Extrinsic motivation (A complete guide)

“Extrinsic motivation is praise-driven behavior. It’s a kind of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is a form of conduct modification that makes use of rewards or punishments to boom or decrease the likelihood that specific behaviors will recur. Unlike intrinsic motivation, external factors force this form of motivation” (Dr. Timothy J. Legg, HealthLine). 

What Is Extrinsic Motivation?

Extrinsic motivation takes place when we’re prompted to perform or interact in an interest to earn praise or keep away from punishment.

In this case, you act not because you may enjoy the experience or gain satisfaction from it, but so that you can gain a reward or keep away from something unpleasant.

  • Participating in a recreation to win awards
  • Cleaning your room to prevent being reprimanded by your parents
  • Competing to win a scholarship
  • Studying with an aim to earn a high grade

When to Use Extrinsic Motivation

While most people might recommend in favor of intrinsic motivation (“when internal forces like personal growth or a desire to succeed fuel your drive to complete a task”), it isn’t necessarily the motivating factor in some situations.

In some cases, humans genuinely have no internal preference to interact in an interest.

Excessive rewards can be problematic, but while used appropriately, extrinsic motivators may be a useful device.

For instance, extrinsic motivation can be used to entice human beings to finish a work assignment or school task wherein they had no internal interest to begin with.

Researchers have arrived at three primary conclusions on the subject of extrinsic rewards and the effect of intrinsic motivation:

1. Unexpected outside rewards usually do not decrease intrinsic motivation. For example, you earn an amazing grade on a test due to your desire to study and do well on the test.

The instructor decides to praise you with a gift card to your favorite pizza shop, but your underlying motivation for studying will not be affected, since you originally chose to study for the personal satisfaction of doing well.

2. Praise can help increase internal motivation.

Researchers have determined that providing tremendous praise and comments while humans do something higher in comparison to others can improve intrinsic motivation.

3. Intrinsic motivation may lower, however, if external rewards are given in excess.

For instance, if parents heap lavish rewards on their toddler on every occasion he completes a simple task, he will become less intrinsically inspired to perform that task in the future.

Extrinsic Motivation Can Involve Psychological Rewards

Extrinsic motivation is typically defined as our tendency to engage in activities to benefit some type of regard and outside praise.

It is important to observe that those rewards can be either tangible or psychological.

Money and trophies are two common types of tangible rewards.

People interact in sports that they may not otherwise when there is an intention to earn a wage.

Athletes frequently engage in strenuous training sessions in an effort to do well in matches and therefore win trophies or titles.

Psychological types of extrinsic motivation can consist of praise and public acclaim.

A child may clean their room with a purpose to receive tremendous praise from its parents.

An actor may work toward a particular role to reap attention and acclaim from his audience.

In both of those examples, whilst the praise is not tangible, it shows motivation from external factors rather than the real technique of participating within the event.

Extrinsic motivation and parenting

Very few studies have explored the long-term results of continuous extrinsic motivation use with children.

Extrinsic motivation may be a useful device for parents to teach children duties and responsibilities.

Certain extrinsic motivators, like support and encouragement, can be healthy additions to parenting practices.

Some rewards are frequently discouraged due to the fact it may result in dangerous associations with the rewards later in life.

For example, the use of food as praise can later result in poor consumption habits.

For minor developmental responsibilities, extrinsic motivators like rewards can be very beneficial.

For instance, the use of rewards can help with toilet training. 

Best Uses of Extrinsic Motivation

Extrinsic motivators are often carried out in scenarios where a person may have little interest in the activity or in cases where basic skills are lacking.

However, these rewards need to be small and should be awarded without delay to a selected behavior.

Once intrinsic interest has been generated (perhaps the activity is now starting to be viewed as a hobby by the participant) and the practice generating experience and perhaps more evolved skills, then the external motivators ought to be slowly phased out.


  • Extrinsic incentives can be used to motivate a whole group, thus growing productivity levels or growing better mastery of skills.
  • Extrinsic incentivises humans to improve. These motivations can result in conduct, which may not have been feasible otherwise. For example: A pupil might already have intrinsic interest in a task, but outside factors such as prizes might encourage them to work harder than they initially would have.


  • Some extrinsic motivations were acknowledged to decrease the intrinsic motivation in an individual. This would likely interfere with one’s happiness or self satisfaction.
  • Those who spend their entire existence chasing rewards at work may come to regret the things they ignored in life.

Extrinsic Motivation Can Sometimes Backfire

While offering rewards can increase motivation in some cases, researchers have also found that this isn’t necessarily always the case.

Providing immoderate rewards can result in a decrease of intrinsic motivation.

