Intrinsic Motivation (Perspectives in Social Psychology)

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Their arousal level is too high. Generally, by the time fall semester starts, many students are quite happy to return to school. This is an example of how arousal theory works. Traits like impulsivity and sensation-seeking predispose people to engage in certain behaviors. Fulfilling the impulse brings about a physiological reward similar to the rat pressing the button. Some individuals are more sensation-seeking in that they have higher motivation to engage in arousing or physiologically stimulating activities.

These individuals are more likely to engage in risky behaviors like driving fast, riding roller coasters, and other activities that get their adrenaline pumping. According to incentive theory, behavior is primarily motivated by the incentive of extrinsic factors.

Generate Intrinsic Motivation - Edward Deci on Inside Quest (hosted by Tom Bilyeu)

Motivation refers to a desire, need, or drive that contributes to and explains behavioral changes. In general, motivators provide some sort of incentive for completing a task. Incentive theory argues that people are primarily extrinsically motivated—meaning that most motivations stem from extrinsic sources. Intrinsically motivated behaviors are performed because of the sense of personal satisfaction that they bring.

According to Deci , these behaviors are defined as ones for which the reward is the satisfaction of performing the activity itself. Intrinsic motivation thus represents engagement in an activity for its own sake. For example, if you are in college because you enjoy learning new things and expanding your knowledge, you are intrinsically motivated to be there.

Extrinsically motivated behaviors, on the other hand, are performed in order to receive something from others or avoid certain negative outcomes. The extrinsic motivator is outside of, and acts on, the individual.


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Rewards—such as a job promotion, money, a sticker, or candy—are good examples of extrinsic motivators. Social and emotional incentives like praise and attention are also extrinsic motivators since they are bestowed on the individual by another person. Extrinsic rewards are often used to impact someone who shows little interest in a potentially useful activity. For example, if a child shows no interest in memorizing new vocabulary words, her teacher might employ external rewards to get her to engage in and work hard on that activity. Similarly, a child might be motivated to do his chores by the extrinsic motivation that he will get his allowance afterward, rather than any intrinsic sense of accomplishment.

Sweets as extrinsic motivators : Candy, cookies, and other treats can offer extrinsic motivation to engage in a particular behavior. Incentive theory is based on the idea that behavior is primarily extrinsically motivated. It argues that people are more motivated to perform activities if they receive a reward afterward, rather than simply because they enjoy the activities themselves. There is controversy concerning how and for how long motivators change behavior.

Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Rewards: A Commentary on Cameron and Pierce’s Meta-Analysis

For instance, some data suggest that intrinsic motivation is diminished when extrinsic motivation is given—a process known as the overjustification effect. If extrinsic incentives are used to stimulate behaviors that an individual already finds motivating even without external reinforcement , intrinsic motivation for that behavior may decrease over time. In those cases, extrinsic motivators can backfire: instead of serving as an incentive for the desired behavior, they undermine a previously held intrinsic motivation. This can lead to extinguishing the intrinsic motivation and creating a dependence on extrinsic rewards for continued performance Deci et al.

A classic research study of intrinsic motivation illustrates this problem clearly. In the study, researchers asked university students to perform two activities—solving puzzles and writing newspaper headlines—that they already found interesting. Some of the students were paid to do these activities, the others were not. Under these conditions, the students who were paid were less likely to continue to engage in these activities after the experiment, while the students who were not paid were more likely to continue—even though both groups had been equally interested in the activities to begin with Deci, The extrinsic reward of payment, it seemed, interfered with the intrinsic reward of the activity itself.

Several factors may influence this: for one, physical reinforcements such as money have been shown to have more negative effects on intrinsic motivation than do verbal reinforcements such as praise. Furthermore, the expectation of the extrinsic motivator by an individual is crucial: if the person expects to receive an extrinsic reward, then intrinsic motivation for the task tends to be reduced.

If, however, there is no such expectation, and the extrinsic motivation is presented as a surprise, then intrinsic motivation for the task tends to persist Deci et al. Other studies provide evidence that the effectiveness of extrinsic motivators varies depending on factors like self-esteem, locus of control the extent to which someone believes they can control events that affect them , self-efficacy how someone judges their own competence to complete tasks and reach goals , and neuroticism a personality trait characterized by anxiety, moodiness, worry, envy, and jealousy.

For example, praise might have less effect on behavior for people with high self-esteem because they would not have the same need for approval that would make external praise reinforcing. On the other hand, someone who lacks confidence may work diligently for the sole purpose of seeking even a small amount of recognition. Cognitive and achievement approaches to motivation examine how factors like achievement goals and cognitive dissonance influence motivation.

When we refer to someone as being motivated, we mean that the person is trying hard to accomplish a certain task; having motivation is clearly important for someone to perform well. Both the achievement and cognitive approaches to motivation examine the various factors that influence our motivation. According to the achievement approach to motivation, the need for achievement drives accomplishment and performance and thereby motivates our behavior. These goals are not mutually exclusive, and may all be present at the same time. Mastery goals tend to be associated with the satisfaction of mastering something—in other words, gaining control, proficiency, comprehensive knowledge, or sufficient skill in a given area such as mastering the art of cooking.

