Autonomy, purpose, and mastery are the three main components of intrinsic motivation. 1
People are intrinsically motivated when they can act independently, believe their efforts are worthwhile, and gain satisfaction from improving their skills.
Intrinsic motivation refers to the drive to engage in a behavior or activity because it is inherently interesting or enjoyable, rather than because of an external reward or pressure. It is driven by internal factors such as personal interest, enjoyment, or a sense of satisfaction. Intrinsically motivated behavior is typically more self-determined and autonomous than behavior driven by extrinsic factors such as rewards or punishments. This type of motivation is considered to be more long-lasting and sustainable than extrinsic motivation.
What Is Intrinsic Motivation?
Intrinsic motivation in psychology distinguishes between internal and external rewards. The authors of “Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior with Concept Maps” provide a definition.
Consider your motivation for reading this article for a moment. If you are reading it because you are interested in psychology and want to learn more about motivation, you are acting on the basis of intrinsic motivation.
However, you may be reading this because you need to learn the information for a class and don’t want to get a bad grade. Then you are acting on the basis of extrinsic motivation.
When was the last time you did something just for the sake of doing something? This category includes a wide range of activities. You could, for example, plant a garden, paint a picture, play a game, write a story, go for a walk, or read a book. These may or may not yield results or provide a prize. Instead, we do them because we enjoy doing them. They bring us joy.
How Intrinsic Motivation Works
Intrinsic motivation is driven by internal factors such as personal interest, enjoyment, and a sense of accomplishment or satisfaction. When individuals engage in activities that they find interesting or enjoyable, they experience positive emotions and a sense of fulfillment. This positive feedback loop can further increase their motivation to continue engaging in the activity.
Intrinsic motivation is also associated with a sense of autonomy or self-determination. When individuals feel that they have control over their actions and the ability to make choices, they are more likely to be intrinsically motivated.
Research has shown that intrinsic motivation can lead to greater creativity, persistence, and overall well-being. Moreover, Intrinsic motivation allows individuals to have a sense of purpose and meaning in what they do and it is a way to make them feel fulfilled.
However, it is important to note that intrinsic motivation can also be influenced by external factors such as feedback, challenge, and the level of support received from others. A positive and supportive environment can increase intrinsic motivation while a negative and restrictive environment can decrease it.
Impact of Extrinsic Reinforcement
Extrinsic reinforcement refers to rewards or punishments that are used to influence behavior. These rewards or punishments can have an impact on intrinsic motivation, depending on how they are used.
When rewards are used to increase the frequency of a behavior, it is called positive reinforcement. For example, giving a child a toy or praise for cleaning their room can increase the likelihood that they will clean their room in the future. However, if the rewards are too big or too frequent, the child may become dependent on them and lose their intrinsic motivation to clean their room.
On the other hand, when punishments are used to decrease the frequency of a behavior, it is called negative reinforcement. For example, if a child is scolded for not cleaning their room, they may be less likely to engage in that behavior in the future. But again, if the punishments are too severe or too frequent, it can decrease the child’s intrinsic motivation and lead to a negative attitude towards the task.
It’s also important to note that if rewards or punishments are not given consistently or are too unpredictable it can decrease their effectiveness and can lead to a decrease in intrinsic motivation.
Overall, extrinsic reinforcement can have an impact on intrinsic motivation, but it is important to use them in a way that supports, rather than undermines, an individual’s natural interest and enjoyment in an activity.
Intrinsic Motivation in Your Life
Intrinsic motivation can influence behaviour in all areas of life, particularly education, sports, careers, and personal interests.
It’s important to find activities that you find interesting and enjoyable, and make them a part of your daily life. This can help you to increase your intrinsic motivation and improve your overall well-being.
Intrinsic motivation can play a significant role in an individual’s life, as it is closely tied to overall well-being and satisfaction. Here are a few ways that intrinsic motivation can impact your life:
Career satisfaction: When individuals are intrinsically motivated in their careers, they tend to be more engaged, productive, and satisfied with their jobs. They are more likely to find meaning and purpose in their work, which can lead to greater job satisfaction and lower levels of burnout.
Personal growth: Intrinsically motivated individuals are more likely to set and achieve personal goals, as they are driven by their own interests and passions. Engaging in activities that are inherently interesting and enjoyable can lead to personal growth and self-discovery.
Physical and mental health: Intrinsically motivated individuals are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors, such as exercise and healthy eating, because they find them interesting and enjoyable. Additionally, the positive emotions associated with intrinsic motivation can improve overall mental health and well-being.
Relationship satisfaction: Intrinsically motivated individuals are more likely to have fulfilling and satisfying relationships, as they are driven by their own interests and passions, rather than external rewards or pressures.
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Factors That Influence Intrinsic Motivation
It’s important to keep in mind that intrinsic motivation can be influenced by both internal and external factors, and it’s a complex process that can change over time depending on the individual and the situation.
Personal interest and enjoyment: Intrinsic motivation is closely tied to an individual’s personal interests and enjoyment of an activity. When an activity is inherently interesting and enjoyable, it is more likely to lead to intrinsic motivation.
Autonomy and self-determination: When individuals feel that they have control over their actions and the ability to make choices, they are more likely to be intrinsically motivated.
Challenge and mastery: Engaging in activities that are challenging but not overwhelming can lead to a sense of accomplishment and mastery, which can increase intrinsic motivation.
Feedback and recognition: Positive feedback and recognition for a job well done can increase intrinsic motivation and a sense of accomplishment.
Social support: Support from others, such as friends, family, and mentors, can increase intrinsic motivation by providing encouragement and positive reinforcement.
Environmental factors: The physical environment, such as the layout of a room or the lighting, can influence intrinsic motivation by making an activity more or less appealing.
Potential Pitfalls Affecting Intrinsic Motivation
There are several potential pitfalls that can affect intrinsic motivation, including:
Over-justification effect: When rewards or incentives are used to increase the frequency of a behavior, individuals may begin to view the behavior as less enjoyable and less interesting. They may lose their intrinsic motivation to engage in the activity.
Extrinsic rewards decreasing intrinsic motivation: When rewards are given for activities that individuals already find interesting or enjoyable, they may decrease the intrinsic motivation to engage in the activity.
Demotivating consequences: Some consequences such as criticism, punishment, and negative feedback can decrease intrinsic motivation and lead to a negative attitude towards the task.
Unpredictable rewards or punishment: If rewards or punishments are not given consistently or are too unpredictable it can decrease their effectiveness and can lead to a decrease in intrinsic motivation.
Lack of autonomy or control: When individuals feel that they have no control over their actions, or when their choices are too restricted, it can decrease intrinsic motivation.
Boredom: When an activity is too easy or too repetitive, it can become boring and lose its appeal, leading to a decrease in intrinsic motivation.
Burnout: When individuals engage in an activity for too long without a break, they may become burned out and lose their intrinsic motivation to continue engaging in the activity.
It’s important to be aware of these potential pitfalls and try to avoid them in order to maintain and increase intrinsic motivation.
A Word From Verywell
There are probably many things you do in your own life that are motivated by intrinsic motivation. These are essential components of a well-balanced life. We may miss out on life’s simple pleasures if we spend all of our time working to make money. Recognizing and balancing your own intrinsic and extrinsic motivations can be extremely rewarding.