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What is Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation is the internal drive that propels you to act out of personal satisfaction or passion, rather than external rewards. It's the spark that ignites when you engage in activities that align with your core values and interests. Imagine the joy of painting not for a gallery, but for the sheer love of art. Intrigued? See how this powerful force shapes our lives through vivid examples.
D. Jeffress
D. Jeffress

Intrinsic motivation is a concept described by psychologists as the motivation that comes from within a person to accomplish a task or goal. Intrinsically motivated people are not influenced by external rewards or punishments for their work, such as earning money for doing a job or getting a poor grade on a school assignment. Individuals with intrinsic motivation choose to perform tasks because of the inherent pleasure or sense of accomplishment that comes from a job well done. Countless studies have shown that children and adults who develop intrinsic motivation are much more likely to succeed on long-term projects and goals than those who are motivated by external factors.

Many aspects of society revolve around extrinsic motivation. School students, for example, are graded on the quality of their work, facing threats or punishments when they fail to do well and rewards when they succeed. Athletes commonly receive trophies and crowd approval when they perform well, and employees of a company may try to earn a bonus for completing their work. While external motivators can be effective in the short term, they usually lose meaning over time.

People with intrinsic motivation aren't influenced by awards or recognition.
People with intrinsic motivation aren't influenced by awards or recognition.

It is common for an individual who wants to accomplish a goal simply to gain a reward or avoid a punishment to put in less effort than a person who wants to succeed for the sake of internal satisfaction. An example of the different outcomes of extrinsic and intrinsic motivators can be seen in police officers. An extrinsically motivated police officer might do his or her job to earn a good paycheck and gain recognition from the community and individuals in the police force. An officer with intrinsic motivation, however, has a strong, earnest desire to help others and maintain a safe, healthy society. By not seeking rewards or recognition, the intrinsically motivated officer is likely to work harder and take on more responsibility than the individual who is motivated by outside influences.

Someone might be intrinsically motivated to exercise after seeing how routines have impacted others.
Someone might be intrinsically motivated to exercise after seeing how routines have impacted others.

Professional psychologists have put thousands of hours of research into determining the best ways of developing intrinsic motivation in individuals, especially children. They have identified a number of ways to encourage young people to find personal meaning in their schoolwork and chores. In order to reap the benefits of intrinsic motivation, individuals must focus their efforts on subjects and goals that they find interesting. Tasks should be fully understood in terms of cause-and-effect, real-life usefulness, and attainability. People who are able to realize their potential and work towards internally meaningful goals are usually able to enjoy long-term success and satisfaction.

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Discussion Comments

anon155947

This article is very straightforward and explained very clearly the intrinsic motivators.

anon153759

It is a perfect explanation. thanks for it.

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    • People with intrinsic motivation aren't influenced by awards or recognition.
      By: michaeljung
      People with intrinsic motivation aren't influenced by awards or recognition.
    • Someone might be intrinsically motivated to exercise after seeing how routines have impacted others.
      By: puhhha
      Someone might be intrinsically motivated to exercise after seeing how routines have impacted others.
    • Intrinsic motivation may come from a personal desire to follow a better lifestyle.
      By: Andres Rodriguez
      Intrinsic motivation may come from a personal desire to follow a better lifestyle.
    • School students are more likely to be influenced by extrinsic motivation, since they are being graded and rewarded by teachers.
      By: Ermolaev Alexandr
      School students are more likely to be influenced by extrinsic motivation, since they are being graded and rewarded by teachers.
    • Setting personal goals is a form of intrinsic motivation.
      By: Brian Jackson
      Setting personal goals is a form of intrinsic motivation.
    • Intrinsic motivation might encourage teens to complete household chores.
      By: George Dolgikh
      Intrinsic motivation might encourage teens to complete household chores.