Many people have at some point in their lives heard the term intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is what we learn naturally when we are young children. It is something we learn by watching our parents do the things they are naturally motivated to do. The term extrinsic motivation comes from knowing that there is something you get from within yourself that is not a learned behavior or trait.
So what is intrinsic motivation? The answer to both of these questions was deep in the memory banks from back in Psych 101 class all those years ago. It was in that lecture that laid out the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is what we learn from our parents, and it is primarily a reward-based system, whereas extrinsic motivation is primarily a punishment system.
Intrinsic motivation is what you learn by watching your parents do what they are naturally motivated to do. The external reward is the consequence of doing a behavior that meets an internal need. For example, my mother always put her hand on my shoulder when I got in trouble. The thought of having my hand taken away was not strong in her mind, so she would not do that particular behavior. Intrinsic motivation is not something you are taught; it is something you learn from your parents and others. It is the result of consistently meeting the need for a reward with appropriate behavior.
Extrinsic motivation is what you will find in most forms of advertising. The reason people get suckered into advertisements is because of what is intrinsic motivation. They are given the reward after they have done something that will result in a personal benefit for them. The rewards may be as simple as a hug from an old school friend or something as complex as a new car. The only thing that prevents extrinsic motivation from happening is that people will become cautious about getting their hands on the reward.
Intrinsic motivation is what is in your genes. Your genetic make-up determines what is intrinsic to your character. If you were to look at what motivates humans so greatly, you would realize that they are motivated by extrinsic motivation in most cases. We are motivated by money, status, power, and all the other motivators humans know.
What is intrinsic motivation, then? It is what keeps you doing what you want to do, no matter what else is going on around you. It is your inner drive that drives a person’s behavior whether they know it or not. It results from repeated experiences that lead to the development of a routine and then a culture in which intrinsic motivation is taken for granted. For example, the majority of Americans motivate themselves to eat healthy foods because they see it as something that they have control over whether they like it or not.
The problem is that this kind of thinking leads to an overjustification effect. The brain starts to believe that what is intrinsic is worth more than what is extrinsically motivated. This overjustification effect then causes the person to ignore all the external rewards they get in exchange for intrinsically motivated. For instance, if they get a bigger promotion, they automatically feel that they deserve it because of their history as an employee. This thinking then develops into a habit that affects how that person behaves.
Motivational theories suggest that a person should develop a motivation system that is intrinsic to the personality. That way, the person develops a clear set of goals and a series of smaller but more significant goals that guide their behavior. They then learn to form a feedback mechanism that guides them towards achieving each goal and learn ways to reinforce their success for better behavior. Finally, they learn how to neutralize the potential negative emotional impact that bad behavior may have on their personal and professional lives.