Sometimes, we find ourselves indulging in tasks willingly which a “normal” person would either find boring and not a thing to be described as a “fun time”. Sometimes, you may find yourselves cleaning your room, organizing and just de-cluttering for the sake of de-cluttering, after which your mother might walk in and be surprised out of her mind when she spots her child doing some “boring” task without being pressured or a bribe. This is actually quite common with almost every person; only the task differs. The phenomenon is known as the Intrinsic Motivation.

When it comes to the motivation of an individual to accomplish task, there are two kinds: Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Motivation.

Brief Understanding of Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Motivation

Type One: Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic Motivation is basically motivation arising from outside the individual or the environment, i.e. the person has no interest in it whatsoever themselves. In the case of Extrinsic, the person is only motivated to accomplish an unpleasant task for the reward they are promised to receive. For example: A maid working 10 hours a day for her paycheck.

Type Two: Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic Motivation is basically motivation arising from within the person, i.e. the person just likes doing it, for example, a man washing dishes because it makes him feel more in control, neat and organised. In the case of Intrinsic Motivation, the person does not in any way expects any rewards after the completion of the task.

Explanation of Intrinsic Motivation

Lets take documentaries and history for example. Do you find yourself only watching and reading on history and documentaries when you have an assignment to make? Do you wish that you were doing anything else except for that very boring task? Well, there are some people who are immensely fascinated with history and keep on watching documentaries when they are free. They genuinely enjoy the thrill of knowing and just trying to understand those previous days; they find it extremely exciting. Another example can be this article itself; are you here reading this article to gather information for your test or assignment? Or are you here because you genuinely like the topic of Psychology and wish to understand human behavior on a deeper level. If you are here for the latter, it means that you are Intrinsically motivated to learn about human behavior, because as the phenomena suggests, a person Intrinsically Motivated does not in any way, expect a reward after their performance; they simply do it because they like doing it; it gives them thrill, excitement and relaxation.

However, if you are here reading this for a test or an assignment, it means that you are Extrinsically Motivated to learn this because you know that you will receive a reward after the accomplishment of this task in the form of good grades.

In essence, a person Intrinsically motivated will go out and perform or accomplish tasks which they genuinely find enjoyable. They do not expect any reward out of it and simply just do the task for the sake of doing the task, only because it satisfies and relaxes them.

Some examples of Extrinsic Motivation:

  • Gardening because you like it.
  • Making a junk journal.
  • Reading a book.
  • Watching every available documentary you can find on Elizabeth I
  • Collecting pebbles from every place you visit, etc.

Primary Goal of Intrinsic Motivation: The Internal Satisfaction

We pursue or indulge in a task or activity because we genuinely wish to do it. Here, we do not expect or wish for any rewards after its completion; the motivation to do the task comes entirely from within, rather than any desire to gain something that you need out of it.

However, it is understood that the person Intrinsically motivated does get something out of the activity. Behavior is us satisfying our needs and so, because we indulge in an activity, it must be satisfying some need of ours and would not be completely pointless. What Intrinsically motivated individuals receive after the performance of a task is their internal satisfaction: they might feel satisfied, relaxed, excited, genuinely would be having a good time, it might give them a good sense of self, etc. Meaning, that all the “rewards” of Intrinsic motivation are entirely psychological and personal.

Intrinsic Motivation and Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs

We are all too familiar with Abraham Maslow and his Hierarchy of Human Needs Theory, which basically consists of a five-story pyramid with each level consisting a type of need. The lower most level need is in need of the most immediate satisfaction. The levels include: Physiological Needs, Safety Needs, Social Needs, Esteem Needs and Self-Actualization Needs.

In the last stage of needs in Maslow’s pyramid (Self-actualization Needs) the person is in need of satisfying and working on his internal capabilities. The person aims to develop internally. Keeping this is mind, an Intrinsically motivated person indulges in a behavior or task because it is internally satisfying to him and he genuinely enjoys it. This is not an external reward, but the person is doing the task because it is please to them internally and the pleasure is personal, i.e. no external rewards are expected or given.

Reinforcement and Intrinsic Motivation

When a person is intrinsically motivated to accomplish a task, they do not care if any external rewards will be granted or not since they are doing it for them own selves and internal satisfaction. However, if reinforcement or external rewards are presented to them for a task where they were already intrinsically motivated to begin with, then their initial interest and satisfaction of the activity will be eliminated as the person will start seeing the task as “work” rather than “play”. This is known as the overjustification effect. 

So, for example: There is a person who likes to make handmade journals; it satisfies them and they consider it their hobby. Later this person starts receiving clients who wish to pay the person for their journals. With time, the person will ultimately loose their interest and intrinsic motivation to make the journals and would just start seeing it as a job. The question arises: How do we go around this condition and have it not tempter with the performance of employees? The answer is simple: If external rewards are presented unexpectedly, then it will not tempter with Intrinsic Motivation.


19 year old undergraduate Psychology student, with an immense love for food, journals and cool socks.

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