The tendency of extrinsic motivation to interfere with intrinsic motivation is known as the overjustification impact.

This shows a lower in intrinsically encouraged behaviors after the activity is extrinsically rewarded and the reinforcement is sooner or later discontinued.

Why would praising an already intrinsically rewarding behavior result in this surprising disinterest?

One reason is that people tend to research their motivations for conducting an activity.

Once they have been externally rewarded, they assign too much importance to the function of the reinforcement.

Another possible reason is that activities that begin with hobby-like feelings can be transformed into art or duties while tied to an external praise.

Extrinsic rewards may be a crucial tool in motivating conduct; however, specialists warn that they must be used with caution, specifically with children.

Examples of extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation may be used to inspire you to do diverse exceptional things.

If there’s a recognized praise tied to the mission or outcome, you may be extrinsically stimulated to complete the undertaking.

Examples of external extrinsic rewards consist of:

  • Competing in sports for trophies
  • Finishing paintings for money
  • Purchaser loyalty discounts
  • Buy one, get one unfastened sales
  • Common flyer rewards

Examples of psychological extrinsic rewards encompass:

  • Helping others for a returned reward from friends or family
  • Creating paintings for attention, both fantastic or terrible
  • Completing responsibilities for public acclaim 
  • Doing obligations to keep away from judgment
  • Completing coursework for grades

Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation: Which Is Best?

The number one difference between the two sorts of motivation is that extrinsic motivation arises from outside of the individual while intrinsic motivation arises from inside.

Researchers have additionally found that the two kinds of motivation can differ in how effective they are at driving conduct.

Providing immoderate outside rewards for an already internally rewarding behavior can cause a reduction in intrinsic motivation, a phenomenon known as the overjustification effect.

For example, children who were rewarded for playing with a toy that they had already expressed interest in became much less interested in the item after being externally rewarded.

However, this doesn’t indicate that extrinsic motivation is always negative.

Extrinsic motivation may be beneficial in some conditions -it can be specifically beneficial when a person needs to complete a challenge that they find unpleasant.


  • External rewards can induce interest and participation in the event that the person had no initial interest.
  • Extrinsic rewards can be used to motivate humans to acquire new abilities or knowledge. Once those early competencies were learned, humans may then emerge as greater intrinsically motivated to pursue the activity.
  • External rewards also can be a source of feedback, allowing humans to understand when their overall performance has completed a competency deserving of reinforcement.

Extrinsic motivators should be prevented in situations wherein:

  • The person already reveals the interest intrinsically worthwhile.
  • Offering a reward would possibly make a “play” interest seem more like “paintings”


Extrinsic motivation may be beneficial for persuading a person to finish a task.

Before assigning a reward-based mission, it’s essential to know if the individual doing the task is stimulated via the reward being offered.

Extrinsic motivators can be a useful device to help children learn new talents when used in moderation and improve their body language.

For some, mental intrinsic motivators are more appealing. For others, external rewards are more attractive. 

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Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about extrinsic motivation:

What Is Extrinsic Motivation?

“Extrinsic motivation is praise-driven behavior. It’s a kind of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is a form of conduct modification that makes use of rewards or punishments to boom or decrease the likelihood that specific behaviors will recur. Unlike intrinsic motivation, external factors force this form of motivation” (Dr. Timothy J. Legg, HealthLine). 

For example, if a parent wants their child to practice piano (knowing the child doesn’t enjoy it), then they may reward the child with candy after practicing.

How Effective Is Extrinsic Motivation?

This sort of motivation may be highly powerful.

Just look at all the examples in your life that may be extrinsic: you might shop with a loyalty card that allows you to earn points, discounts, and prizes.

You might go through the motions at a job you dislike, in order to maintain a consistent paycheck.

These are examples of conducting actions to achieve outside praise.

How Does Extrinsic Motivation Influence Learning?

Some specialists argue that the traditional emphasis on outside rewards together with grades, report cards, and gold stars undermines any current intrinsic motivation that students would possibly have.

Others advise that these extrinsic motivators assist in students’ competence within the classroom, therefore improving intrinsic motivation.

Interested in reading more on this topic? Check out:

  1. Master Your Motivation: A Practical Guide to Unstick Yourself, Build Momentum and Sustain Long-Term Motivation by Thibaut Meurisse 
  2. Intrinsic Motivation at Work: What Really Drives Employee Engagement by Kenneth W. Thomas
  3. Intrinsic Motivation (Perspectives in Social Psychology, Vol. 1) by Edward Deci
  4. Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: The Search for Optimal Motivation and Performance (Educational Psychology) by Carol Sansone and Judith M. Harackiewicz






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