Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 13 June 2016

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation


As defined in the text book motivation is the forces that energize and direct our efforts toward a meaningful goal (Atwater, Duffy & Kirsh, 2005). This paper will look to define motivation and the two common types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic. Which of the two is a moreeffective way of motivation and gives ourselves a higher sense of self-esteem? This paper will also examine different situations where people are motivated, both intrinsically and extrinsically, and the moral and ethical reasoning behind their decisions. Finally from a study done by Joe Gelona there is a look that if one is consciously thinking about what motivates you to complete a task it will result in higher levels of self- motivation.

A Look at Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Every goal strived for in life whether it is a short term or long term goal has reasoning behind it, and that reasoning would be motivation. Motivation is defined in the text book as the forces that energize and direct our efforts toward a meaningful goal (Atwater, Duffy & Kirsh, 2005). People are motivated in two different ways; they are motivated intrinsically or extrinsically. Intrinsic motivation, again define in the text book, is “active engagement with tasks that people find interesting and that, in turn, promote growth and are freely engaged in out of interest” (Atwater et al. 2005). While extrinsic motivation is “the desire to engage in an activity because it is a means to an end and not because an individual is following his or her inner interests” (Atwater et al. 2005).

In other words intrinsic motivation is being driven by internal factors and extrinsic is driven by outside factors in your environment. Motivation comes in two forms, and when are we inclined to use each of them and how do they help improve self- esteem? Some situations that put motivational thinking to the test are things like academic achievement; a study done by Martin Covington examines both the intrinsic and extrinsic factors push students to succeed. Another scenario is a look at situations which take into effect the ethics and moral values of motivational reasoning, and finally does just the thought about whether we are motivated or not have enough influence to motivate us?

While people are motivated in two different ways it is hard to pinpoint just which of the two is better for overall well being. A big factor that comes into play is self- esteem, which is someone’s idea of their own personal worth ( Atwater et al. 2005). When thinking of personal worth it seems to make sense that achieving a goal through intrinsic motivation would be best suited to boost self- esteem. A perfect example would be for someone trying to lose weight in order to be in better health. The thought of achieving the goal of a lower weight and looking better all because it is something that a person has wanted to do would be an enormous boost in self esteem once that goal has been accomplished. That is a situation in which self- esteem is benefited from using intrinsic motivation to achieve a personal goal.

Extrinsic motivation works a little bit differently towards a self esteem boost, a person in the same situation with the idea of weight loss might only be doing it because they see it socially acceptable to look skinny and healthy. Another way to put that would be to say that the person is looking for self verification, in the textbook Atwater et al. (2005) classify that as doing something that will elicit positive feedback from others to verify our own self perceptions.

So that same situation using the extrinsic way of motivation that person would raise their self esteem by getting that positive feedback from others after they achieved their weight loss goal. That is just one scenario in which both types of motivation can be shown to improve self esteem, either internally motivated (intrinsic) or from environmental factors and self verification (extrinsic). Moving forward we will look as some more specific situations where someone may be motivated intrinsically or extrinsically.

Martin Covington wrote an article, Intrinsic Versus Extrinsic Motivation in Schools: A Reconciliation, which examines reasons why students are academically motivated by either intrinsic or extrinsic methods. Covington (2000) first points out that the academic system is set up with external rewards for students in the form of grades, so it is easy to see where students would almost always be motivated extrinsically. Students on the other hand are motivated intrinsically when they put aside the external rewards of getting good grades and become satisfied with overcoming the challenge of learning something new and interesting (Covington, 2000). In the article Covington (2000) says that the idea of students learning for matters for their own sake is often destroyed by having external rewards such as grades for incentives.

This proposes the argument that if the external rewards are taken away how likely is it that students will still be intrinsically motivated to learn? Moen and Doyle make the statement in an article that mention certain aspects of colleges such as the course material and programs to study that are contributing factors for how hard and willingly college students will learn (1978). This makes the point that being intrinsically motivated towards school will be very beneficial towards the learning process. Now when look at the high school education structure compared to colleges it is easy to see where at one level students are motivated intrinsically compared to extrinsically.

In high school where the courses are mapped out and the learning of certain subjects is forced the only motivation for most students is extrinsic because they are really just seeking the external rewards of achieving good grades. Compare this to a college set up where students have the choice of what subjects they wish to study where they will be more intrinsically motivated to learn for the benefit that they find topics interesting and are looking for that internal challenge (Doyle & Moen, 1978). Ending with the idea of boosting self esteem either method of motivation works, it just depends on the person and whether they are satisfied by the external rewards of grades or if they prefer the self satisfaction of mastering a new subject.

