Extrinsic Motivation definition

Extrinsic motivation is action driven by rewards existing outside of the individual, such as recognition, money or pleasure. Note that extrinsic motivation can also drive behaviour that aims to avoid negative outcomes or punishments e.g. someone may study for an exam to get a good grade (reward) or avoid social ridicule (punishment).

Extrinsic motivators are contrasted to intrinsic motivators, which are internally-focused rewards or punishments based on an individual’s personality, make-up and humanity. For example, someone may eat chocolate, or partake in exercise, because of the associated endorphin rush.

Most behaviours are driven by both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators e.g. someone will exercise to look good (external validation) and to get the adrenaline rush (internal reward).

Workplace psychology is concerned with extrinsic and intrinsic motivators as ways to encourage employees to act in the company’s interest.

Research suggests, popularised by Daniel H Pink in his book Drive, that people are motivated long-term only by intrinsic motivators – specifically purpose, mastery and autonomy – and that extrinsic motivators quickly become hygiene factors.


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