that keep our society running. So, we should strive to maintain a reasonable balance between what makes us personally happy and what we need to accomplish for societal obligations.

How Each Type of Motivation Influences Behavior

 Some studies have shown that offering too many rewards for a behavior that already gives intrinsic satisfaction can decrease internal motivation, otherwise known as the overjustification effect. For example, in this study involving 20-month olds, researchers found that their altruistic tendencies decreased when they were given too many external rewards, such as praise or toys. Another study found a similar outcome in those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, discovering that their intrinsic motivation decreased as external rewards increased.

Why does this phenomenon happen? According to the American Psychological Association, people tend to focus more on external rewards than internal satisfaction, despite their natural desire to do what makes them happy. Another factor influencing this behavior involves punishment or bribery. If people feel like they must do something out of fear or coercion, they will focus more on extrinsic motivation since they believe they have something to lose.

The studies:

Research also shows that if people get external reinforcement for doing a good job, the overjustification effect won’t have as much influence on them. For example, if you do well on a test because you studied for it, this won’t cause your internal motivation to decrease. Since your performance on the test depends on how hard you studied, getting a good grade drives your studying behavior. In the cases listed above with the children, the external motivation didn’t depend on their performance, so they lost their desire to keep up the behavior.

Another study found that parents should use moderation in giving their children praise. Children who receive praise for their efforts in completing a task rather than for their inherent talents or personality traits believe that success depends on how hard they work, not how smart they are. Children who develop this mindset also tend to persist in the face of struggles. That’s because they know that hard work will carry them through tough times. If children just believe that intelligence matters, they won’t have the external motivation to keep going in the face of adversity.

This makes sense because every parent wants to believe their child possesses some unique or otherworldly personality trait or intellect, which will get them ahead in the world. However, the research consistently shows that children have more success when their parents raise them to work harder for whatever they want to achieve in life. If parents reward their children too often for good behaviors, this enforces the idea that they will not have to put in very much effort to obtain rewards.

extrinsic motivation

When to Use Each Type of Motivation

 This applies mostly to employers or parents who have to motivate others to accomplish tasks. Extrinsic motivation can come in handy in the following types of situations:

  • External rewards can help others become interested in a subject or activity that they had no desire to learn before.
  • Extrinsic rewards can motivate people to acquire new skillsets and knowledge. Once they learn the skills, they may have more internal motivation to pursue a job or activity.
  • External rewards can also help people know where they stand in their job or schoolwork. It serves as a way to give people feedback and let them know when they’ve done a good job.

In cases where people already enjoy an activity, parents or employers should refrain from giving external motivation. Basically, it boils down to moderation. Giving too much praise makes the individual less likely to keep up the good behavior. On the other hand, too little praise causes the person to become resentful and disinterested in the activity.

When motivation becomes more important:

External motivation helps in cases where people have no interest in an activity or task. Think about the kids doing a school assignment or an important task at work. You don’t want to give too many rewards. Offer just enough to get people motivated to complete the job. Researchers have drawn the following conclusions about how intrinsic and extrinsic motivation work:

  1. Unexpected rewards usually don’t curb internal motivation. For example, if you actually enjoy your job and you help the company bring in more money, your boss may reward you with a gift card or a promotion. This won’t affect your intrinsic motivation because you genuinely enjoy your work. However, if people start expecting rewards every time they accomplish something, this can become problematic.
  2. Praise can boost your internal motivation in some cases. Researchers have found that giving people positive feedback when they perform a task better than others can improve their internal motivation for doing that task.
  3. Internal motivation will decrease when people receive rewards for doing what’s expected of them or for simple tasks. For example, if parents give their children $5 every time they make their bed, it will lower their motivation for doing their chores every day.

How to Use Each Type of Motivation in Your Life

Think about what goals you have or what duties you’ve been given in your daily life. No matter if you go to school or have a full-time job, you can learn what motivates you and how to use this to your advantage. Let’s say, for example. You have your own business running a travel website. Now, think about what makes you motivated to keep growing this venture.

You probably have both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to maintain your business. That’s because your work keeps people coming to the website each day, which generates monetary rewards. However, you obviously picked that line of work because you get personal satisfaction from teaching people about the finest places to travel around the world. We all get motivated by external and internal factors. Moreover, both of them are necessary for a functional society.

intrinsic motivation
Final thoughts about extrinsic and intrinsic motivation

As you’ve learned in this article, extrinsic motivation comes from anything outside yourself that keeps you working toward a specific goal. Usually, people get motivated by other’s opinions of them, monetary rewards, or positive praise. For example, if you hope to lose weight for external reasons, you may care about looking better to attract someone’s attention or because you want to feel better. However, you may not personally enjoy working out.

Intrinsic motivation comes from anything that we do because we get pleasure out of it. This may pertain to certain hobbies you have. Or, in some cases, it may involve your job. (Although, unfortunately, most people go to work just to pay the bills). As you can see, both types of motivation have a place in society. And we can use both of them to our advantage.