Motivation can be defined as the willingness to act or the internal mechanism that stimulates goal-oriented behavior. For humans, there are typically two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic motivation comes from outside the individual.

Some examples of sources of extrinsic motivation are rating systems, trophies, popularity, or money. The extrinsic motivation could also be negative, as in the case of punishment or coercion. In any case, this type of motivation is rooted in external sources; it comes from the environment of the individual, rather than from within the individual.

Extrinsic motivation is present throughout a person’s life.

 As a child, an individual experiences this in the form of grades on tests and assignments or in the form of increased popularity that is the result of certain behaviors. In adulthood, an individual experiences it in the form of salary, status or recognition, and even everyday things like rewards or credit card incentives.

The other type of motivation is intrinsic. This can be differentiated from extrinsic in that the motivation derives from benefits that are inherent in the activity or behavior itself. Intrinsic motivation comes from within the individual; the motivation is present because the person enjoys a certain task or behavior, feels a sense of satisfaction working on it, or takes pleasure in completing it. An intrinsically motivated person may still seek a reward for the behavior, but the reward will not be the sole purpose of the behavior. An example of intrinsic motivation is when a person works on Sudoku puzzles simply because he finds pleasure in the activity.

Extrinsic motivation can be very effective in eliciting certain behaviors. A person who is extrinsically motivated might work on a task even if she has no interest in it, solely for the purpose of receiving the expected reward or avoiding the punishment. Because of this, the individual may focus more on the reward and less on the task itself and may stop completing the task when the reward is no longer available.

There are downsides to extrinsic motivation. Research indicates that receiving extrinsic rewards could reduce a person’s intrinsic motivation level. When a person is rewarded for a task, what reason does he have for completing the task for nothing? Furthermore, extrinsic motivation cannot be sustained; when the punishment or reward remains at the same level for a period of time, the motivation decreases and the individual demands greater rewards or punishments for the same behavior.

Extrinsic motivation might be immediately effective and easy to use, but external rewards typically aren’t effective in the long run. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, can be self-sufficient and lasting. Research shows that this type of motivation is more often associated with ongoing academic achievement than the extrinsic type.

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