Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

Evan Lincoln

What is Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation involves doing a task for an internal reward such as pleasure or excitement. Extrinsic motivation involves doing a task for an external award such as a trophy or a scholarship.


Intrinsic Motivation

A boy may enjoy solving puzzles a lot. He purchases a 1000 piece puzzle simply so he can feel the excitement that he gains when solving puzzles. His intrinsic reward is his internal excitement.

Extrinsic Motivation

Steve is on his local soccer team. In his championship game, there is an award for the Most Valuable Player. Steve works very hard before and during the game so that he can gain the award. His extrinsic reward is the Most Valuable Player award.


The overjustification effect occurs when too many extrinsic rewards are acquired, decreasing the feeling of intrinsic pleasure. This means that if you gain too many external rewards, you can lose interest in doing something.


In the 6th grade I played the cello in my school orchestra. I was consistently the best player and would always get 1st chair. However, by the end of the year I was simply sick of getting the chair placement and of the awards. I had completely lost interest in the instrument and did not continue to play it. This shows how an overabundance of external awards lead to a decreased interest in an activity.

The Media and Eating Disorders

In the media, both genders are portrayed to fit a certain, very specific type of person. For women, it is very skinny, tall, and "pretty". For men, it is hyper-masculine, muscular, athletic, and being emotionless. These create pressures on people in society to fit these fabricated archetypes. Since women are portrayed as being so thin, it leads to numerous women to develop eating disorders. They have an extrinsic motivation to be like the women they see, but this causes them to be insecure about themselves. The media should portray all different types of people because we are an incredibly diverse world and different groups need to be shows in order to accurately represent us.