What Is the Difference Between Intrinsic & Extrinsic Motivation?

by Jacquelyn Jeanty; Updated September 26, 2017
Motivation can appear in internal and external forms.

Motivation is an internal state that can direct a person’s actions towards a certain end. Working on a job or working towards a goal requires some form of motivation to be in place for the task to get done. The difference between intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation has to do with why a particular task, goal or outcome is important.

Motivation

Motivations rely on a certain type of reward system, or trade-off.

Motivations rely on a type of reward system, or trade-off, that provides certain expected outcomes when certain conditions are met, according to Educational Psychology Interactive. Reward systems can come in the form of an internal result, like a feeling or expectation. They can also appear as an external influence, like a paycheck or getting someone’s approval. These types of reward systems are what differentiate intrinsic from extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivators are internal, or self driven. Extrinsic motivators are dependent on an external outcome.

Intrinsic Motivation

A hobby would be an example of intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is based on a person’s natural inclinations in terms of what’s important or enjoyable to him, according to PsychCentral. This is an internal drive that takes little effort or coaxing. A person will perform a certain task simply because he enjoys doing it. An example of this would be a hobby. Intrinsic motivation can also exist in cases where an external reward is present, like when a person enjoys his line of work and also receives a paycheck. Internal motivators may also be connected to a person’s sense of purpose when it taps into his sense of who he is.

Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivation is based on receiving a reward from an external source.

Extrinsic motivation is based on receiving a certain reward from an external source, like a person or place, according to PsychCentral. External rewards can come in the form of school grades, money, a promotion at work or approval from others. Under these circumstances, a person’s actions are controlled by an external outcome, whereas intrinsic motivations are self-driven. The difference here is once the source of control is removed, there’s no reason to follow through on the task when it’s extrinsically motivated.

Core Values

Your core values identify what is most important in your life.

A person’s core values identify what’s most important in life to her, according to PsychCentral. These values may exert considerable influence on what she chooses to do and what she won’t do. Individuals who are intrinsically motivated to do something tap into these core values. Those who are extrinsically motivated are basing their actions on an external condition that may or may not tap into their core values.

Goals

Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are based on obtaining some type of goal.

Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are based on obtaining some type of goal, according to Purdue University Calumet. An example of an intrinsic goal is the feeling of relaxation that some people experience when gardening. The extrinsic goal would be an array of beautiful flowers. Intrinsic motivators can also connect with a person on an emotional level, which may or may not hold true for an extrinsic motivator. In cases where an external goal carries great personal value (like winning a contest), it can cause an emotional response; however, the response is still brought on by an external condition.

About the Author

Jacquelyn Jeanty has worked as a freelance writer since 2008. Her work appears at various websites. Her specialty areas include health, home and garden, Christianity and personal development. Jeanty holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Purdue University.

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