What Is Extrinsic Motivation?

Extrinsic Motivation is one of the oldest and most common forms of motivation in the world.  Simply stated, when we experience extrinsic motivation we expect to be rewarded.

What is Extrinsic Motivation?

A more formal definition refers to motivation that’s derived from outside a person.  The motivating factors come externally in the form of rewards such as money or, in the case of a student, rewards come in the form of grades.  It’s the reward that provides satisfaction from completing the task and not the pleasure of doing it.


How does it look like?

A person who is motivated extrinsically will work on a task even though he may hate what he’s doing because of the anticipated reward.  Extrinsic motivation has been called crude and rudimentary but it’s probably one of the most effective types of motivation used today.  It’s criticized because it focuses on the reward and not the action.  But, studies have revealed that if you withhold the reward the action stops.

The Rewards

Rewards are not always great.  It can be as minor as a gold star or your name on the honor roll.  Students who are extrinsically motivated might work tirelessly on an assignment in exchange for a good grade.

But doing the work just for the sheer pleasure is not acceptable to that person.  The student may find the assignment extremely boring but the anticipation of receiving an exemplary grade is enough to keep the student motivated until the task is complete.

The Effects and Results

Punishments and rewards are used to control the motivation of students with the teachers clearly in control.  When this method is used, critics allege that it doesn’t allow students to think for themselves and develop self-determination and inhibits independent thinking.

This can foster conflict and resentment between the students and teachers.

Critics of extrinsic motivation say this method is easy but doesn’t work for the betterment of all concerned.  When a person is working solely for a monetary reward, their desire to do a good job in diminished.  It’s also said that it lowers the employee’s self esteem.

Where do we see extrinsic motivation?

We see this type of motivation daily in everything we do.  Supermarkets buy our loyalty with point cards, specials and discounts instead of simply offering exemplary service and low prices.  It’s the same with airlines that offer air miles and companies that use bonuses and commissions as motivation to fly or work with them.

Fear of being fined or penalized is a form of extrinsic motivation.  We’re told to not smoke or we must wear seat belts and we obey these demands for fear of receiving a fine.  The reward comes for doing what we’re told and not because they’ve instilled in us the desire to do these things because they’re good for us.

Extrinsic motivation is based on obligation of doing what we get paid for and not for the love of doing.  But, regardless of its offensive qualities we must tolerate it everywhere, every day.

What motivates You?

Contact us to find out what motivates you, how you can improve your leadership skills using motivation techniques, and much more.