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Extrinsic motivation: characteristics and examples

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What is extrinsic motivation? What are its characteristics? What examples of it do we find in our daily lives? Find out!

All people act for and for something. No one acts in vain; there is always a motivation behind the behavior that explains and justifies our actions. In addition, there are different types of motivation; a possible classification is the one that differentiates extrinsic motivation from intrinsic motivation.

In this article we will focus on extrinsic motivation. What does this concept refer to? What are its characteristics? What examples do we know of it? How is it different from intrinsic motivation? Discover all the answers in relation to this interesting concept of basic psychology. Extrinsic motivation: what is it?

Extrinsic motivation has received multiple definitions. In a generic way, we could say that it is the motivation that is given by factors external to the activity itself. That is, the person would perform a certain action to achieve something “external” to the action (it does not have to be money or a material object, it can also be the obtaining of an internal state, such as tranquility), not for the pleasure of the activity itself.

Thus, through extrinsic motivation, the individual seeks to achieve something with his efforts or actions (for example a prize, an external reward, a compliment …). In other words: the reinforcement or incentive that motivates the action (whether positive or negative) is external and is also beyond the control of the person. However, it presents more features that we will know below.

Characteristics of extrinsic motivation

What are the fundamental characteristics of extrinsic motivation? What happens so that we can talk about this kind of motivation? At what times can it be a problem? Let’s see it. May reduce intrinsic motivation

It has been proven how extrinsic motivation can reduce intrinsic motivation. The latter consists of that motivation we have for the action itself; that is, we enjoy the action itself, and that is what moves us to perform it. For example, it would be going out to skate for the simple pleasure of doing so; there are no external incentives here to move us to act.

Why do we say that extrinsic motivation can reduce intrinsic motivation? Because this has been proven through different investigations. Think about it; imagine that you like to read. However, your father, with the intention of rewarding your passion or encouraging it even more, tells you that he will give you 10 euros for each book you read.

How will this ad influence your reading? Perhaps you begin to change the way you read, reading faster or selecting shorter books -regardless of their theme-, to maximize the benefit of the activity, “parking” or “forgetting” what you started reading, which was the passion for doing it (intrinsic motivation). This is just one example, but it can be applied in many more skills. May appear alongside intrinsic motivation

Now that we have seen what intrinsic motivation consists of, let’s talk about its joint appearance; and it is that both motivations, the intrinsic and the extrinsic, can appear at the same time. An example of this would be: studying because we like to do it (intrinsic motivation) and at the same time because our parents reward us with praise for doing it (extrinsic motivation).

That is, they are not incompatible motivations. However, it often happens that one of them predominates over the other (or appears to a greater degree). Motivates us to do things we love

Another characteristic of extrinsic motivation is that it motivates us to do things we like, to do nice things. Even if we perform the action to achieve something, that action can also be pleasant and positive. In the end, let’s not forget, motivation is a force that drives us to perform certain actions, whether intrinsic or extrinsic. Works with internal and external factors

Although it seems that extrinsic motivation only appears by external factors, this is not the case; we can also have extrinsic motivation for something internal (for example, having the motivation to lose weight doing sports or to feel relaxed doing meditation …). This and other examples will be seen below.

“If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan but don’t change the goal.”

Examples of extrinsic motivation

An example of extrinsic motivation would be to receive a salary for working and if that salary were our motivation to go to work (or one of them). But there are many more: for example children who study because their parents promise them an external reward for getting good grades (for example a bicycle, going to a concert on a trip …) or those people who expect a word of thanks or a compliment when performing a certain action.

In the end, we all act for and for something, although not all of us are moved by the same thing. That is, motivation differs in each person and action.

As we are seeing, examples of extrinsic motivation can appear in practically any field of our life: in the field of sport, if we practice sport to lose weight; in the workplace, if we work hard to get a promotion; on a personal level, if we take care of our friends to feel valued later by our friends, etc. If we look at our day to day, we are sure to find multiple examples! Motivation: that force that moves us

Whether intrinsic or extrinsic, the reality is that behind every human behavior there is a motivation (or more than one). No one acts in a certain way “just because.” This is partly what the theory of self-determination speaks of, which was proposed by researchers Edward L. Decy and Richard M. Ryan and which suggests that people are motivated to grow and change by innate psychological needs.

According to this theory, there would be three types of psychological needs (innate and universal): the need for competition, the need for connection and the need for autonomy. So, we all act for some reason, even though this reason is not always easy to identify.

On the other hand, motivations are sensitive to circumstances and undergo important changes throughout life. In the case of extrinsic motivation, it can increase if we increase external incentives (for example, by increasing its quantity, quality, variety…), and also in other circumstances.

If we go to intrinsic motivation, according to Good and Brophy (1996), it will decrease if the feelings of competition and self-determination are reduced. This produces two types of intrinsically motivated behavior: one occurs when the person is comfortable, but bored, and therefore seeks stimulation, and the other involves mastering challenges or reducing incongruity.

“We don’t grow when things get easy, we do when we face our challenges.”

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