In one review of research about learning goals, for example, students with primarily mastery orientations toward a course they were taking not only tended to express greater interest in the course, but also continued to express interest well beyond the official end of the course and to enroll in further courses in the same subject Harackiewicz, et al.

Performance goals, on the other hand, are extrinsically motivated arising from external factors and can have both positive and negative effects. Students with performance goals often tend to get higher grades than those who primarily express mastery goals, and this advantage is often seen both in the short term with individual assignments and in the long term with overall grade point average when graduating.

Another possible reason is that by focusing on gaining recognition as the top performer in a peer group, a performance orientation encourages competition with peers. Of particular interest is the role of cognitive dissonance on motivation.

Self-determination theory - Wikipedia

Cognitive dissonance occurs when a person experiences conflict, contradiction, or inconsistency in their cognitions. If you do something you are ashamed of or act in a way that is counter to an idea you have about yourself for example, if you consider yourself an honest person but then lie to your parents when they ask about your future plans , you are likely to feel cognitive dissonance afterward. Cognitive Dissonance and Smoking : Smoking commonly causes cognitive dissonance.

One rationalizes the health risks by telling themselves they are going to die anyway. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance in their cognitions by either changing or justifying their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

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How a person chooses to respond to the dissonance depends on the strength of various motivating factors. For example, smoking cigarettes increases the risk of cancer, which is threatening to the self-concept of the individual who smokes. When the smoker hears evidence suggesting that smoking might cause cancer cognitive component , they can either choose to stop smoking change the behavioral component or choose to reject the causal link. Since smoking is physically addictive, most smokers choose to minimize their acknowledgement of the risk rather than change their behavior.

The addiction is more motivating than the fear of possible long-term medical consequences, so the less-motivating idea is minimized and discounted. Most of us believe ourselves to be intelligent and rational, and the idea of doing something self-destructive causes dissonance. Another application of cognitive dissonance occurs in the case of effort justification. Dissonance is aroused whenever individuals voluntarily engage in an unpleasant activity to achieve some desired goal; this dissonance can be reduced by exaggerating the desirability of the goal.

The more time, money, or effort someone invests in an activity, the more they will convince themselves that they made a wise choice and that their efforts were worth it. A child who has to work and save for a bicycle, for example, will value it more and take better care of it than if the bicycle was given as a gift, with no effort on the part of the child. Temporal motivation theory emphasizes the impact of time and deadlines on our motivation to complete tasks.

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Explain the relationship among expectation, value, impulsiveness, and delay according to temporal motivation theory. The theory emphasizes time as a critical motivational factor and focuses on the impact of deadlines on the allocation of attention to particular tasks. TMT argues that as a deadline for completing an activity nears, the perceived usefulness or benefit of that activity increases exponentially. TMT is particularly useful for understanding human behaviors like procrastination and goal setting.

Temporal Motivation : Temporal motivation theory argues that motivation is heavily influenced by time. In this equation, motivation is the desire for a particular outcome. In contrast, both impulsivity and a greater amount of time before a deadline tend to reduce motivation. Consider a student who is given one month to study for a final exam. Throughout the month, the student has two options: studying or socializing. This finding and the findings of other early intrinsic motivation researchers were controversial at the time and remain controversial today, primarily among behaviorally oriented psychologists.

Still, intrinsic motivation has been shown to be hugely important in many domains, including education, medicine, sports, work behavior, and personal goal pursuit. Intrinsically motivated individuals report better mood, enjoyment, and satisfaction than extrinsically motivated individuals. They also perform better—processing information more deeply, solving problems more flexibly, and functioning more effectively and creatively in general.

As one example research program, Teresa M. When do rewards undermine intrinsic motivation? A recent and comprehensive meta-analysis summarized more than experimental studies, showing that free-choice motivation is most undermined when the rewards are expected rather than unexpected and are contingent rather than noncontingent upon either task engagement, task completion, or positive task performance. In other words, if a person gets what he or she expects, as a reward for starting, finishing, or doing well at a task, then that person tends to lose interest in the task.

Notably, this meta-analysis also showed that verbal praise rewards are not necessarily undermining and can even enhance intrinsic motivation, as evidenced by greater subsequent free-choice play following praise. What causes the intrinsic motivation undermining effect? Edward Deci, and his later colleague Richard Ryan, developed cognitive evaluation theory to explain it.

Intrinsic Motivation

In this model, human beings have innate psychological needs for both competence and autonomy. In one study, for example, children who were rewarded for playing with a toy they had already expressed interest in playing with became less interested in the item after being externally rewarded. This is not to suggest that extrinsic motivation is a bad thing. Extrinsic motivation can be beneficial in some situations. It can be particularly helpful in situations where a person needs to complete a task that they find unpleasant.

While most people would suggest that intrinsic motivation is best, it is not always possible in every situation. In some cases, people simply have no internal desire to engage in an activity. Excessive rewards may be problematic, but when used appropriately, extrinsic motivators can be a useful tool.