Motivation: Intrinsic, Extrinsic, and Why We Do What We Do



  • Intrinsic motivation – motivation that comes from within, driven by an individual’s personal interest or enjoyment of the activity itself Example: She was intrinsically motivated to learn a new skill because she found it fascinating.
  • Extrinsic motivation – motivation that comes from external factors, such as rewards or punishment, rather than internal desire or interest Example: The promise of a bonus at work was an extrinsic motivation for him to complete the project on time.
  • Autonomy – the ability to make one’s own decisions and act independently Example: The company’s management gave their employees autonomy to decide their work schedules.
  • Mastery – the state of having complete control or understanding of a particular skill or subject Example: He had achieved mastery in playing the guitar after years of practice.
  • Contingent – dependent on certain conditions or circumstances Example: The bonus payment was contingent on the completion of the project.
  • Obliged – to be required to do something or feel indebted to someone Example: He felt obliged to help his friend move to a new apartment.
  • Incentive – something that motivates or encourages someone to do something Example: The promise of a promotion was an incentive for her to work harder.
  • Replicated – to repeat or reproduce something exactly Example: The study was replicated to test the validity of the initial findings.
  • Robust – strong, healthy, and vigorous Example: The robust economy led to a growth in job opportunities.
  • Protocol – a set of rules or guidelines that govern behavior or conduct in a particular situation Example: The medical team followed a strict protocol during the surgery to ensure the patient’s safety.

Discussion Questions

  1. What motivates you to spend your time the way you do?
  2. What kinds of rewards or benefits do you receive for various activities?
  3. Do you think of yourself as a ‘motivated person’. How so and/or why not?
  4. What things do you do for reasons of intrinsic motivation? What are the rewards?
  5. What things do you do for reasons of extrinsic motivation? What are the rewards?
  6. Compare how you feel when doing things for intrinsic vs. extrinsic reasons.
  7. How might you overcome these obstacles?
  8. What motivates you as a student?
  9. What motivated you to make recent decisions?
  10. What would an education system that embraces intrinsic motivation look like for teachers and students?

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