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Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation in Education: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:07 Types of Motivation
  • 1:18 The Overjustification Effect
  • 3:13 Insufficient Punishment
  • 4:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Intrinsic and extrinsic are the two types of motivation. Learn more about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation from definitions and examples, then test your knowledge with a quiz.

Types of Motivation

Sammy and Dani are running buddies. Sammy loves to run and will often go running just to clear his head or blow off steam. Dani, meanwhile, hates to run, but she does it because her doctor told her that she needs to lose weight or she might end up with diabetes.

Sammy is intrinsically motivated to run. Intrinsic motivation is when you do something because you enjoy it or find it interesting. Compare that to Dani, whose reason for running involves extrinsic motivation, or doing something for external rewards or to avoid negative consequences.

Now, you may think that intrinsic motivation is better than extrinsic motivation, and you'd be right up to a point. Studies have shown that people are more likely to stick to a task, invest more time in a task, and be more successful at it if they are intrinsically motivated.

Exercising to prevent disease involves extrinsic motivation.
Extrinsic Motivation Exercise

However, extrinsic motivation has its place, too. After all, without extrinsic motivation, many of us would never exercise, never go to work, and never clean our houses. Many day-to-day tasks that are required to live a healthy life are extrinsically motivated. Besides, who doesn't like to be rewarded for what they do?

The Overjustification Effect

Still, there are some issues with rewards. Giving someone a reward for doing a task can actually decrease their intrinsic motivation for that task because they begin to feel like they should only do the task for external rewards. This is called the overjustification effect.

One famous example of the overjustification effect occurred when researchers rewarded nine-and ten-year-olds for playing with math games. Before they were given the rewards, many of the kids played with the games just because they thought they were fun. But, after being rewarded for playing with the games, the children spent far less time playing with the games than they did before being rewarded.

Why do people who are intrinsically motivated to do a task suddenly change their motivation? No one is exactly sure why the overjustification effect occurs, but there are a couple of things that scientists do know about when it is most likely to occur. For one thing, the overjustification effect really only happens with tasks that have a high intrinsic motivation to begin with. If someone isn't interested in doing the task before a reward, their interest won't decrease after being given a reward.

Receiving a reward for completing a task can reduce intrinsic motivation.
Overjustification Effect Graph

For another thing, rewards for performance are less likely to cause the overjustification effect than rewards that are given just for doing a task. In other words, being given candy to play a game is more likely to decrease your intrinsic motivation for the game than being given candy to win the game.

Though psychologists aren't completely sure why the overjustification effect occurs, there are some theories. One theory is that when people engage in a behavior, they justify their actions to themselves. If they don't get rewards, they decide that they must like doing it, but if they get rewards, they might decide that they only do it for the rewards. Thus, they convince themselves that they don't really like to do it. This is called self-perception theory.

Insufficient Punishment

Closely related to the overjustification effect is the power of insufficient punishment. This is when a light punishment causes a longer-lasting behavior change than a severe punishment.

Let's look at an example. Dylan and Riley are preschoolers who like to play with a toy that is off-limits. Whenever their teacher isn't looking, Dylan and Riley sneak the toy down off the shelf and play with it.

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