RegularInf#1 – Intrinsic vs Extrinsic motivators

For another mailing list I’m on (the Zeitgeist Movement) I’ve started doing a Regular Info email. Basically every week or so I’ll send out some information about a topic. I’ll then edit it to be a bit more generic for release to the net. Hopefully some people will find it useful.

Topic of the Week : Intrinsic vs Extrinsic motivators


Video (A must watch)- Dan Pink, on Motivation

The video, will make you understand why money is no longer a great motivator in a world that is becoming increasingly complex, and requires more creativity and education.

From Wikipedia :

Intrinsic motivation comes from rewards inherent to a task or activity itself – the enjoyment of a puzzle or the love of playing. This form of motivation has been studied by social and educational psychologists since the early 1970s. Research has found that it is usually associated with high educational achievement and enjoyment by students. Intrinsic motivation has been explained by Fritz Heider’s attribution theory, Bandura’s work on self-efficacy , and Ryan and Deci’s cognitive evaluation theory. Students are likely to be intrinsically motivated if they:

  • attribute their educational results to internal factors that they can control (e.g. the amount of effort they put in),
  • believe they can be effective agents in reaching desired goals (i.e. the results are not determined by luck),
  • are interested in mastering a topic, rather than just rote-learning to achieve good grades.


Extrinsic motivation comes from outside of the performer. Money is the most obvious example, but coercion and threat of punishment are also common extrinsic motivations.

In sports, the crowd may cheer on the performer, which may motivate him or her to do well. Trophies are also extrinsic incentives. Competition is in general extrinsic because it encourages the performer to win and beat others, not to enjoy the intrinsic rewards of the activity.

Social psychological research has indicated that extrinsic rewards can lead to overjustification and a subsequent reduction in intrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic incentives sometimes can weaken the motivation as well. In one classic study done by Green & Lepper, children who were lavishly rewarded for drawing with felt-tip pens later showed little interest in playing with the pens again.

Once you understand how people are motivated, and what is the best motivator to use in a given situation, you start to realise that a lot of people are depressed and annoyed at their work. It’s usually because they are being motivated the wrong way or are being pushed into repetitive and demeaning jobs.

As someone starting up a creative web development company I am interesting in following something similar to the way NetFlix are doing it, which is also similar to how Google operates. Although I don’t know if Netflix also have 20% time, like Google and 3M have. That is, an employee can use 20% of their time to work on their own project. Gmail, and the Ventalin Inhaler have both be produced

If you liked the above, you might like Dan Ariely’s talk about not being in control of our decisions. A great presentation that I think anyone who sets prices of products, or has ever purchased anything should look at (i.e everyone).

Some other up coming topics include :

  • Viral marketing
  • Cradle to Grave vs Cradle to Cradle (renewable vs finite resources)
  • The tipping point (as the concept relates to weather)
  • Renewable Energy
  • The triangle problem (and why you can’t always see things that are right in front of you)
  • Visualising some amazing Statistics
  • Basics of Psychology
  • Basic history of the US financial system
  • Moore’s Law and ubiquitous computing
  • Examples of science and technology for automating jobs.

If you have any topics you’d like me to cover, or would like to cover yourself, just let me know :)

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