As shown previously intrinsic and extrinsic motivation plays a big part in the ways students learn, but which of the two methods plays a bigger role when it comes to students and cheating? Rettinger, Jordan & Peschiera (2004) did a study of 103 undergraduate college students who took a study to determine their motivation orientation, and then they read a vignette about someone who has the ability to cheat. The researchers were able to determine who would cheat and who would not based on their motivational orientation. Rettinger et al. (2004) states that students identify both the intrinsic and extrinsic goals for their classes and there for can decide whether they will be motivated by grades or self interest in the course. They found that students who had been intrinsically motivated in school were less likely to cheat compared to the students who had extrinsic goals (Rettinger et al. 2004).

Rettinger et al. (2004) says that the intrinsically motivated students showed lower levels of anxiety, better study habits and a better attitude towards academics. The results if this study were that “eighty-three percent of participants admitted to having cheated during their college career” (Rettinger et al, 2004). Students are always made aware that cheating is not allowed but why do the extrinsically motivated students continue to do so anyway? Garrard & McNaughton (1998) say that someone the justification of one’s moral reasoning can keep them motivated enough to follow through with the act even though they know it is wrong.

They use an example of someone who wishes to give up smoking and is there for motivated to quit, but may still find reason to fail and just give up (Garrard & McNaughton, 1998). So the extrinsically motivated person who is only focused on the grade reward part of school may know that the only way to achieve their grade is through cheating and therefore goes through with that act. Again as shown in the Rettinger, Jordan & Peschiera (2004) study college students are going to cheat but it is the extrinsically motivated students who are more likely to do so than those students who are intrinsically motivated towards school.

Gelona (2011) says that “motivation can indeed be considered as a key ingredient for successful pursuit of goals and for attaining desired outcomes and well-being.” Joe Gelona did a study where he looked at the extent to which people think about what motivates them and the possible effect on their motivational level (Gelona, 2011). It is interesting to think about how just simply thinking about being motivated to do a particular task can actually increase your level of motivation. Gelona (2011) found in his results of interviews that only 39.5% of the interviewees said they “often or usually” think about what motivates them to do something.

Thinking back to the scenario of a weight loss goal and how people are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated to do so, in order to continue to push through to their goal they will have to constantly be thinking about what is motivating them to continue. Gelona (2011) stated that people who were consciously thinking about what motivates them will be more motivated to achieve their goals and desired outcomes in life. The overall findings of the study showed that “most people do not seem to think about what will motivate them prior to taking action on an important goal” (Gelona, 2011). Gelona (2011) makes the claim that the use of motivational coaching can be found helpful in situations such as:
* Helping clients who wish to generate and maintain greater self- motivation.
* Helping clients to regain lost motivation.
* Helping clients strengthen their persistence in pursuit of desired goals. In Joe Gelona’s study he claims that people will have higher levels of self- motivation and be more likely to achieve goals if they are consciously thinking about what motivates them, unfortunately he found that most of the people he interviewed did not think that way (Gelona, 2011).

Atwater et al. (2005) defined motivation as the forces that energize and direct our efforts toward a meaningful goal. People become either intrinsically or extrinsically motivated so achieve goals and for better to improve their self- esteem. As pointed out by Covington (2000) students approach academics with either intrinsic or extrinsic motives to achieve their boost in self-esteem levels. One of the only varying differences in the two is when it came to academic dishonesty in the Rettinger, Jordan & Peschiera (2004) that students who were extrinsically motivated were found more likely to cheat than those who were intrinsically motivated. All in all both theories of motivation are successful in helping achieve higher levels of self- esteem.

Covington, M. (2000). Intrinsic Versus Extrinsic Motivation in Schools: Reconciliation. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9, 22-25. Duffy, K., Atwater, E., & Kirsh, S. (2005). Psychology for Living: Adjustment, Growth, And Behavior Today. (Tenth ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. ((Duffy, Atwater & Kirsh, 2005) Gelona, J. (2011). Does Thinking About Motivation Boost Motivation Levels? The Coaching Psychologist, 7, 42-48. Gerrard, E., & McNaughton, D. (1998). Mapping Moral Motivation. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 1, 45-59. Moen, Ross. Doyle, Kenneth O. (1978). Measures of Academic Motivation: A Conceptual
Review. Research in Higher Education, 8, 1-23. Rettinger, D., Jordan, A., & Peschiera, F. (2004). Evaluating the Motivation of Other Students to Cheat: A Vignette Experiment. Research in Higher Education,45, 873-890.


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 13 June 2016

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